December in Africa is quite a trip. I’m a midwest girl. 23 years of Kansas winters followed by 3 Chicago winters doesn’t prepare you for a holiday season that includes sunburns, sweating, and beaches. Don’t get me wrong, I will take a beach any day of the year. But its hard to realize you are in December and next thing you know its January 4th and its been a month and a half of amazing Kenya that hasn’t been shared.
I am falling more in love with my work family every day. I feel like the awkward sibling you let tag along even though you know she is not cool. You explain the tiniest detail to her because you aren’t quite sure if she “really gets it” and when she has a good idea you practically give her a standing ovation. That’s me and I love it. The first week of December was Camp KYFA. (please enjoy this lovely little piece of video mastery Tobi and I put together)
Every day from 8:30 AM until 1:30 PM was 30-60 kids between 4 and 10 playing football, dancing, and making arts and crafts projects. These kids were so great. We broke the kids up into groups by age so Monkeys were the youngest, then Elephants, and the oldest kids were the Simbas (lions). I loved the Monkeys. We played Duck, Duck, Goose! and they liked making me the goose so they could touch my hair. I have to admit, I have a favorite. He is Junior(Evans) and he stuck with me all week.
While learning Waka Waka, which I will happily perform anytime like I just demonstrated New Years Eve on the Duke rooftop, he was next to me and did all the steps really well They were just a second or two delayed from when I was doing them on the beat. He tried so hard, even the girl part of the dance he stuck with me. We let that slide he was so darn cute. And in grand, children are the same all around the world, tradition we had Joel who would love to cause trouble. My manager even spoke to his mother. We separated him but somehow, when we weren’t looking he would sneak back in with his buddies and start some trouble again.
We gave out awards through the week for the best footballer, dancer, and arts and crafts(er?) each day for attitude/creativity/etc. The kids were so excited. All the prizes were given on the last day.
Please take note of Nicole’s game face. This girl was our best female footballer and she could throw down with any of the guys. Love her. We gave her a KYFA jacket that I am beyond jealous of. She looks more official then I do. Spending a week with these kids was amazing. Really getting to know their personalities and having them stop you to say hello in the street in the afternoon is such an amazing feeling.
I truly enjoyed spending time outside the office with my coworkers. During breaks I was able to really get to know them and hear their life stories. These people are amazing. My first week in the office I met Debra and Mercy who come in and clean three days a week. This is their way to earn money and contribute to the family. Debra and Mercy are also volunteer coaches, paid referees, and some of the biggest football fans I have ever met. Debra is 21 and quite possibly the most amazingly upbeat, helpful, and all around phenomenal person I have met. Her parents died when she was very young and she went into an orphanage, which is quite common around here. Then she went to live at her aunt’s house. She finished primary and secondary school and wanted to go on to become an lawyer but didn’t have any of the funds. Her aunt is taking care of her and her cousins and can’t afford to put them through school. Debra is working in the KYFA office to be able to lift the cost of her food and clothing from her aunt. She tells me how she helps to raise her little cousins. I ran into them in town one day and saw how much they love being with her. While mixing paint for one of our craft projects I got to know one of our top referees who is an artist. My coworker Moses and I were able to exchange injury/scar stories which he won by a landslide with his “I was a really good footballer and the other team’s goalie literally stomped and jumped on my head and I went unconscious” tale. I had to bow to the master.
Another bit of motivation came in the form of a visit from the Dutch Ambassador. KYFA is supported by the Royal Dutch Football Federation (KNVB) and our founder is also from the Netherlands. We gave him a tour of the office and went to visit one of our rehabbed fields where we put together a friendly between two of our ladies teams. He planted a couple trees and took a couple PKs on the goalies.
Friday after camp we wrapped up life in the office for December. We hit the ground running today planning meetings and setting the schedule for the new year.
Massive THANK YOU goes out to everyone in KC that has football donated gear. We have over 200 pairs of shoes, soccer balls, jerseys, and some money for shipping. This is amazing! Our entire office is extremely grateful for everything you have done.
Home Sweet Home!
Yes, December 31st I moved again. But this is my final stop for the rest of my stay. I sadly had to say goodbye to Elizabeth and Morgan my old roommates. They had been here for 3 and 2 1/2 years respectively and definitely knew the ropes. They helped me get around and meet some great people. I was sad to leave the bunkbed and purple room in the flat in Migosi. But there was so much waiting for me in this other part of town. Blue living room? Good. Full size bed? Good. Refrigerator? Good. Running water? BINGO! Magical…
I also have a lovely new roommate Jayne. She is another one of us really great American girls hanging out. She is here working on a water sanitation project. She tells me she likes to look at things from the point of view of an environmentalist. She makes a mean guacamole. I don’t foresee any problems with us getting along.
