Chemolingot : Kenya Part I

It is time.
It has been upon my heart since I met the Pokot & captured my first image, to share my experience in Kenya.
As most of you know, who have been able to ask me ‘how was your trip’ type questions, I usually stumble as to how to encompass it all in a mere sentence or two, or even an hour.

As you read on, you will begin to understand why. I am not much of a ‘journaler’… I am much more a blogger, aka an ‘online journaler’. This is my place to write down my thoughts, my truths, my happiness, my sadness, my fears, my hopes… and connect with each of you.
It is a place where I choose to share & not hide behind my words.

I have had my handwritten journaling moments here & there, but nothing compares to my journey in Kenya. It was a force within in me that just HAD to write. I looked forward to it & felt a void when I couldn’t, simply from pure exhaustion of the day.

Today I will share the first 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 an important disclaimer :

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.

the flight left Saturday evening March 23, 2013.
The first flight was 8 hours to Amsterdam…
which consisted of 2 okay movies, some editing until my computer battery decided to quit, a little power nap
and then ‘hello’ we landed in Amsterdam! Just a brief two-hour layover & we were back on a plane to Nairobi, Kenya.

This 8 hour flight consisted of 6 hours of sleep – THANK GOODNESS – a couple meals
(Europeans sure know how to package their stuff!) & some good reading of ‘ Kisses from Kate’
which my husband so lovingly gifted me before the trip (so far an AMAZING read by the way!).
Then I decided to watch the start of “Breaking Dawn” again… & before we knew it, we were in Nairobi!

(below is a quick pic of all of us ladies at the airport in Detroit before taking off!)
After about an hour or so through customs, currency exchange & luggage,
we were outside greeted by J & Vincent, and two land cruisers.
It took another hour or so to load all of our luggage on top of the cars – what a sight to see!
i stood outside watching them & enjoying the surprisingly fresh, cool night air.
I couldn’t get over how hard they were working to get everything up…. and in the dark, mind you.
It was truly humbling & incredible.

I thanked Vincent, who runs the Land Cruiser driving company, and he replied,
“No, thank YOU & what you all are doing for the Pokot. It is really good – it is important,” with the utmost sincerity in his eyes.

I will never forget that moment.

By the time we arrived at the Methodist Guesthouse (where we were staying just for that night),
had a quick group meeting, showered & went to bed, it was almost 1:00am…
which meant 6:00pm back at home time!
Fortunately I slept those next 6 hours well & woke up ready for our 8 hour drive to the first orphanage, Chemolingot!
my feet on Kenyan ground, in Nairobi
working so hard to put our mattresses back up onto the car in the morning!
just a few things that made me smile that morning
& just like that, there we are. ready to see what God has in store for us in Chemolingot, Kenya!
some things along the way...
there is just something about this image that takes me back to the beginning of our trip...
we even crossed the equator line!
who would of thought Kenya to be so mountainous. truly beautiful!
do you see what i see?

so today is technically day 3 of our mission trip to Kenya…
& I have been SO ready to journal since two days ago, just no time & then pure exhaustion.

However, feeling really glad to be able to journal now. I pray that all that is stamped upon my heart will come to me through my words.

I am also glad that I chose to write today as opposed to last night, where I had every intention to until... the ‘incident’ happened.
We are at the first remote village called Chemolingot of the Pokot people…
the Pokot are FULL of life, joy & love, like I have never seen.
They are not ‘poor’ inside, they are RICH. Truly.
I see it in their eyes & feel it in their handshakes. I hear it in their laughter.
After quite a long day of traveling to get to Chemolingot,
we settled In, played with the children & before you knew it, it was night & dinnertime.
Afterwards, some decided to try to shower,
others just were ready for bed & I had to go to the bathroom.

I walked through the dirt & stone path towards the bathrooms,
which are like a permanent porta-potty made of dirt, brick & wood…
something even a photo doesn’t do justice to explain.
The shower is also there (everything is attached in one unit) which consists
of a tub of water on top that is filled by hand & a little knob that disperses the water from above.
Your showers should last no more than two minutes
& the water should never be running while lathering your soap.

Sure makes you think about water differently doesn’t it?
Being a camper at heart,
going to the bathroom during the day part was fine with me.
I held my breath & just did my business as quickly as possible.
That was, of course, until it was evening.
I plopped on my handy-dandy headlight & opened up the bathroom door.
To my dismay, I saw not one, not two, not even three
but AT LEAST two handful’s of cockroaches the size of my thumb!!! & no, I am NOT exaggerating.

For the record, I am pretty easy-going with a lot of things… actually with most everything.
I’ll just roll with the punches, go with the flow.
But when it comes to bugs or insects, well now, that’s a WHOLE other story.
Anyway, after about an hour & a half of trying to figure out how to go to the bathroom
and even after one of our leaders, J, sprayed it with RAID, the cockroaches just seemed to multiply.
They were literally coming out of the woodwork. I finally gave up & came to terms that as much as
I desperately needed to go (& BOY did i!!!), I was not going to the bathroom that evening.

