The Adventure Begins!

 SI '12 participant Lily Samuel has returned to Kenya this year and is blogging about being back at the Summer Institute as an assistant coordinator. 

Now I know when telling a story, one is supposed to "begin at the beginning and go on till you come to the end" but--sorry Lewis Carroll--this literally cannot wait.

I SAW MY GIRLS TODAY, AND IT WAS THE BEST THING EVER.

Moving backward... I entered the Atlanta airport on Monday, June 17, 2013, 1:00 pm EST and left the Nairobi airport on Tuesday 9:00 pm EAT (East Africa Time). That, ladies and gentlemen, is 25 hours of fun-filled travel. And when I say fun-filled, I mean fun-filled. I got trapped in a shuttle on two different occasions (Atlanta, NY); somehow chose my seats for the NY to Amsterdam leg smack in the middle of a program group, all wearing matching lime green Polos; got lost in JFK (how was I supposed to know Terminal 4 and B Gates were the same thing?); and of course watched the new Nicholas Sparks movie (the religious Kenyan man sitting next to me didn’t enjoy it quite as much). Got to the guesthouse a little before 10, and the head of house had decided to put me (for the first two nights) in a suite, complete with queen-sized bed and personal bathroom. I mean...why not, right? If only that had at all soothed the panic attack I had from midnight to 5 am, but we don’t REALLY need to talk about that. Jet lag is a judgment-free subject.

Tuesday morning (yesterday) I woke up early and met up with Alix and Nathan (the group leaders); together we went into Kibera. It was my first time being back in a year, but not much had changed. It seemed as though the same people were still out, selling fish and tomatoes, blasting Kenyan pop music, and doing each other’s hair. Children run around, playing with each other and when they spot us, they stop, whisper muzungu (white person), and begin to chant Howareyou?Howareyou?Howareyou? Nothing’s changed. But then I arrived at KSG and realized things had most certainly changed. 41 new Pre-K girls! I don’t know if many of you have worked with children that age, but if anyone has ever played an advanced level of Jezzball, it’s a similar experience.

That was my first surprise. My second surprise came when I saw the Kindergarteners. They’d grown so big,  and...calm. The was one little girl in particular who gave everyone a hard time last summer--never sat down, constantly threw things, screeched frequently, and gave a pretty intimidating stink eye. This year Rhoda is calm! Polite! Sweet! SI 2012 kids: I promise I'm not joking. She came up to me, gave me a hug, said Hello Teacher Lily, then ran off to play. WHAT?! I mean...WHAT?!?! 

 

 Rhodah, KSG Kindergartener

Rhodah, KSG Kindergartener

Alix and Nathan then introduced me to this year's SHOFCO Youth volunteers, and we began our lesson- planning. They all seemed incredibly animated and excited to have been chosen to be part of SHOFCO. Their lesson plans were innovative. I think they’ll all get along wonderfully with the American volunteers. 

Part of my job (yes! I’m figuring it out now) will be to facilitate a connection between the two groups, aided by the SHOFCO Youth Assistant, Nicos. Nicos did the program last year and was asked back to be “The SHOFCO Youth Lily.” I was introduced to the Youth as “The American Nicos,” so it goes both ways)

Most of the third and fourth graders were out at a poetry competition, but  I luckily spotted Exference, the only fourth grader still at school that day. She enthusiastically dragged me to recess to insist that I join her in an incredibly bewildering game involving plastic cups and tiny bean bags. I feel shy with the younger girls, unsure if they remember me, but I know without a doubt that the fourth graders know me. So I was thrilled to see Exference.  I returned to the guest house happy with the day, ate a big dinner and passed out early, but not before watching a riveting episode of Nigerian Idol. 

 Exference, current KSG 4th grader and a part of Lily's 3rd grade crew in last year's Summer Institute!

Exference, current KSG 4th grader and a part of Lily's 3rd grade crew in last year's Summer Institute!

This morning, I walked the half-hour through the city again to meet Alix and Nathan and we drove again to Kibera. We worked on some SI logistics and had a lunch of cabbage and ugali. Suddenly I heard giggles and there they were! My girls! Joyce and Eunice ran to greet me, followed by the rest of my crew. Yeah...I freaked out. They took me to recess where we once again played the cup game. I asked another girl what the rules of this game were, and Exference, standing behind me, screamed Lily! It is the game we played yesterday! Same game! Yeah...thanks. I realized that.

 Lily & Nicos, Amazing SI' 12 Participants and our SI '13 Assistant Coordinators/Superstars

Lily & Nicos, Amazing SI' 12 Participants and our SI '13 Assistant Coordinators/Superstars

I was so happy to see the girls again, taller than they were a year ago and even more spirited.   

The day in Kibera ended, and Nathan, Alix, and I went to their apartment to have a potluck with their friends. I met a lot of incredibly nice people as well as Colin, Alix’s stuffed penguin. Turns out we both love penguins. I suppose that’s irrelevant information, but this my blog, so I get to talk about my life. 

The guesthouse, by the way, is BEAUTIFUL. There are comfortable suede and leather couches in the main room and this giant chandelier that I can’t stop staring at. The rooms have comfortable beds and giant closets. We even have a pool, although as it is the dead of winter here (aka 60 degrees), we probably will not go swimming. Right now there are only a couple people here, but everyone else arrives tomorrow, and then party will begin!