While the whole trip was wonderful, there are always a few moments that will stay with you for the rest of your life, and I had one of those moments while sitting on top of the Nyakach plateau on a lazy Sunday afternoon. It was the one day we didn’t work and when we choose to relax and interact with the children. I chose to spend my afternoon journaling in a red dress and black rainboots with my heavy hair pilled high on my head. I had warm sunshine on my back and the most beautiful view of Kenya from where I sat.
A boy nearby probably around the age of twelve to fourteen years old came behind me and sat next to me. We smiled at each other and spent some quiet moments in our own heads. He then started humming a song and swaying. I immediately looked up, mostly in shock, since I recognized the tune to be Down by Jay Sean. Here we were – as different as we could be with something familiar between us. The boy noticed my look of recognition and asked me excitedly if I knew the song. I smiled and said I did, and thus started our conversations.
Somewhere in our conversation, I told the boy that his country is very beautiful. He gave me a very curious reply. Shaking his head and sweeping his eyes across, what was and is to me, a breathtaking landscape, he said that this wasn’t beauty. He turned and seriously looked at me before saying New York City is beauty, not this. While I wasn’t shocked by his answer, it still threw me for a loop.
Because through my eyes I saw rolling, green hills lush with nature and fruit trees. I saw and heard the swishing noises and cool water flowing from a make-shift waterfall from last night’s rain. I sighed at the view of all of Lake Victoria from where I sat and smiled at the orange and crimson rays beating down and streaking across the greenery and making light patterns on the water’s soft ripples.
But what did he see? He explained. He saw a home that wasn’t really a home. It was a place where he was trapped – a place he needed to escape for a better future. He saw his past of a father disappearing and having to be raised by a single mother. Yes, he acknowledged it was beautiful, but NYC was worthy of more value in his opinion. And how could I blame him? The boy thought NYC was beautiful because it is the land of opportunity and where he could better himself and his family. I thought the Kenyan landscape was beautiful because it was a sight I never got to experience at home.
We continued with great conversations before I left with a smile, and he left with a new pen I gave him. We departed in different directions, and he may never remember me again, but he is someone I’ll never forget. This whole encounter happened on my birthday, and I can say that his wisdom, unknowingly given, is one of the best gifts I’ve ever received.
Our Children Miles Away
By the sloping rocks and low tree branches
Four children stand and wave their arms
At the majestic beauty of their home
While they laugh and giggle and run down
Hunched beneath the broken, comforting tree
Pushing grains of rice and sparse brown beans
Chewing to fill a hollow, distended
Belly admist the soft rain droplets
Brilliant white smiles flash as they race with cars
Hollering ‘Mzungo!’ joyously and
Flapping their arms wildly and running in
Dirty tatters and clothes many years old
Yellow, jaundiced eyes stare from a packed line
Wrapped bundles whimpering, lost in a haze
Skulls loll back and forth with feverish skin
Internal time bombs ticking
Claps and slaps and teaching others how to play
Murmuring with eyes so big and curious glaze
Fawning and jumping at cameras
Intertwining calloused fingertips with mine
Toes squeezing between cold rain and hot dirt
While bouncing baby brother sleeping
Wrapped in soft cloth swaying in the back
And thinking where is mother? Father?
But they smile and look beyond Pride Rock
Seeing and imagining the future
Appreciating rain’s handmade waterfall
Their silhouettes glowing in the setting sun
-Monica Sok – Baylor ’13