I first arrived in Kenya dark in to the night. I landed at the national airport, with all of its hustle and bustle, and was quickly driven to a convent where I would stay for the next month. I awoke to a garden of strange flowers and a lingering feeling of, “What have I done?”
It had not set in that I was indeed in Kenya. I carried this feeling in to my first experience, staying with a host family. I was warmly welcomed in to the home. Fresh green beans were being snapped at the table by a kind, grandmotherly woman as another woman read a Bible. I was delivered to a room where I was invited to rest. I feel asleep and did not wake up until morning.
Black faces greeted me everywhere I went. A sea of Kenyan beauty welcomed me and invited me in to various adventures. My host sisters took me along to the public pool, then to a chip shop, and finally we went to a football match. All the while my heart pattered with fear that someone would discover my secret.
At the football match a near riot broke out and police upon horseback flung long tree branch switches at the crowd to ward them off. Those with tickets sought shelter inside the stoic concrete structure and waited for the Harambee Stars to appear.
I stood out in the crowd. A lily-white face trying not to fear. A privileged, white, American holding on to the supremacy embedded in his national origin. I bit my lip as a group of “Banga Boys” poked and prodded me with questions and assumptions. I felt nervous as I was asked about random strangers that I was supposed to know. I sweated, as I was held accountable for the actions of our President and his growing “War on Terror.” I prayed that no one would find out about my secret.
I had hoped to bring God with me to Kenya and be a part of building a better nation there. I had hoped to make restitution to those I had judged, hated, and condemned due to the color of their skin. I had hoped that I might find peace and forgiveness for the actions of my past.
I was in the upper sections of a World Cup qualifying match, watching Kenya play Malawi. With every taunt, rib, and goal I wrestled with myself. I talked with God. I nervously talked with my host sisters. I dreamed of home. I mourned who I was. As the game went to full time I got up and walked with the crowd. I left who I was there in that seat and was now searching for who I was to become. I knew then that things could never be the same.