by Through Inspiration

Hello from far away,

I have safely made it to Kenya. The journey was long but very much worth the effort. This week has been a bit of a whirlwind. We have mostly been doing orientation activities-lots of lectures on culture, safety, rules etc. The compounds where we have been staying are beautiful! They have hot showers and the food has been great. I get along with mostly everyone in the program. I can tell that by the end of this trip we will be very close, I already feel I have made lasting relationships with multiple of them. It is always interesting being thrown into a new group of people, where do we find our place? How do we establish ourselves? It’s like a blank slate to be the person you want to be. So far there have been many, many, many laughs. My stomach hurts just thinking about the amount of laughing we’ve been doing. I found a group of about 5 people who like to go running! Last night we ran through this field into the setting African sun. I kid you not when I say that it was something out of a movie. The grass was swaying in the breeze, the tree branches glowing in the dark red sun. We ran past abandoned huts and men sleeping in the shade. It was a slice of heaven. Tonight we are at a new location and ran through part of Nairobi where the offices are. We ran past matatus full of African men staring, billows of smoke emerging from broken tailpipes and women seeking shelter under bushes. There is no lack of visual stimulation. The contrast of the greenery with the red African dirt is breath taking. The dark curious faces that follow our every move never cease to intrigue me; what is their story?

I am continually amazed by the amount there is to see, learn and experience. The differences between here and home and huge and every step is new. I get overwhelmed by the thought of all I want to do and see. We have toured some of the city, eaten the traditional food, taken public transportation and visited the giraffe sanctuary (amazing). Saturday we move into our home stays! I still have no information about my home stay but will know it all soon enough. I have been taking malarial pills every day and had no reaction so far. I am covered in bug bites with no sign of a fever so they must be doing their job. Tomorrow we have a presentation from the US Embassy, a visit with the local doctors about health precautions and a discussion with the home stay coordinators. Today we had a lecture about Kenyan culture. It ended up being a discussion of circumcision and genital cutting. Apparently this is the biggest issue in Kenya right now and is the cause of most of the post election violence and political conflict between tribes and people-everyone has an opinion. I am fascinated by this issue. I learned that I really cannot judge it from a Western point of view. I have so much to learn about the subject as a cultural issue and I must be sensitive to this. I requested further information and reading. It was a good lesson in checking myself and my judgments and preconceptions. The issue runs deep, hundreds of years deep, and it is not my position to form an opinion until I learn much, much more (although the thought of it makes me want to throw up). I am sure issues like this will continue to come up in conversation, and I hope that they do, it is important to challenge my previous opinions. Anyways, there was mention of an NGO that we will be visiting called “Women fighting AIDS in Kenya”. I think I may end up doing my independent project with this NGO, but there is lots to be decided.

Okay, I suppose that should be all. I am doing really well! So overwhelmed and over stimulated. There is a lot to think about and process, but I am really happy and so excited about all that is to come. I hope you are well.