Our group had a glorious weekend together, reconnecting, sharing stories, and enjoying some longed for spagetti dinners and time in town! We gathered in the Kakamega Forrest where we slept at the Bandas, proceeds from which support local forest ecology education for the schools in Kenya. We enjoyed some local dance and storytelling and hiked in the forest, while some students chose to relax at the camp. We learned alot about the indigenous trees and their medicinal uses. In the afternoon we visited the village of Emwiru where Brandt and Hadley are volunteers to attend a school fundraiser. We also got to reconnect with our host families in Munjiti and take part in some spontaneous dances. The group was very happy to see that Munjiti school has nearly renovated 4 more classrooms since we had left and according to the school staff, we, Global Routes ‘lit the spark” for the governement to come to the schools aid.
After a good nights rest in a hotel in Kakamega we returned to the villages. The group shared some sentiments that many are feeling a lot of new appreciation for their U.S. family, home and all that they are blessed with in the US. As we have now been in East Africa nearly two and a half months our novelty as foreigners does not wear off. This is both a blessing and a curse. Some students expressed how much more empathy they have now for those in any society who feel alienated or put in the spotlight just because of their skin color. Many students feel right at home in the village, many have engaged with their host families in daily chores and worked on the shamba, the farm. All of the students have put themselves out there, stretching their comfort levels in many ways, for example by their openness to try new foods like “cow intestine,” by learning the local language, by buying supplies to create murals at the schools, by starting sports camps, and by holding political and cultural discussion classes with the faculty and students.
There has been some tremendous growth in our group and we are now looking eagerly towards our adventure to Zanzibar and to our next steps upon returning home.