Last Saturday the kids decided that it was my birthday, why I have no idea. They said that I will not be here for my birthday so we have to celebrate. Loving birthdays I gladly agreed....until I found out what there birthday tradition is, water poured on your head. Still thinking, hey we are in Africa water on my head is not so bad I continued to go a long with it. When I came out of the room from dinner all the kids were in the lobby area singing, dancing, and playing drums. I was called to the middle where the oldest girl had a cup of water, I was like ok this is not going to be bad at all... She said as you know this is a birthday tradition and poured the little cup of water on my head. Well right after that water was coming from EVERYWHERE! Kids were pouring it from upstairs, huge buckets of water coming from every side. It was hilarious! The water was freezing cold and everyone was laughing. They sang happy birthday to me and we all danced and danced. Beryl, my best friend here, knew exactly what was coming and had taken my camera so everything was filmed. I actually have a video of it all. It was lots of fun, and a birthday I will never forget : ) I guess when you don't have presents and you don't have cake you use water and make it a party : )
I have had a British lady here with me all of this time. You haven't heard me talk about her because it has been very hard for me to keep positive about her so I decided to keep all opinions to myself even to people that will never meet her. She does not stay in the orphanage but comes everyday to the school to teach. She is a very bitter 67 year old retired teacher from London, yet in her retirement she has taken countless trips to help teach the poor. Once staying as long as a year in Peru. A good heart just a little too vocal for my liking. Anyway, she left to go home on Wednesday and the school put together an assembly for her. Each class got up and sang a song to her, most being a song that she had taught them. They then cut a cake and each child was given a small square of cake. I could not help but giggle to myself as some of the children were singing. The very same children that I cannot get to be quiet at home are the ones standing with their head bowed and barely singing along. Amazing what peer pressure does to a child. And then you had the leaders the children that lead the song, carried the song, and gave the speech at the end. One girl in the second grade even told the kids to sing louder in between verses.
Last but by no means least Valentines day was also celebrated this week. Or I should say that I celebrated Valentines day this week. My parents, Karen Towe, and Jesse all sent beautiful Valentine cards for me to open making the day as special as possible. Jesse one the prize though with a pop out singing princess card. The kids were absolutely beside themselves to say the least, they thought the card was the most amazing thing ever! Remember back in the day when our ringtones were only tones, no words? That is where Kenya is at today so when a card started singing “Every girl can be a Princess” from Snow White they were impressed. Even the grown men would pass it back and forth opening the card and laughing. One of my kids said, “He must be the richest man in the world to afford a card like that!” Just an example of truly how simple minded and “behind” our culture their world is.
Now for the reason I was the only one celebrating. I did not know until this trip that Valentines day is an American holiday. Makes sense though, hallmark trying to find a way for people to spend money. Kenya just started celebrating Valentines in 2002 and for a week or so before I heard everyone talking about the evil evil holiday coming up. I just assumed that it was because of the western values being pushed onto their culture. In the paper there were all kinds of advertisements about roses, chocolates, and expensive dinners that Kenyans as a whole do not have the extra money to buy. As true as that is the day is actually considered “evil” by the Christian community because it is said that 1 in 3 Kenyan's celebrate Valentines Day with someone other than their spouse. CRAZY! Here it is viewed as a day to find a Valentine and spend it with someone new. I think in America this is the one day that it is the hardest to cheat because you are expected to be with your spouse. When I think about my life I feel like I grew up in a sex infused culture, more so than my parents but not as much as my friends that live in Miami. Yes, sex is very much in our culture but even so still in the south it is not a topic of discussion. It is something looked at as private and personal. In Kenya sometimes I feel like sex is there culture. And the widely acceptance of this Valentines Day habit proves my point. The divorce rate is sky rocketing in Kenya and I have actually heard a few people say that they feel it is because of America's influence on the world. No, I'm pretty sure it is because unless the man is a solid Christian he is bred from birth that anyone woman in his sight is for his taking. I was reading the paper the other day and there was a short line in an article that said, “A 25 year old woman was arrested yesterday for stabbing her 60 year old husband to death.” The man died yet I still feel more sorry for her than him. If she was apart of curtain tribes she could have been married to him since she was 13! Girls at that age are not ready to be wives, motherhood expected not long after. I have really struggled with putting this in my blog because I know that it is an inappropriate topic for a single young woman to bring up to the world but the Valentines day really topped the cake for me. I have decided not to write all of the wretched things I have discovered about female genital mutilation, but if you would like to discuss it when I get home I will be more than happy to share. Before you ask, the men I am exposed to are very good Christian men who do not take part in any of the cultural practices. I also don't go anywhere after dusk to stay away from danger.
On a much happier note let me tell you about my kids. They are very much MY kids now, I know there personalities, there struggles, and the things that make them laugh the hardest. I can tell you which child is about to knock on my door simply by there footsteps. I can easily identify them by their giggles even if it is coming from downstairs. They come to me when they need soap or just to show me a good grade on a test. They still look through my photo album almost everyday and yet they somehow still find new questions to ask about the individuals. I have had to explain to them what a lot of things are, like apple juice, they thought for sure it was wine. However now they can sing several Needtobreathe songs. The staff here has been amazed at how observant I am and how well I have been able to connect with the kids. A lot of volunteers that come and stay use it more as a hostel, they are here for a few days and then leave to see some tourist stuff back for a few days and so on. I have used every single ounce of child psychology I was taught in school. Even to the fact of where your eyes go when you are trying to remember something shows what type of learner you are. Speaking of learning styles the kids had midterms this week so we spent countless hours going over math and science problems. Most of them still failed their math exam, building on concepts is very hard for them. I know that I am going to miss them very much. I will worry about who is helping Mary with her math, I hope someone washes Ken's clothes, is someone going to sing with the babies? Within this last week I am going to try to prepare myself for my return home. I am excited about coming home and being with the people that I have missed greatly, but now part of my heart lives in Kenya. 67 parts of my heart, each with its own special place.