re-entry

As it took us quite a while to get our meeting schedule ironed out, we haven’t been able to talk.  I’d like to hear how your re-entry is going (Tim included).  So please answer the questions below, or write about something else related to coming home.  Please “leave a reply” below (and check the two boxes, to see others’ posts) of roughly 200 words by Monday Jan. 23rd.

What are the weird parts of being back– Food?  Prices?  TV?   Facebook?  How have your friends and family reacted to your trip?  Have you been able to discuss your experiences with anyone?  What parts of your experience in Kenya have come to your mind since you’ve been home?  Have any of your attitudes changed, however temporarily?

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18 Comments

Filed under assignments, Courses, GOV 240 Service and Politics: Kenya

18 responses to “re-entry

  1. The only thing that has been weird about my return home has been my emotional reaction. I felt depressed and had no energy for about a week. I wasn’t expected that and I am still not sure why I felt that way. Maybe it was the let down of the trip being over. So much energy was put into planning!

    Everyone has been very interested in hearing about my experiences, to the point that I don’t want to talk about it anymore.

    Those two boys (I can’t remember their names) that were surviving on their own after both of their parent abandoned them will stick with me for a long time.

    I have never been a patriotic person, but I definitely have a new appreciation for the society I live in. I realize just how non-functioning a government and society can be, and understand that while the USA has many problems, it still functions fairly well.

    • I’ve had problems with depression, too–especially the first two days. Who were those boys? I don’t remember their story.

      • Bettina Briccetti

        Was it Fredrick and his brother? Their mother abandoned them, and they lived with their grandmother until she passed away. The brother goes to boarding school, but Fredrick is in his last year of government school.

  2. Adam Nicolais

    I must say I have had a very mixed reaction to returning home. I am shocked at how quickly I have fallen back into a rhythm that is my life. School, class, social life and sports play such an exhausting and consuming part of our lives. Perhaps this is not a bad thing, but I must say I miss being so disconnected from all the daily hectic of home.

    When we were in Kenya, thinking and reflecting on the events that each day brought was easy, simple, and clear. Everyday I truly felt I was “expanding my horizon” and outlook on the world. Suddenly that has stopped.

    I feel ignorant and disappointed in myself that my life is so filled with these day to day activities that I can only take just a few moments a day to reflect on my experiences and changing attitudes as result of the trip. Perhaps it is the people I am around. Not many people do I feel are worthy to listen to my thoughts and emotions concerning my experience. They simply will not understand. Is this wrong? I originally was looking forward to spreading the call for aid when I returned home. But I now realize that may be impossible. The experience was too valuable to share through words and descriptions.

    Perhaps the most upsetting part of leaving Kenya is missing our friends. We made so many bonds with our family we stayed with, children of the center, and even those we met in the slums (philip haha). Whenever those on the trip and I reunite the first topic of conversation is our stories from the trip. It always stings a little knowing I may never see these people again. I now understand Steve’s willingness to return every year. These people had such a large impact on my life in such a short period. Its funny how bonds and friendships can form with people so opposite from yourself. That is over now, and I must say it is very a very depressing reality.

  3. Melanie Brook

    The weirdest part of being back for me is adjusting back to my every day routine. Only having a few days in between returning and getting thrust back into the craziness of second semester, it has been tough for me to get fully adjusted back to my “normal” life.

    All of my friends and family want to know every detail of the trip, which is very nice, but at the same time it’s really hard for me to explain. I do my best to explain the home visits and working at the center, but similarly to Tim, it’s gotten to the point where I don’t want to really want to talk about it anymore.

    It has been great to share and compare stories with people who have went on this trip previously.

    I find myself thinking about my experiences in Kenya several times a day. Specifically, I find myself being grateful for things that I had never given much thought to before. Also, when I start to get really stressed out about how much I have on my plate, and wonder how I could possibly do everything I need to do, I think of Mamma Alice. She is the exact same age as me, and she is living positively with HIV. She also has three of her own kids to care for. If she can survive, well then clearly I can.

  4. Grace Zhang

    For the first couple of days when we came back, I found myself alone in my room- missing the kids and thinking how I’m back to a life of luxury while they are still struggling to eat. I felt so guilty and depressed to have back my phone and laptop when they didn’t even have their basic necessities. It felt so weird for me to just sit around and do nothing. We’ve been so busy everyday visiting homes and delivering food that I feel totally useless now. I had to pick up a few things from Target when I came back. Every time I saw a price tag I calculated how many shillings that was and how many kids can be fed or go to school with that amount.
    It has been really hard to respond to the question “how was kenya?” because there is no way to fully describe the experience. A lot of my friends and family just thought it was cool and that my weave looked ridiculous and got a good laugh. They focused on the fun parts of the trip like the safari and the hair. Not many of them actually were interested in the work that we did. There were a few of my friends who actually took the time to ask me how the trip really was. I’ve used the words ‘amazing’ and ‘indescribable’ but really they do no justice to the trip.
    Since we’ve came back, I’ve been thinking about the kids a lot. I know we did a lot for them but I feel that it’s still not enough. I miss them very much and tend to look back on photos of them every now and then. I wonder if they were eating and still going to school. It amazes me they are still able to smile and laugh throughout the day despite their poverty. This makes me so much more appreciative and happy about the smallest things. And it is truly heartbreaking to find others who are so much more cynical about life and have so much more than they do.

    • “Every time I saw a price tag I calculated how many shillings that was and how many kids can be fed or go to school with that amount.” I do that all the time; I can’t seem to stop.

  5. Bettina Briccetti

    Every morning, I look around my room and think about how comfortable my roommate and I made our dorm room, but how crowded with crap it is. And it always leads me back to all of the one room shacks we saw and I think “Well, we complain about not having enough room for all of our possessions. They don’t even have a place for everyone to sleep….”

    When people ask me about the trip, I automatically find myself thinking about the center. I know that each of them want to hear everything, but I can’t seem to find the correct words to describe it. I always say “incredible” or “amazing” but is that really what it was? I actually had a debate with a friend last night about how the horrible things in life that we are interested in or experience can’t go with a word like “incredible” or “amazing” because it almost makes it seem like you’re putting the terrible ideas on a pedestal. Or making it seem okay, when really it’s the total opposite.

    Most of my friends and sisters have asked me about the 1200 pictures I took. They first see the children at the center and go “oh, they’re so cute!” We talk about them for a little while, but the main point of the conversation usually moves toward the safari anyway.
    My hair makes it pretty obvious I went abroad, and is usually a starting point for conversation. I don’t mind talking about it, and most conversations go to something bigger, but I had one that stuck with me:
    A girl asked how much it cost me to get it done. I said 2000 shillings or roughly $25, but that there were two girls working on my hair so each kept 1000. We had talked about the prices of some other things that are comparable here (rent, food, clothes, souvenirs, etc) and this girl was astonished that I would pay more to get my hair braided than I would pay for a dress. We actually had an argument about it! I told her that by braiding 5 girls’ hair, Grace could pay 2 1/2 months rent. But the girl was still shocked and thought I was ripped off. Meanwhile, I think I ripped Grace and Pauline off.
    Needless to say, she probably won’t be hearing much more about my trip.

    As Adam mentioned, my life is so filled by classwork, homework, club responsibilities and the expectation to socialize that I rarely have time to focus on what life truly means. I really found a better appreciation for life and the privileges I have while I was in Kenya. And in order to keep this new feeling, I find myself slacking on my To Do List.
    I guess I just keep trying to stay away from the responsibilities, petty drama and give myself the opportunity to appreciate all that I have for as long as I can.

    • The “ripoff” question also comes up every year. “What did you pay for that? You got ripped off!” I’m not sure why this seems to happen. Perhaps because here we are not focusing on the fact that we can afford what we want to buy? They say that a cynic knows the price of everything and the value of nothing.

  6. Allison Dufford

    By the end of 15 days I was ready to come home, mainly because I was ready to feel secure again (having my own money, knowing I could drink water without getting sick, etc). I was also ready to tell people about the trip and share my experience with everyone who I hadn’t talked to in a couple weeks.

    Once back I did fall back into an every day pattern, especially once classes began. But not a day has passed that I haven’t thought about someone or something in Kenya. I constantly think about Meshick and wonder how he is…how the children at the center are…and what the people who helped at the house while we were there are doing now.

    Although I did say I was ready to come back, like Adam, I miss the disconnect. It was a relief not to check facebook or my cell phone every day, let alone have people to respond to. I find myself getting annoyed at people who HAVE to get a quick response on ANYTHING…an email, text, etc…it’s a much faster world being back at home, I’m not sure if I like it as much.

    After talking to friends and family about the trip my biggest lesson learned was to be grateful. We can’t feel sorry or guilty for the lives we lead and the privileges that we have, because that’s what we are raised with and that’s how our world lives. Unfortunately the people that we met don’t have the same luxuries as us, but it is what they are used to and what their lives have provided them. I think certain people in America (or anywhere) who live very elaborate lives and indulge in every little thing, and don’t give back, could feel a little guilty. But for us, we live comfortable lives, and are extremely fortunate but we also have given back to a community who doesn’t have that advantage. That makes us better than most, and has provided me with a higher appreciation for what I have. I’ve learned to not sweat the little things like a waiter messing up my order or the cable not working. It feels great to have this a higher patience and tolerance for such stupid things…feeling really grateful 🙂

  7. Joseph Kritzer

    A food is a big part of our society, and we waste so much of it. Since I have been back I have been trying to finish everything on my plate and have been getting annoyed at everyone wasting. I realized how lucky we are to have choices of basically any food we want, even luckier to have food. I have been comparing everything I buy to how many months rent it is over in Kenya. Ordering pizza is like 3 months of rent. That just makes me think and not understand how we live like this while people do even have food. I watched a documentary on Netflix called “Dive: Living Off Americas Waste” the morning we got back. It is about this family that eats all their food that is thrown out at super markets. The food is still good and he said he has never gotten sick once from the food. It’s terrible how much food we throw out while there are many starving people everywhere. I can’t stop thinking about the two boys Elana fed, they ate every piece of rice on their plate.
    I have had a tough time jumping back into technology and classes, as you can see from this late post. I have not been attached to my phone or computer, and realize how often electronics are used in our everyday life. I already miss the social aspect of the trip, I was with a bunch of friends the other day and everyone was attached to their phone. We avoid talking to people with phones; it was nice having two weeks without them. This trip makes me want to help people and travel more. I miss our Kenya group, JFK was the last time we all saw each other and sounds like we wont see each other as a whole group until the end of the semester. ☹ I have been thinking about the trip a little everyday since we have been back.

    • For the last couple of trips to Kenya, I’ve heard similar things about the group, and human connection. (And, of course, food–that’s something many people notice.) What I find interesting is that students have found that somehow they relate to each other–and others–much more while in Kenya. Even with those with whom we apparently have nothing at all in common, there are connections that we don’t often feel at home. I’m not sure why, but I think Joe’s point is a good one: when we get together in the US, we all tend to stare at our phones. What are we looking for in our phones? A connection?

  8. Lenny Giordano

    The strangest thing that I have encountered in my short time back has been the speed by which I had to assimilate back into the lifestyle that we live here. It is easy to become a creature of habit, and I couldn’t keep track of my phone for a while. It was nice to be away from my phone for 16 days, but thats because it is nice to let go of a constant connection to everyone, which is what our cell phones become. Being back, however, I quickly had to keep up with my emails, and respond to texts, phone calls, and voice mail. Although it is not what I would prefer, it is the world we live in, and we are are constantly connected. I have been pretty grateful of the food (see: meat) I have been eating since being back, but I have definitely been eating less.

    In terms of talking with others about my experience, I find it difficult to wrap up the entire journey in so few words. I am always asked about the safari, and its sometimes easier to just say it was an impacting experience as a whole. I tell everyone that it was a good glance through a window into one place that exists so differently than ours, and that these differences can be attributed to the incredible lack of fair wealth distribution. Poverty is what keeps the social ills in place. This is also what I saw in Bangladesh, but it is, without question, worse in Kenya.

    My attitudes about the experience are still in the same place, even with the overwhelming realization that our lives here are insanely different that the lives that we lived for 16 days, 7,000 miles away.

  9. Jericho Densmore

    Adjusting to the NY style of life has been difficult for me. Everything is so fast, so hurried. A hundred emails a day, texts about meetings and plans, tons of facebook posts, messages from my family…everyone wants an instant response and immediate attention and I’m simply having trouble caring about any of it.

    Yes, like everyone else I’ve settled back into everything; ordering expensive food, watching TV, checking facebook, talking about nonsense. But in all honesty, its not that warm, content, comfortable settling back in. Its more that I just don’t know what to do with myself, everyone is so focused on all of those things and I don’t feel like talking about something that people don’t really care about or understand. I’ve spoken with my friends and family about my experiences…they are interested, they care about some of it, they like to see pictures- but they don’t want to hear about it all day, and I feel like I could sit and talk about it all day. So instead I try telling everyone something different about the trip. One person will ask about break and I’ll tell them about safari and our adventures in the van, ill tell the next person about how amazing the kids from the centers were, the next person gets to hear about Peter and Mary and Charles and the whole family, somebody else gets to know baby Joseph. Whatever seems to being weighing on my mind when some unsuspecting victim happens to ask about my break or Kenya…

    My attitudes have changed, hopefully not so temporarily. I’m not expecting to up and change the world now; but i really do think i may change my world. I loved what we did in Kenya, I miss Rongai, I was completely captured by the vibrance of that little slum- and I also fell in love with the excitement of trying something new and different every day, of pushing myself to and past my limits. I don’t want to settle for a 2 week experience that slowly fades into some awesome college memory, I want to challenge myself to do as much as I can, to experience as much as I can find, to help as much as possible, to learn as much as I can.

    • I think that’s a really good strategy, and I had never thought about it: Tell each person something different. One thing I have come to believe is that when we describe that trip, we do it for ourselves, not others. People may want to hear; or not. But we need to talk about it, I’m totally convinced of that. So when you pick something new to tell each person, you can describe a lot of the trip. Super idea.

  10. Elana Abt

    I knew coming back was going to be really difficult for me. When I came back from Amsterdam last year I had some issues with depression, but this year it has been a lot worse. I would find myself crying a lot after the first few days when we came back. But once we got into the swing of school, I have so much on my plate that I don’t have time to feel sad. It felt to me that coming back to New York was an alternate reality and that back in Kenya was reality. I kept feeling guilty for all the money I was spending on textbook and food that I needed for school. But I kept having to tell myself that this is my life and I shouldn’t feel guilty for what I have.

    I find myself listening to my friends conversations about their petty drama, and it just makes me so frustrated. I find myself not really caring about their issues, even though I know what they have to say is important to them, I keep remembering there are more important things in the world than ex-boyfriends or whatever.

    I keep thinking about that kid Philip that kept following us for four days. And every time I think about him, I always get really emotional. I wish I could have done more for him, or at least having said goodbye. For some reason, he made such a big impact on my stay in Kenya. He was so innocent, why was he one of the unfortunate ones living in a slum?

    When people ask me how the trip was, I tell them that there really isn’t any way to describe in words how it was. The only thing that can come close to describing what I felt or saw was just amazing and difficult. I would describe this trip as amazingly difficult. And all I know right now is that I have to go back next year. I can’t just have that be my last time there, and know that I will never see those people again. There is just something about Africa that I feel has made me a better person. This trip has brought me back to reality and it has given me a groundedness that I haven’t felt in a long time.

    • Right, Phillip. He haunts me, too. He must have a really bad home life to deny that he knows the way home.

      “He was so innocent, why was he one of the unfortunate ones living in a slum?” I will never figure this out. I can’t process it; it just makes me feel like crying.

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