This is Quincy writing—the seemingly random West Virginian who somehow found herself on a plane to Africa on Tuesday thanks to her friend Jonah (he’s probably writing the other blog… if not, I promise he’s a cool guy).
Some background about me (ew I hate talking about myself): I’m super funny, I’m pretty cool, and my favorite color is yellow. Just kidding. But yellow really is my favorite color. As I already said, I’m from West Virginia, but I met Jonah at Brown University where we’ll be sophomores next year. I play rugby, study mechanical engineering, and love to travel. This is my third time in Africa, my first being two years ago to Kenya and Tanzania, and last year I went to Morocco.
As you’ve probably already learned, I’m a fairly terrible writer, and I feel bad for Michelle who has to fix all my awful grammar mistakes and poor attempts at making jokes.
Now that introductions are finished, let’s talk about this trip! A trip where I’ve learned very quickly that “Anything you want to happen fast, expect to happen slow, and anything you want to happen slow, expect to happen slower” (as said in the wise words of Michelle). Do you want to hear the good news or the bad news first? Well, I choose the bad. (If you want to skip all the details, start reading at **HERE** below).
Kenya seems to have some problems with their delivery companies (UPS or U-haul should look into staking some business here because Kenya is in DESPERATE NEED). Our boxes (well not my boxes per se, I mean the nearly 2000 pounds of donated goods that Michelle and Ann put together) that were sent to Kenya at the end of March are MIA (well, maybe not technically missing but they’re about a month behind schedule). A recipe composed of a dash of ocean storms, a pinch of Kenyan time, 2 tablespoons of promissory notes, and a cup of miscommunication have created a giant headache for everyone on the trip. Our entire mission depends on these donations (we only have about 10% of what we’ve gathered), so we’re searching for solutions.
Another “small” speed-bump—actually, speaking of speed-bumps, I have yet to see a speed limit sign, but the giant speed-bumps and omnipresent police checks ensure “safe driving”—on our journey is a three-day ongoing process to acquire a working phone. A cash-only phone deal at a sketchy Nairobi gas station and several shop visits in Meru, including an hour spent at the Chemist (which is a pharmacy, but also specializes in phone activation and Trader Joe’s vitamins which should be refrigerated, but are sitting out on the shelf. If you want any, I’m sure I can get a good deal) have produced nothing more than two cell-phone shaped paperweights.
Our car also has a broken alternator. Do I know what that is? No (thanks for teaching me nothing about cars, Dad). Does it sound terrifying and trip-delaying? Absolutely.
**HERE** In short, we have next to no donations, we can’t call home, and our car is about to ready to keel over. Yay!
On a lighter note, some things are looking up. We bought towels yesterday, so I (finally) bucket showered this morning. For those of you who don’t know what that is, it’s where you boil a bucket full of water and mix this hot water with the freezing cold tap water in a basin. Then you just kind of splash around with soap and water and somehow emerge clean, at least…relatively.
I’ve met some awesome, awesome, awesome people, too. Lillian was the first, a giggly, talkative young girl who’s going to be a high school senior in Albany, Georgia in the fall. She wore a coral pink prom dress this year, has an Instagram account called lillykenya, and wants to be a doctor. Oh and she was born into abject poverty in rural Kenya. When Lillian was 15, Michelle brought her to the United States to live with her sponsors and go to an American high school. I’m struggling to find the words to describe how beautiful, humble, joyful, caring, and thoughtful she is. She’s independent and can be feisty, but maintains an air of strength and modesty that illustrates a maturity and worldly understanding that I’ve never seen before. I’ll meet her grandmother in Karatina (the place of carrot-colored soil) next week and watch her graduate high school in Albany next spring.
The first day, I also met Mercy, Solomon, Lawrence, and Vincent. The four of them are sponsored college students, Jonah’s family being the one to sponsor Mercy for the past 10 Years. She studies food science, while Solomon is studying to become a teacher, Lawrence studies computer science, and Vincent studies economics. It happened to be Vincent’s birthday the day I met him, and I watched him kiss a giraffe for the first time and receive a laptop from his sponsors. I also watched Solomon receive a laptop earlier that day. Their reactions were of such gratitude and speechlessness, that I’m having trouble describing it. You’ll have to see it for yourself because it is beyond humbling.
Jonah took Mercy grocery shopping, while Michelle took Solomon. I write this feeling guilty because food is honestly a struggle for these students. When I go eat at school, it’s a question of where, what, and how much. For them, it’s a question of if. They can’t afford to spend 300 Kenyan Shillings, less than $3.75, to eat dinner some days. Lawrence and Vincent (brothers) lost their dad in January and had to call on friends to find a place to live. Lawrence currently lives with Michael, our guide, because he can’t afford anywhere else. I was complaining I was going to have to live with a roommate in April.
But I never would have known any of this had they not told me. They smile constantly and answer questions honestly. They speak English, Swahili, and a variation of dialects. They’re well versed in math, chemistry, physics, and a slew of other subjects. They don’t want my sympathy or anyone’s for that matter, they want respect. They want to make something of themselves. They don’t want their children to be born into the same situation they were. They work harder than I do because this is probably the only shot they’ve got. If I flunk out, I can go back to West Virginia, fall asleep in my big bed, and work on applying to another college or job. If they fail…well, that’s not even worth mentioning because it’s not going to happen.
These people are amazing. While the pace of this country is frustrating at times, the people are sincere and grateful. While I expected to be sleeping on dirt floors and longing for a shower, we’re sitting at a nice restaurant in the middle of Meru sipping on some vanilla milkshakes surfing the interwebs. I can’t wait to see what the rest of this trip has to offer because I can learn so much from Kenya and its people.
Sijui what I’m saying,