I've been somewhat introspective all month as I've thought about how last November, I was in Kenya having all kinds of strange adventures. I've been going back and reading my journal and I'm surprised at what I've forgotten already and I'm glad I took the time to write so much of it down. Every evening after dinner while the family would gather in the living room and watch TV or chatter away in Swahili or Kikuyu, I would pull out my little, cheap writing notebook that I bought in the market my first full day in Kenya and write my experiences and impressions. One year ago today, I was driving back from the coastal town of Mombasa, the most humid, grimiest place I've ever been, to Nairobi, which is a good seven hour drive or so. This was on a bus, and it was overnight. And Kenya's roads are not paved. I don't think I really slept the whole time. Then the bus stopped and let us off in Nairobi. I got off with Jo and Emily, the other volunteers I was traveling with, and we looked around and realized that we had no idea where we were. Then a very kind taxi driver pointed out the Nairobi Hilton to us, which was a landmark for the volunteers. It was amazing how as soon as I knew where the Hilton was, I knew exactly how to get back to my village of Gathiga. I walked over to the matatu station and took the matatu back to the village. The one thing I could never figure out is why there were twenty other people who wanted to go from Nairobi towards Gathiga at 6 AM on a Sunday morning.
As I've been reading my notes from Kenya, I've also found myself flipping back through the rest of my journal, and once again, I've been surprised by what I've found. Here's a few reflections and observations I made in 2008:
I walked back to Alta with Peter. It was kind of fun; we carried on a continuation of the conversation we’d had at the Dreamcicle. Peter is a fun guy to talk to, and it was a clear, slightly cool night, perfect for a short walk with a good conversation partner. Our conversation turned to other aspects of life, how part of the reason it’s so important to enjoy the moment is that the “moments” are usually in the minority. But then we made a pact that we would work on enjoying the moment. I told him that next time I see him, I’ll ask him how he’s coming on the goal. I hope I remember to. It should be fun.
So. Living in the moment. Also, as I’ve been continually admonished, looking at things from an eternal perspective. I had a pretty good day on Thursday;but this weekend was kind of hard again. But something else I’ve been trying to convince myself of is that it’s better to try to be your best and be inconsistent than to give up the fight and never be your best because you’re afraid of the inconsistency. Better to strive for better things and have inconsistent results than to be consistently living below your privileges. So it’s all right that I had a less than admirable weekend. I’ve felt the sweet peace of forgiveness before, I need to keep the Lord involved and trust Him.
Next time I write, I’ll fill in some gaps about new roommates, an exciting expedition to broaden my cooking horizons, and extreme sorrow and deepening faith. Tune in next time for another exciting episode of Maria’s life!
What a complicated situation. But, in any case, I’m slowly learning that if I keep my eyes on the Lord and have confidence and faith that He is the one guiding my life—and the lives of those around me—then it is much easier to be happy, and I don’t get panicky or resentful feelings welling up inside. If I take my eyes off of Him and focus on dissatisfying conditions or my own faults and foibles or anything else—if I focus on the boisterous waves of the sea, then I begin to sink, and I can no longer walk on the water. I need patience. I need to realize that as much as I so desperately want to graduate and leave, apparently that’s not what I get to do quite yet. Patience. I am ready to move on, but there must be someone who needs me here still. Do not be selfish, Maria. Give of yourself. Be patient.
One thing I hate about college life is the intense cycle of friends. You get to know people pretty well relatively quickly because there aren’t tons of pressures on your time- no family of your own to worry about. Everyone’s looking for friends. So friendships are formed quickly- and then they get interrupted quickly by graduation, marriage, moving, etc. I love all my friends now. I loved all my friends last year and the year before that and the year before that and the year before that . . . going back to my freshman year of college which was seven years ago now. It seems like I’ve spent the last four of those at least becoming good friends with people and then attending their wedding receptions.
I’m not really complaining, especially since it seems like so many of my good friends have married each other- such good friends! I love them all so much.
Maybe someday if I’m lucky, I’ll join their ranks. I kind of feel like I’m standing in the middle of a decaying sandbank- and all the sand is blowing away around me, but I’m still standing in the same place I’ve been for years. I know it’s not really true. I’ve grown and changed a whole lot since I started BYU. I sure hope I’m different now than when I was a freshman, at least. I loved my freshman year, but looking back, there are so many things I wish I’d done that I didn’t, and so many mistakes I made that I wish I hadn’t. I wish I’d figured out how to be friends with guys sooner without being weird about it. I wish I’d figured out how to live in the moment more, although that was kind of tricky since I had chronic fatigue syndrome. I wish a lot of things that I can’t change now, so I don’t worry about it too much. I think I’ve always been something of a late bloomer. I guess as long as the lessons get learned, it doesn’t matter so much when they get learned, although sooner does seem to be a little better.
