I can remember the early years when every sound, smell, season in Kenya seemed so foreign to me. Kenya was different than what I was used to. We would post blog articles about how it made us feel, and the struggle was real. It took years to get to a place where we felt less like foreigners and more like we belonged. We helped the process by making our own traditions and morphed culture. Christmas is hot and a time for swimming for example. 'Summer' is cool, rainy and grey.
Twelve years is a long time to live somewhere. We had committed to living in Kenya for 2 years, but it took us that long to find our place and our way in which we could help. In fact, we are still finding our way. We must adjust to the needs that present themselves and to our knowledge and understanding of the culture we are trying to aid. We are not here to produce 'little Americans,' but instead are trying to help people where there are gaps.
Taking in orphans and being family to them is our story for the last ten years. We are still in the midst of it, and always will be even when they grow up and out over the next five years or so. We still have to get them from high school to tech schools or college, and then off to finding jobs.
But that is not what this article is about. I was just realising that I don't think about the 'odd' things of Kenyan life anymore. I don't notice the plethora of cattle crossing the highway or the way the buildings are designed differently than in Texas. I think of Kenya as home. Thousands of chickens strapped to the top of a bus? That is normal now. Fish hanging off of the front of a vehicle? Also normal. No longer do I tote my camera snapping photos of things to try and make sense of my oddness in a country that is not my own. Now, I am one of them. I am integrated.
My skin though will always be an issue. My heart, my soul, it is here. I know the streets, the people, the language. But I will always look foreign. It was a hard lesson in our third year of living in Kenya when Johnny told me that no matter how hard I try, I will not integrate completely. I nearly cried. I will always look like the 'rich westerner.' Sadly, he is right. My biological kids who are Kenyan by birth and know nothing else are always greeted with, "Welcome to Kenya!" by well-wishing citizens. But it is our norm, and we have gotten somewhat used to it.
However, with that said, making friends is not that easy. There is an aid culture here. Many people from the west come to Kenya for a few weeks/years and bring aid. It is great, except that local people know how to work the system so making friends as someone who 'helps' people is not always straight forward.
It wasn't until we moved to The Shire that we actually started to find friends, oddly enough! We had no idea our little farm in the middle of nowhere would bring us to a place where there are people who are like us. We don't get out much, but it is nice to have a few folks with whom we can connect.
Which brings me to what I was going to share... for the first time ever, one of my children is attending a summer camp! Today Emma is going off for the first time away from home for longer than an overnight. She is going to pony camp. No cell phone, no contact with me for five or six days. For those of you who support us, thank you for your understanding in this matter. I feel this is a colossal thing for Emma. Having a pony has opened doors for her to make friends. She is excited. I am happy for her, but I have separation anxiety, ha! Emma was born in Kenya and finding other people she can be friends with is a must for my social 10 year old. I am so happy for her. A sweet lady is actually loaning her a pony so that we could afford to send Emma. Transporting hers to the venue is expensive at $3 a mile. (We could import a used horse trailer for that price, and we jolly well might in the future!) So send your thoughts this way as Emma Caite is off far away at camp on horseback!
*all photos belong to Makena Brooks except the chickens on the matatu one. I borrowed it. Thank you whoever took that one!