Friday, July 5, 2013

Coming home.....

My heart is full, as I return to my life here in the U.S.  There is nothing quite like the experience of emerging yourself in another culture for a time. There are many things about African culture that I love.... But I especially love the way they relate to each others and to us.  it was an opportunity for the intensity of rushing through the activities of my day, to be replaced by a choice to copy the African ability to be intense relational time.  I will long remember the image of three or four Africans walking hand in hand or arm in arm down the road......

 There is one child in particular that is imprinted indelibly in my mind. I would sit with him outside of the preschool classes at the end of the day. He must have been about four years old.  He would sit and gaze into my eyes with a piercing look in his eyes, as if he were gazing into my very soul. Then a gentle smile would come across his face, and I would smile back. He spoke no English, and I spoke no Swahili or Luo, but the relationship was unmistakable. Several days in a row, we had our "time", at the end of the day, that suspended both the passage of time, of age differences and of language and culture. I will never forget him!

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Gathering the Team

Our team for the June 2013 trip to Achungo rather evolved over time.  Bonnie and Robin Smith (no, they are not sisters...just friends) actually completed applications and deposits by November -- that's enthusiasm!  By the March application deadline, they were joined by 9 others:  co-leaders, Monte and Kathy Fisher,  Charley Hawkins and his grandson, Jack Smith (you guessed it -- no relation to Bonnie or Robin),  Madeline Cowden, Kathy Fleming, Cheryl McPhillips, Jack Marsal and Duane Clapp.  Also on-board was Joey Ludolph, the Fishers' niece from NY, but in the end she was too ill to join the team. Then, as late additions, Duane's wife Marina joined us as did Jack's son, Jeffrey.  It was only at our very last meeting that we were finally all able to meet.  But wait--there was still more to come!

Our official departure date was Wednesday, June 19, but more than half of the team opted to fly to Nairobi early to give them time to recover and to see a bit of the sights.  The Clapps left on the prior Saturday, Charley and Jack on Sunday, Madeline on Monday and Cheryl on Tuesday.  On Friday morning at our Nairobi hotel, the Gracia Gardens, we were finally all together. 

Well... not quite.  On Monday, June 24, Sarah Ackerley joined the team, having been in Kenya for 3 months already.  At last our team was complete!

Several of us were returnees, including the Fishers, Sarah, Kathy Fleming, Madeline and Bonnie.   But all of us were excited to be in Kenya and to be able to spend a week with the now-almost 200 children of Achungo Children's Centre.  Just prior to the trip we'd heard from the Kenyan Director, Michael Nyangi, that the school had been recognized as the #2 school (out of 360) in the entire county of Homa Bay.  This great honor was something we wanted to celebrate with the staff and children and we were also anxious to see all the latest developments on the campus and just to spend time with our precious children.