Kina Masud is a Youthlinc Service Year Student and Team Blogger on the 2016-17 Kenya Team. 

Kenya. A place that once scared me a little and made me wary has finally grown on me. In the beginning of my trip I can’t say that I was necessarily loving my living conditions. The first time I showered I was greeted by a little frog who deemed it necessary to spend some time on my foot while I wasn’t looking. The next day our bathroom was filled with large cockroaches who were not willing to leave.

It was for sure a struggle in the beginning but saying I love everything about this place has never been so easy. From the lush greens and the dark red dirt that surround me to the small villages I get to visit. Each bus ride never ceases to excite me, because driving on the rocky dirt piles that are roads, has never been so calming and beautiful. I definitely feel as if I’m part of an Alecia Keys sad music video when I watch from the window of the bus. I can’t say that I’m upset by that. One of my favorite things about this place is the people.

Every single person I pass by has always had a genuine smile on their face and a “Mambo!” or “Habari!” to follow. They don’t look at me as a stranger or tourist in their homes, but welcome me with open arms. The amount of respect and praise these people treat me with warms my heart. Every day I am woken from my little bunk wrapped up in mosquito nets by the sounds of children singing. The sounds of their songs lifts my mood almost instantly. The time of morning never bothers me because I know that the sooner I get up, the longer I get to spend playing and getting to know these kids.

One of my favorite parts about each day is going to Kabururu to teach and spend time with the kids. As soon as we get off our buses, we get straight to business in order for us to spend all the time we have productively, having the biggest impact possible. The energy and excitement these kids have still surprises me today, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. One of my favorite jobs is being a buddy to a class. This entails me taking them from room to room for each lesson and assisting the main teacher.

I don’t really think of my time and service here as work. I feel like I’m spending time with family. I have met some of the most amazing people on this adventure in my life. Some of them I pray that I get to see later on in my life and others I am lucky enough to go home with when these two weeks are over. I get to see these kids further their knowledge daily, and it’s one of the most amazing feelings knowing that I had something to do with that. I can honestly say, these kids have taught me more than I could ever teach them.

I must say my Swahili has gotten pretty good on this trip, but that’s not it. The kids have shown me that even though you may have nothing, you will always have love in your heart, and it’s your job to share it with the people around you. I’ve learned that no matter how long your day has been; you can never be too tired to play football.

They have also shown me that if anything is going wrong, or if a baby is crying and you want to calm it down, just sing. Sing your heart out because in a matter of seconds you could change the events of someone’s day. I will never forget the family I have gained in these schools. My little buddy Emmanuel will always have a special place in my heart as well as a dozen others. Kenya has no doubt changed the person I have always been and I am undeniably thankful for that. I will never forget the beauty that is held here in the scenery, the people, the traditions, and even the surprise shower friends.

Kenya has become a second home to me and my heart breaks thinking about leaving. But until that last minute has come, I will spend as much time as possible, falling more in love with the Kenya I have found.