My feelings toward the time I spent in Kenya have confounded me in a unique way. While there, I was a daily witness to a common spirit of ceaseless gratitude and contentment, two of the many characteristics that I have begun trying to emulate. Of course I am grateful for my experience there; the trip taught me invaluable lessons, but I also feel as though three and a half weeks were not enough. I could have gladly stayed for the rest of the summer.
Brackenhurst is located in Kiambu. I always find it a bit cliché when resorts use terms like, “nestled in the mountains,” but that is the most apt description of Brackenhurst’s location. We spent the majority of our time nestled in mountains which, during the rainy season especially, are draped in an ever-present wisp of fog.
In the West we have an awful habit of simplifying aspects of Eastern culture. One of our reflection topics called on us to discuss the “authentic” Africa, or Kenya, and it was when I put pen to paper that the complexity of noting the authenticity of that awe-inspiring place truly struck me. We were made to feel part of something amazing in each of our experiences. We learned from the people of Care 4 AIDS about the impact that HIV has on lives and the government’s attempts to alleviate some of the material burdens which result from a positive status; we visited the city of Nairobi, a metropolitan center where innovation, modernization, and government meet tradition; we took meals at varied restaurants; we toured Fiona’s tea fields and visited the Kazuri beads factory and a sustainable coal farm; we went to the Maasai Mara on safari, meaning “journey” in Swahili, and had some of the most beautiful life moments in a span of three days; we served and were served; we had several growth, and annoyance-inducing interactions with people of the Maasai tribe; we went to a Christian church in a predominately Muslim neighborhood, where the church focuses on educating the young people on the street, and helping them to find jobs; and we trekked through Kibera, the second largest “slum” in the world, which has a name meaning “forest” or “jungle” in Nubian. Each of these experiences, not all of which I managed to fit in the previous sentence, gave us a glimpse into “authentic” Kenya. Even those interactions which seemed far less than genuine, as in obviously geared toward western tourism, provide insight into the truth of Kenyan culture.
We learned the importance of community, one aspect of the process which is especially important to the Care 4 AIDS organization. We experienced the spirit of kindness and giving. The people we encountered were extremely inclusive and generous, making sure that we had taken tea, or had a meal, or anything else we might need. I struggle to capture the truth of my experience in these five hundred words. I feel as though I have touched on everything and nothing. All I can truly say is, asante sana.
JheDienne Adams is majoring in History with a minor in French. She participated in a faculty-led trip to Kenya through the College of Business and Honors College in May, 2018. JheDienne had the following to share about her study abroad experience, “My experience in Kenya provided countless opportunities for growth. Some stemmed from discomfort, some from joy, some from feelings of inadequacy, and some from incandescent joy. Each was invaluable, and each bettered me.”
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