Posted in Africa Yoga Project Blog, on July 29, 2012
One of the participants on this Seva Safari is also an AYP mentor. Below is her account of being able to meet her mentee in person and visit one of his classes.
As I sat in the lobby in the guesthouse waiting for the arrival of Anthony, an amazing AYP teacher that I having been mentoring for the past year and a half, I was overwhelmed with excitement. Everything seemed to be coming full circle and I was about to be face to face with someone who had inspired me tremendously.
On our last Skype meeting, I had asked Anthony what I needed to know before arriving in Kenya. With a bright sincere smile he simply said, "Know that you are so welcomed in Kenya." I definitely heard the words, BUT little did I know how profound the word “welcomed” would hit me once I arrived here so far from home.
Anthony arrived and we took off in a taxi through the streets of Nairobi. As the taxi scurried through the streets, I looked out the window at the masses of people. Kenya is so alive!!! People in cars, people on bikes, people walking, people pulling what looks like a trailer only they are pulling it with their own hands. On the drive Anthony had such pride for his country and assured me that I was going to love Kenya.
We pulled into the slum of Puamona and headed to the community center which was gated (which brought some comfort to me as I was pretty far from my comfort zone.) Anthony's class was due to start at 10:00, but as I was told, not much, if anything, starts on time in Africa. Students started to arrive, introducing themselves to me and began doing acrobatics. Eventually we started class with Anthony and Bernard. These guys are the "real deal powerful AYP yoga teachers." Prior to class Anthony invited me to teach the back bending portion of class. When the time approached I stood up in front of the class and began to teach. The receptivity and willingness of the students for me, a teacher they had never laid eyes on, was something I have never experienced before. Everyone's faces and body language seemed to say, “Welcome". They immediately put me at ease. It was a beautiful collaboration. It wasn't even as if I was teaching, but that we were creating an incredible connection to one another through the practice of yoga. After class there were a lot of hugs, smiles and sharing.
As we were preparing to leave I was greeted by the chief of the community whose sole responsibility is to serve the people. He was very curious about what I was up to in Kenya. I shared that I was here with AYP and told him about the BIG things that AYP is up to in Kenya. He told me of a doctor from America who was living in his community and providing free services to the people. He pointed beyond the gate to where the doctor’s office was and said, "you must meet him, let's go." I must say the thought of going beyond the gate made my heart race a bit, but I went anyway. As we walked the streets, he would stop and introduce me to people and tell them I was from America. Each person shook my hand and greeted me with smiles on their mouths and in their eyes. We made our way up to the doctor’s office which by the way resembled nothing like what we have in America. We walked in and found that the doctor was away. He introduced me to James (an angel) who was born and raised in the slums and he was running the office. James told me all about the free services that they provide mostly to those with HIV/AIDS.
The chief was adamant about me speaking to the doctor on the phone so he called him. I spoke to the doctor briefly and he welcomed me to Kenya and said that he hoped he would be able to meet me. I was truly blown away at the generosity of the chief in sharing what he was up to in the community and sharing the people with me. As we walked back to the community center he told me of all the crime and disease in the community. He also shared that he wasn't sure how he got there, but that he is committed to making change. Once again the display of pride for Kenya was vivid. We got back to the community center and took pictures and exchanged e-mails and he invited me to come back anytime to work in the community.
I'm not sure there are even the right words that could portray the people of Kenya. They are open, warm, loving, fun, carefree and the list goes on & on & on.
As I laid my head down on the pillow that night the words that Anthony had spoken had landed in my heart and I felt so alive and connected to everyone that I had met that day. The only way anyone will ever know the beauty of the people of this country is to come and visit. I will tell you the only thing you need to know is "YOU ARE WELCOMED IN KENYA!!!!!"
Certified Baptiste Yoga Teacher