Have you ever been to the beach that had a rip tide warning sign? Don’t swim in the ocean, because at any point, a sudden change in current could pull you out to sea. Doesn’t change how beautiful the beach is, how amazing the views are, or the peacefulness of that place. At some point, the ocean could render you useless against her strength, and carry you away from shore.
This is how homesickness feels. Traveling along the shore of life in Kenya, and I’ll feel a hint of missing home. Maybe from a picture, maybe from the stories we tell amongst each other in the office. And suddenly, I’m totally caught up in the rip tide of longing. It takes control for just a moment, a terrifying moment of questioning, of anxiety, of confusion. But almost just as suddenly, I am returned back to the present moment. Maybe a Daraja girl walks by and says “Hi Ashley!” accompanied with a Daraja hug. Maybe Crazy Caren the cow while moo extra loudly, snapping me back to reality, or my thoughts of home are warmly interrupted by a teacher who would like help with something.
With the addition of Marybeth on campus, it seems like a world of opportunity has opened up to us. Things that I hadn’t given thought to, now seem like potential gold mines upon further brainstorming. Marybeth, who wouldn’t describe herself as our resident techy gal, is absolutely our resident techy gal. I told her about an idea for a video I had, and kind of sketched out what I was conceptualizing. She turned water in wine by pulling a strand of beauty from this school and creating a tangible way to share it.
I had so much fun helping create this little video. Conceptualizing the idea, brainstorming with Marybeth about if we were going to pull certain girls or teachers to record, and if we should coach them on what to say. Luckily, we didn’t need to plan any of that. During break (recess), Leah, Marybeth and I headed to the area just outside the dining hall and cornered girls as they walked by. We love this stuff, and so do they We got students, staff, teachers and interns. We got phrases, sentences, smiles, and bloopers. I joked around with Irene that she was now a movie star, wrapped my arm around Zeki when I told her we needed her beautiful smile on camera (she said, “woooooooow” with a smile and blushed), and tried to smooth my wild hair back before saying to Marybeth, “Oh sheesh, I’m nervous… ok, now do me.”
My favorite part of the filming was when Matt, Marybeth and I were waiting at the gate for a ride into Nanyuki. We were sitting on rocks and a tree stumps when we saw over 20 girls in uniform approaching. I shot up from the tree stumps and ran to the part of the gate that had the swinging door. I stretched my arms out to block the path and said, “Where are you all going?!” with a smile. “I was not invited!”
“We are going home!” Julia laughed.
Charity told me they were walked to a neighboring village for the Form 2s (sophomores) Project-Based Learning curriculum. They would interview some of the women in the village about health, safety and lifestyle, and the other students would observe. This is part of a bigger project the Form 2s are working on with partner University of San Diego (more info on that project here).
Marybeth, not one to waste an opportunity, caught my eye and help up the camera. “Let’s get a shot,” she said. She was exactly right.
I asked Teacher Carol if it was OK to steal the girls for just 2 minutes before they left. She said absolutely. (side note: LOVE the teachers here. amazing people. an important aspect to the Daraja family).
“Alright girls,” I cheered, “we are going to say ‘We are Daraja!’” I looked at them, and although they were smiling back at me, I couldn’t tell if it was because they loved me, or if it was because they thought I was looney tunes. Didn’t matter. I continued, “Are you Daraja?”
“Yes!” they cheered.
“Am I Daraja?” I asked with a smile.
I took my energy up several notches and shouted, “Are WE Daraja?!?!”
I bounced into the middle of them and waved for them to surround me. I imagined all my dad’s footballs games when the players would crowd around the team captains for a cheer to get the team amped up before a big game. The girls followed suit, and we all huddled in a tight circle.
I started to chant, softly at first, with a corresponding clap: “We are Daraja… We are Daraja! We are Daraja!!! WE ARE DARAJA!!”
The Form 2s, tightly huddled around me, chanted in unison, softly at first, then louder, louder, and louder.
“WE ARE DARAJAAAAAA!!!” We finished with a cheer. I backed away and said, “Alright, now we’re ready! On 3, tell Marybeth ‘we are daraja!’”
“3… 2… 1…”
“WE ARE DARAJA!!” Their voiced boomed with pride. They jumped, threw their hands in the air, smiled and cheered. I ran in and smothered them with hugs and thank you’s.
“We got it!” Marybeth said.
Later, she told me that she had filmed everything, just because. Incredible. I can’t remember if it was her idea or mine, but we decided that if we could, we would get the chant in the video at the end, as a happy, light note that would fade into the conclusion.
It is my favorite part of the video
At Daraja, we are a family. The family isn’t just here in Kenya. The Daraja family extends across this entire world. There are Daraja supporters in random pockets all over, and we are a beautifully complex range of names, faces, backgrounds and experiences. But we are all united by one cause: girls’ education.
I imagine that one day, when I’m back in California, feeling the rip tide of loneliness from missing my Daraja girls, I’ll welcome the warm interruption of this video to take me back to them.
I am Daraja. We are Daraja. Enjoy.