“Where there is life there is faith.” -Leo Tolstoy
November, 2014, I moved to Kenya with a french press, a yoga mat, a guitar, and a collection of my favorite books.
Three years is a long time to live somewhere. In some ways it feels like it has been a crazy, wild adventure that flew by too quickly. Sometimes it feels like it has been really long and hard, and I am ready to move on. Most of the time, though, it just feels like home. This is where I live, and life moves through the weeks and months and years the same way it does everywhere.
Something I have learned about myself as I have reflected on the past three years is that I tend to downplay everything.
From the first day, I tried to normalize my experience. I was motivated to prove to myself and to people back home that things are “normal” here. My main message was: “Everything is the same! Look! I eat bacon! and go to live music on Friday night! I go running and do yoga. I might as well be living in America!”
I really wanted to avoid capitalizing on the easy-to-adopt, glamorized narrative of the “white person struggling but thriving in wild, dangerous Africa”.
I don’t regret the decision to avoid that narrative, and it wasn’t hard to portray the narrative I wanted to because, in many ways, things here are very “normal”, and Nairobi is a modern, cosmopolitan, and really interesting city – where bacon is available. So, sometimes I really do think, “I might as well be living in the US.”
But, because my primary goal was to normalize, I often chose not to see or share the extraordinary things that I experienced or witnessed (granted, with some exceptions).
This blog is a personal project where I intend to intentionally reflect on my time in Kenya and purposely choose to see and share the extraordinary. My plan with this blog is to post once a week from January to June, 2018. My posts will be categorized in two ways: “Writings”, in which I will recount events and experiences, and “Thoughts”, where I will share things learned, perspectives gained, and maybe some questions that remain unanswered.
Working in Kenya I have entered into the lives of people who are living with HIV and in extreme poverty. I have seen in Kenya, and in Nairobi, beauty and life alongside hardship and death. I have seen a country of great abundance and disparity.
One of the greatest lessons I have continued to learn while living here and witnessing such diversity of experience is summed up with this quote by John Green:
“There is no Them. There are only facets of Us.”
We as humans, despite our beautifully diverse cultures and experiences are more the same than we are different. One example of a thing we all have in common is belief. Tolstoy says, “Where there is life there is faith.” We all believe to some extent that life is worth living. We all believe in ourselves to varying degrees. I think we all believe, in some way, that there is something greater than ourselves. We all at least believed this morning that there was a reason to open our eyes – even if it might have been a struggle for some to find a reason, we all did open our eyes this morning. So, there must be something there.
From January to June, I will be sharing 24 posts about my life in Kenya that will all in some way point to those two ideas – that we are more similar than we are different, and that we all have something to believe in. I want to evaluate my past three years by looking at life and faith in varying contexts of adversity and prosperity that I have witnessed or experienced personally.
Thanks for reading. I look forward to sharing with you and engaging with your responses, thoughts and experiences.