Taking a couple deep breaths & ‘I can do this’ to pump my mind into waiting until the morning,
I turned to head back & proceeded to step on what I thought was a sharp inch-long white nail,
but was instead an African thorn. Yes, an African thorn!
it went through my thick-soled crocs & into the soft middle part of my foot.
I don’t think I even need to emphasize the intense amount of pain I felt.
Trying SO hard to be tough, I put some Neosporin on it, tucked myself away under my mosquito netted bed,

& started praying, hard.
I prayed to God to give me patience & to help me sleep through the night,
despite the burning in my foot & of course, need to go potty!

I prayed for my foot to heal & not sting or be infected in the morning.

I prayed for even more patience.

...I prayed for my heart to break for the Pokot & to be reminded of what matters most.

When I woke up in the morning, my stomach was the size of a watermelon. It was somewhere around 4:45am.
I ventured once again bravely towards the infamous outdoor stalls,
this time beyond relieved to find NO cockroaches in sight!
Miraculously the bottom of my foot wasn’t red nor stinging at all & I even braved the quick 2 minute cold shower.

And just like that, it was a new day.
& I was ready to have a good day, 130 degree heat and all.

it is somewhere around 8:00pm & I am beyond exhausted…
not to mention sticky & feeling a bit over-heated.
But, I HAD to write… at least something. I am just hoping these beetles stay away!

Today was a full day. Before I go further with that, I need to briefly recap on our first travel day.
I saw so many things that reminded me of Ethiopia & many new.
My immediate impression of Nairobi was that it was quite a prosperous city.
People looked different there then the Pokot,
yet one common thread is that ALL the people wear the biggest smile on their face.
They literally wear JOY.
I don’t think I have every seen anything quite like it…
it’s pretty awesome & indescribable to experience.

Along the road we saw a ton of animals :
goats, ox, cows, chickens, geese, dogs, more goats…
but what I didn’t expect to see just grazing along the side of the road were zebras!
or a big ol’ tortoise! or herds of camels!
& best of all, ostriches!
Literally all of these animals were just alongside the road as we drove by them.
When we arrived at Chemolingot it was a bit surreal.
Everyone gathered around us, wanting to shake our hands,
say “hello” with a smile & help with our luggage & mattresses.
The kids LOVED the camera & getting their picture taken,
but even more so seeing themselves on the screen.
Their giggles will forever be stamped into my heart.
I walked around & met many children that day.
One that particularly stood out was a girl named Melen. She had only one eye…
& was literally one of the most beautiful people ever.

It is in these moments, I felt God placing a warmth on my heart & a calling to start accepting myself for who I am
to stop being so critical.
I feel He is sending His message through these children, these absolutely gorgeous souls.
Melen took quite a liking to me & proceeded to introduce me to everyone.
She also made me play an African version of ‘patty cake’ with her.
It made me feel this special sense of peace & joy.
In general, this trip is also reminding me of a number things --
How much I absolutely LOVE nature.
How much I am okay with being hot or uncomfortable in a variety of situations.
How big my heart can grow & how fear isn’t a word in my vocabulary right now.
I can’t tell you how many children, women & men I have touched today alone…
& not once did the thought of someone being sick worry me.
I know I am protected. I know I am okay.
I know this because of God & His love for me. I feel it now more then ever…

& I felt it today in every single one of those handshakes, smiles, laughter & hugs.
God is so good. I am amazed by these people, their love & their light.
playing ball
where we slept & ate during our stay in Chemolingot...
they even put up sheets to give us privacy.
....and of course i loved the faded turquoise doors.
my feet on Chemolingot ground
i photographed many children for No Child by this door
we visited the girls dormitory...
it still is hard for me to register that this is their daily life...
making tea
and then my eyes locked with this precious one...
she was a little shy,,, but her friends were right there by her side.
this is their cafeteria...
...and their kitchen.
...and their beautiful smiles.
the Pokot women put a new definition on the word BEAUTIFUL.
showing Carol, one of our awesome team members, their homework.
they couldn't have been MORE excited or proud to do so either.
oh why hello there mr. goat
this woman had the BEST energy. did this one!
throughout the day in Chemolingot,
i spent the majority of the time updating children profiles with photos one by one.
during this time, there were women, men & children trained in Anti-FGM
(amongst many other things i will write about soon!).

from where i stood waiting for the children to be given to me to document,
i could see the men being trained... it was incredible to witness.
Men came from all over & just kept coming in.
i think they met there for well over 6 hours...
just discussing & learning amongst each other, the trees & some shade.
i feel the same way kiddo!
at one point it rained... i thought it was SO cute that even the goats tried to find shelter from the rain.
sunshine & smiles & knuckles
when words fail me, i am so thankful my photos can pick up where they fall.
just love everything about this.
she was just standing there, waiting like this. true beauty.
the children with Vicki, another one of our awesome team members, on top of the hill!
...and at the bottom, just taking Vicki around.
they didn't care where they went, they just wanted to be with her.
he & i communicated purely through smiles.
the Pastor of Chemolingot... can't you just FEEL his amazing energy?!
i will never forget those hills...
nor this special sunrise....
And tonight, as we ate our MRE dinners,
it didn’t bug me that I was eating sodium-filled “unhealthy” food
(or whatever my ego would have thought back at home).

I realized in that moment that the food didn’t need to “fill me” or “make me feel” any which way.
I was already FULL on the LOVE of the Pokot...
& our God above.
thank you for reading.
stay tuned for 'Kauriong : Kenya part II ' coming very soon.

with love & gratitude,

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