I have just returned from a 2 week trip to Africa. Over the next week or so I will use my blog to share my thoughts and photos.
I had been told, by all that had traveled to Africa, that I would be changed by the experience.
I'm not sure how that will show up in my life, but I definitely feel expanded.
Expanded by the sights and sounds of Africa, but more deeply by the heart of the African people.
Never have I met people so loving, generous and so full of gratitude for the simple dawning of a new day.
I thought the sign "Smile! You're in Kenya" was merely a tourist ad, but I soon learned that a big smile was the gift of the African people, and was so freely given, asking nothing in return. Amongst the extreme poverty, masses of people, and lack of jobs, we heard the statement "I am so very very happy!" spoken with gratitude every day.
What brought me to consider taking this trip was a wonderful mask making class given by an artist here in Sebastopol, California by the name of Rebecca Love. Her masks of the women of Africa are fantastic. She had traveled to Africa several years ago and fell in love with the culture and people there. She now puts most of her energy into creating, training and helping to sustain several African women's groups in supporting their families. She returns to Kenya several times each year.
One of her friends, Valerie, traveled with Rebecca last year and was inspired to put together a company that would take small groups to experience the same wonderful connection that they experienced upon their travel to Africa. This small company is called Purposeful Tours.
One of the beautiful sights throughout Nairobi, and our road trips into the country side, were the glorious blooming Jacaranda trees.
For the first few nights we stayed at a compound in Nairobi built and occupied by the British in the early 1900's. It was like an oasis within the crazy city of Nairobi.
One of our first outings was to see Karen Blixen's estate where she lived her "Out of Africa" experience.
It was very moving to walk through her house and property and imagine Meryl Streep and Robert Redford sipping tea and dancing on the porch to the sound of the gramophone. The little cuckoo clock is there, where the Kikuyu children would sit and wait for the chiming of each hour.
It was like being transported back in time. A very haunting and romantic experience that I will never forget.
After visiting Karen Blixen's farm, we stopped by a shop and factory called Kazuri Beads.
This business is a place where the women who live in the slums of Nairobi can help to support themselves and their children by creating these beautiful beads. It was started by an English woman to help the women of the slums.....a wonderful idea and undertaking.... but it was frustrating to me as the women who are fortunate enough to have this job, in reality, barely make enough to sustain their life and feed their children, and there doesn't seem to be anyway out to more than just this means of survival. It was my first reality check and shook me deeply.
This was just the first day of our experience of Africa.
The next day we would visit the Deepsea Slums and be welcomed by 300 children, with songs and the brightest smiles I have ever seen, contrasted by the most extreme poverty and living conditions that I have experienced. Tomorrow I will post their beautiful faces as our experience of Africa strikes deeper within my heart.