kodich : kenya part III


  Wednesday, 4.30.14


"The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others." - Gandhi

...just little over one year ago, i returned from my life-changing journey in Kenya,
and let me tell you... Gandhi was right!!!

while in Kenya over 500 women, men & children were trained in Anti-FGM, over 100 children profiles were updated & Easter was celebrated with our 'family' at Kodich Children's Home.

with our busy schedule, we reached new profiles of 130 women, had spiritual & self esteem sessions with 3 women's groups, lots of business planning & beadery training, teaching about reproductive health and distributing 400 reusable sanitary pads, along with the incredible culture shfiting anti-FGM training for 700+ people - including boys & men, too!
...and that's just a quick snap shot.

today I will share the third & last part of my experience in Kenya, literally copied verbadum from my journal throughout my two weeks there, & now mixed in with my images throughout.

before I go any further though, I need to make the same important disclaimer as with Kenya part I & Kenya part II:

You are about to read some things that will make you feel a wide range of emotions.
I want you to know that ALL of it, absolutely all of it, is written & comes from a DEEP, sincere place of LOVE.
This was by far the most intense & life-changing experience I have ever documented,
yet despite any of the hardships or fear-battles I faced, I would do it all over again.
I can only hope that you will be able to see and feel a sliver of what
Kenya & the tremendous Pokot people have taught me….
because that alone will fill your heart in more ways than you ever imagined.

3.30.2013

It is already late night on Saturday evening… I think somewhere around 9:00pm?
Regardless, when it gets dark here it is literally like a blanket falls & covers up the sun in one big swoop!
It happens so quickly that I really don’t know exactly when it actually gets dark…maybe 6:30pm?

Anyway, I am thankful for the generator in Kodich right now. I am sitting in the “dining room” area -
which consists of the same 3 plastic tables & 14 plastic chairs that we have been taking with us from place to place -
along with a small tiny “kitchen” which looks like it is from the 1800’s … & once again, sadly I am not exaggerating.
There are cobwebs above the big fire oven made of a mixture of probably clay & cement? Brick?
It looks like a kiln that I used to bake my ceramic pieces in back in college.
Every night we get served out of the big silver pot, which looks like it was hammered & handmade, as well.


Tonight dinner was a scoop of chicken-fried-rice-a-roni….
Don’t get be wrong, I am beyond grateful for it & I ate my ENTIRE heaping “scoop”
…but seriously, on a total side note, how do people back at home actually like that stuff? I don’t get it.
Maybe it's because i didn't grow up with it, but in my opinion, it just tastes like a salt ball!

Regardless, I have been thinking a lot about how grateful I am for so many things,
including that God has made me not crave foods from back at home &
also NOT feel sick from eating these new foods with how sensitive my stomach can be.
I am grateful for the protein shakes, almonds & the few snacky foods I was able to bring, too.
Along with those awesome orange Isagenix Vitamin electrolyte water mixing things!
Those have been a lifesaver…
especially on days like today where I felt completely drained & didn’t know if I could make it through dinner.

God has given me SO much strength this trip… it is pretty amazing & truly humbling.
Today I also had a ringing thought in my head –

I keep wondering “why” exactly God sent me here. Why?

Obviously I knew without a doubt I had to go…
in my heart, mind & spirit -
yet I keep wondering “why?”
It’s almost like I keep waiting for that “defining moment”…
& then tonight when we were driving back from capturing profile pics at the secondary school,
a thought came to me :

God brought me here to appreciate more… and EVEN MORE.
To love my husband, our family, friends, animals, even more.
To let go of control & learn the power in simplicity.
To learn how to be patient & to believe in an entirely different strength & way of living.
To catch my breath,,, literally.

But above all this, God brought me here to love more.
To be LOVE in all that I do…
As much as I can…
In His name.
To remember it is not me who gets credit for the images captured or stories written…
only He can give me the strength & gift to do so.

