Saturday, July 17, 2010

I've fallen in love....

....with Africa. On June 23, 2010, our Youthlinc team set out for Kenya. We flew from SLC to Denver, Denver to Washington, Washington to Rome, Rome to Ethiopia, and Ethiopia to Kenya. More than 30 hours of the time we arrived at the Nairobi airport, I was already wishing I was back home.

How glad I am I decided to stay. We spent the majority of our time in Kiamuri, a small village about eight hours north of Nairobi, living in a convent with Sister Mary and seven other nuns. This trip has changed my life forever. It is impossible to describe how I felt, playing with the Kenyan children, mixing cement to build classrooms, teaching in the schools, and spending time with all of my fellow Youthlinc students. I love these people so much. The experience of service has truly made me a better person, and I am determined to return to Africa someday and continue the projects I started.

Our Youthlinc team worked very hard this past year. From October through May we completed a total of 2,436 hours of local community service, as well as raising the money necessary to fund all of our projects in Kenya. We collected over 3,000 pairs of shoes for the shoe drive (although we only ended up taking 250), raised money to fund microenterprise loans, gathered donations to build three classrooms at Kiamuri secondary and Gikuuru primary, bought computers and baking supplies to teach vocational training, and collected hundreds of school kits and hygiene/medical supplies. In-country we worked on construction, taught the children, and distributed all of the items we had compiled. Every night I went to bed exhausted. We had group reflection periods on certain evenings, which forged a very deep emotional connection between all members. In the mornings we got up and walked several miles, by way of Kenya's dusty red roads, just to get to the schools where projects took place. We walked back to the convent for lunch, then again to the schools, then back to the convent. I've never walked so much in my life. We didn't just visit Kenya, we experienced it.

There's no possible way for me to adequately describe the time I spent with Youthlinc, so I'm just going to list some of the highlights of the trip (both good and bad):

~Power outage at the Ethiopian hotel.
~The day our bus tipped over because our driver backed into a ditch - scary at first, funny afterwards.
~Opening ceremonies, when all of the kids came running down the road to greet us, fighting for the chance to give us a hug or touch our hands.
~Opening ceremonies, when the children performed traditional dances to welcome us to the village.
~Walking for almost two hours to get to church.
~Visiting shambas (farms).
~Sister Mary singing, "How old are you now?"
~The kitten at the convent which everyone hated (except me)
~Eating potatoes EVERY SINGLE DAY FOR EVERY SINGLE MEAL - Scott talking on the phone, saying, "You have no idea what the potato situation is here..."
~Goat meat, untrimmed.
~Singing "Don't stop believing"
~Dancing to Waka Waka
~Watching House on Danielle's laptop at night.
~Talking about all the America food we were going to eat when we got home (nothing with potatoes, of course).
~Having no electricity in the room with 12 girls.
~Doing the hokie pokie with the kids.
~Soda in Kenya tastes better than soda in the US...drinking Fanta all the time.
~Eating Glucose cookies.
~Becca and I trying to teach about the earth/sun to nursery (kindergarten) kids who didn't understand English.
~Walking down the street, and every single person waves/greets you.
~Children asking "What is my name?" instead of "What is your name?"
~Looking at a picture of Becca in a short dress, one of the Kenyan girls goes, "You wear very tiny clothes in America."
~Playing soccer, and getting our asses kicked (Fact: All Kenyans are ninja at soccer, or "football," as they call it)
~All kids are trilingual: English, Kiswahili, and Kimeru (local language)
~Being bad at construction.
~Banana trees.
~Kyler pretending to freak out when we did a seance.
~Playing with the cutest kids in the world.
~The day the nuns had a dance circle of women come to entertain us, and we all joined in.
~"When the whites and the blacks get together with the Lord, get together, get together with the Lord, they will treat each other like sisters and brothers when we all get together with the Lord."
~"The time to be happy is now now now and the place to be happy is here and the way to be happy is to make someone happy and have a little heaven down here."
~Me falling backwards in my chair in the middle of a team meeting - twice.
~Everything Emily says is hilarious.
~The day Matthew brought Scott a chicken as a present, because they were "age mates" (as in, they're the same age).
~The day Becca and I joined the juggling (soccer) circle with the Kenyan boys, who were all very impressed with our mad skills.
~Watching Anna cry when she taught maturation to the older girls.
~The day I caught an African sickness, and threw up for 24 hours straight.
~Britnie's hair.
~Britnie yelling at all of us because of water bottles and pens.
~Trying to bargain with Dickson.
~Kyler and I trying to teach math to the secondary school kids, who were all smarter than us.
~Being coated from head to toe in red dust.
~The nuns scolding us for not showering.
~The day we got up at 6:00 in the morning to go on a 3 hour hike to the top of a mountain to see the water source for Kiamuri. We were expecting a spring or a waterfall. Our guide hacked his way through the jungle with a machete, carving a path to the mountaintop. We arrived, sweaty, exhausted, and dirty, to find that the water source was a 2 by 2 foot metal box with some dirty water at the bottom. Most anti-climactic hike ever.
~Doting on Bahati.
~Passing the equator four times on our way to Sweetwaters, the hotel we stayed in for one night on the way back to Nairobi.
~Lying out to "tan" in our bras by the pool.
~Kenya's five star hotel has tents for bedrooms.
~Watching the World Cup game between Spain and Germany.
~Going on safari for a day.
~Streaking naked across the entire hotel compound in the middle of the night. We didn't tell Britnie (our team leader) because we thought she would be mad, but in the morning she was bummed that she didn't get to streak with us. Reason #428 that we love Britnie: she's willing to streak with a bunch of teenagers.
~Tearful goodbyes.

Well, there's a very brief recap of my Kenya experience. I miss it so much! Below are some of my favorite pictures from the trip, in no particular order. It really is a beautiful place...I can't wait to go back someday!!!

Outside our Ethiopian hotel

Convent in Meru

After Opening Ceremonies

Grades 1-8 classrooms at Gikuuru primary school

Cute kids

More kids!!!!

This girl was so sweet

There really is no end to the amount of pictures I have with cute children.

This little girl was sick....wouldn't stop crying. She fell asleep like this.

Me, Abbie, Marla, and Ayrowyn, at Kiamuri's water source after our hike through the African bush

Me, wearing the brown, at the African dance circle....props to Kyler (pictured) and Trent for putting on skirts and joining the dance!

Chiseling bricks for construction

Secondary school girls!!!


Trent, Becca, Abbie, Me, Lisa, Chelsea, Hannah, Emily, Genevieve, Ayrowyn, Kelly Jo, Sam, and Kevin at Sweetwaters after our safari.

I love you all, Kenya Youthlinc 2010!


  1. How fantastic is this. I asked you to bring back lots of memories and inspiration, and you clearly have. And you got a ride a camel. Lucky! Here is to your trip, and welcome back.