I arrive to Nakuru. It is extremely cold here. I was not mentally or physically prepared for the cold temperature. No one tells you it is this cold in Africa. You think of Kenya, a land of the Masaai and wildlife and fruits and warmth, never cold nights and naked trees and sweaters and grey skies. The drive to Nakuru was magnificent with beautiful scenery and sunshine. At the orphanage, beyond the gates I witness children and smiles and welcoming and excitement. I gather my luggage, watch hugs and hand shakes and ‘Karibu’ from volunteers and children come my way. I forget how exhausted I am. Stuck in Cairo and flight delays and flu and hunger, I am nonetheless glad to have arrived safely. I find my shared room needing a nap to recover from the past three days of no sleep. A volunteer asks to come along on a trip to town, where markets and grocery stores and coffee shops are located. I needed sweaters and socks and money, I say yes and go. Town was supposed to be a couple of hours, turns into an entire day trip. We return to the center exhausted. We leave for dinner, then drinks and then dancing. We bond over humor and laughter and stories about culture and world. There are seven volunteers, diverse and international from China, Spain, USA and England. It is amazing to see how something so beautiful and so far has brought so many people from different walks of life together. Though I couldn’t help but feel disappointed by behavior and attitude and intellect of volunteers. There is distance in realities. I have the same issue here in DC. To witness privileged class with good intention “trying” to save the world but in fact comes off pretentious, shallow, lack of understanding and imposition. It is all dancing and drinking and having a good time. For me, that takes away from the humanitarian work. I excuse myself. Return to the center early to rest. I tell myself to let go of judgments. I am still getting to know everyone. Good intentions seem to have been lost in translation. The real purpose is the children.
I spend the rest of my days with the orphans. Beautiful, innocent, kind-hearted, gentle and hope to revive an entire nation. We read books, take photographs, listen to music, learn dance, speak Swahili, even though they prefer English. We bond over hopscotch and ndazi and pop culture. Every day, I wake up with purpose. These kids never cease to amaze. How is it children so young possess so much strength and gratefulness and love and hope and energy, even when the universe hasn’t been the kindest to them. I leave Nakuru humbled. An experience I will forever be grateful.