I am thankful I was armed with my digital camera and a newly bought SD card to capture the moments. Otherwise, I would have forgotten far more than I remember.
We visited and brought supplies to several orphanges, hospitals, HIV/AIDS support ministries and on the last leg of the trip we spent the day with a ministry that ministered to "street kids". We were also blessed to go on a safari. And for someone that loves to watch nature shows it was more than a treat for me.
I was posing for a picture on the edge of a cliff to capture the picturesque Rift Valley below at the Nairobi National Park when I heard some loud thumping noises behind me. The gentleman from my group who was taking my picture froze and whispered, "Don't move!" So, I smiled big and said, "Cheese!" He slowly put my camera to his side and said, "No...a baboon! A baboon is behind you!"
We had been warned not to interact with the baboons. They can turn violent with little provocation.
And there I was STANDING. ON. THE. EDGE. OF. A. CLIFF. with a baboon behind me.
All I could picture was being dragged over the cliff by said baboon. I knew I couldn't panic so instead, I embraced the moment and said, "Take the picture." He had a look of disbelief on his face and replied, "You gotta get away from there!" I said again through my teeth with a fake and forced half smile, "Just - take - the - picture - quick." He shook his head and said, "Okay", and took the picture.
I guess I figured that I could stand to lose my camera, even after the painstaking and not so wise camera shot. And the gentleman from the group was over 6 feet tall and stood more of a chance to fight off said baboon ...
Sooo, I got in touch with the much younger track and field Kyra, did about a 6 foot broad jump and ran as fast as I could, leaving my camera, the gentleman, and said baboon far behind.
Don't judge me - you would have done it too ...
A misconception of the HIV/AIDS epidemic in Africa as a whole, is that the people are just living carefree lives. This could not be more further from the truth. The sad truth is that the majority of those infected with the disease are women. Women who have been sexually assaulted or who have had to remain in a high risk relationship. They are often left to deal with the disease on their own because there has been a stigma attached to the women that live with it - not the men.
I was not prepared to encounter their living conditions. I had been to the orphanages where there were only dirt floors and no running water - but at least they were "clean" and organized.
Where these women lived ... how they lived ...
One mother, who had really taken to our group, wanted to show us her home. She was smiling and chattering excitedly as we began down the path toward her home. The grassy trail began to be muddy when one of the guides told us, "Watch your step - sewage."
We finally came to the end of the path and to our new friend's home. She was beaming with pride. She had just recently acquired it. She had no place to call home prior to that. We walked inside and the tin walls were covered in what appeared to be a silver cellophane wrapping paper. Then the silver cellophane had various inspirational pictures and sayings covering the walls from top to bottom. There were two well worn couches resembling futons lining two of the walls and a wooden table with chairs in the center of the space and that was it. It was about 10' x 10'. She smiled and began to tell us about her home, showing us how she decorated the walls and arranged everything "just so". Her home could easily fit in my master closet/bathroom suite.
My heart broke.
We prayed for her and her baby and blessed her home. She, living with HIV and living in a tin shack as big as my closet - with no electricity and no water, told us goodbye as we began on the path back to the top where the ministry building was housed.
It was all just too much for me.
What was going to happen to this child? Was she going to live with relatives? Could she stay with the other women that were a part of the ministry since they had become her extended family?
I was told that, because of the stigma of HIV/AIDS, the children were often abandoned along with their mother by family members. Furthermore, due to the health challenges of her newly found "extended family" she would not be allowed to stay with them either. So, now the child would become "property" of the ward (similar to a county). Possibly placed in a reputable orphanage ... maybe not.
I isolated myself from the group and spent the rest of the day crying for this child, this four year old orphan, who through no fault of her own would now have to endure a traumatic transition away from everything she had come to know.
Just Around The Corner,