Today presented us with some issues. The first being the driver dropped us off at the University of Rongo and said he’d be back in five after he refilled the gas in the bus. That five minutes turned into almost 2 hours waiting for the driver. I felt so so guilty that the community members were waiting for us and had started to leave.
Applying my own experience; I am someone who immigrated to somewhere that is fraught with awful stereotypes about the people in my country. I feel like I am constantly trying to explain to people that no, everyone is not an awful bigot, and that my country is huge and there are plenty of amazing people there. English people can think Americans are fat, bigoted, and stupid, but the worst part about all those stereotypes is that hate is a disease that has spread in my country, and obesity and education are linked often with the growing class divide and socioeconomic issues. Acknowledging those ugly truths is hard for me because I don’t want people to think of Americans like that.
The Kenyans have gone out of their way to be hospitable because they are excited to share their culture and their land with us. They want us to love their country so much. I can’t imagine how difficult it must be, how much humility they must have, to be able to share their communities experience about issues like FGM, child marriages, etc. To pull back the curtain and have the courage to share not only with each other but with strangers is incredible and courageous. Another reason why I felt so guilty.
Once we got there, things were still a bit disorganized, but it was worth it to here the women speak, and to hear the community members speak. It gave me that feeling again – that feeling of “Right, this is why I’m here“. I am glad we filmed it, that we got a chance to show them without words about how much we care about what they’re saying, because we do.
So thankful for everyone on this trip. Everyone feels the same as I do, and everyone is here for the right reasons and to work. I honestly can’t imagine a better group of people to do this trip with.
After the community members spoke, we had some waiting time before the chief arrived. This was much to Katy’s dismay, because during the time that the community members were speaking she got really, really ill. I felt so badly for her, especially because I know how much she cared about this project that she now couldn’t take part in.
After the chief spoke, we had to rush our next activity, which was going to a community meeting where the chief introduced us to the community and spoke about why we and the Rongo students were there.
We spoke after about the uncomfortably about how we were sat in chairs at the front, next to the chief, and the Rongo students had to stand at the back. It felt like a power imbalance and felt invalidating to the fact that it was a partnership; the Rongo students should have been up there with us. I chose not to sit because I didn’t want to visual confirm that.
Again, I feel so grateful that we are in this together, because trying to articulate these difficult feelings can be challenging, and to have people that can be empathetic to this and are experiencing these things alongside me is really meaningful.