On this day, 26th April, two years ago, I stepped off the Kenya Airways flight, onto Kenyan soil, and into a world of uncertainty. I left behind the wonderful city of Brighton, a job I enjoyed, friends and family that I loved and a fantastic church I could call home.
Instead, I stepped into a land that I loved but one where I knew very few people, into a job that I had no idea what I was undertaking, living alone in a flat in the middle of Majengo slums and not sure what on earth I would be doing in just 3 months time. Looking back, I wonder how I ever did it. How I managed to get onto that plane without breaking down from nerves. But I did manage…and two years on, somehow, I’m still here!
Why did I do it? What made me move? I loved my life back in Brighton, but I couldn’t calm this sense of restlessness that I always had lying under the surface. Itchy feet. An underlying tension that I couldn’t shake off. And since I first landed in Zimbabwe when I was 8 years, I’ve always had a heart for Africa. What’s made me stay? When I’m here, even in the more frustrating, the more difficult, the more lonely moments, I’ve never had that sense of restlessness. I feel at peace here. I can’t explain it otherwise.
It’s not all been easy. I think I cried more in my first week of arriving in Kenya back in April 2011 than I ever have in my life. I remember trying to swallow the tears (quite literally actually – gulping water is a good way to prevent tears, fyi!) as I said goodbye to my parents at Heathrow airport, then proceeding through security and straight to the toilets where I locked myself in a cubicle and tried to gather myself together and focus on the positive rather than run back through Heathrow and to the world I knew so well and loved. I was so welcomed when I arrived, people showed me so much love, yet in the quieter moments when I was alone back at my little flat in the middle of Majengo, I would wobble and wonder what on earth I was doing…
But it didn’t take long for me to remember why I had first fallen in love with Kenya, with Nairobi, with Pumwani, despite their many flaws. I love how welcoming and friendly so many people are. I love the sense of community you can find here – both among Kenyans and expats. I love how much adventure there is. How everyday brings new journeys. I love how alive I feel here. As if there’s something in the air that make you want to breath deeper and soak in every second. I love how Africa just has this way of overwhelming you. Of how you feel when you look up at the big blue sky and into the horizon that stretches across to what seems to be the ends of the earth, making you realise not only how small you are, but how big the God who created it all must be.
Looking to the future…where will I be in two years time? It seems to be peoples favourite question, both among those I know well and people I’ve just met: what next? When do you go ‘home’? How much longer do you plan to be here? At the moment I struggle to know where I’ll be next month, heck even next week, let alone next year! It’s something I do find really difficult. I like to have a little bit of order in my life. A little bit of control. But since I graduated in 2010, I’ve never known where I’ll be much more than a few months in advance and it’s tiring, not knowing the bigger picture. I’ve been challenged recently that maybe I don’t need to know. That it’s ok to live a day at a time. If God tells me that I do not need to know more than a day at a time (Matthew 6:34) then maybe it’s ok not having a big, grand life plan. He’s provided for me the past 2 years I’ve been here, I have to trust that He’ll do the same tomorrow, the day after that and the day after that.
And step by step I’ll be just where God wants me to be.
So, thank you God and thank you all of you wonderful people who have supported me through the past two years, and bring on the next ones to come!