Raven Paraso is a Youthlinc Service Year Student and Team Blogger on the 2016-17 Kenya Team.
For me, Raven, a word I would use to describe this first week in Kenya would be memorable. For Amelia it would be new, and for Nikki it would be humbling. This is possibly one of the best things about this trip. The fact that we are on the very same trip and experiencing the same encounters, and still we each take away something completely different.
Our trip started out with three flights. One to Dallas which lasted around two and a half hours. It was a good flight, however, I wouldn’t really know because I fell asleep before the safety video even ended and woke up right as we were landing. We had a short layover then boarded on a plane where the destination was London. The flight lasted nine whole hours. Once again I fell asleep before the safety video ended. What I’m saying is, if the plane were to crash I would not be equipped with the knowledge of how to survive. When we landed we had yet another layover, as to be expected, and then boarded our final plane. This was the plane that would take us to Nairobi, Kenya, the destination we have all been dreaming about for months. Safe to say, I slept almost the entire eight hours there. Then we landed.
It was a unique experience. When we landed, my mind knew I was in Kenya, but the rest of me still felt like I was in Utah. Keep in mind we did just spend around 20 hours on a plane. We all were mentally and physically exhausted. After going through the airport and trading in dollars for Kenya shillings we loaded into buses. We soon arrived to a hotel where we would rest our heads for the night. It was a new experience draping the bug net around my bed, but after those flights I was so grateful to sleep horizontal. In the morning, we once again loaded into buses and ventured to our next destination which was Kajuki. The bus ride seemed like it lasted for an eternity. It was probably because it was hot and a little crowded and I was so anxious to get to the school. We passed the time well in my bus by playing Mafia. What happened next will be a memory I will forever hold dear in my heart.
As we approached the school in Kajuki, all the kids were lined up to greet us. They were singing, clapping and dancing. Their excitement radiated off of them. Everything that happened up until that point like the long flights, crappy airplane food, and long bus rides were all worth it. My heart swelled at the sight of the children. As I was getting off the bus, I stuck my hand out and a little girl snatched it and pulled me to her. She just stood there, with stars in her eyes, holding my hand. We have been buddies ever since. Anytime there is free time she always finds me. There are other children I have connected with, but none like the first little girl that held my hand.
The next day some of us had the opportunity to go to another school in Kabururu. Try saying that name five times in a row, not because it’s hard to say but because it is fun to say. The bus we rode in was a safari bus where the top would pop up and people could stand. As we would drive by people they would get so excited when we waved. That is one of my favorite things here in Kenya. People are so grateful by such small gestures. When we arrived to the school once again the children were lined up to greet us. Second time I’ve experienced it and still it hit me in the feels. These children, just like the ones at Kajuki, stole my heart.
Being on the vocational committee, we were expecting a day to set up the sewing machines and get everything sorted out before all the women came. The problem was, the women were so excited they showed up anyway. It started out a little chaotic, but these women know their stuff. They set up the sewing machines in a matter of minutes when we probably would’ve taken hours. One of the sewing machines broke and we told them we could probably fix it the next day, but these extraordinary women used their thinking skills and fixed it with the limited supplies we had. I was completely amazed. Also these ladies are exceptional sewers. They are using treadle machines, and let me tell you how difficult those machines are to use. I can barely sew a straight line using them while these women are making incredible hats, bags, aprons, and all sorts of other amazing things. I have a funny story that highlights one of the women we are teaching. The second day at Kabururu I was just standing there and then out of nowhere I was smacked in the head. I turned around ready to chew out someone on the team to find it was one of the women. She just laughed and pulled me into a hug. I guess it was her way of saying hello.
There are far too many experiences to share in just one blog post but here are a few. I have loved my experience thus far and I am positive I will love the rest. Kate and I agree that making relationships and connections with the people is the most valued thing to do here. I am very excited to see what kind of new adventures next week has in store. And I hope all those reading have a delightful week as well!