One Month Post-Kenya Update

Jambo, my dear readers. It was been over a month since I’ve been back in the US and more than that since I have updated this site. Leaving Africa was very hard. Physically, I was involved in a minor hostage situation, but mentally and emotionally I almost couldn’t bring myself to leave. But alas, I am home. I am safe. I am happy.

I have been happily working like a mad women at several different jobs, not to mention all the yard and housework that I left myself. I’m glad to have the distractions because the reentry culture shock has been a nightmare. The worst part is that no one understands even a sliver of what I’m feeling and most of what people say and do just make it worse.

I am so grateful for all my supportive friends and family, but it is very hard and will continue to be very hard for me for a while. Every day comes with new memories and having to relive traumatic experiences, but since no one else’s lives have changed much, I feel like they forget that I’ve gone through these crazy things! I don’t think I’m making much sense here, but I just wanted to put some thoughts down so that I can start the recovery process and hopefully share more of what I have learned.

With much love, Colleen

Mama-Bear Syndrome

It happened. I was beginning to think that these emotions would never come, but after 10 weeks I finally broke. I just broke down and balled for an hour. Seriously guys, I’m in Africa. I’m working in a slum. These babies are being beaten and left to fend for themselves. I still have no idea how these kids must feel and I know I will never understand. My heart has ached for these people since before I came and it has just gotten worse. But I never cried about it. Other volunteers and even locals will get emotional, but not me. I felt what was like a physical slap in the face with the sadness and hopelessness of it all.

I am still having a hard time gathering my thoughts but I just keep thinking, “These are my babies. These are my babies…” Could a loving mother ever abandon her child?  Would she not give everything to see them happy and successful? How can she leave the child she loves more than herself in a situation where they would be mistreated? It’s impossible. I know for my mom at least, it would be physically impossible for her to leave any of her kids in harms’ way.

These are my babies. How can I physically leave them and go back to the States?

Shano na Jackimo

Shano na Jackimo. Those are my babies. Shano (Fraisia) and her twin brother Jackimo (Jack). They are both three years old and live in the KCC slum. They are in the youngest class at KCC ECD and I have just fallen heels over head for them both. I could probably go on for days just talking about them. Most of them go something like.

“So, Shano ate a crayon today and Jackimo went to the toilet three times. Yep.”

So I’ll try not to tell too many stories like that. BUT THEY ARE SO CUTE! The thing I love about them is that it has taken me all of 9 weeks to gain their trust and love. All the other kids at school instantly love any white person they see, but Shano and Jackimo don’t. I couldn’t even get a hand shake for about a month. It took Shano getting sick at school and no one helping her for her to even look at me. I cleaned her up, washed her clothes, gave her my only food and water, and hung out with her all day. Luckily for me, once Shano liked me Jackimo followed suit.

I love them so much because I have to work every day to keep their love and trust. If I ignore them or don’t play with them, they know and remember it. I think it makes me more accountable as if a relationship with adults, and that’s really what babies are. Tiny, slightly smarter adults.

Watch Your Language!

I’m speaking so much Swahili lately. Very poor, broken Swahili/English with the occasional German or Spanish thrown in. When I’m speaking anything other than English my brain just puts in the word from any other language. It’s as if instead of speaking Swahili, German, or Spanish, I’m just speaking not-English.

Today I was explaining something in English and I couldn’t remember the English word so I had to use Swahili to explain. Everyone laughed and then someone told me what the English word was that I was looking for. It was funny to me also, but very odd at the same time. It was a shelf. I forgot how to say “shelf”. I better start speaking more English these last three weeks or I’ll be illiterate when I come home.

Knives

I work most of the time in the school’s “kitchen” with the cook, Beatrice. We use very rudimentary skills and all of our utensils and pots are old, broken, or otherwise useless. Actually, we didn’t even have a kitchen area two months ago. Everything works alright, but by U.S. standards it is barbaric. Luckily the same mother and daughter volunteers were generous enough to buy us four brand new knives! Beatrice and I almost cried the first time we chopped into tomatoes and onions as if they were air. Now the prep work goes twice as fast and we can work on better meals that require more time.

Hell’s Gate Take 2

I got some new volunteers last weekend; a mom and two daughters. They only stayed for a week but I got to go to Hell’s Gate again with them. It was more of the same from the first time, but I felt much more confident this time around.  I knew the route through the Gorge so I could lead most of the time. I showed the girls how to climb the rocks and which were the more dangerous paths to take.

One of the girls had just bought a necklace from the Masaai women but lost it within minutes. We were already back at the starting point when a boy ran up and handed us the necklace. It was one of those I’m-Glad-I’m-Part-Of-The-Human-Race moments. He could have given it back to them women for them to resell for a lot of Kenyan money but he sought us out to return it. I gave him about 50 cents US and some cookies. He’s probably the richest boy in his tribe now and he knows what a cookie taste like.

Back to Eden

In Naivasha there is local shop called Back to Eden. It has very high quality (for Africa) fruits and vegetables. They provide us with a couple bags of food for our school every Tuesday. The bags usually consist of tomatoes, carrots, and onions with the occasional oranges or something else sweet. It helps us a great deal and they really are just giving away so much profit. Because of this, we like to go there for all our personal fruits and vegetables. I think it’s a good way to show appreciation and give back to those who help others.