Posted in Africa Yoga Project Blog, on August 05, 2012
The following entry was written by an AYP teacher, Billy Onyango, and a Seva Safari participant, Jenna Switzer about our fourth day on the work site.
Throughout the week, we have agreed that when we worked together based upon connection and love the task at hand felt more enjoyable and fulfilling, rather than it simply being physical labor. The both of us, an AYP teacher from Nairobi, and a Seva Safari participant, left their family and homes to join hands in Amboseli. The community that has been created here is made up of all of the Masaai village, AYP teachers, the Seva Safari team, and all of the workers and drivers who contributed their service to this project. What came as a surprise to the both of us, was how it felt as if we also joined our hearts with each individual making up this community.
For me, Jenna, even though I was unbelievably excited to leave New York and come here, I felt uneasy about how my presence would be viewed. I was nervous I wouldn't be accepted by the new people I was about to meet. And for Billy, he felt apprehension about leaving his jobs and family in Nairobi for the week. The day before we left for
Amboseli, he almost backed out of coming. However, the moment before telling Meghann he couldn't come, he heard a voice telling him to go.
My anxiety in traveling to a new country wasn't caused by how far or different it was going to be. My biggest worry was that I wouldn't find connections with the people of Kenya, and that I would feel like an outsider. However, the first full day in Nairobi when we visited Treehouse Orphanage, all of my worries washed away. The moment we
stepped off the bus, the kids clung to us. I carried my new little buddy named Steven around, worked in the garden, and shared smiles and laughs with the community. These were the moments that I realize I do have a purpose on this trip, and that the opportunity for making deep connections are ample.
The Masai people soon graciously added to this community. We were greeted with open arms from the second we arrived. They opened up their homes and gave us space to wear and work the way we already do, while going above and beyond being accepting of our presence there. Both the men and women Masai wanted to help us build the school. I was so impressed with how they jumped right in the projects, wanting to contribute in every way possible. The women were especially inspiring, working with their layers of people shucas and colorful beading wrapped around them. And even though there was a language barrier, they tried their hardest with English. Gratefully, smiles are universally understood.
Love and support are constantly around us here. From the minute our camp arises in the morning to meditate together, until we sit together around a campfire after dinner, there is a sense of deep connection and compassion for one another. The first day on the work site Billy and I worked together building the first few layers of the
walls for the school. At first we were strangers, but by sharing positive energy and helping one another, we instantly became closer with one another and the group we were working with. Looking around at the other groups at the site made me believe all of the other groups were sharing similar connectivity as well.
This connectivity carried from the work site to our yoga practices in the evening. Standing in a circle with our arms around one another, Masai warriors and children, AYP teachers, and the Seva safari, all standing upon the same dust, sharing the same breath, and accidentally stepping on the same thorns. The words, "one love," replaced my previous uneasy thoughts.
The connection and love I feel for the Masai children will forever be treasured in my heart, They were so smart, and open to the new games I played with them. The highlights of my week were introducing the childhood games I used to play with my Mom. As simple as a bubble popping on their cheek, a soccer ball rolling towards them, the tickle monster getting their tummies, or flying on a human airplane, exposed the most pure joy and excitement I have ever witnessed. I do not believe there is any difference between them and I. As they put their hands in mine, they unconsciously lit me up and spread their love with the community.
The two of us have had many first experiences this week. From painting, sawing and making cement by hand, to learning bits of Swahili and Ma. These new skills wouldn't have been possible without the support and connection being shared. I am so grateful for the help of the AYP teachers. If Billy and Joyce hadn't been with us to translate, we would have been lost on what our place on the work site was.
Since the AYP teachers are so open and helpful, it allowed us to feel at ease at the work site, and share our skills with them as well. We both cherish all of our experiences, and new things we have learned this past week. Our hearts feel so much fuller.
Billy shared with me how all of the AYP teachers expressed how sad they are that the Seva Safari will soon be traveling back home all over the world. But as the Masaai said today, "we are all brothers, sisters, mothers, and fathers." This community is now a family, and each of us are returning home with a Masai necklace around our necks, and the love we've created in our hearts.
- Jenna Switzer, Seva Safari participant and Billy Onyango, AYP teacher