… so with that ‘small thought’ for the day
I will briefly recap today :

-wake up & pack up everything.
-morning devotional, then simple breakfast
-walk around with Peg to get a few last pictures at Kauriong
-we drive about 2 hours on the bumpiest road EVER, E V E R, to Kodich
-we arrive here & are greeted by all the children singing. SO so sweet! pretty much the sweetest thing ever.

-we unpack & eat our snacks that we brought for lunch
(although I feel quite sticky & bloated, I am so very grateful for this food & that I have been able to eat)
-guess what? I have a tiny amount of cell phone signal here!!!
& am finally able to talk to Mark! SO HAPPY.
Absolutely LOVED hearing his voice, even if it was only for a couple of minutes.

(my view from the 'spot' i could get a smidge of cell phone signal at )

-after I spoke with Mark
(which while on the phone a billy goat attacked a female goat – talk about HORRIFYING to witness!!!)
I walked around & took some pictures.
There are some super cute dogs here… well, 3 of them ,
but that is the most I have seen in the villages so far.

oh & yes, let's not forget about the roosters!

there is such beauty in texture...

-then I went with Peg, Carol, Jay, Tobias & Jon to the secondary school
which consisted of yet another 'couple' hours in the car.

(me in the back seat of the car. ha! )

We captured 7 boys profiles at the secondary school,
then we got rained on & as I tried to get under a ledge for cover,
I instead ran completely into it with my forehead!
It hurt SO badly I actually started to cry --- talk about embarrassing!
I honestly couldn’t help it, though & the whole thing just totally startled me.

while we were waiting for the rain to pass,
we met a big grasshopper... not exactly sure what he was doing though

& i came across the most incredible sign from God yet...
it literally stopped me in my tracks.

...the view from where i stood after taking the Cross photo above.

when we came back, I went & put together my bed linens on my bunk
and then helped them get string together for the friendship bracelets with the kids tomorrow.

i walked around & snapped a few more images of Kodich...

This tree will forever remind me of the strength & beauty of Kodich.



Then we ate & did the remaining life tokens…
which I don’t think I wrote about yet but mine was my KSP t-shirt & letting go of “ksenija savic” as a only a photographer
& refinding “ksenija savic ostach” as
an artist,
a storyteller,
a lover of life,
a giver,
a blogger,
a photographer,
a woman of God.



…and that kinda wraps up today.
we didn’t do as much as normal days but today was different because we traveled for half of it,
plus it was SO unbelievably hot & humid that I am thankful we didn’t do as much.

& I am SO tired! I pray for strength for tomorrow & am so excited for the Game Park on Monday!
But even more than that, to see my husband & our sweet Jones on Wednesday!!!

Until then,
I will just remain being in the present & enjoying the NOW.

3.31.2013

Easter in Kenya.

Last night it rained…
& by 'rain' I mean torrential downpour – all. night. long! I couldn’t believe it!

I had trouble falling asleep at first due to the heat & bugs that swarmed our room…
but then eventually I went right to sleep & dreamt some weird nightmarish dreams. Awesome.
So far all of my dreams have been like that, though… not sure why.
Hopefully tonight will be better!

This morning I braved a Kodich shower at 7:00am (which seems to be the best so far )
& was excited to get to wear a dress for a change with it being Easter Sunday.

They actually have a small mirror in the restroom here which has been a first for sure.
It has been humbling & good not to have a mirror here.
It has also been humbling to think about how the Pokot never really “see” themselves
or what they look like because they don’t have mirrors.
It has helped me care a little less about what I am wearing & how it looks.
Not sure how that will carry on at home for me, but I pray it will somehow in my heart.

I also find it amazing how absolutely beautiful the people are here.
Truly BEAUTIFUL… & of course completely natural.
Despite the lack of what they have & live in materially & physically,
they literally SHINE.


After showering & getting ready,
one of our team members Sheri led devotional
& Carol surprised us with a little Easter candy treat with a noted that said,
“He is Risen. Kenya 2013”.
It was really sweet – she is really sweet.

