When people move abroad there is a certain aura or mystique to being somewhere like Kenya. I mean, here I am an hour from the Great Rift Valley, 4 hours from Mt. Kilimanjaro, a short flight to the source of the Nile and the list goes on. Sometimes I forget that I am the same person here as I am at home. So I’m not sure why but when I came here I didn’t quite realize that life over here is pretty similar to life at home, it’s just here now. I still have good days and bad days, still worry about money, fret over whether I’m making good decisions and contemplate where my life is headed.
I’m still the girl who a week before high school memorized the floor plan so I wouldn’t get lost. I learned the tube station map so well when I went to London to the point where tourists were asking me which line to get on and I could confidently and accurately direct them to all of London’s major attractions. I thoroughly read travel advisories and Google map the regional warnings too. Basically, I like to be prepared or at least with someone who is prepared. This may surprise some of you who know me as that laid back and easy going girl who rolls with the punches. That’s not a show; I am adventurous and we can throw the plan out the window and that wouldn’t stress me out but… I never want to be caught with my proverbial pants down.
Nonetheless, news from the last few weeks include stories like the police have found car bombs, a church shooting has killed 6, explosions in Nairobi have killed another 6, a radical sheikh with alleged ties to terrorism on the UN Security Watchlist was assassinated. These stories combined with texts from the Canadian High Commission warning of violence and protests make Kenya a… dynamic place to live and somewhere that’s impossible to prepare for every scenario. I was asked last week if all of these events made me scared and my answer was a firm no. I mean, there is a fine line regardless of your locale. Fort Hood, Boston, Nairobi, Syria… life is fragile wherever you are. All of which make me appreciate days like the following.
We had Sports Day at school with some serious and not so serious volleyball and soccer matches at school. Basically I had a tonne of fun cheering with my students and just being, as they say here, free. The boys matches were definitely more intense and competitive and the girls were more interested in these matches then the boys in theirs. The volleyball was my favourite with the students who play daily divided in two teams which made for some rousing ralleys. The soccer (a sport which I find boring on the best of days) was a slow end to the day with the teams so uneven that the goalie for one team had enough time to go and find himself a rock to sit on next to his goal. All in all a fun day for everyone and a nice break from the day to day school. Side note: the staff were handing out bags of pure glucose, which the instructions stated to add to water for a boost of energy but the students were taking it straight in handfuls.
We were also invited to a picnic at Machakos Peoples Park (I know it sounds really communist) with our Kenyan host sister and brother’s community group. Machakos is about an hour to the south east of Nairobi and expected to receive an influx of people as the city attempts to decongest some of its 4 million population.The park is a new installation that the rookie governor of the county erected as part of a major development plan that involves building a new city, literally. It even has a man made lake offering sail boat rides and a small theme park like the kind in mall parking lots. When we got to the park we couldn’t find an empty picnic table but we convinced a man sitting at one alone to let us sit with him. I had thought that after some time he would feel awkward and leave but he stayed at the table for 2 hours. He eventually left after, we suspect, he was stood up as he still had a bag of food and a dejected looking expression on his face.
Last but not least Hannah and I joined the students of the Christian Union at school on a retreat at a Scouts’ camp called Rowallan. It was a nice day to be out and about and hanging out with some of the students outside of school. It gave us the opportunity to meet some new people and spend time with ones we already know. We even had some monkeys join us for our snacks. Best part was they had a pool! I had thought more students would attempt to swim but many Kenyans are afraid of the water. So they were content to watch us from the sidelines. This fear of water also ensured that we basically had the deep end to ourselves for the day with a few exceptions. One guy did join us for his first time swimming ever and Hannah and I spent a good deal of time trying to teach him to float and kick.
It’s days like these, where I get to interact with people and just have fun and be myself that remind me how lucky I am to be living here, in the land of lions and giraffes, and how privileged I am to be with these people and count them as my friends. No matter what the terror alert is, no matter what security warnings are issued I hope that I make each day count here and I don’t spend them in fear. Whether it’s a fun filled adventure or a day spent frustrated with cultural differences and misunderstanding I keep reminding myself that time’s ticking away here and before I know it I’ll be wishing I was back here.