July 2, Tuesday
It has touched my heart to see the small farm beneath the looming shadow of the Westside Hotel. The several children that reside on the property are so precious. It must be a funny thing to wake up each morning from a life of struggle and watch wealthy tourists coming to stay at a four-story hotel a hundred yards away. But it is a joy to watch these children playing instead of begging, working hard manual labor, or standing around listlessly because they are too hungry to focus on anything else. There is hope in this place.
When we arrived, a little girl around three years old had just been dropped off. Her name is Sharon. She had been found in the village covered in burns and bruises all over her body, the result of horrifically cruel parents. Even her little face had been burned. She is a beautiful little girl; I cannot understand how anyone would want to hurt her.
This story does not have a hopeless ending. Sharon's parents arrived at the children's home around the time the Beagles were about to take her to the police station to record her abuse, which we all thought would mean Sharon would be forced to leave. However, the Beagles took action and determinedly took her alongside her parents to the police station. The police saw the damage done to this precious toddler, arrested her parents, set a court hearing, and said the child is to stay at the children's home for at least three months before they reevaluate the case. Praise the Lord! My heart is so burdened for this hurting, beautiful girl.
(An update written on July 28 is that Sharon is doing much better now that she is surrounded by an environment of love and care, but they have discovered that she is deaf. Her mother would beat her out of frustration when Sharon could not communicate with her. The next step will be to teach Sharon some Kenyan Sign Language and put her in school!)
The children performed traditional tribal dances for us. They are amazing!
These kids won second place at a national competition last year. They were supposed to attend this year's in Kitale while our group is here, but all of the teachers in Kenya are on strike at the moment, so the event will likely be canceled. The children are so very talented. It was a delightful performance.
After the dances, I stayed back with a few others in my team to get to know some of the children at the Bahati school. We were swarmed! Children were kissing my cheeks, pulling at my hair, and fighting over who got to hang onto my arms. They were the most excited kids I've met so far in my life. They were loving, saying over and over again, "I love you. Please do not leave. Stay here forever!"
They pushed Jake and I onto one of their school desks (made for more than one person) and gathered all around us to play with our hair. When Jake showed them his tattoos, they pulled up my sleeves and were surprised to find I didn't have the same markings on my white arms. At one point, Naana came into the classroom to see what was going on. The crowd of shrieking kids nearly knocked her over, so Jake intervened.
A few of the girls were speaking excitedly to one another in Swahili. I heard, "Blah-blah-take picture-blah-blah," so I said, "Do you want me to take a picture?" The reaction I received was priceless. The girls' eyes widened and they exclaimed, "You speak Swahili?!" It was great.
We were soon on our feet again, kids hanging from our arms and shouting - joyful shouts, but still loud - so I began to feel a bit overwhelmed and claustrophobic. I felt like I was in a maze of children and had no way to get out into the open air!
We did manage to untangle ourselves from all of the clinging hands and loud questions. We said farewell to the joyful children and headed up to the house, where we reunited with our team and met Bravon's shy 5-year-old brother. We gave him a Fanta and he smiled for a moment. The poor guy lost his mom only two weeks ago. He must feel so afraid and lonely.
Naana came in at one point and gave me a handful of yellow beads. "The children tore off your bracelet by mistake during the chaos," she said, "and they wanted me to tell you they are very, very sorry." I had a good laugh. The bracelet was only one I had brought to give away, but Mei, one of the Beagles' daughters, actually was able to put it back together. I gave it to Bravon's brother.
We went to eat at a small restaurant in town. We had kuku and chips (or chicken and French fries, as Americans would say). Stephen sat beside me and kept slipping me bits of his samaki, scales and all. I actually liked the fish better than the chicken dish.
It rained throughout our entire drive back to Eldoret. We even drove over a river without a bridge as the ground flooded beneath our poor matatu. We've put this vehicle through a lot on this trip. We stopped by a little Maasai store to finish our shopping before we went to the airport.
Saying goodbye to Francis and Consolata was so sad. I am not ready to leave Kenya. The thought of leaving now makes me cry. I could stay here for a few more months, easily. This country and this people have won my heart.
After a two hour layover in Eldoret, we flew the short distance to Nairobi. The airport was packed full of 600 British soldiers about to head home. They were all very friendly, although we had trouble understanding much of what they said! We joked that if we made it onto the same flight, we would have the safest return to England ever.
Cassie and I were happy eating our Kenyan Choco-Fingers and Biscuits. Chocolate has been our shared treat throughout this trip.
Now I am on the long overnight flight to London. It'll be a long night of flying ahead of me. I can't believe I've already left Africa. If I could, I would turn around and fly right back. These have been the sweetest two weeks of my life.
Three years ago: 40 Reasons to Eat (Part 8)
Two years ago: O Sleeper
One year ago: The Snake Attack