Traveler Blog Post – Judy, Houston, Texas

In the lush tea fields that hug Mt. Kenya where for one day I let it all go and breathed in a simple beauty I hadn’t felt in years.

If I had known about this “Women’s Journey to Kenya”, I would have taken it earlier, but as it turns out your global heart journey begins when the time is right for you and the magical and mystical will stir your heart when it is ready.

I was a new empty-nester and my heart was ready.

Arriving in Nairobi, a half a world away from my home, I remember having no expectations. I was open to anything and nothing would be out of the realm of possibilities. I wanted to try it all. I was free! Free from being a wife, a mother, a daughter and from literally anything that resembled vacation planning.

Linda Higdon and her tribe of kids at Ribui Elementary School.

Our group leader and team Zen master, Linda Higdon, gave so much care in gently and gracefully immersing us into the everyday lives of Kenyans. She did it so masterfully by introducing us to strong, amazing women who despite getting up at 4:30 a.m. to carry liters of water on their backs every morning for miles just to do the day's cooking, could still find time to sit and tell us about their lives and sing and dance until we were completely worn out. When we retreated to our hotel, they walked home to cook dinner over an open fire for their families, their colorfully smart clothing showing barely a wrinkle.

The Samburu (“Butterfly”) women live in the high desert. They welcomed us with an ancient and undulating dance.

As we adventured deeper and deeper into Kenya we met more and more people whose lives were lived with challenges I had never considered. What do you do when the river where you get your water runs dry? When there is no money to drill a badly needed water well? When an elephant tramples your family garden? That's right, an ELEPHANT! What do you do when baboons hold a party on your tent roof at night?

Everywhere we went the women embraced us into a sort of global sisterhood.

One of the most moving experiences I had was feeling the way the crowd did on Mt. Sinai the day Jesus fed the people with loaves and fishes. We were at a small rural school and the mothers had come to make a hot lunch for the students and us. They shooed the kindergarteners out of their rustic wooden classroom with a dirt floor so they could build a couple of open fires right in the middle of the floor to cook immense pots of rice and soup.

We scooped the bottom of the cooking pots at Ribui School to feed the multitudes in a memory that I can only describe as spiritual.

We had the privilege of serving the students. As the children lined up and we started dishing out the food, we noticed more and more children were arriving in completely different uniforms. They were children from another nearby school who had heard that the "msungus" (foreigners in Swahili) were there and they knew there would be a free lunch. They snuck out of school to be a part of the ever-growing line. I did not think our food would last, but we kept scooping and scooping and never ran out even though we were scooping what appeared to be the bottom of the enormous pot. I don't know where all the food came from, but I will never forget that day!

Not only did we feed all 250 kids from Ribui School but students showed up from across the valley when they heard they could get a free lunch of rice, beans and carrots.

The music, the dancing, the farming, the sheer joy of living, freed up something inside me that I hadn't felt in many years. What was it? It was the stripping away of unnecessary materialism. Americans view poverty as the sum of all things negative, but in Kenya we truly did find beauty in the most unexpected places. We found it in the joyful faces, in the vividly colorful nature of everything the people wear and make, and most profoundly in the authenticity of the people and a oneness with the earth that we don't experience easily here in our "first world country."

It was a complete surprise how these rural Kenyan women helped me feel free. I could just be myself again.

I felt so connected to Kenya and its people that I was convinced that some small particle of me must be from there, so I came home and had my genetic profile done to prove it. Sadly, genetically I am not even the smallest percentage African, but I left a piece of my global heart in Kenya and I challenge the next group of travelers to find it.

We hear it all the time, how African women live in sisterhood and community. It’s another thing to experience it.

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