“How do you like Kenya?” or “How has your time in Kenya been so far?” are questions I get asked a lot both from people here and back in the US. Since my class was cancelled today I figured I might as well take the time to put my thoughts on my time here into words.
I’ve been in Kenya just over five months now. I still feel like I just stepped off the plane, but because many people don’t stay in Nairobi very long, I’m now starting to be considered somewhat of a veteran. This is strange to me, but I know where to get find a Chipotle-esque burrito and good coffee so I guess that makes me fairly established here.
My time in Kenya thus far had been everything that a single, 22-year-old girl moving 8,000 miles away from friends and family should be. It has been adventure-filled, fun, beautiful, hard, lonely, scary, joyful, stretching, and enriching. I’ve learned how to be an adult and take care of myself in a foreign country. I’ve learned to embrace the difficulties of living in a developing city– to laugh it off when the power goes out three times when I have dinner guests and to choose to think about how strong my arms are getting from carrying my groceries a quarter mile home instead of how much it feels like my fingers are actually going to fall off. I’ve learned to drive on the left side of the road and in the horrifying Nairobi traffic. I’ve also learned that nothing is more scary or stressful for me than taking the bus to the other side of town, so no matter how bad traffic gets I’m thankful to at least have my personal space in my car. I have learned how to cook without the convenience items so readily available in the states. When I want spaghetti, I buy fresh tomatoes and make the sauce myself because it’s SO much cheaper than buying a jar of spaghetti sauce. It is truly astonishing how often I have to peel tomatoes here.
I have met so many wonderful, welcoming, and brilliant people here. I have had stimulating and challenging conversations with people who have done and are doing amazing things in business, nonprofit, and government work. I have laughed so hard I cried while telling silly stories around a friend’s breakfast table. I have had dance parties at concerts, friends’ houses, and alone in my bedroom. I have gone outside my comfort zone to make new relationships here. I celebrated my 23rd birthday here and my 15th anniversary of walking with Jesus. I have experienced deep joy in the past five months.
I’ve been so stressed and overwhelmed that I’ve broken down into tears during my language class. I was terrified when the busses went on strike and ended up dropping me off in an unfamiliar part of the city, but I found my way home. I lost it and started screaming “do not touch me” when on two occasions men grabbed my arm to try to get me to go on the bus they were operating. The men laughed at me. I think I should be able to choose which bus I want to ride on without people bothering me, but that’s not the reality here. I have been lonely and missed the comfortable feeling of being around friends who have known me for years. I have felt heartrending pain during this season of transition.
I have taught English classes and led a soccer camp in the community center here in Nairobi. During a training my organization put on, I taught to a group of students from four different countries. I’m fairly certain I was the youngest one in the room when I was teaching. It was a humbling and growing experience to be teaching a group with more life experience. The language I’m learning now is really complicated and honestly it is the most difficult subject I’ve ever studied. It makes the complexities of French grammar look like a joke. But, I have had breakthroughs in my language learning, and I’m now at the point where I can tell stories about what I have done and about friends and family.
All things considered, I would say my time here has been perfect. Not in a fairytale ending to a lifelong dream sort of way, but in a hard and astoundingly beautiful start to life abroad. It has been what I needed to grow into the woman God designed me to be. It has been climbing a mountain, getting bruised and scraped, but forgetting the pain when I see the view from the summit. Living here has been both figuratively and literally training for a marathon. It has been difficult, required discipline, and demanded that I slow down to rest and recover after hard work (and workouts). Most of all, moving to Kenya has been worth it. Thanks for climbing the mountain, for running the marathon with me.
So much peace and love,