And that’s how I ended up in California
One day over the summer while I was in Kenya, I was walking with some of my American friends up a hill to get to our meeting spot. By that time in the summer we had already made pretty close bonds with the people we had been working and living with and we could not imagine how we could separate after doing everything together for so long. As we walked up the hill I said, “What are you all doing in January?”
Which brings me to this past week. January 2013. Five people from across the country, with completely different backgrounds reunited in southern California. It’s crazy thinking about how we could have all lived separate lives, but because of our interest in going to Kenya and the serendipity of us all being assigned to Chanagande, a rural village outside Mombasa, we met and had an impact on each others’ lives.
As soon as we reunited, we started reminiscing about our summer – how we couldn’t believe some of the things we did and how we missed a lot of it—the simple life. Bathing in a bucket, wearing the same type of thing over and over again, eating ugali and chapati and beans more times than we could even count.
It was great seeing everyone and in some ways it was like we never left each other, but in other ways it was like we had never met. We all have this bond of knowing the red dirt roads of Chanagande, knowing about the one poster in the primary school, the one house where we all liked to hang out, the way pick-up lines didn’t translate, the red pants, and the way that people from thousands of miles across the world can become family. But it was also the first time we spent time with each other outside of one environment. It was the first time we saw each other in real clothes, ordered food somewhere besides a hoteli (restaurant-type place) with more than one option, and slept without a mosquito net.
Where we stayed was much different from the place that brought us all together. While we were in Los Angeles we did some touristy stuff like go to the Santa Monica Pier, watch the sunset on the beach, and go to Colorado Boulevard, but we also tried to relive some memories from the summer by making mandazi, a staple breakfast food for us in Chanagande. It actually worked and they came out really well, despite minor discrepancies in our recipe.
When I think back to the summer, I am amazed by what I learned. (You can read about some of it here on my personal blog.) Sometimes I cannot believe how adventurous I was, and then sometimes I am sad that I will never be in that village in Kenya with everyone in the same situation that I was in last summer. It was a life changing experience, one that I will always remember, where I met amazing people who I will invite to my wedding one day – because we promised each other!