I also find it interesting how much “Kenya” looks like “Ksenija”.
Seriously, for some reason when I read that note,
I saw it differently today.

Then came 10:00ish & Easter service in Kodich, Kenya began.
It was beautiful & different then anything I have ever experienced before.
They had us all sit in the front as their guests & also introduce ourselves.
They sang a lot… I tried to get some of it on video,
but I am not sure it will translate back at home through video as it does in person to your heart.
TRULY some of the most BEAUTIFUL voices I have ever heard. EVER.

Church went until a little after noon & then another torrential downpour began.
This time I happened to be in the bathroom....so yes, I got stuck in an outhouse in Kenya!

I started to think, ‘of course only this would happen to me’…
but then I thought maybe this was God’s way of telling me to just “be”…
despite where I am, just to BE.

So I began praying & giving my thanks… even for the crazy rain.

After probably 30 minutes of being stuck in the little outhouse,
I debated running outside for what felt like F O R E V E R
but every time I even put my arm outside of the bathroom door,
it got completely soaked & the rain felt so frigid.
I just didn’t feel like getting drenched in the ONE outfit I had for the day.

So I tried my best to continue praying & being as present as I could inside the bathroom…
the rain did sound pretty in a way.

After an hour, though, I decided I just needed to get out of that damp bathroom & suck it up!
Just as I made the decision & jumped out and started to run with the chickens (literally ),
it was like someone turned off the shower & the rain turned into a light misty sprinkle.
It was the weirdest thing!

I know it was small, but it was such a blessing, too.

as odd as it was, I felt as if it was a bigger metaphor for facing fear…
‘once you decide to take that jump,
trust that you will not fall.’

4.1.2013

It was an early morning & last night was a later night
because the children of Kodich did a performance for us,
which was just incredible & heart-warming.

But somehow today is already April 1st & what a month this will be!
Today we woke up early to be packed up & get on the road for another day of travel.
First, of course we had our devotional & breakfast.
Judi led today’s devotional & I really enjoyed it.
She said she got it from the “Messenger Bible” which is written in more “today’s word & language".
Mark & I will have to look into that,
as well as doing devotionals every day. I really like it. It reminds me of camping with one of my besties, Alexa's, family every year.
I really loved how they always began the day with devotionals in the middle of the woods.
Nothing but us, nature & God. THE BEST!

Anyway, it is already late tonight, around 10:30pm,
& today has been another super loooooong travel day.

Before I write anything else, though,
I want to write down what Jay said this morning to us before getting on the road.
He said,
‘the Pokot have redefined his definition of poverty.’
That he realized that being “rich” doesn’t necessarily mean having 'things'.
That these people may be ‘poor’
but they are so RICH in SO many other much more meaningful ways.

…or at least it was something along those lines -- it was like he literally took the words right out of my mouth!

I have learned SO much here…
despite any deemed ‘hardship’ & my silly daily battles with the bugs & toilet systems.

I have seen warmth & joy in the Pokot of all ages....


I have felt it in their handshakes & hugs.


I have seen joy in their smiles & a community in their lives that we do not have at home.
I have watched girls & boys walk around holding hands or arm in arm.
They are all ‘brothers’ & ‘sisters’ here… despite no biological connection.
I have seen 4 & 5 year-olds pick up a crying 2 year old & carry them on their back!

I have seen immense joy in the sheer fact that they get their nails painted (both the girls & the boys).


I have communicated with the elders, despite not understanding one word.
I have watched them smile & grab my hands & place them to their heart.

i have seen happiness in the little things.

I have heard the children sing and it was as if I caught a slice of Heaven for a sheer moment.

I have watched the children play for hours on end in the same area
with the same children
with the same dirt & rocks to run on…
1/2 with some sort of ‘shoe’ or tattered flip flop & most with nothing at all,

yet all with smiles & screeches of joy. JOY!

I have walked with the children & felt their arms reach out to get a touch of my skin.
I have been asked my name by what must be hundreds of faces of all ages.
I have had the ability to make others smile just by taking their picture
& saying “Roriyo” ("smile") in my broken Pokot.

