Our large, round mud hut was perfect - mostly, because it pushed my children to live outside, kicking a homemade ball around the field and chasing chicks and goats. I gave up trying to keep my children clean. Their limbs became the colour of the red dirt. I found this wholesome and even gratifying. Kenyan women took it upon themselves to make up for my evident maternal shortcomings and scrubbed their feet with repurposed netted fruit bags.
Kenya also forced us into a more direct relationship with food. Élia was fascinated to watch a bull skinned for the New Year’s feast. (We held Anna hostage in the hut while its throat was slit - much to her dismay). That said, they both enjoyed watching the fur singed off its head as it roasted over a fire for soup. That day, Élia had complained that she missed our family tradition of watching “BBC Earth” once a week - until Michael pointed out that we were living it instead. True that.
My girls’ hearts were broken the day they met street children visibly younger than Anna, who is eight. They spent the day asking the kinds of questions that I could not answer.
Every day in Africa was a contrast.
We encountered need staved by interdependence; we met suffering embraced by faith. We also found hope lurking in the most unlikely places.
Only in Kenya was I able to define paradox in a way my children could finally understand.
We all returned to Canada more thankful than we left: plumbing, clean water, and fresh bread all seemed luxurious. I fear, though, that the inevitable will happen. Slowly, but surely, vivid Kenya will fade like an old photograph. We will peer into the small photo and try to distinguish features through the grainy black and whiteness.
It always happens.
My youngest said to me today that her dream is to return to Kenya; my eldest acknowledged it’s like Narnia for us, but without the witches or the snow.
And so we must return.
Every visit helps breathe colour back into the stony self-sufficient pieces of our lives.