Geoffery is my mama’s farm boy. He has been working for her for 5 years. Around here people call him the “human lowrey” because he is so strong. He is also known as Baba Sangala because whenever I go out of town, he is the one to care for my dog. But, he is much more than that. He has become one of my best friends here. He has become the brother I never had. Geoffery can’t speak any English, let alone Kiswahili, so we mostly communicate in broken languages and hand gestures. He saves me from bugs, I let him eat my baking…we have a mutually beneficial relationship.
Anyway, so for 5 years my mama had never been to Geoffery’s home. He lives with us, actually just two doors down from me. But through my encouragement, we ventured about an hour away and finally got to see where Geoffery comes from. His home is down a long dirt road. You could tell very few cars ever go that way from the roads condition (and also the looks we got as we drove by). It has to be completely impassable in the rainy season. Luckily, we had great weather.
We arrived to the gentle greeting of his father, an old African man of around at least 60 years. You could see the lines of a long life lived in the creases of his smile. His ears were cut in the traditional Kalengin way. Geoffery’s sisters in law prepared us a meal of rise, beans, potatoes and meat, and while they ate in the kitchen with the children, us “distinguished guests” sat in the house. The house was a modest mud hut with a tin roof, decorated with a few plastic chairs and a small table in the middle.
After we ate, we headed down into the farms to see some of his other family and neighbors. They all also live in very small round traditional mud huts. I was the first white person these people have ever seen so they were curious to say the least. We drank a cup of chai at every house, I thought I would burst. Sangala came along with us on the journey and everyone took to him very well. One little boy adopted him for the day and took him around on the leash. He wasn’t scared at all! One lady gave us a whole bag of sweet potatoes from her farm.
Our last stop, and one more cup of chai, we sang and danced and my mama presented the family with some gifts she had brought (a blanket, a laso (wrap for head/body), and thermos). Everyone got up and said a word or two. They were all so grateful we came. We went by a nearby school and I tell you, I know what it feels like to be a celebrity. All the children were screaming when I came in. They ran to me and petted my head and stroked my arm hair. They were asking me all about America and were surprised that I knew some of the language. All eyes were on me. Literally I felt famous. They sang me their national anthem and then I had to sing ours…which was horrible. I had to have broke some windows on “land of the freeeeeee”.
Anyway, the best part of the whole day was seeing how happy Geoffery was. He was so proud to introduce us to his family. After seeing where he comes from, I know Geoffery must have had a very impoverished upbringing, but the people don’t seem that way at all. They were all so happy and warm. It makes me realize how you are never truly poor in Kenya. Money is not the most important thing here. It’s family. And Geoffery is my family.
I think I will miss him the most. I always wonder how much closer we could be if he could speak at least Kiswahili. But it has also taught me that even language is not a true barrier of people. There really are none. We are all the same. Like I said, it’s hard to really write down the emotions that I went through during this experience, but I do know that a simple days journey has changed me at least in a way. I’m being changed here everyday little by little. And after a day like this, I think to myself, God is real, and I just want to smile. I feel so at peace.
Anyway, I'm now at consolidation. They are keeping all us Peace Corps Volunteers in one place during the elections. During 2007 there was mass violence and PC had to evacuate all the volunteers. This time it is said to be more peaceful, but we are still taking precautions. I am praying for peace in Kenya and I ask for your prayers too. I’m not quite ready to leave because I want to see my maternity ward completed. So far we have ¼ of the equipment. It’s been a slow (very slow) process. Until then, I’ll be resting by the pool with my PCV friends waiting for the results of the election. Most likely I’ll have wifi in the hotel so skype me if you can at: andrea.flynn.schneider