It’s been an eventful week in the Latham household, one that’s been a powerful reminder of how much I have to be thankful for.
Ten days ago, my manager asked if I could take a last-minute trip to northern Kenya to gather stories about how people there have been affected by the East Africa food crisis. I work as a writer and editor for a humanitarian organization, but this is not normally part of my role. I’m usually chained to my desk.
I had three days to prepare for the trip. The day before I left, my husband had a job interview in the Netherlands – and got his dream job. So among the excitement and nervousness of traveling to a corner of Kenya that most tourists don’t see, I also had the excitement and nervousness of realizing I’ll soon be leaving London for a new country.
I flew to Kenya a week ago today, and had my first day free, so I spent it cruising around Nairobi National Park – apparently Nairobi is the only city in the world with a national park within city limits. And it’s amazing. Zebras, giraffes, buffalo – I even saw a lioness stalk some zebras (she gave up after about ten minutes).
Then I met my team of colleagues from around the world and flew in a twin-prop up to Lodwar, a town in the county of Turkana. Turkana is populated by nomadic herding people – also called Turkana – who have been severely affected by the failure of the rains over the last year. The men have to walk further with the animals to find pastures, and they leave the women, children and elderly behind. But since the animals provide the main food source – milk – women, children and the elderly are left searching for food in an arid semi-desert.
Many of their animals have died. People have lost their livelihoods as well as their food source.
I had the privilege of visiting Turkana villages and seeing how resilient the people are. They have almost nothing. The women are tough. They build their own houses out of acacia and palm branches. They raise the children. They walk up to an hour to collect water and carry it home balanced on their heads.
I went to schools where my colleagues are providing food for thousands of children, often the only meal the kids get in a day. Not surprisingly, school enrollment has shot up in the region.
And the kids were full of energy. My Kenyan colleagues described how desperate the situation was six weeks ago, and I was amazed to see the kids dancing, singing, and shoving each other aside to get in front of my camera so they could see the photo of themselves afterward.
The emergency is by no means over. The next rains aren’t expected until later this year, and if they fail like the last two rainy seasons…it doesn’t bear thinking about.
Easy access to food. Water. Showers. Flushing toilets. A toothbrush. Medicine. Houses I don’t have to build myself. Time with my husband. Opportunities for the future. I’m so fortunate.
I arrived back in London at sunrise this morning. My husband moves to the Netherlands tomorrow. I’ll join him sometime in the next few months.
If this post was a bit heavy, I’ll leave you with a short video of a different face of Kenya – this lovely giraffe made me smile. And I’m quite jealous of her flirty eyelashes. Watch with the sound on and you’ll hear what kind of music my guide loved.
What are you grateful for this week?