Since the moment we left San Francisco, we have been on a nonstop adventure of new sights and experiences. Even with all of the amazing excursions and new places I’ve been able to see, my favorite part of this trip so far has been all of the time that I have been able to interact with the CHI Academy students. They are the most enthusiastic, happy and loving kids that I have ever gotten to spend time with. On the first day that we went to the school, Director James took us on a tour of all the classrooms to introduce ‘the visitors’. In most of the classes, James asked the students a simple question: “Who in this classroom likes to read?”. The enthusiasm with which they responded took me by surprise. The students’ hands shot up in a second, and they were clamoring out of their seats with huge smiles on their faces. The excitement that they showed about their education demonstrated exactly what kind of kids these students are. They are dedicated, curious, and very happy to be here. During the students’ break, we’re able to spend time talking and playing with them. Whenever I ask them what they hope to be when they grow up, I hear answers from doctors, scientists, pilots and even more accomplished professions. These answers display the drive that each of these students’ hold.
I spent my seventeenth birthday in Kenya which is not something that everyone gets to say. I woke up and walked downstairs to hear one of the chaperones, Edie, start singing Happy Birthday and I knew right then it was going to be a good day. We got picked up at 8:00 AM to go to Sheldrick’s Elephant Orphanage. Watching all the baby elephants run out to be fed made me feel overjoyed. After watching the elephants, we went to Maasai Market in Nairobi. At first, bargaining was hard and I wasn’t very good at it, but the longer we were there, the better I got at it.
This is my second time in Kenya and I must say that this trip outshines the year before tenfold. Last year I had no idea what to expect other than what I had heard from my son. I had never been to another country and was thankful for the opportunity. I was one of five chaperones in charge of seventeen high school students and I was extremely excited to visit a place I had dreamt of going to since I was fourteen years old. My son had gone for the first time while in university and twice more since. I had resigned myself to the fact that his journey would be as close as I would ever get to my dream.
After only being in Kenya for ten days, I have a much greater appreciation for my life in the US so much more. Some systems, already in place in the US, like a constant supply of running water or our waste management systems, I realize I take for granted… We ran out of water at the compound for half a day and it doesn’t sound like a lot, but water affects simple things you do every day without even thinking about, like brushing your teeth or flushing the toilet.