On my way


I didn't think much farther than the last hug. I said my goodbyes and left and now, with nine days remaining, I am on my way back to where I started.

I nearly wrote, "back where I belong," but that's not true, because I have found another home.

The weeks and months leading up to my departure this past June played out in a blur. Scared or Nervous were not words I allowed in my vocabulary until I was sitting at my gate in London waiting for my flight to Nairobi. There, the magnitude of the journey suddenly manifested itself and it took my breath away.

And it was hard, those first weeks. The last month I spent with my family and the familiar was spun out of magic, I swear, and the sudden change was rocky.

But oh, how faithful the grace of God was, and how worth it it all was.

And now, what were lasts are turning into firsts.

Lasts are funny, hard, and bittersweet things. Once you get over the initial sadness you feel excitement beginning to bloom over firsts that used to be counted as lasts: kissing your sisters' foreheads for the first time since leaving, first breakfast with your dad since coming home, first lazy Saturday at home with your mom in six months. It's enough to make me giddy.

Leaving is the hardest part.

The girl coming back is not the same one that left--but in quiet ways that maybe only I notice. A different sort of outlook, a clearer realization of what I hold dear.

To know me, you need to know my family. And yet, this is the first time my family can’t relate to my experiences, the first time I can’t say “remember when” because they weren't here. It’s not just people they’ve never met or a place they’ve never been to, but an entirely different world that, if you’ve never been, is hard to imagine, let alone describe.

(I say this in a matter-of-fact way, because I know I am not the first person to experience such a feeling, and because this is part of spreading your wings.)

Still, I wonder how I’ll adjust to being home. It’s nearly impossible imagine. I facetime with my family every Saturday and my heart races every time I think about seeing them at the other end of the airport terminal--and yet, I’ve gotten used to being on my own. I have made peace with it, grown to like it, even.

The last line of a quote by Nick Miller keeps looping through my mind: “Travel is ‘maybe I don’t have to do it that way when I get back home.’” And it’s true, you know--you get to meet all these wise and well-traveled people and somehow you get so lucky as to glean from their experience over a cup of coffee. After awhile you realize that there is more than one way to live life, and, not for the first time, you wonder: who says you have to abide by only one culture?

I feel so small compared to those aforementioned wise and kind and well-traveled people, but I'm learning as I go. I have to remind myself that I'm yet eighteen and trying to make sense of the world is what I'm supposed to be doing. There is still so much to see and do and learn...and Kenya? I'll be back.

Amboseli / Kilimanjaro


You know, it all pales in comparison. All the trials and hardships and aching sadness are suddenly dimmed when you stand under the vast dusky open sky watching elephants lumber along the base of Kilimanjaro, the wind whipping dust across the plain. Home is just the slightest memory but it's not as painful anymore. Nearly six months since I've been in my homeland and it's hard to believe that there really will come a day when I pack up and leave this wondrous place. Bittersweet.

Until then...Kilimanjaro and the surrounding park of Amboseli in all their glory.

The other big sky country

Josiah leans out the truck window to photograph an elephant.

Josiah's subject, deep in the marsh.

Josiah and Elijah have dinner with a view.

The coziest, loveliest tented camp at Tortilis.

Kilimanjaro comes out from the blanket of clouds.



Africa is big. Frighteningly big, almost. Did you know that you could fit three United States, Alaska included, into the continent? Yet, unimaginably vast and varied as it is, there is often a typical image that comes to mind when you think of Africa. I'd wager that, whether you know it or not, Samburu is the image that is conjured up. It was for me, anyway, before I even knew Samburu was a place that existed.

Samburu is a desert land. A little over a hundred kilometers north of the Equator, it is fringed with mountains in nearly every direction. It is dry and dusty and colorless, yet illuminated by the desolateness of the land is the richness of the Samburu. They are a strong people, a resilient people, shepherds of the dust. Thirty kilometers some of the women recently walked to water. Weeks at a time, boys as young as five are sent out into the wilderness to tend to the camels or the cows.

I came to Samburu under rather unfortunate circumstances--a famine relief food distribution--and still I am constantly struck by how beautiful Kenya is. And it's funny, how seeing the greatness of this country somehow makes me love my own even more. I am over three-quarters of the way through this adventure and I'm still surprised every day. My little sister told me the other day about a shopping list she wrote: "Milk, cheese, jam, yogurt, and you." I didn't know whether to laugh or to cry. I think a little of both came out. I wish my family could've seen Samburu too.

The last fifty kilometers of paved road before the dirt road turnoff reminded me of the American southwest.

Camels walking along the road.

Wild donkeys.

Sunday morning business at the Toy Fashions and Tailoring Shop.

Evangelist Richard sings in church.

She was unsure about the camera and yet her eyes never left me.

Holy Communion.

Traffic jam.

Gathering under the acacia tree.

Filling out ration cards.

Gathered around the truck pre-distribution.

I'm afraid my hair made quite the spectacle. More often than not, there was a small following of children asking to touch my hair--or I would feel a soft brush of a hand on my back, only to turn around and see a pint-sized giggling face.

What a place.



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