When One Journey Ends.

Hello friends,

I flew out of Mombasa yesterday morning, back to the homeland. And let me
tell you, it was not easy. As soon as I got to the airport I wanted to run
back into the arms of the city and say, “I’ll never leave you!” like the
ending of a cheesy romantic comedy. A little on the dramatic side, I
know, but it is just how I felt. I felt awful and other than
the fact that I was scheduled to stay for only a month, I
couldn’t understand why I was going home. I was passionate
about the work I was doing and was content with life in Mombasa. Many tears
were shed on my long (and still in progress) journey home. I will miss the
sea breeze, the children’s hugs, the chapati, the boda bodas, the teaching,
the other volunteers, and the way life had made so much sense while I was
there. The daily routines and schedule had become normal life for me, and
the weeks flew by far too quickly. Everything about this trip has been
simply wonderful. I am so incredibly grateful to have had this expirience
and am surely changed because of it.
On one of my last days in Kenya, I was walking through town when a lady
stopped me by saying, “Madame, stop! You have a spot in your skirt!” I
turned around to see that I had sat in dirt and now had a big stain on the
back of my skirt. I didn’t mind really, but the lady wanted to help and
offered me one of her own skirts to change into. I protested, saying I was
fine and wouldn’t be able return the skirt to her since I was leaving. But,
she insisted and next thing I knew I was in her small house, trying on
skirts. I felt a bit guilty, seeing that this was not a woman who had an
abundance of skirts, but one who lived modestly. How could I take a skirt
from someone who had very little of their own? She gave with joy
and smiled the whole time while I picked a skirt and slipped it on.
I offeried her my old skirt in exchange but she declined and told me I was
her sister and that she was glad to help me out. I hugged her and thanked
her probably too many times and went on my way. As we left, my friend
Mariana and I teared up. We were so moved by her genorousity. She had given
me something selflessly, expecting nothing in return. It was clear that it was not material things, but people that were the most valued in her life. This kind of behavior
was not uncommon in Kenya. The people there had an incredible sense of
community. Everyone is a brother or sister. If a child showed up to school
with no shoes, another child would give one of theirs to them. If a younger
child is hurt, an older one will come to their aid. When there is a car
crash, men will run to help, saying their “friend” is in need. They most
likely do not actually know the person, but it doesn’t matter, they still
rush to help. It’s unlike any place I’ve ever seen, and it’s inspiring. It
makes me want to always treat people as my own family, going the extra mile to
help them out simply because they are human and deserving of love and
On my last day in Mombasa, I went to Nyota school with the other
volunteers. My teaching had finished, so I just went to see the kids and
help out. It ended up being an incredibly joyful day. I played with kids,
took photos, had mandazi and chai (yum!), read, sang songs, and danced. You
could say it was a perfect day. Some of the students wrote notes that said,
“I love Madame Emeli” and gave them to me. The hugs were abundant and the
smiles even more so. It was such a wonderful ending to my journey and
sealed in my heart all the joys and pleasures of working with children. It
was an honor to be apart of their education and I hope every one of them
continues to get proper schooling. Education should be a basic human right,
and not just something for the rich, industralized world. GVI Mombasa,
the program
I worked with, is making it possible for more children to get a good
education and I know that even if my time with them was short, the good
work will continue and improve. I have decided that I definitely will be
going back, someway, somehow. For now, I will try to sink back into my
normal American life, though I am sure I’ll never be the same. I cannot sum
up my immense gratitude for everyone who made this journey possible. I hope
I’ve adequately expressed how many times your kind words of encouragment
have filled me up and enabled me to do more, try harder, and smile
wider. The thought of coming home to my awesome family and friends makes this transition a lot easier. I mean it when I say that I couldn’t have done it without your

An old man at the airport who saw I was wiping away a few tears said to me, “The adventure is not over,” and I smiled and I replied, “Oh, it never is!” And how thankful I am for that.
Onto the next adventure, thanks for reading! -Emily xo

Jambo, Jambo!

This one goes out to all things family. Partially, because tomorrow is
Father’s Day, but mostly because I have an amazing family that deserves to
be celebrated.

I begin with my father. I often refer to him as a “super hero” and
people that know him don’t find that strange at all, because it’s pretty
accurate. As I’ve journeyed out into the world and on my own, I’ve truly
realized what a blessing it is to have a dad that has always made me feel
safe, cared for, and loved. His calm, strong heart has quieted my fears
so many times, whether it be during a nasty thunderstorm or a time of
illness. He has the ability to take my fears and assure me everything will
be all right, and I can always believe him. He has always been a sturdy
rock to rely on for our family. I have had the opportunity to thrive in
life because of his examples. He was the first to travel to Africa, and I
can recall reading his blog of the experiences in Uganda and I know
I wanted to be just like him. I remember on my first trip abroad when I was
12, my dad made a playlist for my MP3 player and it included the song, “Let
my Love Open the Door” by Pete Townsend. And, oh, how his love has done
exactly that. Because of his unstoppable love, I have felt motivated,
inspired, and fearlessly able to acheive my dreams. I love you, Dad. Thank
you for everything. Happy Father’s Day!

And now to my sister Lauren. I read today the sad news that her trip to
teach in Egypt was cancelled due to political unrest. And the amazing thing
was that she wasn’t sad for her own sake, but for the sake of the children
she was going to teach and love. I know 100% Lauren would be over there,
political unrest or not. She doesn’t see the potential risk or danger, she
sees a need and has passion to help. She truly values the lives and well
being of others before her own. She is incredibly brave, just the type of
hero you can find in the books or movies she has read/watched thoughout the
years. She’s Harry Potter, Katniss, Sam Gamgee, Hercules, and Mulan all rolled
into one. And the best part is that her courage is incredibly natural,
unforced. It is who she is and it’s going to make all the difference in her
life. She is going to reach so many people, and be just as amazing of a
writer as Khaled Hosseini, if not better. I am so proud of her.
Everyone she knows is touched by her humor, passion, and strength. To know
Lauren is to have your life changed. Lauren, I love you so much, you strong
little lovebug.