Meanwhile, Danielle and I are preparing nicely for our recital. I’m excited, I think it’s going to really come off well. Danielle is going to play Claire de Lune for a solo piece, and we have six or seven numbers we’re working up where she’s accompanying me. Our rehearsals are always punctuated by interruptions when her children need attention. Jacob is two and is definitely a little mischief maker. He’s very curious and likes to explore things. A lot of time we end up putting my backpack in the bathroom because that’s the only place he can’t get to it. He’s a cute little thing though; he kind of reminds me of my brother Mark at that age. He has apparently grown rather fond of me, because the other day he asked Danielle where I was. Danielle’s sister Kim is in my ward and she had a birthday party at her parents’ house on Friday night. Danielle was there with her family, and I was rather flattered when Jacob came over to me and kind of latched on to my leg. We played Bocce ball and Jacob gave me his ball to throw. I suggested that he might wasn’t to throw it himself, but he kept giving it back to me and saying “Maria throw it.” So, I threw his ball for him.
There are so many good, fun things I want to do, though, I need to remember the counsel that just because something is good is not a good enough reason to do it. I need to be careful to fill my time with the best things, not just with good things. A Also on my list of things to do right now are become a better biker, practice voice, practice piano for the piano support group, improve at cross-stitch, finish the two skirts, top, and pair of pants that I have fabric for, transcribe Grandma’s biography tapes, and try new recipes. It’s more than enough to keep me busy. But life is full, and life is good.
Life is also tired, since it’s almost midnight. I think I’ll finish this tomorrow. Good night.
I need so many miracles in my life. Or maybe all I need is more faith. Either way, I think sometimes I get blessed a whole stinkin’ lot.
We spent the night in a beautiful meadow about four miles up the canyon. The stars were gorgeous, but not as phenomenal as they could have been because we still got a little glare from the city lights. We saw some beautiful shooting stars. It was dark when we actually got to the meadow, so it was kind of fun to wake up in the morning and discover that we’d spent the night in a meadow full of flowers.
Time keeps flying. I think another reason that I’m still in Provo is to give me a chance to really savor the experience of being in a BYU singles’ ward one last time. Every so often I’ll stop in the middle of my mad scurrying or playing or flirting and take a moment to realize just how much fun it is and how lucky I am, and I’ll drink it all in. It’s so good . . .
Funny how lucid and contemplative I’m feeling at 4:50 in the morning. I think I’ve almost run out of things to contemplate for now. But I think it’s all the contemplation that woke me up- all these thoughts about jobs and PhDs and boys being very friendly and thesis defenses and traveling alone to Africa . . . I guess I can see why I couldn’t sleep. But I’m going to try again now. Because I am pretty tired. Hopefully soon I’ll pick thins thing back up and discuss how I went to the wedding openhouse of my first date, Jason Troyna, the huge thesis revamp session with Dr. Jellen, the big breakthrough in contemporary voice singing that happened at my last voice lesson, and other fun anecdotes from the life of Maria.
We talked a little about reaching out to others to fulfill our baptismal covenants, one of which is to comfort those who stand in need of comfort. I think we all need so much comfort, so very, very much comfort. We like to think that when we grow up we’re adults, which apparently means that we’re tough and we can handle hard things and we have to be brave and mature all the time. And while it’s true that we do have to be brave and learn how to be mature and handle more than we could as children, we still are children at heart, and we need solace and comfort so much. People who deny this are numbing their feelings somehow- whether it be in alcohol or escapism literature or selfishness or greed or meanness of spirit. By doing so, they stunt their character growth, their emotional growth and spiritual development. But turning to the Lord, allowing Him to both comfort you and allow you to face the struggle or the temptation or whatever it is and successfully overcome it, is in the long run such a better option.
