a journey to the heart (2c)

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CHAPTER 2: (con't)

Staying with our new families in bustling Nairobi


artbul1ax.gif (978 bytes)Preparing for our homestays
Jonathan Tourzan
That night we had a meeting to prepare for our homestays. Maina gave us some clues on what to expect. He answered all our questions and taught us more useful phrases for our homestays. He explained that our hosts would expect us to eat several helpings of food and that they would find it rude if we did not finish our food. If we would say, “Nimeshiba sana” (I am very satisfied) and smile nicely, then they would understand that we had eaten enough and would not be offended.
We finished the evening by writing messages on the postcards that we were sending to our Peace Wreath sponsors in the U.S.. All the students sent a personal message to everyone from whom they had received a ribbon. After we finished this task, we went to bed curious and excited about what new adventures the next day would bring.
The next day our homestays began. Half of the group took a van from the YMCA to Muranga, while the other half waited at the YMCA for their homestay families. Most students went to Fort Jesus, a Nairobi suburb, on the north side of town. A few students, however, stayed in a south Nairobi suburb. Each student stayed with families of different age and social status.
Each student stayed with their Nairobi family for three days and two nights, and, after the homestays, we returned to the YMCA to discuss our impressions. With Maina's help, we processed some of our experiences. Each student shared his or her unique experience with the group. These insights into the homestay of each student helped to clarify some nebulous thoughts that individual students might have had about their own experience.

artbul1ax.gif (978 bytes)Crossing over
Heather Hoppas
My first homestay was in Nairobi. I felt nervous and excited as I waited for my homestay mom to arrive. As she walked toward me, I noticed her beautiful, bright eyes and her small, tight braids. She had a wonderful, warm smile and was wearing a long blue dress. After we greeted each other, we started walking to the market. When we got there, she told me that we were buying food for supper.
As we crossed the street, she held my hand, and I felt relieved because I forgot which way to look before crossing the street. I still had not gotten use to cars driving on the left side of the street in Kenya. After shopping, we stopped in a store for sodas, got on a bus, and headed for my new home.
artbul1ax.gif (978 bytes)Giving heart gifts
Leah Mowery
I got up in the morning from my bed and went outside. I felt warm from the sun, and I could hear the sounds of people out on the dirt road just beyond my family's fence. My sister, Marriane, gave me some water to wash with and a cup to brush my teeth. Because they didn't have running water for the sink or a shower, I went into a dark stall and washed my arms, legs and face.
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In Nairobi we learned about city life from our Kenyan brothers and sisters
We discovered a universal love that unites people across cultures.
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I felt good tucked away in this cool, dark corner, and the water was refreshing.
After I packed, we had breakfast together. Marriane had prepared French toast and cocoa for me. We sat and talked, knowing that this was my last day. I felt good being with her—so connected. The last night we had stayed up and talked for hours. She told me about her home out in the countryside, about how people caught fish there, and about the different beliefs that they followed. One story told of a group of religious people who would go around at night in a trance, trying to scare people by scratching on doors or windows. If they did not succeed, they would go away. She told me that she felt relieved not to live there anymore.
Then she stood up and took a basket from a shelf. “This is a present for you,” she said. “It is from Mombasa. I will get you some more when I go there. It is for carrying fruit and vegetables.”
I felt so happy. I got out my present for her, a colored scarf; I felt that it was somehow inadequate. It alone couldn't express all the gratitude and happiness that I felt.
As I was leaving, Mama Marriane gave me a kanga (wrap around skirt) to wear. We stood there together, and I felt like these people were giving me so much. They provided me with a wonderful experience in their home, and they also showed me appreciation through their gifts.
artbul1ax.gif (978 bytes)Admiring a leader
Vanessa Tubbs
Shortly before my homestay in Nairobi, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Dr. Ouko, was killed. I was living with a family on the outskirts of Nairobi at the time of Ouko's funeral. I watched members of my homestay family mourn his death. My homestay mother, Florence, and her sister, Irene, cried openly while his funeral was being televised. Later, I talked to many people in Nairobi who were also deeply saddened by his death.
I thought about how little I would be affected if someone killed an American political leader; that thought upset me. My generation of Americans, at least the students I know, don't feel that they have political leaders to respect and admire. Kenyans my age also struck me by their dedication to the growth and development of their country. So many teen-agers in my country don't seemed concerned about the welfare of America. Since my return, I have noticed that I have become more aware and concerned about what is going on in my country.

Read the first excerpt from Chapter 3



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