My first week in Kenya has been nothing short of extraordinary and I could not have imagined a more incredible experience. Everything about this place is so beautiful. Rocky hills and wildflowers roll on for miles and the ancient Lake Victoria sits quietly, like a wise elder watching the children at play. The native people are some of the kindest and friendliest folks I have ever met–everyone shakes your hand to say hello, and they are always offering their assistance. Everyone at the Korando Educational Center- Mama Dolfin, Torsten, David, the other volunteers, the teachers and the children- have been so welcoming and thoughtful. I have been here one week, but it feels like one year; I feel so at home.
One week ago Torsten, David, Pamela, Mareile and three of the children met me at the airport with open arms, smiles and a “Welcome” poster. As we drove to the school, I felt like I was I was in a daydream. Months of planning, a half dozen shots, a suitcase full of supplies and so much more had gone into this journey– I could not believe that after traveling more than 12,000 miles, I had finally made it, across the world, to Africa.
The children and teachers welcomed me at the bottom of the driveway with an adorable, but impressive, performance of songs and dances. After they finished, all of the children gathered around me with wide-eyes and open ears, and laughed as I tried to say “Erokamano” or “thank you” in Luo native tongue; I was so happy to make them smile. After taking a shower, introducing myself to the other volunteers and getting settled, I was able to take a nap–how glorious it felt to lay down in a bed after traveling for two days, how sweet it was when someone came to tuck me in with a second blanket.
On Saturday the students gave a longer, more elaborate performance to the two other volunteers, Leti and Angela, and I, before we went to town and the market. I love the market here! It is a colofrul mosaic of fruits, vegetables and spices, and it is so endearing the way the people carefully stack and pile their produce into little pyramids and formations. When we returned, we joined some of the children in a game of soccer before eating a delicious, homemade dinner. All of the food is fresh and delicious.
On Sunday morning we hiked one of the hills in the school’s backyard. The terrain was a little difficult and the path wasn’t well cleared, so two little local boys guided us up. The view was fantastic and we even spotted some monkeys in the distance! Africa really is wild.
We spent the rest of day in town before dropping Torsten off at the bus station–he is travelling throughtout Europe to sell aprons and raise money so the education center can complete the construction of the boys´ bunkroom and the dome house. The afternoon and evening was filled with uncontrolable laughter, tasty dishes and sweet deserts; my heart and tummy were full and warm.
Monday was my first day at the school, and believing I would be most useful and knowledgable in English courses, I attended mosty all English classes. Although many of the students impressed me with their reading and grammer skills, I could still see there was a need for further explanation and assistance. During the first hour of the day I sat in with class 8 as they corrected their exams from the week before. The teacher asked me if I agreed with the correct answer to each of the questions, which was a little challenging and awkward at first; I disagreed with about a third of the answers, and needed to correct the teacher’s answers and explain why. I felt badly correcting her in front of the class, but I realized she was just as open and receptive to learning as the students. Similar situations occured throughout the day, and again, the teachers were receptive- I felt that they respected my reasoing, and as I gained some esteem, the teachers began putting me in charge of my own classes throughout the week. I felt like a celebrity as I walked into a room of excited, smiling students and loved being able to make up the lessons; class (grade) 2 did a fill-in-the-blank exercise, class 4 learned about occupations, and class 7 wrote descriptive narratives. Seeing their evident potential was both exciting and upsetting.
Here, almost every student wears the same outfit of tattered and torn clothing to school each day. Teachers scramble for chalk, paper and curriculur books before class. Chalkboards are erased with whatever left-behind paper is on the floor. Classes 1 and 2 take place outside, amongst the trees. Girls use old watering hoses as jumpropes during game time, while boys play with deflated soccer balls. Many students have only one notebook and half of a pencil. Unless students score into the slim percentile on university admission tests, they will most likely not attend college. It is difficult to see such a desire for education amongst a void in resources and opportunity.
I am looking forward to the next two weeks and am so thankful for this experience. I could not be happier with my decision to come. I am already wishing I had more time to teach the students and help Mama, but I am determined to find a way to continue making an impact when I leave. ; I only hope to have a small influence on theirs.