In case you want to know where I am on the planet, and why!
I hope you are staying warm!! Where we are (on the Equator, literally!), it is dropping down to 8 Celsius at night!
Saturday, Makena, Butterfly, Emma Caite, Eowyn, Starlette and I left at 5 am to travel 6 hours to the bottom of Mount Kenya. Traveling on Kenyan roads in the dark and fog is terrifying, but the ride was mostly pleasant. (We hired a friend to drive us in our old van that we donated to Sonshine School years ago).
We are here in Nanyuki for two reasons. Firstly, a friend wants to donate two of her horses to A Future and a Hope. We came to look at them and see if they might make good therapists! (More on that tomorrow)
Secondly, Butterfly, Emma Caite, and Eowyn are going to summer camp!!!
If you know us and our life in Kenya, the idea of going to a summer camp is a HUGE deal.
We have lived in Kenya for 13 years. My kids have literally grown up here (and for most of my kids, they know nothing else). Butterfly was ONE year old when she moved here with her six year old brother Andrew and four year old sister Makena. Over time, Emma Caite, Eowyn, and Starlette were born here.
Not only do they do school at home isolated in a small village, they don't have access to ballet classes, baseball, or any other 'normal American kid' activities. We don't have neighbors who can handle playing with them. It can be frustrating to be a minority who looks different. My children have Kenyan sisters, speak Swahili, and don't see color differences, plus they have lived here all their lives which means my kids are as Kenyan as their fellow neighbors, but the local village kids don't see it that way.
Urban children and children who are a bit more exposed to different people groups, on the otherhand, have no issues with playing with my kids, but we live in a fairly remote village. It is more difficult to find those kinds of kids around withwhom mine can connect on an intellectual level. They yearn for the type of kids who have owned toys in their lives and understand how to care for them, kids who owned pets, too, and understand their importance to our culture and families, kids who don't just stare at you because you are different, but can accept you as an equal... Kids with parents who don't think that when bad things happen it is because of witchcraft. Kids who don't want to pinch or touch to see how your skin and hair feel... Those issues make bonding and conversation difficult.
When we found out that there is a 'camp' that goes on in this area of Kenya with children who ride horses, we decided to send Emma Caite last year. Emma needs friends. She really needs them. She is motivated by people and is a group learner.
Last year, we managed to borrow a pony and send Emma to this camp for the first time in her life. She LOVED it. She had never been far from home ever, and she says she didn't even miss us. She, despite being raised in a barn, blended right in. The camp was such an AMAZING experience for her. She finally made some friends. No matter what their cultural differences are, the one thing they have in common is ponies, and that makes them equal.
This year, I wanted to send three of my kids to camp. And we pulled it off! Barely. Camp is $200 per child for a five day camp, but getting horses to camp in our case was impossible. We weren't the only ones struggling to find means to get ponies to the camp since horse trucks are so rare. In fact, we ended up just renting some ponies near the campsite, which is not ideal because my kids don't know them. Part of the point of camp is for the horses to learn, too, and to connect with their riders! So the ideal situation would have been to bring our therapy ponies up to the camp. Regardless of our struggles to pull off getting our kids to camp, we did it! They are there, and I am happy that a year's worth of planning worked.
It will be interesting to see how they feel after camp. It is five days long, and that is the longest they have been away from me. Five days on a very cold hillside near Mount Kenya riding horses and camping out.
I'm actually borrowing a car and staying an hour away in an acquaintance's house because I didn't want to travel on Kenyan roads six hours back to home just to have to turn around and come back on Friday for the awards ceremony, camp out, and leave Saturday. Makena and Starlette are with me so I wouldn't be bored out of my mind! Plus Starry is still nursing.
Being that my children don't go away to school, I feel as if they need to have something beyond their book learning at home. Seriously, can you imagine living in a mud barn, going to school in your kitchen, and never making friends? As a mother, I feel deeply about this... I must find ways to get my kids to meet OTHER kids! So ponies is the key. (It appears to be a theme these days, huh?)
So I will admit, as we received donations last year, I set aside tiny bits here and there to save up so the kids could attend camp this year. I also studded out Bu, our Great Dane, and occassionaly sold little things, too. It wasn't easy to save, but the reality is, it is going to the best cause ever-- my kids. And they are worth it.
So here I am waiting for my kids to complete their Winter camp (aka summer camp) (it is 8 C degrees!) in Kenya. There are over forty children with ponies spending a week bonding, riding, and having fun up on the chilly hills of Mount Kenya.