Saturday, June 21, 2014

Our Final Blog: Goodbye and Thank You

I went to the shelter yesterday for the last time.  The boys and I looked at pictures, played volleyball, laughed and said our goodbyes.  When it was time to leave, a group of the little boys jumped in my car (9 of them fit), and I drove them down to the gate.  Before letting them out, I gave them a long goodbye and told them how I much I would miss them and that I would never forget them.  I asked if they understood.  They all nodded and said yes.  After a short silence, many of them asked, “So we will see you Monday?”

We are heading home today.  It feels as though I just finished writing my first blog.  Although we are excited for our life in DC, we will miss Kenya.  

I will miss…
  • Eric’s joy upon arriving at school: greeting the giant dogs, touching their noses, saying “bye dogs,” and then running into the outstretched arms of his teacher.  When I returned to pick him up, he would give me the same hug and jump into my arms with a heartwarming smile (Writing is this bringing me to tears.  Children make you emotional).

Eric with his wonderful teacher, Elizabeth, on his last day of school

Eric with his best friend, Izzy.  Izzy didn't want a cookie.  Eric ate six.
  • The Shelter.  I could go on and on.  These are sweet, joyous, respectful, kind boys who came from horrifying conditions.  Many were living on the street at three, four years old, without experiencing love, care, warmth, food, or the simple joy of being able to play.  Now, they have grown into my most respectful students who truly value education.  Just a blackboard, a few books to share, and a desire to learn.  I played Verb and Adjective Charades with my 7th graders on my last day.  Watching these 14-16 year-old boys act like giant goofballs, knowing their background, was just awesome.  I have learned so much from them, and I am better teacher and person because of the shelter.

  •  The teachers.  Thank you for warmly welcoming me into the shelter.  Thank you for giving me chalk, for playing volleyball, for teaching me how to make ugali, for my mzungo cup, for helping me learn a British accent (which sounds like a Boston accent), and for all of the conversations and laughter.        

  • The people.  I went for a cross country run with the boys on Tuesday, and half of them ran up and down a steep, rocky mountain without shoes.  No complaints, for that is life.  Walking miles to work is life.  Raising your family in a one room shanty with an outdoor communal bathroom is life.  Never showering with hot water is life.  Being unable to pay for medical care, or being unable send you children to secondary school, is life.      
Do not take anything for granted.  Appreciate what you have, or what you’re a given. 

I will also miss the shelter cat!  Still alive, grown and healthy
  • The Kenyan greeting!  There is no casual “Hello” in Kenya.  
Step 1: The Kenyan handshake takes about a 30 seconds by itself.  Two aggressive hand slaps, a pull in for a combination hug/chest bump/shoulder tap, followed by a normal handshake, and sometimes a fist bump if you really like each other.

Step 2:  Even if you see this person every day, it’s important to ask about their home life and all of their family members.  “Hi, how are you?  How are things at your house?  How is you family?  Your son?  Your daughter?  Your aunt?  How is work?  Poa poa…”  And maintain eye contact!  Eye contact is not awkward here as it is in the U.S.  This whole process is actually refreshing.  It is more personal, more human, and more real. Back home, I probably would just text the person standing next to me.   
  • I am going to miss shouting, “CAMILLE, SPIDER!”

  •  The birds and bugs serenading us at night as we drift off to sleep.  The superb starling greeting us at our window in the morning.
  • Our family trips, always organized by my incredible wife.  
    Let me check our bird book... yup, yup, this one's called, "Mohawk Bird."
  • Giraffes!  They remain as majestic as the first time I saw them. 

  •  The mangoes and passion fruit.  Maybe I can sneak some through customs…
  • The medical residents, students and our visitors.  What a blast it was to meet so many dynamic people.
Three seconds later, the camera was smashed on the floor in a hundred piec...kidding kidding.  Eric would never throw things.
  • My afternoons with Eric after school.  Watching him chase butterflies on the road shouting “fly.”  Having him climb the steps of the slide (all by himself) while counting to ten, but always skipping the number seven.  Throwing the ping pong ball around the clubhouse.  Visiting the giant turtle next door and hearing Eric say, “Bye turtle.” Reading If You Give a Pig a Pancake on the couch.  Building our purple pillow forts. Flops.  Lion roars. Dancing with Mommy.  What precious time.
My "office" where I would complete grad school work and write the blog
  • The Naivasha Animal Sanctuary.  Peaceful, serene, breathtaking, this is my favorite place in Kenya. 

