Adapting, Learning, Exploring, and Adventuring

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So much has happened in the past week in Nairobi. It’s hard to pick and choose what to write about and share with friends and family from home. The second week of teaching was easier than the first because I felt like I had a routine, but the girls misbehaved a lot more. Some days it feels like I spend 90% of my time yelling at or disciplining my students. I did manage to teach my favorite workshop so far this week. It was called “Body Beautiful” and it was taught to girls from 2nd grade to 5th grade. First the girls brainstormed what the terms “high self esteem” and “positive body image” meant to them and identified the benefits of having each in relation to leadership. After brainstorming a list of the tasks they do as girls and women each day to contribute to their community, they were able to connect with how their bodies help them complete these tasks and why respecting your body is an essential component to becoming a leader. They finished the workshop by drawing a picture of a body and writing all of the things our bodies do for us each day. For example, brains help us think positively, hands help us pray, and hips help us dance. It was one of the first times I’ve felt like I was able to get a cohesive message across to my students. A lot of times the lessons I’m teaching seem trivial or unimportant, but I am learning a lot more than I expected I would about patience, resiliency, connecting with others, and life in general.

I’ve been able to adapt more to the food and social norms but there are still cultural barriers that are very difficult to overcome. We walk about fifteen minutes through Kibera each day to get to the school from our drop off. One morning this week, we walked through a huge crowd and I wasn’t really sure what was happening. It turns out the community was beating/stoning a young man to death for stealing. He had stolen 200 shillings from someone, which is the equivalent of less than $3.00 in the United States. Being stoned to death is the accepted punishment for theft in Kibera, to set an example for future thieves. There are very few things that I can imagine ending someone’s life over, and the loss of $3.00 definitely isn’t one of them (even if that amount has more value in Kibera than in the United States). I also don’t understand how a community can come together and do something like that to a person they know. I don’t understand how his parents or friends could have possibly accepted what was happening. But as an outsider, there isn’t really anything you can do or say.

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Things have been a little more upbeat this weekend. Yesterday, we drove about two hours into the Rift Valley to climb Mt. Longonot. Mt. Longonot is a 9,000 foot tall active volcano located in a rural area. The hike was steep, challenging, and slippery at parts but definitely the best hiking experience I have had to this day. We were able to see wildlife like zebras and giraffes grazing from a distance and some steam vents on the way up. Once you get to the top, you can hike around the rim of the volcano. The views were breathtaking and the pictures that I have posted simply don’t do them justice. I swear they were more amazing with very step that I took. We had lunch at the top and ran down a lot of the mountain. It was an amazing experience to just let go and run. With gravity pulling us down so quickly and the views of the Rift Valley, it almost felt like we were flying. I loved seeing another part of Kenya and I’m looking forward to doing more exploring while I am here.

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2 thoughts on “Adapting, Learning, Exploring, and Adventuring

  1. Sharon Davie says:

    Carrie,

    I recognize so many of the things you are describing from my own trips to Kenya, and at the same time everything is different through your eyes. I especially appreciate your candor–everything isn’t perfect in your teaching days, and at the same time you include a day’s lesson on our bodies that clearly meant something important to the students. I appreciate too your inclusion of top experiences like the feeling of flying down the mountain and painful ones like the beating of a man to death for theft.

    As you said, for $3.00 in US dollars. I recently read that there is more water in the water tank now in Kibera. The journalist wrote that this is because so few people now have the 10 cents needed to fill a container with water.

    • Hi Sharon,

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts! I’m trying to maintain a positive attitude even on the rough days. It helps that I’m with a group of volunteers that are just as energetic and passionate about the causes this organization is working towards. That’s an interesting thought about the water tank in Kibera. The organization I’m working through actually provides legally piped in water for the surrounding areas and sells it at rates much lower than many illegal vendors in Kibera. Even though the poverty here is at times appalling, it is easy to see the hope in this community. Hope all is well in Charlottesville!

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