We make it to Voi, and as far as civilization goes, I feel like I’ve stepped into the real Kenya for the first time. It’s a busy town—lined with shops that sell all kinds of goods. People
everywhere on the streets, walking up and down, across and over bumps in the fiery orange road that intersects the heart of Voi town. The open-air structures burst with goods: shoes, clothes, toys, belts, mangoes, avocados, and other vegetables. It’s an overload on the senses, potholes filled with standing water, trash on the ground, yet beauty and richness of color binds the people together.
We check into theSilent Guest Resort—its right in town, small white building with an open court at the center of the rooms. It’s basic, but clean and safe. Mosquito nets cascade down from our two twin beds, and we’re elated to see the shower/toilet combination. It’s super hot and humid, and we soon realize the value of a cold shower or two throughout the day.
Patrick takes us to the Red Elephant Lodge to eat. He’s very concerned with our vegetarian needs—and seems to know tons of people around town. Feels so good to eat—rice, pasta, veggies. We venture out around the lodge and in the distance see a Thompson’s gazelle grazing on grass, Ververt monkeys hopping in trees, and then a large group of ndovus (elephants) out in an open plain. Ah, can’t wait to get into Tsavo and Masai Mara on our game drives.
Back at the room, we divide up books, supplies, sports equipment and the clothes we brought. It’s a giddy excitement to see how much we have. I am once again thankful for everyone back home and how much they’ve contributed to help the people here. We hear stories of the poverty, and realize that one pencil can really and truly change lives.
We’re not anonymous as we walk through Voi town, but people do smile or say jambo and hello to the mzungu. We stop and buy adapters for the computers and visit the tiny, raging hot internet room within one of the markets. After we buy juice and ice cream and cruise through the open market. I take pictures of two kids—one who’s made a car from a water bottle and four caps. They’re sweet and enjoy me showing them their images on my camera. I wish I had stickers or pencils at that moment to thank them. It’s hard to know the balance between an appreciation or an intrusion into a life so different—from us as foreigners on the outside. I look forward to getting closer to the village and the people from the inside.
We have a nice dinner at the hotel and share two Tuskers. It’s New Year’s eve, but absolutely quiet as we sit out in front of our rooms, watching geckos on walls and listening to the bats chirp around us and the cats call down at us from the roof. Nic and I realize it’s the perfect way to start the New Year. Filled with hope, possibility and connection. And we are thankful.
We shop the next day for the New Year's celebration at Patrick's home. Rice, beans, veggies, flour--all the makings of a delicious vegetarian meal. The markets are busy--bustling places filled with texture and color and richness. The weight of our purchases remind us of how lucky we are to be welcomed into such a big community to usher in 2011. We pass a huge "Christmas" tree--a massive tree blooming with red flowers--how lucky am I to be celebrating the holidays here in Kenya. I love being yanked out of my world; have the blinders dissolve and brand new experiences poured into my brain. I know it's redundant--but man, I'm thankful to be alive, to be seeing and learning and touching things like this for the very first time.