I have seen beauty like I have never seen it before.
There is no make-up & no hair accessories & definitely no pick of clothing…

yet the Pokot shine.





I may never understand “how they do it” nor “how they live this way”…
and although more change has & needs to come,
their spirit, LOVE, & willingness to learn is like something I have never seen before.

It is still all a bit surreal to me… but I do know this –

they may be ‘poor’ in a sense,
but they are RICH indeed in every other sense of the word.


I don’t know if I will ever fully process what I saw but those words from Sarah Groves keep ringing in my ear…

“I saw what I saw & I can’t forget it”…

...something touched my very soul.

It is hard to process & fully comprehend, and as I sit here and write this,
I don’t even know how I will even begin to describe this all back at home.

But i do know that somehow God will find the words & the way.
He always does.

4.2.2013

Wow. Where has the time gone?
It is seriously crazy to me how at one point it felt like I didn’t know how I would get through the next day...
& then somehow not only did I...
but with Grace & a certain ease that is so hard to properly explain.

I remember before I left my friend Lori telling me that this trip would be hard, but it would be GOOD.
Well, she was right. It has definitely been both & i am eternally grateful for every single bit of it.

Today started off at 6:30am with an almost 3 hour drive through the game park!
two words : SO AWESOME.
a few pics from along the road of our travels first :


on the road again!

do you see the donkey?

We arrived at the Nikura National Game Park yesterday evening.
So far we saw zebras...

...gazelles, waterbucks, water buffalo, warthogs, rhinos, an assortment of birds & last but not least, giraffe!!!
Oh & monkeys & bamboons, too!
when we were headed out of the park we even saw a little family of 'zaboomafoos', aka lemurs.
just soooo cute!

It was neat driving through the Game Park because seeing animals there just feels so different than going to the zoo…
obviously because they are in their natural environment,
but also because they are in what feels like a mixture between Avatar & swampland.



there is something about this image that i just love so much.


oh, why hello there!



The giraffes were especially magical.
They almost look like a mixture of a horse meets a camel meets a unicorn with a splash of giraffe...
if that makes any sense!
They are seriously TOO cute.


We had a good breakfast after the long, & surprisingly bit chilly, ride,
which was great but also felt different because I haven’t felt that full since I left home!
The resort is really pretty & our rooms were actually made of a super nice & sturdy canvas material.
They are tents technically, which is so different!

I like the Game Park Resort & all (I mean, how can you not?!),
but considering where we just came from, it definitely feels a bit weird to be here in a way.
plus, i am realizing that experiences like these just aren’t the same without Mark.

Being here has already brought on a TON of reflection.
I thought it was interesting how, in a way, we all ‘easily’ seemed to adjust to the ‘luxury’ of the Game Park Resort
compared to what we were living in these past eleven days.
Don’t get me wrong -- I’m not saying that we didn’t notice or appreciate the shower with warm water
and the comfort of showering with no chance of cockroaches or beatles
or big weird unknown bugs crawling in… even frogs!
The comfort of showering with enough space to actually move around in.
The comfort of knowing your water is not going to run out because it comes from a big bucket
that was filled by a couple boys at the top.
The comfort of knowing you actually have privacy & not an open window where everyone can see in if they happen to pass by.
The comfort of not worrying about getting ring worm & having to shower in flip flops…
careful not accidentally touch the moist concrete dirt floor when getting dressed.

Comfort.
That word I no longer take for granted.
I have been longing for ‘that shower’ at home & to be able to blow dry my long hair straight...
whereas every Pokot girl has to have her hair short due to lack of being able to maintain it at any other length.

I long to get in a really good workout & yoga class,
whereas the Pokot’s ‘workouts’ are daily just by trying to pump & carry the ginormous water jugs on top of their heads,
all the while still with a smile!

