At this moment, I’m looking out the window at the Franciscan Family Center in Nairobi, Kenya with about 4 hours of sleep and 8 hours in Kenya. I made it! This marks my first week with the Children’s Peace Initiative Kenya (CPI Kenya). The pace of life within the walls of the convent is a little slower than what I witnessed on the car ride out, but it’s given me some space to reflect…
Growing up in rural Alabama, I learned how to take it easy and go with the flow. From driving four wheelers at 10 years old around backwoods to easy Sunday afternoon lunches with family and friends… Alabama has a way of letting you know that you can’t control the universe so might as well take it easy—let your feet feel the grass beneath you and have a SunDrop on the trampoline in the backyard.
Living my early twenties in Washington D.C., I learned how to organize myself and go for it, whatever it was… Press calls? Immigration advocacy? Protests? Graduate school? Therapy? D.C. has taught me how to be creative, self-sufficient, and ultimately about what I’m interested in doing as a career. D.C. has also helped me realize how much I yearn for those sunny Alabama Sunday afternoons. That younger me saw the world with much less nuance. In my 27th year, I know that the world doesn’t exist in a binary or a vacuum.
This sentiment has shown up a lot for me in anticipation of this summer and in the first few days of my arrival. I’ve been an excited, nervous, sad, and sentimental mess the last few weeks of prepping for my summer with CPI Kenya. But, it’s helped me remember that all of these emotions can be true at once.
Realizing there can be multiple truths in a situation can be overwhelming and scary. Being outside your comfort zone, whether it’s mentally or physically, isn’t easy. I tend to forget this every time I go abroad and miss my home, my people, my pets. That’s why I like thinking about travel as a practice of being a student wherever you are. That’s some of what I hope to carry with me this summer. I hope to be able to remind myself to take a deep breath in and then keep taking in new ideas, culture, language and find new ways to think about the planet we inhabit.
I’ve already been able to practice this in just my first week. My welcome in Kenya has been unparalleled to any of my prior travel experiences. Monica, one of CPI Kenya’s co-founders, the staff at CPI Kenya, and the sisters at the Franciscan Family Center have been so incredibly kind. On my first day, Monica helped me get my Kenyan SIM card, grabbed lunch with me, and drove me to see the office ahead of my first day. The same kind of hospitality can be said for the sisters at the Franciscan Family Center who always made a point of asking how I was and making me feel so welcomed at their home.
At the same time, I’ve come to be extremely grateful for my routine in D.C. I arrived at the Franciscan Family Center at 1:00 am after a 24 hour travel day, and the jet lag has since taken me on a ride. I would be lying if I said that I didn’t miss my husband, our cats, or the routine of our daily life. I cry, attempt to get some semblance of a sleep routine, and try to connect with people around me. But it reminded me that in this practice, there are ups and there are also downs. And they can be happening at the same time.
At the end of the day it’s a practice of balancing those different parts of me: the Alabama girl that can go with the flow and enjoy the grass beneath her feet, and the young professional who does what it takes to get things done. This summer is going to be an adventure, and I’m excited to see what lies ahead. I imagine I’ll have plenty more opportunities to practice being a student during my 10 weeks working with CPI Kenya!
Posted By Julia Holladay
Posted May 19th, 2022