All in all, I owe so much to my family. So much love, I don’t deserve it.
If you see any member of my family, please give them a hug for me. Happy
Father’s Day to all dads, and I hope you have a lovely weekend. -Em x

Dearest ones,

The other day after I finished my Sunday latte at a place called “Café
Mocha,” I found myself craving a mandazi. A mandazi is a triangle of fried
dough, very simple, but usually delicious. I didn’t know where to find this
particular pastry, so I set off on a bit of an adventure. I saw a village
and headed that way when I heard, “Madame Emily?” And turned to see one of
my students on his bike! I greeted him and then quickly asked if he could
lead me to a mandazi! He said yes, and off we went! We walked through the
village going to different shops with no luck. Since it is the end of the
rainy season here,our daily activities are often interrupted by sudden rain
showers. So, every once in a while, the rain would begin to pour and we’d
run to find shelter. Once it finished, we’d journey on until the next
shower, then find cover again. It felt like playing “hide and seek” with
the weather and the rest of the village joined in. Then, as we
walked we’d have to hop, skip, and leap over puddles. The villagers looked
on, some waved, some liked at me like I was an alien and sheilded their
children. Hakuna matata. After two shops, and three rain showers, I
finally got my mandazi! It was not that wonderful, sadly. But the adventure
was definitely worth it. I love the little adventures in everyday life.
They steal you away from the ordinary and fill your heart with crazy joy.
The entire time I am sure I had a huge smile on my dripping wet lips.

I am half way through my last week here, which is unbelievable, really. I
can write lists of all the things I will miss about Kenya, but I’d be lying
if I said I didn’t have a list of all the things I can’t wait to do/eat
back in the good ole U S of A. I do feel I have enough energy in me to go
for another month here or onto another exotic location. I also feel like I
want to do this kind of work the rest of my life. I feel so naturally me
while wearing a skirt, walking through the slums of a third world country.
Each step of the way teaches me a little more about myself and the world.
What a privilege this expirience is and continues to be.

The children at school are lovely, crazy little rascals. I love the art
work I get to see everyday. They definitely have a unique style to their
drawings. Today, I had them all create their own character. I
got everything from a merman to a dragon with a lion’s head. I will be
posting pictures of the art work soon! Hope you all are well. Thanks for
reading! -Em

Morning, mates!

There’s a form of transportation here called a boda boda, and it’s
basically a guy on a motorcycle who you flag down, tell him where you’re
going, and hop on the back. And it’s so much fun. You hold onto a metal
bar in the back of the bike (so you don’t have to get all romantic with
your arms around some random dude) and off you go. I think some of my
favorite memories are watching the world go by on the back of a boda boda.
Women carrying stacks of wood on their head, food stands, palm trees,
mosques, chickens, school children. All of these sights to drink in, all of
this life happening in a colorful motion as I glide by, wind in my hair. I
remember the advice my mom always gives me before I travel somewhere,” Soak
everything in,” she says. And I am trying to do just that. To let the
beautiful people, culture, and environment become absorbed in my heart as
my final week approaches. My boda boda ride may just be a way of getting
from here to there, but I’ve learn that it is in the wandering where all
the treasures are often hidden.
-Em x

Hello there!

I am a tired lady, but I thought I’d take time to tell some stories. I made
paper airplanes with a couple of my classes this week. I like making thing
they can enjoy and play with, since they don’t have much. At break (recess)
all of the kids run out of class to the small plot of land in the middle of
the school yard and they play games by drawing grids in the group and
throwing rocks. There is no playground, no balls, just dirt
and imagination. It’s so interesting to watch, as they still have fun and
play all the same. I especially love to see the kids playing with something
they created in class.

During my time here I am doing a Leadership course, so I can learn about
leading volunteer projects in the future. I have class about 2 times a week
for a few hours and then assignments to complete in between. I must plan a
full lesson and field trip, assign staff roles, make a risk assessment, and
execute my plan. The course is both informative and challenging.
Challenging, because in order to grow as a leader, I have to acknowledge
all my flaws. These, of course, I am painfully aware of. I am unorganized,
forgetful, scatter brained…etc. All the things that troubled me in
school. But the task isn’t to make myself feel awful about how I am, but
to improve on my flaws and find a lesson in each and every one of my
mistakes. It was hard at first, but once the difficult part is over, once
the mountain is climbed, the feeling of accomplishment is so sweet. I
already feel myself learning and growing a lot. I want to be an example to
others, and work hard to lead and create opportunities for others to go
and volunteer. I am so excited about future possibilities and putting
these growing experiences to use.

I also had the chance to work at a different school this week. Olives is
doing testing for the rest of the week, so there is no Creative Arts.
Instead, I’ll be teaching at Nyota for three days. I started today and
loved it. The class sizes are much smaller (15-20 instead of 35-40), and
there’s always hot tea in the staff room. There is also a “baby class” at
Nyota, because some of the children weren’t coming to school because they
needed to stay home and watch a younger, baby sibling. Now, both of the
children get an education.

The more I learn about the schools I am working with, the more excited I am
to be working with such incredible programs. You truly learn the value of
an education when you go out and teach.

Hope you all are well. I’ll write again soon. -Em x