Life-changing days in Kenya coming to an end for St. Gregory studentsby kenya on Jun. 25, 2011, under Life
June 23, 2011
Dispatch from Kenya
By Lauren Stern, St. Gregory Class of ’11
Today I am writing you from inside of Batian’s View’s library as rain showers down through sunshine outside. The rain in Kenya is beautiful and always highly celebrated. I know that our new friends, students and colleagues will be very excited for the rain to water their shambas (farms).
For me, today was a very bittersweet day as our fellow teachers celebrated our departure from Manyatta Primary School. I cannot believe that we have already started to discuss our departure; our time here has flown by, and none of us want to think about how soon we will be returning home. Africa has embraced us with open arms and surprised every single one of us in so many ways.
Throughout our days here we have built a family of old and new friends. The 18 of us (12 from St. Gregory, three from Atlanta Girls’ School, and six from Miramonte High School in California) have undergone a truly life changing experience. We have cemented our friendships through our long walks to school, safari trips and all our time at our new home, Batian’s View. We have seen things that we will never be able to put in words, and met people that will be imprinted in our hearts forever. When we step off of the plane in America I can easily say that none of us will be the same as when we left. The people of Africa welcomed us and taught us so much. They have been unimaginably kind and loving to all of us, and we will never be able to repay them for the invaluable lessons they have taught us. No one can ever really understand what Kenya is like until they taste the chai, walk the dusty streets, hug a smiling child, see a wild lion or, most importantly, talk to the amazing people.
Although we have had many amazing and breathtaking experiences that have easily been relayed to you, the thing that we can never truly portray is the kindness of the people. Kenyans live entirely different lives than we do in America and they have taught us so much about happiness. We have been spoiled at Batian’s View but have also gained a true picture of what life for Kenyans is really like. What is truly amazing about their lives is the joy and happiness they find in hard work and everyday routine. Kenyans work extremely hard for things that are effortlessly provided to us in America, yet are able to find much satisfaction and solitude in their work.
I can honestly say I have not heard one complaint out of a Kenyan’s mouth in my time here. It is an astonishing thing to really think about. We have been here for three weeks and have talked to many, many people and not one person that I can recall has complained. It is hard to imagine this environment until you have observed people with such a positive view on life.
The Kenyans have inspired me to truly contemplate my view on life. During our first day of community service, after stepping out of the van I eagerly grabbed a shovel and headed to the digging site. I worked all of my muscles, pushing the shovel into a big pile of dirt. Laughter quickly erupted from those standing around me as they saw the pathetic handful of dirt that was left on the shovel. I joined them in laughter as I looked around me to see the dirt pouring over the sides of the overfilled shovels that the Africans held.
Many of the surrounding diggers showed me how to most efficiently transport the dirt with my shovel from a large pile into the wheelbarrow. They instructed me to scoop the shovel parallel to the ground at the bottom of the pile and quickly the piles of dirt on my shovel grew exponentially. Now, I can easily tell you I have never dug more in my life. At home, when my dad asks me to help him with yard work he is met with at least a few grumbles of resistance, if not more, but as I watched the Kenyan children and families at their school on a Saturday eagerly asking me to fill their buckets with more and more dirt to transport, I learned so much about life.
The Kenyan way is to accept what you do not have control over and to embrace the rest. They believe in the power of hard work. They truly do not complain. They desire to do all that they can to help. They embrace responsibility. They may not have many cars, TVs or pieces of technology, but they embrace genuine happiness.
After my time here I question how great the luxuries we have at home really are. In America we are blessed with many fortunes, but I have come to realize just how much we have to learn from others who are different than us. I cannot deny my appreciation for those American luxuries, but I also realize the many ways that they paralyze our people. So I urge all of you reading today to step outside, go for a walk, smell the fresh air, and say jambo (hello) to a stranger. Next time a complaint comes to mind, just imagine a life without negativity and slowly you will become much happier.