I’m starting (I think) to get things turned around and pull out of this slump. Not to throw myself a pity party or anything, but it’s kinda been rough. Leaving my family, coming home to a terrorist attack with a busted knee, the death of one of my sweetest little helpers… it’s been hard. but these hard things do have a way of bringing out the finer things in life, even though sometimes I feel guilty, maybe, for finding pleasure in such sad things. But I know it’s necessary, otherwise, a person would just drive their mind into the ground with negativity and sadness. Anyways, this blog isn’t about the sad things, it’s more about the lighter side of dark incidents.
First of all, leaving everyone back home – tough as always. I have learned that saying goodbye is one thing that refuses to improve, despite endless practice and preparation. This time, however, it was truly more of a “see ya later” than a “goodbye,” like last time. In fact, only about 10-15 weeks until I’m reunited with my family on American soil. Can’t complain a bit about that – sounds a lot better than 10-15 months, eh? Plus, I’m incredibly fortunate and grateful that I was even able to attend the wedding! Peace Corps policy clearly states that no travel outside of the community, let alone the country, will be permitted during the first and last 3 months of service. This trip fell within my last 3 months of service – but alas, the PC Gods had mercy and accepted my request. I promise to never break another policy for the rest of my life! (sound familiar?)
Next on the list, Westgate. I know that many of you have been following (or have at least caught the headlines) the terrorist attack on Westgate Mall in Nairobi. This is still a really, really sensitive subject to me, as well as many other Kenyans. While I was in Germany, a major shopping mall in Nairobi was attacked by Al Shabaab, a branch of Al Qaeda (responsible for 9/11). They not only attacked the mall, but planned and executed an incredibly intricate siege of the upscale mall, which PC volunteers visit regularly. In fact, I took my mom here when she came to visit… I come to this safe haven almost monthly, and have made friends with some of the shop owners and regularly contact you guys from Artcaffe, a Panera-like restaurant with wifi. It was horrifying to see footage of this attack on a place I relate to safety and security – a place I truly consider to be my home – my neck of the woods. The attack began while I was in Germany and was still underway when I left to return to Kenya – 3 days later. It made for some stressful goodbyes and restless traveling.
As soon as I touched down in Kenya, at 3am, my phone exploded with messages from my colleagues and friends all over Kenya, checking on my safety. It meant a lot to me, even if I had scared the hell out of them by not responding for several days while the attack was ongoing. Pole sana! But I truly appreciated the concern.
But I’m getting ahead of myself here – before I got to Kenya, I had a dancing catastrophe that resulted in a pretty injured knee. I really can’t tell you much about how I hurt it, but I fell, and it swelled… and swelled… and swelled. I am not exaggerating. I had to peel my jeans off after touring Frankfurt. And the swelling didn’t subside for over 48 hours! It was a pretty inconvenient injury, but I still managed to get the most out of Germany and Istanbul. Thank god for parachute pants & painkillers. At any rate, I could hardly walk when I arrived in Nairobi. The cramped airplane on top of LOTS of walking and touring was a terrible combination, and it resulted in a crippled Kelsey. I touched down in Nairobi at 3a on Monday morning, caught a few hours of sleep at a hotel before making a trip to medical at 8:30a. Fortunately, things are now ok and I’m getting around just fine. Could have been a lot worse.
So, after having my knee checked and cleared, as well as other routine medical exams for end of service, I began my journey back to Siaya. I started around 9am on Saturday and reached Kisumu by 7pm. Shortly after settling into my hotel room, I received a call informing me that Evans, our top performer in first grade, had passed away. I really don’t have anything to say, other than there is nothing in this world that makes sense about the death of a child. He was diagnosed with Typhoid the day before he died. Apparently he fell ill on Thursday evening, and the housemother took him to the doctor Friday morning where he was diagnosed and given medication. Friday evening he was still sick, but OK. Saturday morning he was not well, so his mother was called to come get him. She came at 5pm and he died in the matatu shortly after reaching the pavement.
I found out Saturday night. Ambalo came to meet me in Kisumu Sunday morning, along with my colleagues Jeph, Sirawa & Ruth, and together we went to Evans’ home to visit the family. Imagine the saddest thing you have ever experienced in your life. This was worse.
And then we went to view the body at the mortuary. I decided to skip this tradition and wait in the car.
Afterwards, Ambalo surprised me by organizing to take us to lunch on the lake (after we changed his tires, fixed his trunk and a broken lock). This was one of the best memories I will treasure from Kenya – honestly. Ruth, Sirawa, Jeph, Ambalo had organized to treat me to something nice, despite the tragedy, to help my return to Kenya be as pleasant as possible – and just this tight little net of people protecting me and caring for me – it’s priceless. These people are why I’m here, and these people are the ones that I’m going to carry with me for the rest of my life. That day, the high’s and low’s of it, that’s what my experience in Kenya is all about, and those people are the ones responsible for making this beautiful piece of my life.