In Kenya, a sudden rainfall indicates a blessing. As the WISER students and faculty were welcoming us, rain suddenly fell around us. A blessing.
I am here in Muhuru Bay, Kenya. I am lying beneath a tree and looking at Lake Victoria as I write. It has been difficult for me to write this first post as my mind has been in constant motion since I boarded my plane in Nashville over a week ago. After a twenty-four-hour flight schedule and a short night of rest in Nairobi, our group headed west. Our first stop was at Kazuri Beads. “Kazuri,” which means small and beautiful in Swahili, is a social enterprise to empower single mothers in the villages surrounding Nairobi. The women create the beads, paint the beads, and assemble various pieces of jewelry—leaving each piece unique. This picture is of the entire group outside of the Kazuri shop.
(Side note: the group from Duke is amazing and has been nothing but welcoming to me as the only non-Duke student. This is my shout-out of thanks and appreciation to all my new Duke friends.)
We made a short stop at an overlook of the Great Rift Valley before making it to Kisii, Kenya. In Kisii we learned about Kisii soapstone carving and were able to see the entire process—from the ground to, to the hands of carvers, to the shelves of shops.
Each of these stops were important, but nothing has been as important as entering the gates of WISER. It is impossible to express what I have felt and learned in a matter of days. To simplify my tangled web of thoughts, I will just introduce you to a new friend and sister. At WISER the girls are assigned to Houses of Wisdom—there are eight houses with fifteen girls in each house. Each house has girls from each grade. In Kenya grades are called “forms.” They live together, eat together, and compete in sports and academics together. The houses become their families here at WISER. I was assigned to the Mirror House. This house is called “Mirror” because the girls reflect their goodness in school and in character. During my first lunch with the Mirror House, I sat down beside Esther.
Esther is in Form 2 (her second year of secondary school). We immediately shared with each other our interests and about our families. She is one of five sisters. (We empathized over wishing we had a brother, but both understood the love that can only be shared between sisters.) She explained that I am now a sister of the Mirror House. Her explanation of “Mirror” was this: “We do not keep things inside. We reflect them out. For example, we do not keep love in, we reflect it out to share.” Esther plays volleyball and her favorite subjects are math and languages. After secondary school she wants to go to university and become a lawyer. Luckily, I spent Monday shadowing the Form 2 students for an entire day. I was able to see Esther shine in her classes—she works hard, participates, and actively helped me in Kiswahili class. (Which I needed all the help I could get!)
Esther gave me permission to share her photo and share about our new friendship. I will continue to share stories about new friends as my time here continues. Please read more about WISER and contribute to their work by supporting their programs.
Oriti (“Goodbye” in Luo)