Ngong Hills and Little Blue Uniforms

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Grade 4 in Saikeri Primary School, Ngong Hills, Kenya
Grade 4 in Saikeri Primary School, Ngong Hills, Kenya
…or some of my most memorable Kenyan moments

* A forth grader with a beaming face jumps up and hits himself in the chest, shouting out loud, “She’s my teacher! She’s my teacher!” as I’m introduced to one of my classes.

* A tall girl from my team hits the ball my direction and yells “mzungu” (a white person) so loud that all eyes turn to me. Volleyball is not my game, but these are my seventh graders and I can’t let them down. I feel my knees shake under pressure as I score.

* I get a random marriage proposal on a matatu, a popular mode of public transport here, and a fellow volunteer tries to sell me for 1,500 cows and a blue elephant.

* “Can you take it from here,” teacher Njeru asks me after a short introduction to the class. “Sure,” I say, swallowing my tongue. The tension is gone a few minutes later, as the kids laugh at my comment. “That was good!” Njeru says. “We’ll get along just fine,” I’m thinking.

* “You are always welcome here,” the woman says to us, some five or six little boys around her, one in her arms. “You make me happy.” I realize that I understood her in Kiswahili. I will come back to help her, I tell myself.

* “Who do you want to be when you grow up?” I ask the children. “A president,” the boy in front of me replies. I look down at the well written paper he just handed in. “And you can,” I say.

* Meris wraps the teddy bear in a towel as if it’s her baby. “Mommy, look what Naisoi gave me,” she says. “Her name is Dolly.” Two days later I lean to hug her good bye. I don’t know how this 3-year-old knows I’m leaving for good, but she grabs me and throws kisses all over my face.

* About eight of us are driving back from a fundraiser, packed in a jeep. I sit in between the front seats, facing the trunk. Maggie grabs my hand to keep me from flying out through the windshield. She holds it all the way home. African Queen is on the radio; and I’m whispering along.  “I have a big sister now,” I’m thinking. I am dizzy with happiness.

* I am riding a motorbike along the Ngong Hills. They are lush after a week of rains, and the valley to my right is covered with a veil of morning fog. I feel as if I’m in a fairy tale. “I can take you were the elephants are,”  Jimmy says. I laugh. “Sure you can.”

* I jump into the house, drenched after running some miles in the pouring rain, grab a blanket and wrap it around me. I look up and see Jennifer holding a cup of hot chai. I am home.

* * *

I was writing some feedback for the organization with which I traveled, and one of the questions was about my most memorable moments. I thought I’d share them here. These are just the first ones I thought of, and they are mostly positive. I have a lot of other crazy ones, like finding a frog in my suitcase.  More photos are coming soon.

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4 thoughts on “Ngong Hills and Little Blue Uniforms

    Deepak Acharya said:
    January 7, 2009 at 4:49 am

    A thoroughly enjoyable post……The photo was quite striking….

    Jules responded:
    January 7, 2009 at 5:03 am

    Thanks for your continuous support, Deepak 🙂

    Carrie said:
    January 15, 2009 at 8:03 pm

    Yulia, you have always been such an inspiration for me! I have been wanting to volunteer abroad for so long, but all the programs I was finding were so expensive! I just looked over the site for IVHQ and was excited to find that they have programs working to empower women and educate orphans in India…the two things I desperately want to do. I was more excited to learn that this was completely affordable. Well, guess what? I am hoping to apply and go this summer!

    I have really enjoyed reading your blog posts. Thanks for being so amazing!

    Jules responded:
    January 16, 2009 at 2:26 am

    Thanks Carrie, I am so glad this inspired someone. You are right, IVHQ programs are really affordable, it was the main reason I picked them. Most of the cost goes to the family you are staying with and the food you are eating. Everything else is overpriced, I think some people use these things as a way to make profit, not help local communities, which is quite sad, because those communities could really use a hand. I think this was the best thing I did in my life so far, and I highly recommend that you go for it.

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