Welp, we’ve been here in Maai Mahui at Naomi’s Village for a little over a week now. And that feels crazy to me. I honestly feel like we’ve been here a month. And not in a bad way, but in a very, very comfortable way. The kids welcomed us with wiiiiiide open arms on the very first day we were here. They instantly started referring to us as Auntie Rachel and Uncle Travis, and I did my very best to learn the names of all 81 kids (plus about 20 staff!) in the first week. And I did it!
In just a week, I have visited the home of some of the kids, traveled to Nairobi to visit another children’s home with the teen girls, accompanied one of our kids to the hospital for a check-up, photographed Christmas cards for the sponsors, and lost 5 pounds of muscle.
Travis has already been recruited for several engineering projects: the construction of the teen dorms, a new gymnasium at the school, a classroom/playroom addition here at Naomi’s Village, a garden-watering pond, and a water pipeline. Together, we’ve taught Sunday school, played soccer, toured the kids’ school, played countless games of ping-pong each night (I win every time!), gone for walks almost every morning, and eaten more rice than we have in the past three years combined.
See what I mean? Feels like we’ve been here a lot more than a week! And those are just the logistics. I feel like I’ve known these people longer too. There are two interns living with us in the guest house who already feel like old friends. The staff have been so accommodating and kind as we learn more about the organization and how it all works.
And the kids! They hug me as if I’m their real aunt, wrapping their arms around my neck and whispering jokes in my ear. They grab my hand and yell, “Auntie, come! We are playing/dancing/singing/walking!” Their unabashed acceptance of us as constants in their life boggles my mind and I can’t describe how grateful I am for it.
The night before we left, I stopped at a friend’s house. She asked me, “What are you most excited about?” And I instantly pictured Travis. Him. He is what I was most excited about. I recalled for her the heavy weight of absolute loneliness I felt when living in Uganda. I was alone for the first three months I lived there. I had no phone, no internet, no roommate. I would get home after work to a silent house. The only thing I could do to keep from crying was to instantly change into walking shoes and go back outside, just to hear other people.
That experience was so, so necessary at the time and looking back, I’m extremely grateful for it. But it was the hardest thing I’ve ever done. So what I was most excited for was being here with someone. And not anyone, but Travis. And sharing such transformative experiences with the most important person in the world is more significant than I could have imagined. We get to process everything together; from the heavy, hard parts to the hilarious moments. The older I get, the more I embrace my inherent need to feel known. And no one does that better than Travis.
Each morning when we set out on our walk, I turn on my podcast, slip my hand into his and smile for the entire two miles. There is so much going on here that has nothing to do with us, but I know I feel the richness so much deeper because he is with me this time.
I’m going to do my very best to update this more often, and I know Travis will be making some guest appearances from time to time. So if you have questions about what we’re doing or the organization we’re working with, please ask and I will try to write about it! In the meantime, I’m posting as much as I can on my Instagram. Follow along for photos! Thank you all so much for following along; I hope we can share some of the things we are learning while we are here!