I can’t really remember why I originally started typing my journal instead of writing it out in hand. I fought the idea for a long time, thinking it was highly impersonal and very clinical, which it may be. But it is astounding to me how much more I write when I can get the words off my fingers so much faster. Also, the added benefit of having my journal on my jump drive, easily portable, is huge. Anytime I’m at a computer and I want to throw down some thoughts, all I have to do is pop in the jump drive and open up the Word document that contains my journal. As a result, I have an excellent document covering the last year and a half of my life, which has been a time of tremendous growth and challenges for me. It’s contained some of the sweetest and the bitterest moments of my life so far. And I have it mapped out and documented in general how I’ve grown and how I’ve fought my battles and how hard the battles have been, as well as how sweet the good times have been and how good the friends have been and how happy I’ve been. I feel pretty lucky to have this little device for keeping track of how the Lord has worked in m life.
After we walked around the riverwalk, we went back a ways to visit a little farmer’s market, where we had tacos and tamales for lunch. They were quite tasty. Then Grandma spotted the Idaho Falls temple matron- Jean Groeberg. She introduced us, and I must admit that I was kind of excited, because I love Elder Groeberg’s books. I tried to imagine all the things this woman had done and all the places she’d lived and was amazed. She was in a hurry so we didn’t talk long, but that was kind of neat.
Speaking of church, it was an experience and a half. The church Lucy attends is held in the schoolroom at the orphanage. It started with a good 20 minutes of song from the preacher, during which we all swayed and clapped. Then the next 2 ½ hours were alternating preaching, praying, and dancing. We were told repeatedly, “dance for the Lord!”
I sat on a row with Ruth the cook and three or four orphans. They held my hands and stroked my arms and rubbed my knuckles, fascinated by my light skin. They ran their fingers over my nails and laced their fingers through mine. They discovered the ring on my right ring finger and the watch on my left wrist and that kept them occupied for quite some time. When we danced, they had an amazing amount of rhythm and flair. They were also captivated by my light, curly hair. The kids seem starved for attention—affection is probably more accurate. They all want to get close and hold my hand, or lean against me, or run their fingers through my hair, or whatever.
It’s raining tonight—a real downpour. Hopefully it’s not too muddy in the morning. I bathed in the washroom and watched the lightning light up the outline of the banana trees through the small high window. I also washed my hair for the first time since my arrival. The water was full of red clay particles by the time I was done. The rain’s making me feel all cozy—I’m sure the Kenyans are freezing. They whip out winter coats at the slightest sign of rain or cold—usually while I’m busy enjoying the slightly cool turn in the weather. Bless them.
I think I’ll postpone the rest of what I was going to write. It’s late, and the power generator just went off. Tomorrow apparently we’re going to the crocodile and hippo pond. Could be exciting!
9:30 AM- wow. Talk about being out of one’s comfort zone. I’m taking breakfast by myself at a little downtown hole-in-the-wall café. I’m pretty sure the staff dislikes me for being white and not speaking Swahili. Also, they may think I’m crazy for ordering both eggs and French toast. And I have a huge, burning mug of Milo to consume before I can leave. Of course, it’s not like my meal has arrived yet anyway—African time. We’re all operating on African time.
Oh, good the French toast just arrived and looks more or less like I anticipated.
On a different note, it’s Sunday in Nairobi and the house is pretty quiet. Most of Regina’s family went to church, some of the new volunteers went to the animal orphanage, and Anina, Ollie, Brandon, and Cynthia just left to Nakumatt and such. So I have a quiet house to myself for now for Sunday—except for the drum that someone’ been pounding for the last half hour, the music and chanting coming up from the streets, and the occasional noise from a crow, a rooster, and a turkey. Unfortunately, my ipod is dead. A little Sunday music would do wonders for the atmosphere. Oh, well. At least it’s pretty quiet.
The other night, I showed Lucy a picture of my family. She was impressed with the size of it and asked questions about different family members. I mentioned somehow that Dad was a bishop, the leader of our congregation for a while. So Lucy started asking me more questions about my religion. She knows I don’t drink tea because of my religion, but she asked me if I believe in salvation, and Jesus Christ and God and some other things and she finally concluded that we believe the same things except for the bit about tea. I tried to explain to her things like living prophets and the Book of Mormon, but I don’t think she quite caught the significance. But she is a very good woman.
It really was quite the year, 2008. I'm glad I wrote down a lot of those things because I forgot just how much contemplation I did. Although I still do a lot of contemplating, so I'm not sure why that surprises me . . . and hey, look, it's getting late, so I'll end now, in case anyone read through this whole thing. Thanks for playing!