I like to claim I went to Africa before it was cool. And lets be honest, in 2006, Africa was most likely not on your radar. But my mom insisted on a month long family adventure to Kenya, so off we went.
And to this day, it is not rare to hear comments like "Remember that time Peter was deathly ill in that sketchy Kenyan hotel room" or "At least the flight wasn't as bad as that non-pressurized one we took to the Masai Mara" in Carroll family conversations.
In addition to the jokes and timeless memories from that trip, it is safe to say that that trip left a lasting impression on the lens through which we viewed the world. I have had the privilege to return to Africa almost a half dozen times, doing various things from studying abroad in Cape Town, to traveling with friends to Nairobi, to vacationing in Morocco, to Wake Forest funded research back in the sticks of Kenya.
But that trip really opened my eyes to the world that exists out there. While spilling a cup of coffee can easily constitute a ruined morning here in the states, life is so vastly different and the simples woes and problems are completely different. In some ways, life in Kenya is so beautifully serene. Walking to the neighbors to get milk from their cow or spending an afternoon playing with the kids on the dirt road. Admiring the women who seemingly magically balanced water on their heads as they carried it home to their families. The landscapes are breath taking. Laughing about how after a Kenyan "shower", which consisted of dumping a few cups on rain water on your head, you felt about as dirty as the bottom of your shoe. But on that same note, that same simplicity can be painful and harmful. A lot of the people I came to know and love are suffering from life-threatening diseases that would be preventable by something as simple as clean water. Many of the children in the schools that I visited had never seen a white person before me. Making a basic meal often takes several hours longer than you'd expect due to lack of common appliances. These trips have provided me with some of the most beautiful sights I have ever seen and some of the most painful sights I have ever experienced. It is a strange juxtaposition. So, while it is so easy to get caught up in the business and hassles of life here, it has been refreshing for me to have these experiences and memories to rely on.
Why am I writing this now, you might ask? I have not been to Africa in two and a half years, probably the longest time I have stayed off the continent since I first went in 2006. But it has been on the forefront of my mind lately. Partly because I have been feeling particularly wanderlust in recent months. Partly because this incredible blog post that my mom wrote came out recently. Partly because Ali and Jonny are currently on a trip to Kenya and Ethiopia. Regardless, it has been refreshing and introspective to take time to reflect on these experiences that I am feeling a little nostalgic for at the moment.