Sunday, August 8, 2010

In the eye of the beholder

Do you ever one of those days when everything seems beautiful? When you can hear every bird song crystal clear, every cloud looks fluffy and playful, the sunrise and sunset are spectacularly breathtaking, and every person’s smile is incredibly heartfelt? I had one of those days today, which was well needed. As you may have guessed from my previous blog entries, I’ve been having more trouble adjusting to life here than my initial few months. Today, when everything here was beautiful and perfect, reminded me to see the beauty in things. I hope to truly savour these moments that make me blissfully happy. Today made my smile shine from within and showed me that in a land where many things seem so illogical, there is still beauty. These are some of the things that I find beautiful, here in Magwar:

My sunrise walk to school. The field I pass through each morning is full of beautiful birds, grazing cattle, and silence. I love this peaceful journey with just me and my dog and the quiet of Magwar. I’m not being followed by loads of rambunctious school children, I’m not being asked for money, and I’m not being scorched by the equatorial sun. It’s peacefulness that prepares me for my day.

Prayer drums during planting season. It’s a humbling experience, seeing women bent over plowing their fields into neat lines to the beat of drums calling to God/whoever else may hear, to grant them a fruitful harvest. I find myself looking up to the sky like the little old lady drummer does, and wondering if someone above hears the beauty and reverence vibrating in her huge cow hide drum.

My students: Over half of my students are orphans, many face challenges that I cannot even describe or fathom. They are poor, sometimes hungry, often cold, and frequently exhausted from a Kenyan day’s household chores. But they have amazing spirits. They are dedicated to their education even if it means sacrificing so much. They are charismatic, curious, and persevering. I gain so much of my strength from them.

Children For any of you who know me, you know that I adore children. But, living here, and standing out like some kind of freak sideshow I often become somewhat of a spectacle to children. Thankfully, to some extent, a bit of their excitement in my newness has worn off. I no longer am hassled EVERYWHERE I go and followed by an army of children. But I do have one faithful fan, who early morning or late evening, rain or shine, will sprint from wherever he may be and whatever he may be doing to greet me. He is about 2 years old and named Eriki. He has an enormous pot belly topped with the largest outie belly button I’ve ever seen. He is shy, with questioning eyes, a determined handshake and is sometimes adorned in a pink flowered smock, but he makes me happy. His loyalty to my daily handshake makes me smile everyday.

Baby animals. I realize that I am a huge sucker for animals (look at my growing farm of pets). The plethora of baby cows, newborn goats, fuzzy chickens, and suckling puppies makes me say “Awwww” on a daily basis. A moment that makes me laugh is when I accidentally tested a mother’s protective instinct. I was at the market with my friend Emmah when I saw a trail of baby chickens following their mother along. Overcome with a baby chick’s cuteness, I reached to pick one up. Bad move. The mother, seeing that I had one of her babies in my potentially killer hands, flew up and began attacking/pecking/squacking/thrashing her wings in my hair. That moment made me laugh out loud, my adoration of anything young overrode me common sense of a mother’s protective nature. The cycle of life is quite a beautiful thing.

A sense of community: Property lines and street signs divide American communities. While those walls and property lines may exist here, there is a sense of togetherness that lingers and runs beneath class and community segregation. A sense of community means: knowing that if your crops fail then your neighbour will feed you. If there is a drought then water will be shared. If you are sick members from the community will come to your house to wish you a speedy recovery and bring you loads of food. If a death occurs, the whole village will be there to mourn with you, to share your pain. It’s witnessing these moments that are heartfelt and warming and true. While maybe not beautiful on the outermost level, inherently, a sense of togetherness and oneness is truly amazing.

So, these things show me the beauty of my community. And while I realize that I may not appreciate these things on a daily basis, knowing that they are there is reason enough for me to get through the difficult days. So when I’m frustrated with the lack of behaviour change, feeling helpless in the face of poverty, or just homesick, I’ll try to remember to look for the beauty in things.


  1. Jenny that post is so beautiful!! I was thinking- Im starting my student teaching at Oak Grove on Tuesday and maybe your students and my students could be pen pals! Love and miss you! -Melissa

  2. Wow, Jenny. That just made me tear up a little. The hardships that your are witnessing every day would make so many feel hopeless. Yet you still are able to find the beauty and pureness in people. You truly inspire me! I love you so much! Keep up the posts, I love them!