|Aspiring Kenyan writers|
Not everyone writes for an American audience. A group in Awasi, Kenya, aspires to write for the children and young people of their own community. That community experienced terrible violence following the disputed elections of December 2007. Children who survived are scarred inside and out. These Christians long to see them grow up without the animosities of their parents that led to violence against other ethnic groups.
On a day in mid-August I marveled at the patchwork of vivid green, sugar cane plots below me as I flew over Western Kenya. The plane banked for a view of the harbor on Lake Victoria before landing in the city of Kisumu.
Morrice Okeh and a friend picked me up at the airport. I met Morrice last year at the Litt-World conference for majority-world Christian writers and publishers. When he heard about the writing workshop I did in Nairobi in April 2008 to produce stories for children affected by violence, he begged me to come to Kisumu where the violence was at its worst.
|Working in small groups|
“Is it true that there is a law in America requiring every father to provide a new house for each of his sons?” someone asked as we sat around on the final afternoon.
“Is it true that America is so crowded that the only way a son can have a home is to add another story to his father’s house?”
Again I answered, “no.”
“Do you mean to tell me that you have two daughters and no son, but your husband never took a second wife?” This from the mother of a delightful seven-year-old girl. How could I explain how much my husband adores his daughters and how little he cares that neither is a boy?
My students could only ask questions. I had the privilege of being immersed in their world for a few days.
I stayed in the home of Morrice’s father, Bishop Vincent. Most of the time he was busy with a district church conference, but his wife was extremely gracious with the little English she knew. Morrice’s wife, Quinter cooked for us on a wood fire in an outdoor kitchen to keep the heat out of the house. Her little daughter was tied to her back. She served me their own eggs, papaya and bananas, homemade chapattis and mandazis (fried bread), as well as tasty stews with rice and ugali (the local cornmeal staple.) No meal was complete without chai—hot tea boiled with milk and water. Fortunately for this soft-stomached foreigner, the bishop has a fetish for boiled water. I filled bottles daily to take with me to class.
The house was built of cement blocks, not as cool as the mud brick houses of Morrice and his married brothers that circled the courtyard. I slept beneath a treated mosquito net to avoid malaria. The spotlessly clean floor was cement, polished with red wax. The lounge was lined with couches (4!), love seats (1) and armchairs (7), each draped with a matching embroidered cover—a suitable receiving room for a bishop. A tiny pink and white lamb wandered freely in and out. After I scratched his delicate neck, I had a friend for life.
“Are there mad people in America?” my new friends wanted to know. “Are there poor people in America?”
|One of my students|
LeAnne Hardy has lived in six countries on four continents. Her books for young people come out of her cross-cultural experiences and her passion to use story to convey spiritual truths in a form that will impact lives. Visit her at www.leannehardy.net or find out more about her recent trip to Kenya on her blog.