09.07.2011

I’m going (back) to Rwanda.

In July 2008, I completed a one-month internship with Dr. Randall Fegley and 10 other students from Penn State Berks. I lived in Kabuga at Association Refuge, where I taught beadwork of jewelry, creative drawing, and English to a class of adolescence and young adults.

It has taken me a long time, going back and forth to decide/figure out if I could/would go to Rwanda while in East Africa this summer; there’s money involved, so I think of the many people who made contributions to my own efforts to fund this internship; and time away from my internship work, so I considered my KEZA team and our work.

It’s no surprise that I finally bought my tickets to go—it’s too important not to.

To go back to Rwanda means so much to me because…

1. I loved it so much, and I want to re-visit this place and my friends.

2. It’s so important to me to feed the relationships I formed and to show people the people I came to love that,

“Yes, ‘they’ really will come back; ‘they’ really do care about us and about Rwanda; ‘they’ really are a part of our lives (and us a part of theirs); it wasn’t just a dream or passing experience…”

(‘They’ being the Americans/mzungus/foreigners that visit, but also meaning me, Simone, Brittany.)

Something inside me is fed by exhibiting to others sincerity and commitment to love and friendship… by believing that my exhibitions will contribute to others’ belief that ‘true love’, God’s love and affection, exists and that they will experience it for as long as they have faith in it.

3. I want to see how it is to return.

I was literally balling (crying) when I left that country. I had many emotions overcoming me, which is typical when traveling for me. However, I have never felt or reacted to “leaving” someplace or people in quite that way. I want to know how it will feel now, to be back and to part away. Maybe Rwanda really did touch my heart; maybe it is somewhere I could forever call “home” (I do believe in having more than one [home], by the way).

4. I will find networking & VISION INSPIRATION.

There are places/orgs/businesses I’ve been interested in over the last few years- since interning in Rwanda in 2008- places/organizations I hadn’t known about at that time. I think it’d be a good idea to take a look at those places in-person. Maybe the “real thing” will have even more inspiration, beyond the magazine article cutouts I have collected.

5. It helps meet my need connectedness and wholeness as a ‘world citizen’.

It helps me fulfill my duty of citizenship, by helping to make the world smaller.

09.07.2011

Choosing Growth

As I’m continuously filled with excitement for the things that are happening, I can’t help but think a lot about the future, if I were to continue working with KEZA; if I were to continue working overseas (here); just about life and the concept of international work as a whole. It challenging!

There are a lot of “big” decisions to make in working internationally, and maintaining relationships and networks become more complex.

“… Choose to live where you grow the most,” were the words I recently received from a friend. These words struck me. This is such a wise and important consideration for choosing where one “settles”, with whom, and doing what– what makes us grow the most.

This concept has come to mind a lot as I’ve been in University, assessing the people around me. At times I’ve had to stop and think, “Does ‘this person’ help me grow? How?” I have especially thought about it spiritually, “Do the people I spend my time with positively challenge me in a spiritual way?” These principles are to be considered constantly, I believe.

In May, when I graduate, I will have lots of opportunity before me, different places to travel and/or live, business endeavors to cultivate, companies to work with. I will have to ask myself, “What will make me grow the most?”

Everyday, with each decision I make from the time I wake, I have the opportunity to choose to do the things that make me grow the most. We all do.

09.07.2011

Guppy from New Jersey

"Joto"

I never realized what little time I spend in the ocean or by the beach until here. Every Sunday for one month (maybe more) I have walked and/or swam at Serena beach. Each time has been a bit different, but mostly exciting or humorous.

By far the funniest moments from Serena (in retrospect), came at home, talking to Hannah. I was sitting at the living room table disclosing to Hannah the numerous awkward moments in the water that I had been keeping to myself. Playful commands like, “go [dive] through my legs,” or “hold on to Alice; put your legs like this,” initially left me confused, quite defensive, and rather uncomfortable. I didn’t get it. Why should I, I thought– what’s the point? (And how is it not inappropriate or weird?) Hannah burst into laughter as I spoke, us both nearly crying by bedtime. She helped me to realize the simple, childlike fascination many have with the water and the things one can do in it, things you normally wouldn’t be able or strong enough to do. Having grown up in the suburbs, close to the city, and only visiting the sea occasionally, I had seen things a bit differently. Now, I appreciate holding hands and competing to see who can hold their breath under the water.

Most exciting: being talked from one spot of sand to the next, (kind of) swimming to protect our feet from the seaweed beds in between. The flying fish coached us until we were so far out in the low tide that I could barely stand, even on my tip-toes. I don’t remember ever swimming that far out into the water before, and I didn’t really think I would then, but I did.

