Guest Blogger: Reflections from the Kenya Trip

It is easy to imagine that it might be difficulA Kenyan landscapet to describe coherently my first impressions (let alone remember them) after traveling in the same set of clothes in an upright position for 12,471 miles. According to Google that is the mileage from Nairobi to Santa Barbara via LAX. Google does not have the ability to take into account the exhaustion of getting up at 2:15am to catch a 5:00am flight nor the energy drain of being processed through 11 security checks in between. Nor does it include the frustration of watching the luggage carousel circling around and around and around with the same seemingly unloved and unclaimed bags. But even the trials and tribulations of current day air travel and my lack of sleep could not dampen my enthusiasm for the people, culture, wildlife and landscape of Kenya.

RoHo - A funny sign from KenyaThere are the visual ones – bright colors, aqua marine water, potholes, white knuckle rides in tuk-tuks (3 wheeled taxis very similar to Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride at Disneyland), wandering vines, bougainvillea in purple, red and orange, lions, giraffes, zebras, rhinos, glorious fresh fruit, red dirt, “butcheries” with sides of beef hanging in the open window, warthogs, shining tall skyscrapers with dirt sidewalks in front and the most beautiful smiles I have ever seen.

A baby elephant at the David Sheldrick Elephant Orphanage. There are the auditory ones – the rhythmic pulse and whine of the tuk-tuk engines, birds singing, cooing and squawking, hooting (aka honking) cars, listening to our wonderful driver Jeff’s Kenyan CD over and over and over again until I am fairly sure while I can not speak many words in Swahili I certainly can sing them, the singsong of the Swahili language especially in saying "Jambo” (hello) and “lala salama” (sleep well).

But most importantly there are the memories held in my heart.  I tear up when I think about the shyness and humility of the artisans as they told me their dreams for their children, the deep sense of family, the respect shown to me as Caleigh’s “mama", the incredulity of the artisans receiving prints of the pictures we had taken of them the day before, the laughter and conviviality during each work day, the pride in their trade, touching the orphaned baby elephants, the generosity of spirit despite the lack of resources, the realization that I am more grateful for the relationships I have with my children than the items I may own.

I was profoundly moved by my time in Kenya.  I went with a sense of fear and by the end of our visit I was not ready to leave. I have returned to Santa Barbara with a renewed and focused devotion to the mission of RoHo. As a mother I cannot rest until all the children of the workshop have an opportunity to become all that their parents dream for them.

I hope you will join me in this journey as we continue to put our best foot forward.