Habari Gani?

by Through Inspiration

Wow. I am finding it difficult to begin this post. I have been putting off writing mostly because I am never sure how to fully capture the fascination, the learning and the adventures that are happening. It has been a long journey since I last wrote and I will do my best to fill you in while trying to correctly portray many beautiful details.

Today I arrived back at my home stay in Nairobi after being on the Southern coast of Kenya in a village called Shirazi, and then in Mombassa. I was greeted home with open arms from my family here and it feels nice to be settled back in. I spent the morning hand washing my clothes and bucket washing all of my filthy shoes-who knew they could get so incredibly dirty. Scofia (the house help) and I scrubbed away and chatted in broken Swahili about what I did and ate in Shirazi. She only speaks Swahili but her and I have a special bond and we laugh together all the time. She was thrilled to hear that I had been eating tons of Ugali (a Kenyan staple, not my favorite) and laughed at the thought of my choking it down day after day! I am going to learn to make samosas tonight with my mama, delicious.

The village was simply incredible. It was a transformational, grounding, humbling and unique experience. Shirazi is in a rural area in which there is no running water or electricity and the nearest clinics, shops etc are a good number of miles away. It was hot there, around 97 and humid every day. The ocean cast a nice breeze from time to time but mostly we got used to being sweaty, very sweaty and oh, so dirty. We each lived in our own home stay with a family and our mamas dressed us in traditional clothes everyday. These were rich, thick African fabrics wrapped around us and tucked in so tightly. I loved my family. I had tons of siblings, cousins, a grandmother and a wonderful mama. She named me Zuhura and that was what every villager called me-I loved it. Anywhere we went in the village we were called to in Swahili by our Shirazi names. My family didn’t speak English so I used my Swahili and did the best I could. Many times my mama and I would lay side by side in our dirt hallway and sing African songs together as a way to fill the silence, these were beautiful moments. I close my eyes and I am back there. I could write pages about the beauty and calmness of the Shirazi village. Instead, I will include a journal entry I wrote while there, perhaps it will give you a glimpse.

2/22/12

This experience feels a bit like a dream. I am laying in my bed listening to mama bang around outside cooking our dinner over the open fire. She is cooking Ugali and Samaki. I can hear Furuki and Miriam sing school songs to themselves outside my window-songs they learned in school today. Even as I lay here I can hear the wind through the palms, picturing those glorious stars I will gaze at tonight. The kids were all over us tonight, grabbing at us with their dirt caked hands. They were shouting, singing, dancing and teaching us their games. I love to play with them. Barefoot, dirty, innocent and laughing. What will their lives be like? My reality is so far from theirs. A part of me wants to protect the girls forever. I want to shield them from the harsh realities of being a woman in Kenya. And the little boys, what kind of men will they grow up to be? What kind of husbands, what kind of fathers?

My lantern glows dimly, just enough to cast light on my mud walls and dirt floor, it shines through my mosquito net. I look forward to sharing another meal with mama. We will sit side by side on the floor as we always do, eating with our hands from the same platter. I am sure she will push the big pieces of fish to my side of the plate and I will hide them under some ugali. I’ve gotten good at eating with my hands. When I am full I say, “Nimeshiba” and she pours a little water on my hands while I wait for her to finish her meal. I love when she smiles at me. I can hear Nya Nya outside my door, it’s time to eat…

There are MANY more details I wish I could share of my time spent in Shirazi. The health challenges, the differences in nutrition, in family structure, sanitation and general way of life. There is so much to look at and consider. Overall, I loved it. I learned a lot about flexibility, patience and going with the flow. I missed showers and cold drinks! Ah, the things we take for granted. As soon as we arrived in Mombassa I got ice cream and a large Indian meal, the food there was amazing! Mombassa was also wonderful. It was nice to have so much freedom and comforts after being isolated. It was very cultural, busy and the people were overly generous. I hope to return. Okay, so life still moves on in Kenya, I am slowly developing my ISP and I look forward to sharing it with you all. So much love.

 

 

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