Wednesday, July 24, 2013

My Favorite Place in the Entire World

June 28, Friday

The morning began chilly and damp, so we all bundled up in jackets, boarded the matatu, and were on our way to Milton Jones Eagles Academy.  The school has grown quite a bit since I was there in 2009, which is a good thing.  There are many more students, as well as larger and nicer facilities.

The kids at this school are very used to having mzungus around.  Immediately, several young ones hugged at my legs, stretched out their little arms, and said, "Me, me!" until I picked them up.  They are so cute.

It didn't take much asking around for me to find Faith, my family's sponsored girl.  She is nine years old and in the third grade.  Faith is lovely.  She's a little shy, but she lit up when I told her I was her sponsor.  She followed me around after that, grinning at me from behind corners.

I gave Faith the gift I brought for her from America.  What a pretty little girl.

The ceremony at Milton Jones Eagles Academy was quite fancy.  They had a speaker system set up, so the kids danced to recorded songs and recited poetry from the microphone.  For the final performance, a line of children appeared.  They were dressed in their very best clothes: shiny dresses, nice suits, plastic tiaras, and sunglasses.  They had a fashion show for us.  The girls strutted with hands on hips while the boys swaggered down the runway like rap stars.  After a round of modeling, they reappeared wearing paper banners with our names written across them.  The children presented each of our team with a necklace and then escorted us, dancing, into a line where everyone cheered and photographed us.  It was quite the procession.

We all took tea in a back room and then got back into our matatu to head along the bumpy road to Suzy Peacock High School.

We received one of the warmest welcomes we've had so far.  Students lined the driveway, holding up homemade banners that bore our names.  The students sang joyfully, clapping and dancing as we got out.  They are so welcoming.

Students clasped my hands and danced.  They were very tribal, singing in Kalenjin, Luhya, and Swahili.  They would trill, making shrill sounds with their tongues.  Some of the girls tried to show me how to do it and I got it down a little, but I'm nowhere near as talented as these girls are.  "Ai-lai-lai-lai-lai-lai-lai!"  Such fun.  

Suzy Peacock was only opened in mid-January, so they had an official opening now that Milton Jones is in Kenya.  Milt cut a ribbon and unveiled a plaque and even planted a tree!  Everyone was smiling from ear-to-ear and filled with joy.  So much hope hung in the air at Suzy Peacock High School.  Where there was once only slum and hunger and brokenness, now there is a school.  Now there is education.  Now there is future.

We had lunch and then gathered again for a ceremony that lasted for three hours.  Students performed poems and tribal dances for us and then speeches were made.  There is so much joy and hope in this school.  It was one of my favorite places in Kenya so far.  Say anything and the students erupt in cheers and whistles.  They are so excited and thankful to have the opportunity to learn and create a brighter future for themselves. 

All of us were able to speak and pour into these students, encouraging them to work hard and pursue Christ.  By the end of the afternoon, almost everyone was crying!  Suzy Peacock really is a special place.  So much potential is here.

These kids have gone from living as orphans in the slums to being given clean beds, an education, uniforms, and daily food.  They are so appreciative and so eager to make the most of what they have been given.  They take nothing for granted.

I befriended a few of the older girls.  The sweetest I met was named Faith.  She clung to me for two hours, holding my hand and leaning her head on my shoulder.  The girls would ask the funniest questions, like, "If I move to Texas, will my hair grow like yours?"  I have a sunburn on my face and they asked if I was born red like that.  I told them the sun burned my skin and they were horrified.

A teacher asked me several questions about the American school system.  He asked if many people could read and write.  When I told him school was mandatory by law, he was astonished.  When I explained how many students took school for granted and did not learn much on purpose, he was even more shocked.  What a different place America can be from Kenya, where even basic education is considered such a huge blessing.

Sign language is a source of much fascination here.  When people ask what languages I know, I say American Sign Language  They all want to learn how to spell their names and sign certain words.  "I love you" is the biggest hit.  The girls at Suzy Peacock were learning full sentences by the time I left, much to my delight (and theirs as well).

They convinced me to give them a photo of me from the little album I brought.  I had originally brought the picture to give to Lavin, but I forgot and still had it in the album.  Faith said they would hang it up in the girls' dormitory for all to see, so that's interesting.

It was sad to leave Suzy Peacock today.  I truly enjoyed that school.  We spent most of our day there, so we went straight to a Chinese restaurant for dinner.  It was nice to have a variety in food.

A young man named Peter sat next to me and befriended me.  I taught him how to play Rock, Paper, Scissors, and how to spell his name in sign language.  He told me all about Kenya.  He could hardly comprehend the facts that we have no wild elephants, rhinos, lions, zebras, and monkeys in Texas.

I found out we'll get to sleep in until 8:00 tomorrow, so that's thrilling.  We've been waking up at 6:00am or earlier every morning, so I'm a bit worn out!  I don't mind though.  I love getting to know the beautiful people in this country, even if it's bright and early.

Although we are not doing a lot of hard manual labor on this trip, we are pouring a lot of ourselves emotionally and spiritually into the people we meet.  But truly, we are gaining so much.

Kenya may be a land of little material wealth, but it is rich in love and hope.  I think this is my favorite place in the entire world.

Tomorrow they will bring David from Samabul to Naiberi so I can see him for the first time in four years.  I am so excited to see how much he has grown.  The last time I saw him, he was a tiny infant that I held sleeping in my arms.

I can't believe I'm flying back to America on Tuesday.  My time here is passing so quickly!  I am certainly not ready to leave.

Two years ago: My dog is part monkey. and Brown Water

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