Stories and impressions of a volunteer.

#7 with tears and joy

Eventually, it is time for a happy ending. This will be my last contribution to the Wale Wale blog. After one week filled with tears and joy, I arrived back in Germany. When I try to remember my last moments at Wale, my journey feels like a dream I have had last night. One of those dreams you wish to have no ending. One of those dreams you would rather try to catch and continue sleeping. A dream that was too short, but good. Short and sweet.  Here is a little throwback. Throwback Thursday (today is Thursday).

Last week I was still in Nairobi, living the dream so to say. Although this is a super blunt joke, I could not keep it to myself. Pardon me. The last few days I had left at Wale were busy and exciting. It was the last week of the holiday program also. On Tuesday, before Phaustine and I started with the computer class, Ibra and me started painting a tree onto the walls of the balcony. I have planned that for a while now. Luckily, the kids joined us with their artistic minds. Although we could not finish our art-action and the tree had to be left without leaves, I am happy that there will be some sign of me somewhere at Wale. I look forward to seeing the walls when their are fully painted.

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Then, on Wednesday, I invited Evette and Happiness for a little dinner to our place, a chance for a “last supper”, before I would be leaving for good. Together with Venna, we had a sleep over, listened to some music, had almost philosophical talks about phobias (Venna was blessed with a night mare being chased by a grumpy cat) and watched a film. It took not long until all of us fell asleep, as the next day was expected to be exhausting.

After a whole lot of practice, the youth finally had their performance at The Junction Mall, in the middle of millions of beads and Kenyan tribal art while Maasai market was taking place. Happiness, Evette, Claire, Mary, Berto, Julias, Sarah, Pauline, Shuvian, Georgie and Bonnie were dancing all day long, out of which three choreographies were modern and three were “tradi”.

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Once, Happiness surprised me and dragged me into their dancing circle. I did not really feel that comfortable in front of the curious market visitors. And I was not really convinced that I would make any contribution dancing either. But well, the surprise was imminent and I joined in. I felt embarrassed, but I have to admit, I also enjoyed myself. Dancing made me happy. What the kids really reaffirmed was that making a fool of yourself is always a good recipe, it makes you enjoying life more. Trying out new things and not being too concerned about everything. Overly conscious and worried. Feeling lighter, taking it easy.

When it comes to the dance performance as such, I was impressed and proud at the same time. Not that it is my effort or anything considerable, simply knowing them made me feel a little proud. Meanwhile Venna organised everything around, filmed and documented the whole happening. Within the breaks we were just hanging out, close together in a tiny room somewhere at the parking place where Maasai Mara is. The day was long, we had a long time to spend in there. But to be honest, although we did not have too much to do during the breaks, I really enjoyed it. I expected it to be boring maybe and it was exhausting, no question, but I really did enjoy it. I was happy to have some more time with some of the youth personally. Just hanging out, talking, laughing, making jokes. I just loved to get on the nerves on them once and then. Just for the sake of it. Of course, in a funny and loving way. That’s our way of being, our way of being on the same page somehow. Cheeky us. I am already missing those jokes in between, making fun of each other twenty-four-seven. At this point I want to say thank you. Thank you to everyone.  Thank you to WaleWale. Although I did not understand everything in Kiswahili to a hundred percent this day and although I might have been upset minded here and then, I really felt comfortable and not as an outsider at all. Just hanging out. Everyone speaking Kiswahili and not making “too much” of an effort for me. Just acting normally, freely, as always. Being with the youth let me perceive myself as part of the group. It made me feel joys and tears at the same time. Pole, it is getting cheesy here. But for real: thank you a million and more.

To be fair, I was overly conscious in the beginning of that day in particular. A lot of white visitors and market sellers were looking at me as if I was an outsider to the group. They were wondering what this white girl was doing with those kids from Kibera. Is she just a curious visitor too or is she the founder of a charity organisation because she is white and must have money?  There needed to be a reasonable explanation. “Reasonable”. Usually though, what I would expect is that I would get a whole lot more attention at such a market place, as a potential white customer. This time, the attention was drifting swiftly. Above all, the youth made me feel so comfortable that I forgot all the other people surrounding me. I did not feel as a visitor or outsider for now. This day I could really see myself living in Nairobi, being with Wale. Thank you. Sitting here in Germany, I miss Nairobi, I miss this feeling. I miss all of you, dancing, laughing, making fun of each other. But I won’t forget Wale welcoming me with open arms, open minds and open hearts. Ok, it is getting cheesy-ish again.