And even on a cool, late afternoon, my newfound love for the saltwater rhythm draws me in, dancing to make joto.

09.07.2011

Githeri

Githeri: Maize & Beans with Sukuma (greens)

Personally, I find the maize typically too tough, but this one was so yummy! Hannah’s favorite daily Kenyan dish.

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09.07.2011

Greedy for Love

If we thought about love as money, and concluded that there were different currencies (like kinds of love), being unsatisfied with wealth in one, two, or three currencies (let’s say: parental, comradely, and spiritual love) with the unyielding desire for something different, additional (like companionship)– wouldn’t that be considered greed?

I’m excited about, by, and for love and it’s my desire to experience love, in coalescence, with one who shares my passion.

However, when I think about the love that has been expressed to me by various people, even just over the last few months, I almost laugh at myself for wanting anything different, anything more than the love I already have.

Recently, I was, at once, humbled to recognize the energy I’d been exerting, on love unseen and relationships that hadn’t worked out “as planned.” A distanced yet very dear friend wrote to me through email:

…You should know that I think you are a very special person. I know we don’t get to talk as often as we use to but your presence in my life is still as important to me as it was before… If you ever need anything (someone to talk to or just a brief escape) I’m just an email away, no matter what the time is. Love you more than you know…

I realized the disproportionate internal measure I had for personal receipt of love. My scale was totally off.

At times it seems to me relationships never work out “as planned.” Sometimes it’s as if I’m always the one who’s hurt or left unfulfilled. There are moments I feel I’m the one alone [in this world]. Probably, most everyone feels that way, at some point, and it requires a draining energy to do so, focused on love unseen, love unfelt, love that is not there.

I believe the essence of our beings, as humans, is enhanced by the experience and expressions of all currencies of love. Today, I needed to remind myself of this. I needed to re-evaluate my measurement for love, and look at my heart’s wealth in a worldview space.  My heart is rich with love. And so, in essence, Iwas being greedy.

I believe some of us were created to love. I tend to believe I was purposed to love. Today I prayed to God, that he would emanate from within me; that I could be an extension of his strong, forgiving, and unconditional love; that I would be grateful for the love I have.

I never hear people talk about wealth of love; why is that? Do we realize the ability we have to enrich the lives of others by extending love? Do we realize our own individual abundance of love? If we don’t, are we being greedy?

For more perspective, check out: “The Worldview Space” .

09.07.2011

Mombasa Old Town


09.07.2011

Hakuna Matata

Something that I hope to really internally cement and achieve through my internship here in Mombasa, are the philosophy and perspectives of Ubuntu and of the phrase “No worries (Hakuna matata).” 

Ubuntu, generally is the understanding that we are all connected as humans and that, “We are not fully human alone… we are made for interdependence… we should embrace others. We are powerful so that we can help the weak…”

“No worries” is such a commonly used phrase here in Kenya (and perhaps other parts of East Africa). It makes light of many situations, changes, problems, complications, that otherwise, with different perspective– perhaps Western perspective–, would seem… gigantic, cumbersome, awful. This “no worries” environment seems to help put things into proper perspective, where we are not worried because we recognize everything happens for a reason, and many things will happen out of our control.

Be it traffic, a spill on your clothes, the realization that you have to work on your day off, having your electricity go out when you need it most, getting ripped off for your change on the bus, whatever… “no worries”what will be will be… life goes on.

As I live here, I have to constantly remind my self, “Be patient. Go with the flow.” “No worries.”

Especially as it has come to school, and my university career, this has been a challenging and helpful perspective for me to adopt. I always struggle with forcing myself not to play comparison to others, but to recognize instead that we are all on different paths; And if our paths indeed coincide, I should observe this as opportunity for collaboration, or learning, rather than competition.

The Lion King

Growing from a ‘troubled’ adolescent into a passionate student of life was difficult for me, surrounded by seemingly directed and driven, well-rounded, respected, and accomplished peers and parents. For, to this day, even believing I have accomplished many things in support of God’s special purpose for me, it’s hard not feel as though I’m lagging behind… a little late in the game… or that my accomplishments, tangible or otherwise, are somehow inferior in comparison to those of others.

Thinking of Ubuntu, and replaying the hook to one of my favorite childhood Disney songs, reminds me to continue working on losing the ability to self-judge and compare; they remind me to, instead, simply embrace the path I am on, and embrace everyone around me– successes, failures, everything…

There will always be someone ‘smarter than you’. There will always be someone ‘stronger’. In life, things will always go ‘wrong’. Hakuna matata.

09.07.2011

08.04.2011

I’m very excited about everythingall aspects of this stage of development for KEZA here in Mombasa right now. I feel I am personally finding my rhythm to achieve and effectively contribute to the work of our team. A lot of this, I think, comes from being in a position to network, meet, research, move and form relationships, independently.

