Friday, March 28, 2014

Last few days in Kenya -- Full Disclosure

March 26, 2014
                This week has been one for the books. I don’t even know where to begin with this entry. I guess going back a few days would be better in terms of clarity. We got back from expedition and jumped right into finals week (mid-semester that is… never had a mid-term that counted for 40% of my grade). Paige and I commandeered Daniels office so that we could study in peace, which worked out perfectly because he was on off-days for most of our study time. Exams were pretty much the same as in America but with one glaring difference. We are in Africa.  I know that seems redundant but let me explain…in Africa there are wild animals much bigger than a squirrel in our backyard, including baboons. Baboons that enjoy bananas even more than students do. Baboons that don’t care if you’re in the middle of taking an exam right near the banana stash. We heard a big thump and a few students looked up in the rafters of the kitchen and saw a baboon the size of a black bear casually strolling along with a banana in its mouth. Never in my life have I had to flag down a teacher or proctor for the purpose of informing them that a baboon has invaded the testing area! The babs were chased away but came back three other times! One was even bold enough to steal the entire bunch of bananas! It was quite the distraction but we all somehow finished our exams on time anyway.
                After exams were finished, some students decided to paint a side room off the chumba, lovingly referred to as the smush room (even though it was never used for that purpose, for all you Jersey Shore fans). They painted a giant map of the united states and we all placed a red dot where we come from, with instructions for future KBC kids to continue the new tradition. We also had a blue wall with a double rainbow, where we all signed our names and what school we attend. It was a really cool way for us to leave our mark on Kenya.
For our last non-program day we all hopped into the land-rovers for a group hike in Chulu Hills! Unfortunately, this day would prove to be a pretty big test for me. I found out the hard way that dehydration is actually a seriously debilitation condition…Hydrate or die as the saying goes. Turns out Mike wasn’t telling us to pump water down our throats for his health! Anyways, I’ll start at the beginning. We started out on the hike and everyone was breathing a bit harder within minutes (apparently no one told us that this hike was pretty difficult). Meanwhile, Daniel and our guards were pretty much sprinting up all the hills and pathways, which were just cattle trails through the bush. After about 20 minutes, my legs started to drag and I noticed it was getting hard to breathe due to a few cramps in my sides. Being stubborn and not wanting to fall behind, I tried to keep going. This lasted for all of 10 seconds until sharp pains were shooting through my ribcage and my heart was racing. I quickly grabbed Zoe, who was walking behind me, and she helped me sit down while Sipaya called for Mike to come back. Turns out my medications had made it difficult for me to retain water that day and I was pretty dehydrated. Luckily for me, Mike had a few rehydration salts handy (imagine drinking salt water … on purpose. Yuck). As my pulse was taken and I drank my salts, all I could think about was how devastated I would be if I got sent back to the car to wait for my friends.  After a few minutes, Mike said “Okay let’s keep going.” I think it was then that I finally realized that I was holding my breath for that verdict. Payton and Zoe (two friends from camp) were basically my body-guards. Payton was in front in case I stumbled and Zoe was in back for the same reason. Sipaya led the way, taking breaks every 40 feet or so, saying he was an old man and got tired easily (My ego appreciated his attempt). Mike stuck with me like the fantastic SAM that he is, even taking my back-pack for me to make the trip slightly easier. We finally reached the summit of a particularly large hill and I saw the other students waiting in the distance. As we slowly approached the group, a few of them cheered and clapped. It made me feel amazing to reach the top of that dang hill. I had confessed to my small entourage earlier that I sometimes felt like I wasn’t physically cut out for this line of work due to my back issues and days like this one. After we slowly trudged back downhill to the cars, Mike told me “You did it! Don’t worry you are cut out for this”. Sometimes you really need that affirmation, no matter how confident you are in your path. I learned a pretty big lesson that day – that it’s totally okay to lean on people if you need to and to HYDRATE, all day every day. Seriously, it’s kind of a big deal!
Leaving KBC and my Kenyan family was extremely sad and difficult to do. It leaves you with a kind of homesickness that can’t be remedied as easily as the kind you get for America. The only thing you can really do is hope that the story isn’t over yet and life has a funny way of bringing people back together. Maybe someday I’ll make my way back to Kenya and visit my extended family again. Or they will come to visit America. Regardless, I will never forget my Kenyan family. My brothers Martin, Charles, and Harrison will always have to deal with emails from me! Harrison made me promise to stay in contact with him and promise to try to visit again someday because he will miss me so much. It’s amazing the kind of connection you can make with people in 7 short weeks! Martin and Charles are also waiting for my future visit…Martin even told me he would keep me in Kenya forever if he could! I will always be Daniel’s namesake and he has inspired me to continue my Swahili so that I can be fluent one day. I’ll miss Moses hanging out in the Duka and saying hi to Francis every night at dinner. My friend Isaac, who still talked to me even with a huge language barrier; who always yelled “Dan!” every time he saw me, to which I yelled back “Iss!” My pseudo-grandfather, Olioborr, and my amazing professors. Okello, who made everyone’s cup of joy overflow with his positive attitude. The fantastically crazy kitchen staff who always made early morning cook-crew fun. Sipaya and Kioko, who were always ready to give you a good laugh or have a serious conversation about life. And of course, I’ll miss our fantastic SAM, Mike, who handled every curve-ball our group through his way with patience and positivity, and still managed to become a friend to each and every one of us.
This is baadaye to Kenya, I hope to be back one day because she has stolen a bit of my heart and bitten me with one heck of a travel bug.
Asante sana for reading!


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