Beyond the dance performance, another highlight of the week was an activity called “fun and discovery”, as Pauline repeated it continuously. All members of WaleWale went on a little excursion to snake park and the national museum in Nairobi. Similar to the day at Maasai market, I enjoyed hanging out with the kids. Doing something more special. Special because all of the kids seemed to be excited, super hyped are better words, and jumpy that day. Everyone was scarily impressed by the snakes. Also, Venna made my day to be honest (dear Venna, sorry but not sorry for this). With her snake phobia, the kids tried to wind her up which was even more fun for them after all. Although dead, the 50 kgs heavy and 5 meters long Omieri let us cringe a lot, not to forget Venna. What was a bit more Venna-friendly were the turtles, chameleons as well as exotic fish, beautiful to see. Me, I was just a bit scared of the crocodiles, which I did not expect to be there. Well, let’s say we have a complicated relationship where we respect our existence. I do not have to get closer though. Co-existence merely. Afterwards, trying to escape from that crocodile-thing going on there, we gathered at the national museum which offered us a bunch of historical, cultural, and political perspectives on Kenya as a country. It was a whole lot of information. Yet, it was informative but fun.

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I don’t know how the kids always make it, but somehow they always manage to enjoy themselves everywhere, every time. The youth really enjoyed the wild life section. I would have loved to visit the Kenyan art section, which I missed for whatever reasons, to the amusement of Evette and Claire. I am still jealous, and irritated to some extent. Where was that art?! The building was clearly too big. Anyways, thank you for the laughs we shared. I am glad that one of my last days turned out to be a bit adventurous. And memorable.  Credits go to Sarah, Hussein, William, Berto, Brian, Pauline, Shaylin, Benzel, Julias, Claire, Mary, Shuvian, Goergie, Bonnie, Milly, Rose, but also Evette, Happiness and Venna. Thank you for this day and the time we spent together.

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On Sunday, my last day, the boys came over for their own version of the girls talk we organised a few weeks ago. I enjoyed hanging out with Ibrah, Hussein, Julias, Brian, Bonnie and Georgie. Beyond talking about growing up and topics ranging from the role of manhood to love and relationships, the boys were dancing, playing outside, eating lunch together, drinking chai and having cake. What I enjoyed the most was probably the pillow fight we had here and then. Also, I cannot get over me losing the soccer match against Hussein. I will ask for a revenge next time I will be visiting WaleWale. Overall, I was thankful for getting the chance to get to know the boys’ realities, their perspectives. Though, I was a bit upset minded, as I was thinking about leaving all day long.

And eventually I am here. In Germany. And soon-ish in Sweden, where I will be starting my Master studies, a new chapter is to begin. With a bit of a culture shock. Everything here up North is still the same. It is not that hard for me to re-adjust. I am used to it, grew up here, all my life. Of course, some things that differ are obvious, living standard-wise for instance. Security-wise maybe. But somehow, it feels like something is missing, like I left something behind, back in Nairobi. I don’t even know what exactly. I miss Kenyan culture, the streets, the people on the streets. The people at the center. And I genuinely wish that I could have stayed. But I am thankful for all the moments I shared, all the experiences I collected at Wale, with the youth. I learnt a lot. No question. About life in Kenya. About life in Kibera. About the value that education and access to information carry. About Kibera’s hopelessness-cliché and all the socio-cultural stereotypes surrounding it. Which is sometimes true of course, but often remains a too generalized perception, only seen as either black or white. Not seeing those real human beings, smart, caring and much more. I saw the potential some of the youth in Kibera hold. Youth that cannot be identified exclusively by “Kibera”, its slum and ghetto definition. I learnt a lot about youth, youth like you and me. At the same time, I hope that I took the chance to contest the biased perception of White people always being rich and feeling worth more. Contesting the view that the Western world is the right way to go, so far away and so much better. In the end, we all share more similarities than we are aware of. I just learnt a lot about just being me, being authentic, being simple. And having patience. Also with myself. Although cultural realities differ a lot across the world, we are still somehow the same in our personalities, our ways of being. Everyone at Wale encouraged me. Seeing them being so dedicated. So brave. So open minded. So open hearted. So kind. So genuine. Being kids, really good kids. I found friends. I will miss everyone like crazy. I already know that I will be back some time in near future. And I will keep in mind to appreciate the little things. Every time I find myself in this boring chewing-gum slow study trap, I will remember spending time with the kids. Appreciating the little things. As well as spending time with Happiness and Evette, laughing a lot. And not to forget, I will miss Venna being around. Living together, working together, talking a lot, being crazy once and then. Being around people all the time. Thank you for that feeling of tears but joy.

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