Wednesday, March 17, 2010
"We make a living by what we get, we make a life by what we give" -Winston Churchill
Sometimes I feel like life is a movie, and I am introduced to different characters, sets, even special effects along the way. The set is even more idyllic lately since the rains have begun. It rains at night and sometimes in the mornings, breathing life into the dry red cracks and sprouting life. The rain usually ends by mid-morning and the sky stretches out its blue expanse, dotted with friendly white clouds. This does not last very long, because the sun becomes harsh, bearing down and drinking most of the water left. Its taps our shoulder as we run, bears down on our heads, seeking the sweat from our brows- then finally ceases. This is my favorite time of the day. The sun starts to set and Mount Kenya is visible- the air is clean and fresh—I wish out of all the things here I could take a bottle and bring the air back with me. There is a gentle breeze and you forget the agony of the sun. The sky morphs until it finds it’s color—black. When there is no electricity the sky has millions of holes poked into it and the stars dance in the night. I have never seen so many stars.
There are plenty of characters in my life; and I am lucky to have found them. I love to travel, I love back packing whizzing through countries, in fact; my passport has only 1 page left. Yet I always wanted more. I sat or trains, planes, vans, donkeys, motorbikes, watching everything pass by, I always wondered what lay around the corners- the lives from behind the glass. Now when I sit waiting for transport outside my school—I smile at the uncommon Mzungu riding by in their private car, I know what’s beyond that corner J.
One of the main characters is my Kenyan mother, I am her namesake; Mumbi, one who attracts or creates. She lives next door to me, and has 3 other children. It took a few months to us to “feel” each other out, but now we are family. She loves to feed me! If I even mention anything about food, 2 hours later I hear a knock at my door and its her with a plate of food; normally too much for me to finish. If I am sick, she wants to wash all of my clothes, clean my whole house, make me food, and give me various “home remedies”. The only thing I accept is the liter of uji (porridge) she makes me drink and the occasional meal. She calls me her daughter, and I think she actually believes it, at the assembly one morning I came in and greeted all the teachers, she noticed something on my face (probably tooth paste), she began rubbing my face, just when I thought it had stopped, she then pulled out her handkerchief and started all over again—just like I am sure my American mother would do. Another thing I love about my Kenyan mama is she loves to read! Literacy is not huge here, and I read A LOT, most people ask we why, how I had the focus to just sit and read; but my Mama understands. I finish a book and give it to her; then we talk about our favorite parts, and if we liked the ending, and compare it to others. I can’t really explain how happy this makes me; she is just someone who understands!
The other character is my best friend the watchman Kariuki, pronounced just like karaoke, I laughed so hard when I first heard this name, ( and no one has ever heard of karaoke so trying to explain why I was laughing probably made me sound crazy “it’s like singing in Japan with your friends“ )but now I realize it is every other males name, the effect has worn off. He is the schools watchman, and works nights. He is loves UK club football (or soccer), and I think is disappointed every time I tell him I still know nothing about it. Nevertheless we are friends, we go on hikes, go on bike rides, which are always an adventure ( as I have recounted on previous blog entries). Kariuki guards the school with a bow and poison arrows, and was shocked that I didn’t believe him, until he showed me all his tools—bow and arrow, some poison arrows, a sling shot, a machete, and rocks. He really carries all of these around when guarding the school. When the school is closed sometimes we practice bow and arrow and shoot the choo ( the pit latrine) don’t worry we don’t use the poison ones! Kariuki loves to “teach” me Kiembu which consists of him speaking Kiembu then saying “ What, you don’t know what I am saying”. He is a very patient man, and puts up with my foul moods after our “2 hour walk” turns in to a 7 hour adventure. He is always dressed in a suit regardless of how hot it can get, and seems to know everyone in the area. Kariuki also tries to convince me to go to his “karate class”, how he knows karate, he will not disclose, but I have hunch its from Bruce Lee movies (which people LOVE here). One day I walked in on this “class” in the cafeteria when the school was closed, and the class consisted of 2 wazee (old people) and one small child about 3, I’d guess, I walked right out. Kariuki makes life here, fun and funny; I always end up laughing around him and for that I am very grateful.
There are a few other characters, but the major characters are 91 kids who fill my life with everything! These days I hardly leave the school ground, why would I? I have my own little community here. There is no way I could even start to describe all these little characters, all their stories, all their extraordinary strengths, all their smiles, or giggles, or grunts. So I won’t even try, I kind of like the thought of a million secret stories in my head (of coarse I will probably reveal some if asked once I am back). I love them something fierce, and feel rapt happiness, seeing them grow, learn, and develop—nothing is more honest than that.
My parents are traveling to Kenya in the coming weeks. I am very excited to introduce them to all the characters Kenya has to offer, and to show them the continent with has kept me from them for so long (first 6 months in West Africa and now in East). It will be nearly 17 months since I have seen them or anyone from home, which should be interesting; I have imagined them and other family and friends in Kenya many times. Always thinking, “I wish my Mom could see this” or “ I wonder what my friend would think about this”, I am really happy I’ll be able to share this with them.