Today, I made moves in town, linking my team with the new contacts I formed, and attending meetings as a unit. The collaboration that is about to take place is going to be BIG. We (KEZA) have now been invited to become members of the Mombasa Coast Tourist Association, and we will play an valuable role in connecting the various parts of the Mombasa fashion industry and helping elevate Mombasa’s presence and recognition in the fashion world. What an interesting conversation we’re having, with Mombasa herself!

As I worked through the last few days, the concept of “multiplying one’s self” kept flashing through my mind. As I moved around town looking for people or things we need, I felt the value (to KEZA) of me being capable of doing that while my team, and our leader, were doing other things. While working on my own, it feels good to allow my experience to give me guidance, reiterating our mission, with Jared’s tone in mind; and each time I re-join my Mzee, I feel humbled as I observe closely from behind, and hope to be covered in his dust.

09.07.2011

Saturday and Serena

I know some of you are thinking, this doesn’t look like internship work…? (I know because some have said it!). That is partially correct, pictures like these are not of work– but trust me, we work!

The beauty of interning in this new place is that I have the opportunity to enjoy interesting, unexpected adventures, when not working (and sometimes even while I am).

On this particular Saturday, Hannah and I had one task to do, continuing our search for local designers/artisans, by looking for their work, their products (jewelry, bags, etc.). This day we planned to visit the Serena Beach Hotel gift shop, and after, we would play.

Work first, then play.

That morning, still tired from the networking and artisan-searching in the sun, we accomplished the day before, from my bed, I text Hannah: Do I have to go to work??? ;(

Ha. Don’t think of it as work =), she said.

It was best not to. Perhaps it’s best never to think of work as “work.” For us, there really wasn’t any reason not to approach our task as “fun”, like a window-shopping scavenger hunt, with lots of questions to ask along the way (okay, it does require some communication/people/sales skills– but never mind). Plus, no one was requiring us to work that day, we simply knew we had to get things done; and we were both glad we did.

On our walk down a long dirt road, heading toward the hotel, we met our new friend, Mwaka, who was also on her way to the beach. We got talking and Hannah and I happily invited her to join us for the day.

After window-shopping for potential KEZA collaborators, and finessing names and contact info from hotel staff, we were ready to swim. Although, somehow, we never did…

Instead, we did this (totally unexpected):

Sea creature

09.07.2011

“I want a ‘one’, even all around.”

As a barber, this was the first time I’d ever really experienced the service that I provide my clients, every other week. As I sat in the chair, straight toward the mirror, when I closed my eyes, I wanted to focus on every feeling… of the brush, Steve’s hand, the pressure against my head, and the warm blade of the clippers on the back of my neck. I thought of a comment I’ve heard more than once, that the difference between having a male barber and a female barber is the experience a male barber has had getting his own hair cut. Well now I was experiencing it too.

I enjoyed it. I was very comfortable. I wasn’t really afraid, or skeptical of the local young man’s skills. He moved like he was focused to take care of business; I recognized how I move. His service was great, taking care and attention to details: white towel, neck strips, jacket removal, and such. He took his time, and I thought of myself. And when he was done he smiled with satisfaction of my approval. I was cleaned with a warm towel- special care around the ears- alcohol, and baby oil. I told him I would come back again.

There was a part of me that wanted to show proof, “I am a barber too! (And a good one.)” Perhaps it was because of the damage I walked in with, from my own doing the night before; or maybe just a sense of confused identity, sitting in a place where I normally stand. I don’t know, but it was fine. I left feeling good.

I think there’s something precious about being in the presence or in the midst of, performing, or undergoing your art, or your trade. As I spewed out to Hannah, I realized how big a deal this hair experience was to me, and how much I had to say about it.

I believe it’s imperative to expose yourself in the realm of your art, your passion. Be imaginative, and adventurous. Try new things. learn as much as you can about your field, by doing, first-hand. This is how I feel about hair, and (social) entrepreneurship. This is why I’m here, in Mombasa, with KEZA— to grow from the experience.

It is a strange affection I have for my hair, for I’m time again falling in love with the new things I discover it can do or be. However, I willingly separate from it, reminding myself that, in a single moment, it could be gone. I don’t’ want to idolize my hair or grow too strongly attached. I think of the many women who suffer from cancers or other circumstances who have no choice in how they shall wear their hair. When I cut my hair, I cut it with those people in mind, humbling myself to simply be and live life, with whatever is left behind.

Today, I love my hair, but more importantly the realization of the liberation and comfort I have, even with it gone. This is the first time I have ever had my hair this short, a “boy cut,” and I really like it.