I long for a big Inn Season or Greek Island salad…
yet the Pokot children stand in a long line with a most likely dirty plastic bowl to be served a scoop of whatever is available
for breakfast, lunch or dinner.
Then they stand or sit somewhere on the ground outside to eat.
Yes they are ‘together’ but there is no dinner table or those traditional family dinners that I grew up with
& desire to have with my family that Mark & I create one day.

I haven’t been in all of their homes but the ones I have consist of a room no larger then our bedroom at home
(which isn’t large by any means) & are usually divided by a large hanging curtain sheet.
Behind the sheet is a “bunk bed” same as what we slept on dormitory style or just a plain single mattress twin size on the floor…
on which the entire family sleeps!!!

On the other side of the curtain is the “kitchen” & most likely a small window.
There is no kitchen sink or fridge or oven though.
There is no electricity.
The kitchen consists of an area with pots & pans & if lucky, some handmade shelves to store some food on.
The actual kitchen is outside burning over a fire -- this is where they make tea all the way to making dinner.

Bathrooms are of course outside….
so waking up in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom has taken on a WHOLE NEW meaning to me.
Of course something I will look at so differently when back at home.

With all this said, though, one thing I keep reminding myself is that
'this is someone else’s pattern of existence.'
This is something that they are used to & all that they know.


The children do not grow up with choices of where they will go for fun that night
or movie options or dinner outings or recreational team sports.
Other than eventually changing grades,
they stay in the same place ALL THE TIME.
They play with the SAME kids in the SAME encircled area.
There are no wii’s, no soccer balls (unless brought from the US & those are quickly “lost”)…
there aren’t even crayons & paper, or a good ol’ board game!

With all this said, you would think that they would be bored to death but they are not.
They are joyful --
and they are SO easily filled when anyone visits, it is literally like Christmas in July.
They are curious.
They are warm.
They are loving.
They are grateful.
They are shy.
They are outgoing.
They are smiles from ear to ear.

They are LOVE.

Being here, amongst nature at it's finest & God's creations galore...
i can't help but feel utterly grateful & somewhat helpless at the same time.

There is so much more i can give in every aspect of the word.
Best part, individually & together, we ALL can.


4.3.2013

The day I come home & see my loves is here!!!
We are currently in Amsterdam & on the second leg of the trip…

And now the plane is in the air!
I thank God for safe travels, for His strength, for His words & His Grace.

I pray & hope this underlying calmness remains when I get home.
I know I will need some time to process this all…
& I just heard God’s whisper to do devotionals & meditate daily...
to really take time to count my Blessings & thank the Lord for everything EVERY day.

...and reflect on what a remarkable road & journey we have been on!

I feel a certain indescribable peace.
I feel an uncertainity of what’s to come as I look through my photos I have captured & really “see” what will be revealed to me then.
I feel an awe of all that has happened in these past 13 days… a complete awe of God.
An awe of the all the amazing women in our group who traveled such a long distance,
many first timers as myself, into the unknown Bush of Kenya!
I feel a sense of Hope in what would seem from someone else’s viewpoint as hopelessness.
I see HOPE & possibility in all those that we touched, both literally & physically.
Hope in all that we brought with us & hope in all that will continue to be.

Change doesn’t start if you don’t actually decide to make a shift.
It is a conscious decision & effort to be placed in something utterly uncomfortable,
knowing in your heart that it is what is right.

This is something our “minds” have trouble grasping.
The beauty in this is that we ALL,
no matter how different we may be,
share this commonality –
we hold the key to our destiny
& our sacrifices
& our JOY
& our true heart’s desire.


It is always within us.
& from what I have learned thus far in my life, you MUST,
absolutely MUST,
make the conscious desire & leap of faith into the unknown
knowing that everything will be better than just alright.

It will be pure.
It will be genuine.
It will be change.
It will be love.
It will be DIVINE.

Thank you for following along on this life-changing journey with me.
with so much gratitude & love,

ksen

if you missed either of the two previous posts, just click below!
Kenya part I
&
Kenya part II

xxoo
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