A Season...Of presence.
We leave here in one week. That’s insane. In some ways, it feel like it flew by. In others, the days felt slow and long, like time actually moves at a slower pace here.
I thought I would write the entire time I was here. I thought I would be overwhelmed with words and thoughts and revelations—things I would share with people on this blog with everyone.
But here I am, a week from leaving, and writing something to share for the second time. The words and thoughts and revelations came, but they weren’t for sharing. They were for me. This season has been one of definite growth and change, but more than anything, it’s been a lesson in being present.
In America, my life is pretty hectic. I run around working and networking and socializing, barely making room to breathe and be still. Here, it’s been all stillness and breathing and examining. Slow internet has made for an unintentional “unplugging” as well. It’s been hard at times, and a little isolating. I mean, I’m a millennial without constant access to the rest of the world—is there a scarier thing?! (I joke.)
Within all of this being present, I held both comfort and unease, a sense of refreshment and one of guilt, freedom and obligation. It’s hard to just let your business rest for a few months. It’s hard to spend years focusing on solely one thing and then just, stop. I guess it’s this unease, guilt, and obligation that prompted me to write one more time. It feels like the right thing to do as a business owner. At the very least, to write a blog. But it’s not why I’m going to post this.
I’m going to post this because I desperately need you to know some things about this little magical piece of land, this Kenyan Narnia where we’ve lived the past few months.
I need you to know that the sun rises over the mountain every morning and hundreds of animals rise with it. Birds of all kinds start talking, “You made it through that storm too?! Amazing!” Donkeys are like the Kenyan roosters here, loud and in charge, bright and early. There are roosters too, but you can’t always hear them over the donkeys and the cattle.
We wake up with the animals. Travis peeks outside and tells me if it’s raining or not. Then we lace up our sneakers and walk. It’s a little more than 2 miles and it’s the same route every single day. Sometimes we listen to podcasts, separately. Other times we talk the whole way. About what we are going to do that day, about funny things the kids did the day before, or big dreams for when we get home.
We get back and Travis makes us breakfast and then goes to one of the construction sites. I get ready and either hang out with some babies or sit in an office working on photos and projects until the smell of cookies pulls me into the dining hall for the morning snack. We reconvene around lunchtime where I ask him to make pasta so I don’t have to eat any more beans.
The afternoons are slow. Sometimes I stay in the house and watch Cake Boss. So many episodes of Cake Boss. We wait for the kids to get home, around 4:30. We go down to their dorms and greet them one by one as they race to us and past us, their backpacks bumping up and down the whole way.
We sit and chat until dinner and it’s my favorite time of day here. The light is perfect, falling slowly and beautifully, highlighting all the life at Naomi’s Village. The flowers smell bright, the kids faces are golden from the setting sun, the garden twinkles, and the animals start to quiet. I could sit and just stare for an hour every day.
Travis likes to eat with his favorite gals, and they get jealous when he doesn’t sit with them. After dinner, we head back to the guest house. Sometimes we play ping-pong (I’m really, really good), sometimes I watch Masterchef Junior (it’s the cutest show ever), and sometimes we come back down for homework and prayers.
The days are as routine and predictable as I’ve ever experienced. It’s both liberating and difficult for me. I never realized how much variety my days have in the states. No two are ever the same for me and I’ve found myself missing the over-stimulation that is so easy to find in America.
I also need you to know some things about the people. It’s really important because I want you to care about them. I want them to know that Americans care about Kenyans. That they are loved and appreciated by people on the other side of the world.
Paul has the biggest smile, laugh and personality. He reminds me of a 16-year-old, Kenyan version of my college roommate Brindley. Julia can only be described as mischievous. She is disobedient, stubborn, and absolutely beautiful. I love her because she is me when I was four. Sammy is a toddler, the oldest kid still living in the baby room. He doesn’t speak much English, but his smile is so sweet that it can make me cry. Joel is serious and contemplative and worries too much. But when I can get him to laugh, I feel like I’ve saved the world. Archibella is just so dang smart. She has only lived here for less than a year, but excels in school already and is so eager to learn. She is so shy, but gives me a hug every single time I see her. And Orville! He is Trav’s right-hand-man. He lights up whenever he sees him and will do anything to play soccer or football with him. He’s working on his spiral.
I could go on and on about all 81 of these kids: who they are and what makes them special. I want everyone to meet them, to hear their stories, and see the joy in their eyes.
These children matter so much. Their lives were once threatened, and their days held no hope. Looking at them now, it’s really hard for me to envision those days, yet acknowledging that history makes their present that much sweeter.
I haven’t used this season to share profound life lessons or thoughts with all of you. But I hope that these words at least give you a glimpse into what happens here and how important this work is. Stay curious, my friends.