I’ve been out in the Bush of Daraja Campus for about a week and a half now and I couldn’t be happier! It took a few days to get used to the time change, and it could take a year to get used to the cultural differences, but I’m doing me best.
I feel so lucky to be here; Jenny did a great job of making me feel right at home, Andy and I have been laughing together everyday, the girls are warming up to me and I am doing my best to work on my relationships with them, and Kayla and Olivia are my fellow volunteers in action.
I am proud to say that Kayla and I have made good progress in cleaning out classroom two, it feels good to know that the books we are organizing into boxes will go to the local schools and that the classroom will be put to use in the coming term. I feel the best though, about the project that I brought to Daraja. I found out once I got here that Jenny and Olivia wanted to focus on Confidence as a theme for the month. Bringing theatre improv games and exercises, all I could think that I wanted to do was work on the girls confidence. So now my project has become applicable to the schedule going on here. It is truly as though the stars aligned for the whole.
Thank you Daraja for the experiences thus far! I want those who I am missing at home to know how much I love them and feel their support everyday.
Hopefully, this will be the last blog I post from the US. I board a plane on Sunday July 13th and after stops in Holland and the UAE arrive in Kenya on Wednesday.
I love being in California. I am so grateful I was able to be stateside to help my parents who are both overcoming some pretty serious physical injury/illnesses. But, I miss Daraja Academy. If home is where the heart is, I have been away from home for FAR too long. I miss the smell of smoke in the crisp, dawn air as the mommas in the Turkana village behind my house start their cook-fires. I miss hearing baboons in the middle of the night “woooofff” a each other high in their tree by the river. I miss my wife, I miss the students… I miss Daraja Academy.
From Vallejo to a Kenyan Bush school, Kayla Lozier is a remarkable young woman. That was clear 3 years ago when I taught her in Honors World History, when she became Hogan High School’s student body president, when she set a goal of visiting Daraja after she graduated and began opening the Benicia Gym at 4am every morning (on school days!) in order to earn the money to do it.
Though they were written about a week ago I only received her 1st two blog posts today, I hope you enjoy. World, meet Kayla…
June 27, 2009
Today is my first official day at Daraja Academy. Its only noon but I can tell you already that I’m going to love it here.
I didn’t sleep last night. For a few reasons, I think:
1. Jetlag and the time difference.
2. I was out of my mind excited to meet the girls when I woke up in the morning.
3. Once I lay down in bed I got smacked in the face with the realization that I’m on the other side of the world, without my family or the love of my life and that this place will be my home for the next five months…without them. Then I got over myself and stopped being such a boob my first night here.
And 4. Daraja Academy wins the gold medal for sporting the most wretched pillow in existence…. Just a tip, if you plan to visit Daraja for any amount of time, be sure to bring your favorite pillow from home. You’ll regret leaving it. So, since I couldn’t sleep and couldn’t stand just laying in bed any longer, at 5AM I got up and went for a self-tour/hike around Upper Campus. It was beautiful!
Watching the sunrise over Mt. Kenya and the view of Rift Valley was amazing. I saw amazingly beautiful plants, and some scary ones. I met a jackrabbit that let me get surprisingly close and gorgeous birds. It was an incredible morning.
When the sun was fully up (around 6:30) I headed back to my house and got ready for the day. I arrived at Jenni’s house for breakfast (planned for 9AM) at 7. By breakfast time I taught a little girl puppy with no manners named Rasta, how to sit on command.
Andy and Olivia, two other volunteers currently at Daraja Academy joined us for breakfast and we talked about the students. Andy took me on a real tour of campus. I saw the dead body of a mongoose, had a close encounter with a bull I thought was the cow, met the cow I had actually been looking for, met the sheep, goats and chickens who have free reign of the campus along with the four dogs, bull and cow. I got introduced to the sculls of various animals, including elephant, water buffalo, and antelope.
Finally I met the girls. Right away you could tell that they are fun, happy people. They were very friendly. They danced and sang and showed me their rooms.
At this moment there are toucan looking bird (I learned is a hornbill) was pecking at my window. This place is a miracle. I am so proud to know that such wonderful girls get to live here, and excited that I get to share some it with them. One hell of a half-first day.
Let me start out by saying how amazing these girls are. Yesterday morning I went down to lower campus a little bit before breakfast so I could see the girls. When I got to the dorms, half the girls were scrubbing the floors (OMG! First thing in the morning?!) and the others were in their common room…. doing homework and studying! Again, “First thing in the morning?!!”. If that doesn’t show how badly these girls want to be here I’m not sure much else will. I was very excited that some of them felt comfortable enough to ask me for help. I’m still trying very hard to learn names. Lillian, who has been helping me with my Kiswahli, taught me the basics of reading music.
Yesterday was Sunday, so the girls held church services. I went to one, and let me tell you, it was amazing! The services are student-led and the girls are so extremely excited for God. These girls, who are shy and quiet, were dancing and singing loudly and just having a good time. They shared scripture with each other and their own interpretation of its meaning. For the whole two hours I was there I couldn’t stop smiling and at points had to hold back tears. I hope Daraja is like this all the time, because this weekend has set some pretty high standards.
Jenni in her office
It is often hard to pull myself away from the operations of the school—is the generator working properly, does the kitchen have all the supplies they need, is the river still flowing, how long before we are out of water, etc. But I have seen some amazing things at the school that I feel I need to share with you, from an administrator’s perspective.
Over the course of the past month, we’ve had 6 volunteers visit our campus. Several of them have shared their experiences with you. I watched as two American teens shared their talents with our 26 students and when they left, I watched those 26 students shed tears of sadness. I watched a relationship between Sarah and Lillian blossom as they shared their experiences together. I watched as Claire sang a Chinese song to the girls and I watched the students gaze at her in awe. I watched Suzanne teach our students some improvisation games and I wish that I had her presence and patience. I watched as our teachers connected to our teacher-professional-development volunteers, Nancy and Sue and I watched our teachers grow increasingly more excited about ideas for student interaction. And I watched as the students sang a song that Nancy and Sue had taught them, “Love can build a bridge”.
Most importantly, I watched as our students learned, and pushed themselves to try new things. I saw our teachers responding to the possibilities and opportunities that come from teaching. Each day, I could see the bridges that were being built. This is why we have Daraja. This connection, this bridge, this opportunity, is part of why Daraja exists. It isn’t just for our students; it is for those who come to enrich their lives, to impart some of their wisdom and skills, and to share with others a small piece of their life.
Thank you Claire, Sarah, Suzanne, Nancy, Sue, and Olivia for being the bridge.
Building Bridges to Education and Opportunity