Since arriving in Kiang’ombe I have been pacing the school grounds back and forth, looking out of the gate, waiting for the day when we would visit in the community with the village elder. I’ve felt a bit like a caged animal, not used to having to have an escort to make my way around. Getting to know these people is what I truly loved about living in Kenya and still enjoy when we visit—at the heart of it all, there are so many amazing stories, both tragic and inspiring that give me hope, joy, and inspiration. I love to be present in the midst of it all.
Today, shortly after entering into the Kiang’ombe community, we came upon Isaac’s home. Isaac was the 5 year old boy attending Ameena Centre this last year, whose mother was found dead in the house with him one morning. As we entered into a wild green yard surrounding the small house that belonged to Isaac’s grandma, and called out a greeting of “Hodi!”, a short elderly woman exited a curtained shack. Our escort explained that we had come to see Isaac’s home, and the grandmother waved over to another small building and indicated in the Kikuyu dialect that Isaac stayed there with his brother. I entered the building, a scant 6 foot by 8 foot space, crammed with a bed, belongings and a bike. As I stood inside, Isaac’s grandmother entered and we asked whether or not they had found out how the mother had died.
The grandmother paused, a pained look on her face, and then shared in Kikuyu how Isaac’s mother had suffered from an untreated abscessed tooth. The infection had spread into the tonsils, causing them to swell and block her throat, leading to her death by suffocation.
The grandmother started to cry. I felt myself well up too and had to turn my head. This is life here, especially in Kiang’ombe, and while people grieve, they also have to keep on with the rhythm of life….finding ways to get a little money for food, fetching water from the one water pipe in the center of the community, cooking food, washing clothes, cleaning out the house and caring for others.
I tried to lighten the uncomfortable moment by asking the grandmother how old she was, thinking that she must be a few years older than my mother (really, they don’t take offense to that question here)…..she just shook her head and mumbled “I can’t remember”. My escort indicated that she was too shaken up over the memory of her daughter to talk any more. I felt a bit foolish for my silly attempt to lighten the mood … I wish I would have been able to rest in the heavy moment better with her.
We thanked the grandmother for allowing us in, and as we were leaving our escort finally explained who we were and that we were the ones partnering to bring the school to Kiang’ombe. That we were the ones helping to send Isaac on to primary school.
Isaac’s grandmother’s face lit up, and her mood was brightened … enough for her to want this picture with me: