With a small bounce and loud engine roar, I once again arrived at Nairobi Jomo Kenyatta International Airport, the gateway to Kenya. Like Alice returning to Wonderland or Dorothy returning to OZ once again, I descended the plane steps alighting into a curious land; completely foreign soil.
It is surreal to think that two days ago I was driving on the left side of a paved road and today I am in a right hand drive vehicle sliding in the mud. Two days ago I was in bumper-to-bumper traffic watching vehicles spin and slide on the ice, and today I am in an ambulance dodging cows and goats. Two days ago it was snowing and today the temperature engulfing my body is 92 degrees. “It is not far now,” I assured myself, “I am almost there; soon I will be arriving in my home village of Ng’iya.”
My return to Kenya was long expected. News of my imminent arrival was transmitted throughout the community without the use of computers, radio or TV. Being the only white woman in an African village bestows certain notoriety and on the 10-hour bus ride from Nairobi, I received continuous text messages welcoming me “home” to Ng’iya. Time ticked away, miles faded into the sunset, feet began to swell and my back cried for mercy.
At last, about 4:00 p.m. Kenya time (8:00 a.m. my jetlagged-body time) the bus rolled into the university town of Maseno. Road weary and in desperate need of a bath, I sought out my dear friends Elizabeth and Okoth who were patiently waiting next to a 1995 Toyota truck, which we lovingly call our ambulance. I gratefully thanked and praised my Heavenly Father. This beautiful sight, to me, meant one thing and one thing only, I was an hour away from my Kenyan home in Ng’iya. One hour away from my bed, and most importantly, one hour away from a bath.
The trip from Maseno to Ng’iya was uneventful, but upon our arrival in Ng’iya festivities were quickly organized. A welcoming committee of several villagers, a couple of mangy dogs, some chickens and a goat or two escorted the bouncing, slow-moving ambulance up the red dusty hill toward my dala (my home.) To my delight, I found that the locals, in anticipation of my arrival, had moved all my “stuff” out of storage and brought it to my house. Supper was cooking on the jiko, bath water was heated, and several packages from the post office had been deposited in the middle of the floor.
Dumping three heavy bags in the kitchen, we all joined hands while Elizabeth offered a prayer of thanksgiving for God’s gentle journey mercies and then we adjourned to the sitting room.
After a two month furlough, seventeen hours of flying and a ten hour bus ride I had finally arrived home. Stories of my far away adventures were eagerly awaited and expected by all of those who were present, so I sank into the cushions of the sofa and prepared to weave the tale of my adventures in America.
As the saga began to unfurl, a gentle stirring on the veranda caught my attention, “Oh look all of your children have come,” announced Elizabeth. A tiny beaming brown face peeked around the corner of the opened door and one after another the neighborhood children poured in. They greeted me with a hand shake and a request for sweets (one word that is understood in all languages and cultures.) Then one after another the happy faces and satisfied tongues disappeared with chattering and giggling.
After another few moments of storytelling, a familiar voice announced new arrivals. It was my friend and colleague, Doctor Onyango from the Ng’iya Health Centre. “Odi, Odi,” she sang. Staff members from the health center began streaming into the sitting room. “Karibu dala Mamma!” We have come to greet you. Welcome home!” My heart was filled with joy and as perfectly stated by Dorothy from Oz, indeed “there is no place like home.”
All in all, my home coming to Kenya was pretty heady stuff for this school teacher from Virginia. It seems I spend most of my life “returning home”; home to America, home to Kenya, and some day home to Heaven. At this moment however, the plan is to bathe, sleep, regroup, organize, and ask my awesome God what He plans for me now that I am once again home. My cup runneth over.