Male and female eland


  •  Our own little family adventure.  We relied on each other so much.  I’ll treasure the  moments we shared as a family, from simply blowing bubbles on our porch, to Eric roaring at lion cubs in the Maasai Mara.  We have come a long way in one year.  As they say in Kenya, “We are learning. We are just growing up.”

Thank you for following our blog this year.  Your comments and general support made the experience so fulfilling.  I am lucky to have such wonderful family and friends.

 See you in the states!

Monday, June 9, 2014

Volcanos and Visitors

I have been MIA for a few weeks, but I’m back (the guest blogger is getting too expensive).  As we approach our final two weeks, Camille, Eric and I have begun reflecting on our time in Kenya.  I think Camille and I have truly grown as people and within our jobs.  And Eric, well, he’s literally grown.  We hope to share some of these reflections in our final blog next week.  Thank you all for following the blog and for sharing in our experience.

 So what’s been going on?

We’ve had our first visitors!    

Camille’s wonderful cousins, Todd and Paul, visited us last week.  And now, two friends from Camille’s residency class, Anita and Khan, and Khan’s friend Alejandra, are visiting for our final two weeks. 

Camille commented how refreshing it is to have friends and family come, for it has brought new life to our final few weeks.  Todd and Paul, we had a great time with you, and we’re so grateful for your visit!

Paul and Eric quickly became best friends
Story time with Todd
Eric had a blast
Mt. Longonot

Last Friday, we climbed Mt. Longonot with the cousins and our current great group of residents/med students, Neeta, Kym, and Natasha.  We made Eric go to school, because it’s wrong to excuse your children from school days people!  Longonot is a dormant volcano that last erupted AAAAAHHHHH IT’S ERUPTING RIGHT NO…in 1863.   The name Longonot is derived from the Maasai word Oloonong’ot meaning mountains of many spurs or steep ridges, but an Englishman couldn’t spell it correctly, so he changed it to Longonot.  Sigh.  We climbed up to the peak and around the volcano rim.  

Giraffes cradling the crater's edge.  There were four a few seconds ago...
Camille, what do the giraffes look like?
Todd is about to teach us something rather shrewd in three, two, one...
These rather large bubbles on the acacia trees display a symbiotic relationship between the trees and ants.  The ants build these homes and live off the trees.  The trees benefit because whenever a giraffe attempts to eat its needles or leaves, the agitated ants scamper over and bite the giraffe's nose, causing it to sneeze. 
The bountiful, fertile, circular land in the center was created by lava floe
We made it!
Hmmm...I always thought lava would have fewer trees
The group!  Camille and I wore the same outfit.  But my hat is better.
Paul!  Nice picture.
Hiking the rim
Camille actually didn't want me in this picture.  I thought she was calling me to get in the picture, but she was actually calling me to get out the picture.  Either way, I'm looking pretty good.

Crater Lake

Camille, Eric and I visited Crater Lake Game Sanctuary on a beautiful, sunny afternoon. 

I just asked Camille why it is called Crater Lake.  She said, “Because it’s in a Crater.”  Thanks, Camille.

Eric loves his bottles
And his mud.  Eric, how do you think you look?
Looking good, Dad.
We forgot our camera, but I i-Phoned some flamingos down by the lake.
Shelter Visit to the Nairobi

Two Saturday’s ago, I traveled with all of the shelters boys to Nairobi to join other childrens’ shelters for a day of fun.  The boys were really excited, for many had never left Naivasha, and some rarely leave the shelter.  They had never seen street lights, tall buildings, electronic advertisements, all the cars, or the fast pace of the city.  It was eye-opening to be surrounded by 200 of these kids, playing soccer, dancing, joking around, all of whom used to live on the street.  Thank you to the donors, teachers, and volunteers who support and provide a home for these children.  

Of course, I forgot my camera.  But here are a few from my phone. 

Shelter Life

Thanks to Todd, Paul, Kym, Neeta, Natasha, and Camille for visiting the shelter!  They joined the boys for a cross country run, volleyball, watched a little of my class, bought some beaded animals, and goofed around with the boys.

I also let the boys borrow my camera again.  They wanted to take some pictures of me teaching, of me with the group, and other randomness.  Below are some samples. I'm going to miss them.  

So if you put a comma here and dot this i...
Well done.
Amazing!  Although, I don't think the computer is turned on.
My 4th grade.
Most of my 7th. 

Playing volleyball.  Todd is to the left, and Kym is to the right. 
Random Eric Pics! 

Eric's friends came over and read him a book
And then took him for a walk
Dinner of cake and ice cream with Dad!
Only one more blog to go!  Please forward all of your sorrows in the comments section.  Thank you for reading!