Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Celebrating the Fourth with Africans!

    When I realized I was going to be in Kenya for the entire month of July my first thought was, "bummer I am going to miss the Fourth of July at home." I thought that maybe the three other Smith Fellows and I could celebrate America's independence in our own small way. I was at peace with this fact and was actually looking forward to it until last friday when at dinner with the Dominican Friars we were informed that their would be a traditional Kenyan barbecue called nyama choma in honor of America's day of independence. Nyama choma means roast meat, a smorgasbord of goat, mutton or beef and of course plenty of Kenya's beer of choice, Tuskers.
       We looked forward to the nyama choma all day as we went through our daily routine of teaching at the lower school and helping around the upper school as much as we could. After a rough game of basketball on the dirt courts bordering the Dominican compound I rushed to the shower to scrub the two inch thick layer of dirt caked on my feet and legs. As we walked up to the front of the Dominican house, which has a large overhang big enough to fit a few cars under, we only expected to see the Dominican brothers in training and maybe one or two of the Hawthorn Dominican sisters that minister to the terminally ill just down the road. Instead we were greeted by the Hawthorn Dominicans the Dominican brothers and priests and the School Sisters of Notre Dame, who have a postulant house just down the road. Kenyan's are known for their hospitality but this act of kindness blew me away. Here we were, thousands and thousands of miles away from home and we were celebrating America's independence. The Kenyan Dominican's mainly Fr. Steven, very strongly felt that they must do something for us on our  country's day of independence, especially because our Dominican contact Fr. Chris and Fr. Martin, another Dominican in Kisumu, both spent extensive time serving with the American armed forces. 
        There was potato salad, which I had been craving for weeks, macaroni salad, hot dogs and for dessert, seven layer jello kindly made by the Dominican Sisters. Though I was far from home, all of the food and good company made me feel like I was sitting in my own back yard. The biggest surprise of the night came when I was speaking to one of the School Sisters of Notre Dame. I told her that I was from Connecticut and she mentioned that she had spent some time in a mother house in a small town called Wilton, my home town. I was shocked to hear the name of my town slip out of someones mouth in Kisumu, Kenya. It was a very odd moment. My heart leapt out of my chest and I was unable to blink.  After getting over the shock of hearing someone say the name of my home town so far away from home, I jogged my memory and recalled that I use to go to the that very house to be tutored many years ago and my brother and cousin use to volunteer there. To have a direct connection home on my first Fourth of July away from home, warmed my heart.
       It was strangely wonderful to celebrate our nations independence in a completely foreign country. It brewed in me a strong sense of pride and joy for my home country. All of the Africans insisted that all Americans present sing the national anthem. As the Americans, a hodgepodge combination of five college students and various religious men and women, belted out The Star Spangled banner to the best of our ability, I could not help but smile and allow the feeling of overwhelming joy overflow and fill my heart with joy. Although I was halfway across the world and surrounded by strangers, the majority of whom were not American, It still was one of my proudest moments as an American.
         The whole experience was a beautiful testament to God's unifying power.  He brought people from all over the world, Ghana, the USA, Canada, Germany, Uganda, Rwanda, Angola, Nigeria, Kenya and I am sure I am missing a few, to simply share in each others happiness and rejoice. It truly was an international celebration. They were all too happy to join in our joy, even though we had little in common. But, as Fr. Chris pointed out, "Well the USA and Kenya are happy to have gained their independence from England." If you search long enough and hard enough you can always find common ground. 
         Despite the fact that I still missed being home with my family and close friends on the fourth of July, this was a Fourth of July I will never forget. I can only thank God for surrounding me with such amazing people, blessing me with an amazing country and even more importantly, with such a beautiful faith. Only through the divine providence of God can people from all around the world gather to celebrate a brother's day of joy, in this case America's Independence Day. 

1 comment:

  1. Well that sounds amazing. But we did miss you on Dirksen Drive. All 3 families were missing one! You in Kenya, Adam in Europe and Bekah in Boston! your Dad did a great job on the burgers! Yum yum.
    Lots of love to you from all us Forseys xxxx