If I could paint a picture with words…
I’d say it’s Thanksgiving 2011, and I’m listening to the new Drake album (via Ian). I’m with Asheville’s own Anna Martin, cooking and telling stories, sharing our mutual disbelief – HOW have we actually survived a year in Kenya? The African sun is searing, falling in the sky, pouring through the eastward facing windows; the opposite of the November weather I grew up with. We’re staying with a cardiologist in Eldoret (a day’s travel from Sipili) who’s from Anna’s hometown and recognizes my late cardiologist grandfather’s name. We just got back, dusty and thirsty, from town. It’s a 20-minute walk, but economically distant from the landscaped compounds and guarded gates where these doctors live. We’re about to have Thanksgiving dinner, including turkey, sweet potatoes, corn casserole, green bean casserole, pies, and (if I’m REAL lucky) some cranberries somewhere. But back in Eldoret town, and back in Sipili, it’s another Thursday like the Thursday before.
But that description is not enough to really explain what it feels like to smell ovens full of rich food. Or to hear “Holly Jolly Christmas” tumbling out of the neighbor doctor’s house. Sounds and smells so contrary to those in the village that I’m almost disoriented. But I know that if I were back in the states, it would be even stronger, even more contrary. It’s hard to explain this “halfway”. Thirteen months out of twenty three, more comfortable around Kenyans than Americans, overwhelmed by microwaves and showers, counting down the days until I’m headed back to the US. Spatially and temporally, I can't really tell whether I'm closer to Kenya or the USA. It's like I'm in both places at once. But I’ve said it before, my experience here is defined by opposites existing simultaneously. Beauty and ugliness, hope and despair, exhaustion and energy. Native and foreign. I’ve decided I think that’s where the growth happens.
And this Thanksgiving, that’s what I’m thankful for. Growth. It’s been difficult, but everything worthwhile is. I’m also thankful for the usual things like family, friends, and health. (Side note: the fact that these things are usual in my life is ANOTHER reason to be thankful). I’m ESPECIALLY thankful that despite all the unrest, my family will be here in less than three weeks.
I’m also thankful that you’re reading this. Whoever you are, wherever you’re sitting and whatever screen you’re gazing upon, I am humbled that you read what I write. It’s a blessing to share my triumphs and defeats with whoever chooses to listen.
Love and peace to you all, and Happy Siku Kwa Batu Mzinga (turkey day), everyone!