Every morning I wake up exactly at the same time because the birds outside my window have started chirping.  Talk about being timely.  It never varies; it’s always the exact moment it started the day before.  And it sounds beautiful.

I bought a bird book, just to know which are which, but there are so many varieties, that I am lost.  I have seen ibis, what looks like a blue cardinal, baby blue finch, and parrot like birds that are brown and red.  When I ask the natives here what they are, they always say “an indigenous bird”.  The same goes for trees and bushes that are unbelievably beautiful.  Poinsettias grow here, both red and yellow.  I have even seen one so big it looks like a tree.  When I ask the names of all the different ones, I get the same answer, “indigenous tree”.  Apparently everything here is called indigenous or they just like saying the word.    But I guess trees and birds mean very little when you’re struggling to eat, care for a family or find work.  It is really a paradise, and sadly, one of extreme poverty. 

The red earth here is so fertile that you can cut off the stem of a plant or bush, stick it into the ground, and within a few weeks, it will have developed leaves and a small root system.  It’s incredible.  Almost everything, on the compound we live, was provided by our landlord, and taken from one of his bushes or plants.  We have several that blossom with an enormous pink lily.  But the bush is about 12 feet high, and there are probably 50 lilies on it.  Lantana is wild, and grows along the roads, along with a deep bluish purple vine that is gorgeous.   There is a “flame” tree that is huge with bright orange flowers on the top of it.  When you drive in the villages, the roads will have these beautiful shrubs lining the path, making it look lush and tropical.  But littering here is very common and acceptable.   There is no garbage or trash pickup, so everyone drops trash on the ground, or out the car window, and yet has a fire pit at their home to burn their garbage.  Fortunately, the litter and the ash piles are quickly overgrown with the lush green carpet of vines and plants.  It’s amazing.

But in town, down where the market is, the flowering trees can’t cover up the poverty, the need and the desperation of the people here.   The mamas who approach you with babies they have not fed so their hungry cry will hopefully cause you to give them some money.  The crippled who have somehow managed to get themselves to the sidewalk, hoping for some shillings.  The old women, shriveled and hunched over, begging for coins.   But worst of all, the street boys who have a bottle of glue hanging out of one nostril because it is better to stay “stoned” then deal with the pangs of constant hunger.

This part of the paradise is not to be covered up by vines and flowering bushes.   Every time we go to town, it slaps us in the face.   Some of the boys we have in the home were taken from the streets.   The widows we minister to are similar to the ones at the market.  The mothers with babies who are hungry are also in the village near the church we attend.  

We who live in America are a blessed people.  I am reminded every day when we eat dinner how different my life is from those outside my door, and I am thankful.

Last week I was introduced to the principal of a local school here.   He wanted to know why we had decided to come and help.   I didn’t know what to say except that when I am with the boys at the home, or handing that bag of rice to the widows as they hug me, I am receiving far more than I could ever give.   Right then, I am in paradise.

Kwaheri from Kitale