My Africa Adventure – And Learning What’s Important In Life

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Africa Adventure

As an 18-year old who had just finished high school having the opportunity to travel halfway around the world to work at an orphanage in Nairobi, Kenya was all I could ever ask for. My uncle had presented me with this opportunity as he had taken the same adventure the previous year. My protective father voiced his doubts, but I was persistent, got myself a passport and other requirements, and I made this experience possible.

As my trip to Africa began at the beginning of August I wasn’t nervous or scared; I didn’t really think much about it at all. Our second flight landed in Brussels and I was excited, as an 18-year old, to be able to legally buy beer. It had been a long 18 hours of traveling and it wasn’t over yet. However, I wondered if I was really prepared for this adventure.

I concluded there was no preparation for a trip like this, no expectations, in reality we weren’t doing anything crazy, just going to live the very different lives with people on the other side of the world. I wasn’t expecting a crazy adventure, just something indescribable I would be able to keep with me forever.

My uncle and I finally arrived in Nairobi, Kenya and we continued our travels to meet the Pastor with whom we would stay for the first three days. On our way to the house, I felt I was in a crazy dream. People drove like crazy, passed up cars on two lane highways, and drove on the other side of the road. There were even speed bumps on the freeway. It was different, yet still the same.

Pastor Malachi and his son Ronnie spoke good English and were very nice and polite. We enjoyed a delicious meal of rice, stew and vegetables right after we arrived. I was shocked to later see the kitchen that meal was prepared in; there wasn’t a single electronic appliance in sight.

The first morning I awoke early to see Pastor Malachi’s wife Nancy already preparing breakfast in the kitchen. I was interested in helping; we cut vegetables and made pancakes from scratch. It was fun to cook in that simple kitchen. After breakfast I was given a bucket and a canteen of boiling water. I took my large bag of toiletries to the small washroom, poured boiling water into the bucket and added cold water to make a nice, warm “bath.” It wasn’t so bad; I got used to it after a couple days.

The first couple of days we went on walks and visited Nairobi’s city park with the pastor’s family. Going out in public, everyone, everywhere, was always trying to sell us something, especially to us “Muzungos”. (A Muzungo is a white person and everyone from little children to adults would call us that.) They were quite amused by us white people, and still very kind and respectful.

After our three days of getting used to things with Pastor Malachi’s family was over we headed to Mama Rosemary’s house in Kitengela about an hour away. Mama Rosemary was the owner of the orphanage with her husband Dismis. Their house seemed very nice in a different, old-fashioned way. They had a guard at the front gate and a housekeeper who had prepared supper right as we arrived. The next morning we finally went to the orphanage, Brydge’s Center, about 20 minutes from Mama Rosemary’s house.

Brydge’s Center was about 500 acres and consisted of a garden, a greenhouse, a pound, pigs, chickens, rabbits, turkeys, two dogs, classrooms, a library and a new 3-story home filled with bunk beds where all 94 children slept. As soon as we walked in the gate all the children welcomed us with a song. They were always singing and dancing. I felt so good around their energy and their happiness with such a simple life. Every one of those children was extremely smart and welcoming, wanting to hold my hand and tell me their stories, and to hear mine. I cried tears of happiness that first day.

For a whole week we went to the center early every morning and stayed till night. I enjoyed getting to know the children and their games of “football” (soccer) every evening. Such amazing people have never surrounded me in my life and I felt completely blessed.

At the center I helped prepare special meals or activities for the children. Just to make something special such as pizza bread (one of my ideas) took from after breakfast to seven p.m. (dinnertime) to complete. Just going to the grocery store took some time as most people took public transportation or used personal drivers. Secondly, shopping around the market for all the different bulk food items could take hours. Finally, cooking everything from scratch and using different fires as stoves (some inside, some outside) is something most Americans wouldn’t easily comprehend. I have never heard about the so-called “American Minute,” however after this experience it makes complete sense.

I had become especially close to the eldest of all the kids, Edwin, who was 18. He was the first child to stay at Mama Rosemary’s when she began the center. He was incredible; he would cook food, fix the children’s broken shoes, bathe the pigs every Saturday, preach on Sundays, and even slaughtered goats for special occasions. His knowledge seemed endless and, getting to know his life story, I knew he could conquer absolutely anything life threw at him.

I felt sad as the week at Brydge’s Center ended and we headed to Tanzania for five days of adventure. I knew how much I was going to miss the children and already looked forward to coming back after five days. The bus ride from Kitengela to Arusha in Tanzania took about four hours.

Africa Adventure Monkeys

Tanzania felt like a breath of fresh air compared to the crowded, congested cities of Kenya. We stayed with Pastor Peter and his young daughter Rachel, whose mother had passed from breast cancer six years earlier. Life was pretty simple in Tanzania as well, not much different from Kenya despite the fresher climate and more tourists.

On one day Pastor Peter took us to the Masi villages in the mountains. This was probably the most culture shocking part of my whole trip to Africa. The Masi dressed in traditional clothing and lived in huts where cows sometimes slept in as well. Young children walked five plus miles to school, if they were lucky enough to go to school. Men had multiple wives and many ran away to escape abuse and poor living conditions. It felt as if we were in the middle of nowhere high up in those mountains. I couldn’t fathom how people had been living there like that for so long. We never went on our planned Safari trip as we gave the 400 dollars saved up for it to Pastor Peter, to help the children of the Masi villages.

I was ecstatic to go back to Byrdge’s Center after our stay in Tanzania but sad at the same time because we only had three days left of our trip. I had missed the wonderful children and all their good vibes. We played games and celebrated on our last day. It was such an emotional ride to have gotten as close as I did with everyone at Brydge’s, and to have to leave so soon. Edwin came with us in the taxi that dropped us off at the airport and it was a sad goodbye to say the least. It has been almost a month now since I have been back and I still miss the simple life and my good friends in Kenya. I dream of going back when I finish college, to work and live in Kenya for a couple of years.

About the author: Ciara N. lives in Los Gatos, CA and attends West Valley College. She is pursuing a career in business.

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