Savannah Johnson
Savannah Johnson
Kenya 2015
I am Savannah Johnson, a recent graduate of Belmont University where I studied psychology and education. I am incorporating both of these areas of interest in my project at the Women's Institute for Secondary Education and Research (WISER). WISER is an all-girls secondary school in Muhuru Bay, Kenya. Read More About Savannah →

A Story That is Not My Own

“I have been in Kenya for over two weeks and tonight is the first night that I am lying awake and not able to drift to sleep. Every night up to this one, I have fallen into a deep sleep within seconds of closing my eyes (or have fallen asleep with my book open beside me). I think my jet lag lingered and my body has still been adjusting to the equatorial climate. But tonight is different. I have been tossing and turning for hours past my usual bedtime. (On top of being restless, a toad was removed from my bed about 10 minutes ago. I was lying under my mosquito net forcing my eyes closed, begging for sleep when I felt a thud to the left of my head. I jumped off my top bunk thinking it was a bat (a bat was removed from bed two nights ago, but alas, it was a toad. I am not mad at the toad. If he or she would have been anywhere other than my bed I am sure I would have befriended it quite easily.) All that to say, I am wide-awake tonight and I feel the weight of my writers’ block has finally lifted itself from my fingertips.

I am glad my obligatory first post in Kenya is out of the way. (There is a lot of pressure writing about the “the big arrival.” Somewhere between touristy, and grateful, and curious, and overwhelmed, and tired, and so happy to be here, but still feeling like an observer, you risk sounding like a lot of things in that first post. Through all of those feelings, I forced out that first post. Thankfully, Esther made it worth reading.

It is 1:30 am and I am typing this on my iPhone from my top-bunk. I am no longer concerned about my bed-invading friends. Tonight I am concerned about how difficult it is to share about my experience here.”

.  .  .

That was a few nights ago, and the same concern is lingering. I have so much in my head. Thoughts, ideas, and realizations that are all threading together day by day, but for some reason I cannot articulate it. It is difficult to write a story that is not my own.

I have always felt comfortable with the art of words. I love them. I am never more relieved than I am after I am able to create an convey meaning by gracefully, seamlessly threading together words. Since high school, I have worked to create art projects by only using words that I find beautiful and meaningful. I write incredibly small and in different fonts to shade and create replicates of portraits that have touched me. I can look at those pieces of art and remember what chapter of my life was unfolding during the months I spent meditating and praying over a work of art. These processes are very personal and meaningful to me and to my story. They also take time and practice and effort. Now that I am in a situation in which I am required to share about what I observe and experience, in the midst of other peoples’ stories, after being here for a short time, I am finding myself at a loss. I feel a great responsibility to be sensitive and highly aware of words I share of a story that is not my own.

My mind is in constant motion sorting through questions of value, equality, privilege, purpose, faith, and joy. In time, reflection will feel more organic and appropriate—I am just not quite there yet. To compensate, here are a few photos that represent the past few weeks better than my elusive explanation of why I can’t articulate a real blog post.


Volca. Volca is in Form 4. She wants to be a psychologist. After last weeks’ House Meeting I asked her where should we like to travel in the world. She quickly moved over and touched China.


Lake Victoria. This is the best view I have had yet. Our group climbed the small cliffs that extend beyond the caves of the lake.


Idda. Idda is in Form 1 and sits beside me during most meals. Today, I was explaining to a group of Form 1s that they would have to take care of me when the Duke students leave. Ida looked at me and said, “Savannah, I am already taking care of you.”



8 thoughts on “A Story That is Not My Own”

  1. Thanks so much for sharing. You are being the hands and feet of Jesus. Proud of what you are doing.
    Mary Sue Leow

  2. Savannah, we will enjoy your story from Africa even if you don’t have the words …. Sometimes just a picture can tell a great story! Take care…

  3. Savannah,
    I loved reading your words. You have helped me imagine where you are. I pray the Lord continues to fill you with His Holy Spirit as you love these young people.

  4. Amazing! Even when you think you are at a loss for words, your writing is truly a gift and a blessing to read! I so wish I could be there to meet those precious girls. They are enriching your life more than any amount of money ever could. I am proud of you! Toads, bats? You sure you do not want to return home ? Miss you !

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