Cross Country Road Trip
The day after we finished camp I hopped on a bus, Modern Coast which I think all my Megabus trips were training me for, and headed a little over 14 hours to Diani Beach in the south coast. It was a last hoorah for my roommates before heading back to the States, a final chance for my manager to say goodbye to her two best friends in the country, and my introduction to the Indian Ocean.
Yes, Indian Ocean, it was lovely to meet you. You and all the wildlife that also like the view. These colobus monkeys were quite lovely. And the baboons were also nice to see. I didn’t enjoy the monkey that stole from my room and eventually stole the bag of tea for our sugar. That was just down right rude.
We also thoroughly enjoyed the food available on the coast. Nothing is better then a man walking up to you carrying a basket full of lobster and giant fish. Elizabeth and Napolean did a fine job of picking out the good ones and negotiating the price. Dinner is served.
Wednesday we parted ways with the beach. It was a quite beautiful and well worth the travel time.
Making our way back across the country we had a little bit of a stop in Mombasa. Just enough time for ice cream and a little camel ride on the beach.
One wrong bus station and and stop for some pilau dinner and Tobi and I were back on a bus, Crown this time which was not nearly as cozy, and headed overnight from Mombasa to Nairobi. The bus only broke down once but it was down for about 3 hours.
Finally Nairobi, the capital of Kenya. This could be one of the most congested and busiest cities I’ve visited. Luckily it has many redeeming factors. Two of these are the David Sheldrick Elephant Orphanage and the Giraffe Centre . These places are just dandies. Where else in one day can you pet a month old elephant and be kissed by a giraffe? I believe that this quite possibly could have been the best day ever.
Outdoor wedding in December? Splendid idea!
Jumping on the matatu from Nairobi, just 64 kilometers Southeast is the beautiful town of Machakos. This is my stateside friend Maryann’s hometown. I was fortunate enough to be able to spend the weekend in her town, see the wedding at the Machakos Golf Club and visit with her family and friends, and enjoy the best shower I have had in over a month at the wonderful Garden Hotel.
I didn’t know what to expect going into a half Kenyan, half American wedding. This was absolutely beautiful. The giant white tents with pink flowers and the green lush backdrop of the countryside were a perfect combination. The bride was stunning and the groom’s smile never left his face. The whole day was such a treat. First the ceremony followed by reception.
The guests were instructed to go ahead and get food and a seat while waiting for the bridal party which had left to take pictures. The buffet was delicious and included so many wonderful Kenyan treats. You will have to check with Maryann to identify the name of each food. But trust me, it was all tasty.
The wedding party was escorted across the lawn to the reception area with a large amount of dancing and chanting. It made you want to get up and join the party. Fortunately I had a front row seat to enjoy the festivities. Later that night, back at the hotel, Maryann and Mathew enjoyed their first dance together along with many dances with all their friends.
The day after the wedding I learned there is one stop you must make before leaving the town. I had no idea this existed and may never again be as amazed as something as simple as this. I guess it is a little funny to call it simple when you are literally witnessing the impossible. Magnetic Hill. This is a spot where you see the laws of gravity being broken. This is a location where water flows uphill. A car in neutral will move up the side of a mountain. A bottle rolling downhill will stop itself and go back up. It is truly an amazing feeling to know you are defying most laws of physics. You are witnessing what is believed to be impossible.
Yes, I’m sure there is a completely scientific reason that explains this phenomenon. But I personally believe that doesn’t matter. Gravity is supposed to be this all encompassing force that you can always depend on. I trip and fall all the time and know its going to hurt every time. But if there is a place on Earth where gravity can’t stop water from moving uphill, what else are we missing out on. What else have we convinced ourselves is a hard fast rule or necessity that doesn’t matter? When I woke up Sunday morning 18 December, 2011 there were many things I believed to be unquestionable truths about myself and the world. When we put the car into gear and finally drove down the hill I knew it wouldn’t be the same. It is a feeling I will never forget.
I jumped on a plane leaving the States only 2 months and 3 days ago and I already know there is so much about me that has changed. I’m learning so much about life and myself and this crazy and fantastic world we are all in. It can be fun and terrifying to feel a bit different almost every day, but that might be the best part of this adventure. So, Happy New Year and cheers to a world where gravity isn’t a constant and nothing is impossible.