Five months have gone by since Africa. It’s not that I’ve been pushing off this blog post since then. It’s more that I haven’t been able to find the words to describe my trip. I still feel like I’m lacking the words to fully explain my experience. But, here’s what I’ve got.
Life is determined by different circumstances. Some positive, some negative—many that are completely out of our control. But the one thing my time in Africa has made me consider is location. How can a specific geographical location be so different than another? Nielsen, a global information and measurement company, can tell you everything you want to know about a location—what people wear, watch on tv, even to their level of education and how much money they take home. But let’s face the facts, we don’t need Nielsen to find out about the culture of Nairobi, Kenya. A simple Google search will pull up all the facts. You probably won’t be shocked or alarmed. We all know Africa is poor. We all know America is rich. If you’re reading this post, you’re likely in the top 1% income bracket in the world.
With a population of 3,375,000, Nairobi is an economical conglomerate unlike anything I’ve seen before. Though some of our time was spent in Nairobi, driving to and fro, we spent the majority of our time in smaller communities hours away from the city. We visited three different communities in three days. All unique and very different.
Kamuya was the first community that we visited. It’s the first school that the Carson Glore Foundation opened, on January 25, 2015. On the drive, Nathan and others asked me many questions, “What are you expecting? Are you nervous? What’s going through your mind?”. The only emotion or feeling I could verbally express was excited! I had no idea what to expect. As we pulled up to the Kamuya school, all I could see is hundreds of kids running towards our van, screaming, cheering, jumping up and down. I felt like Justin Bieber. Ok, fine, not Justin Bieber. Probably more like Nick Jonas.
I remember feeling overwhelmed by the love that these kids had to offer. With outstretched hands, they hugged, laughed, and giggled with joy. They were so happy. Knowing how little they had, all I could ask myself was “how are they so happy?” “What do they have that I don’t?” I come from America, a power-hungry country empowered by wealth and greed. We get what we want, when we want it, exactly how we want it. God forbid a Starbucks barista screw up my Iced Grande Vanilla Starbucks Double Shot, no sweetener, shaken, not stirred.
Joy, compassion, and community are what the children of Kamuya have. Not money. Not Starbucks. They’ve never seen an iPhone (and of course not a Android, I haven’t even seen an Android). Facebook is not in their vocabulary. Computers, nope. What shocked me most: they use grocery store bags bundled up with rubber binders as soccer balls; their Bic pens lack the outer shell; their desks are so dented and broken that they can’t even write; they have one textbook to share amongst 4; no lights or AC or heat or electricity or even windows (well, there are windows, but just the frames, no glass). Joy, compassion, and community are what they have. And joy, compassion, and community are what we lack. Why can we not find joy in our “American dream” lifestyle?
We, as humans, are born with innate intuition to do right from wrong, to be happy, and most importantly, to love. Explaining the emotion and humility of being in someone else’s shoes is hard. It’s something that I’m not good at. But what I do know is that there’s a whole lot we can learn from communities that we so commonly think of as “poverty” and “trash”. They’re beautiful, smart, and extremely happy people. The concept of simple living is something that I quite frankly don’t get. Simple living is something our parents, and grandparents, and great-grandparents know about. But I don’t. Joy, compassion, and community are three things I think need to be reincorporated into our lives. Here’s a photo or two, or fifty-six, that represent these three simple words.