a journey to the heart (6)

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Integrating thoughts and feelings
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artbul1ax.gif (978 bytes)Rounding it out
Jonathan Tourzan
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.
artbul1ax.gif (978 bytes)Getting an overview
Jenelle Flaherty
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 expanded.
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 distant horizon.
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.
artbul1ax.gif (978 bytes)Bonding with the group
Susan Abramson
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 students—sometimes 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 floor.
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.
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The parents: Joyce and Susan
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The two parents who participated got every bit as much involved as we did.
Traveling can be a test of wills, with Joyce and Susan it became a testimonial of willingness.
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artbul1ax.gif (978 bytes)Connecting as one
Fiona Hollins
Kenya –
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 experience—in a joyful connection between two peoples from opposite sides of the earth—proved to me that peaceful relations between different cultures are entirely possible.

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