Integrating thoughts and feelings
The next morning before returning to Nairobi, we had plenty of cleaning up to do at
the Outward Bound compound. Several students had borrowed hiking boots from the school,
and we had to scrape thick layers of mud off of them. We had to clean our dormitory where
the floor had gotten extremely dirty from the trackings of forty-two muddy feet. We had
finished our cleaning jobs by late morning. We put our baggage into our matatus and said
farewell to the people at the Outward Bound Mountain School.
After a six-hour drive, we arrived back at the YMCA in Nairobi. We finally had a few
hours of free time to relax. That evening, some students went to an African disco, where
they danced with their Nairobi homestay families until late in the evening. The club's
patrons were mostly local black Africans. We felt welcomed as we danced to the music of
the Gnats, a popular African band from Zaire.
The next day was our last in Kenya, and we spent most of it shopping. Our first stop
was the Jua Kali metal workers market. The clanging sounds of men hammering discarded tin
cans into pots, pans, and clothing chests filled this lively market. The market was a
classic example of recycling; seemingly useless objects were transformed into new and
highly practical items.
From the metal market, we went to several other specialty shops. One shop sold
clothing and scarves. A second shop sold exquisite hand crafted wood carvings. A third
shop sold tribal crafts, such as drums, spears, and ebony carvings. Our group made like
tourists and bought all sorts of interesting items. After visiting these shops, we went to
the large downtown market where we purchased baskets, jewelry, and other native crafts.
After our shopping, we drove to the home of Karen Blixen, the woman whose life
inspired the novel Out of Africa. Her home is a major tourist attraction, and several vans
filled with tourists were waiting to take a tour. We decided that we did not want to spend
our last afternoon in Kenya in a crowd of white tourists; our direct cultural experience
had resulted in our identifying more with the African culture.
Then we drove to the crest of the Ngong Hills where we had a spectacular view of the
Rift Valley. A colorful Kenyan sunset lighted up the sky during this last evening. It
would be the last time that we saw the sun setting in this far-off land.
What an incredible sight for our last evening in Kenya! The matatus drove us to the
top of the Ngong hills, the highest point of land as far as the eye could see. I felt so
I stood in waist-high grass on the side of the tallest peak. To one side, I could see the
lights of Nairobi and, on the other, the vastness of the Rift Valley. The lights of
Nairobi seemed to spread out for miles, and the Rift valley stretched endlessly toward the
As I gazed across the Rift Valley, I was absorbed by its enormous presence. It spread
out before me, reflecting the muted evening light, untainted by the glimmer of the city
lights. The clouds above Nairobi cast a gray shadow over the city. Colors of peach,
purple, and blue outlined the white clouds, highlighting the beauty of the Rift Valley. As
my eyes passed over the denseness of Nairobi and the openness of the Rift Valley, I bid my
last farewell to Kenya.
with the group
When traveling with people, as in camping, one can quickly become aware of one
another's strengths and weaknesses; this was true in traveling with the Learning
Community. I became bonded with this group. These students are all very precious to me. I
watched them go through many experiences, ranging from fatigue on the airplane trip to
Safari Ants in their bunks in the middle of the night. These experiences stretched their
physical and mental endurance.
I will always remember these special moments: Gary talking to the
studentssometimes they listened and sometimes not; Jonathan killing the goat and
playing with the children; Vanessa filming and smiling and ready for anything; Fiona's
easy, flowing acceptance of things and her friendship with Alice; Jenelle saying, I
can't and then doing it anyway; Kelly speaking her mind; Jon being so sick, but
getting up and hiking to the Maasai village anyway; Rebecca sitting in the van on the way
to the Maasai, eating three chocolate bars reading Tommyknockers; Katy, Rebecca, Dana, and
Julie singing the melodies from twenty years of sitcoms while sitting in the dark van on
the way to the Carnivore Restaurant; Bruce bringing balloons to the Muranga children and
walking into the riot; Andy stepping
into the sump hole at the market; Jonathan and Andy
jumping with the Maasai morans.
I will also remember when I lay in the room in Muranga with Dana, Paula, Megan, and
Laura, waiting three hours for the van to take us back to Nairobi; Ian smiling and looking
so happy; Jesse looking at the van stuck in the mud and shaking his head; Heather, on the
ground, buttering twelve loaves of bread, with her scarf on her head; Katy cooking in the
Maasai kitchen; Audrey resolving to go on the hike; Ryan swimming with the Kenyan
students; Leah, the first one helping to push the van out of the mud; Laura, the first one
climbing the wall at Outward Bound.
A strong bond formed between us as well. I never laughed so hard as I did with Joyce
and Gary. When Joyce and I realized that we had to walk two miles to the Post Office and
lick stamps for 750 postcards in two hours, we laughed helplessly until we cried. Sorry,
students, but when Gary, Joyce, and I found out about the Safari Ants, we were on the
I admire Gary for his humor and steadfastness in difficult situations. How often did we
hear him respond to our complaints of not having this or that, by reminding us that
It was on the list. I admire Gary for his leadership and vision. He held his
vision for Kenya when he faced students' defeats and parents' fears. He always believed in
his vision, and he, perhaps more than anyone, made it happen. He put himself on the line
with the students, parents, and school administration. He has always worked hard for
students in order for the Learning Community to succeed.
I admire Joyce for being the bad guy, giving all the shots, putting up with all the
fears and complaints. Then, later, she became the good guy, helping the sick and weary
with her nursing skills. I admire Joyce for her sense of humor, her coolness under
pressure, and her willingness to put up with untold discomforts even though she admits,
I'm not a camper.
Our group camaraderie impressed me the most. Our way was the easy, natural way that
people can be when they share the day-to-day experiences of living. I think that these
students in the Learning Community are very fortunate to have this kind of relationship
with each other. As I reflect on our journey to Africa, I think that it may take us
several years to assimilate and appreciate what we experienced together.
The two parents who participated got every bit as much involved as
Traveling can be a test of wills, with Joyce and Susan it became a
testimonial of willingness.
I remember warm, fragrant air, Smiling, singing children,
Friendships with the Elgon Patrol at the Outward Bound School,
Working in the corn fields with my Muranga host family,
Tree-planting and dancing with the Maasai,
I'll always cherish these wonderful memories of Kenya.
Our trip holds so much meaning for me because I helped organize it. We all encouraged
each other to contribute as much as possible to our group efforts of fund-raising,
research, and dedication in order to make our trip joyful, rewarding, and educational. I
know that we met the goals that we developed for ourselves at the beginning of the year.
We learned about the Kenyan way of life by living with host families. We learned about
social and environmental issues through observation, through talking to people, and
through our involvement in service work. We helped create a sense of global unity, another
of our goals, by developing close relationships with the many people we met. Through our
slide presentations to people back home and through our contributions to our service
projects, we are contributing to the creation of a better world.
This was the first time I have lived in a Third World country. Now that I am back in
the United States, I am much more aware of the luxury and opportunity that I have here.
Yet, I no longer see vast differences between the United States and Kenya. I have learned
that, whether we are affluent white Americans or developing Black Kenyans, we are all
humans, and we can learn from each other's differences.
My stay in Kenya helped me to see the world as smaller. We transcended barriers of
speech, race, and upbringing to form special, caring relationships with people of diverse
cultures. My direct experiencein a joyful connection between two peoples from
opposite sides of the earthproved to me that peaceful relations between different
cultures are entirely possible.