Two Different Lives

My month in San Diego started with a warm welcome from my friends who visited Kenya last December singing a popular Swahili song “Mambo Sawa Sawa” with a sign saying “Karibu Collins!” aka “Welcome Colleen”.

Karibu Collins

Kenyans have a hard time understanding my name so many think I am a blonde haired white girl with a boy’s name.  Colleen?  Collins?  What’s the difference really?

The welcome was followed by friends from high school flying in from all over the US to visit during this short stint back . . .

SJA Friends

Then the arrival of 17 family members . . . also from various US cities to celebrate babies-to-be, birthdays, and St. Patrick’s Day . . .

Family pic in SD 2014

It was also filled with coffees, lunches, dinners, and parties with dear friends in San Diego . . .and then ended at La Jolla Cove (arguably one of the most beautiful places on this earth) with my “pseudo kids” . . .

Oryems at LJ shores

To say I feel loved is an understatement.

And to explain how I feel travelling 48 hours to my drastically different “other life” in a small village in Kenya feels impossible.

Because leaving friends and family and a place that is extremely comfortable physically, emotionally, and spiritually feels hard.

Yet it is impossible to deny the excitement around seeing these faces again in Kenya . . .

Bubbles at Children's Home

It is confusing wanting to be in two places at once.

However, as drastically different as life in San Diego is from life in Kenya, there is this beautiful bridge that God brought into my life a few years ago . . .

Bridge of Hope . . . an organization I have shared about a few times that helps the refugee community with transition to life in the U.S.

What did the last month look like with Bridge of Hope?

Reconnecting with friends from Uganda, Congo, and other countries from around the world . . .

Clementine and Aram

Making chapati for my farewell dinner . . .

Chapatti with Oryems

Sharing pictures and videos with the kids from Bridge of Hope and engaging in conversations with them about how it feels to live in a foreign country where you don’t understand the language or culture.

Translating in Swahili for a pregnant woman who recently arrived in the US from Africa and came to Bridge of Hope because she needed clothes for her baby.

Getting to see my friend from Congo freak out when I was able to converse with her in Swahili and hear her say over and over “Umejua Kiswahili!! Umejua!! Umejua!!” (You know Swahili!!”)

I had a strange realization after my third Swahili conversations in San Diego . . .

If someone would have told me three years ago that I would have quit my comfortable and well paying job, leave my nice, two bedroom condo, live in Kenya for six months, come back to San Diego for a month and spend the majority of my time in a low income area in San Diego called City Heights and be speaking Swahili, I would have laughed hysterically and told you that no part of that story will ever be mine.

How did this become my life?

My incredibly comfortable life in San Diego became extremely dissatisfying and led to a quest for something more fulfilling.

How is that quest working out for me?

Well, I don’t wake up every day in Kenya on a cloud of fulfillment.   Some days I feel satisfied and content and other days I want to run back to the comforts, ignore my fulfillment quest, and stuff down my desire to bridge the gap between the rich and the poor.

I often reflect on my life and think, “Wow, if my life ended up down this path, the possibilities for the future are endless”.  And then I get an overwhelming mix of fear and excitement leaving me with no other way to answer the most frequently asked question of the last month . . .

“What will you do upon your planned return to San Diego in September?”

Mungu anajua . . . Mungu ana-flippin-jua.

God knows (in Swahili).

With that phrase at the forefront of my mind, I get to relax, be present, and soak up every moment of this amazingly unique opportunity I have to live in Kenya and wait patiently as the rest of the story unfolds.

Always Hopeful,

Colleen

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Comments

  1. Kathy "Frost" Banks says

    Colleen- your name comes from the Irish for “girl.” It used to be an insult for a woman to be called girl, but I like it more and more these days. It suggests both vulnerability and strength, don’t you think- just like you! Your journey has been so enjoyable for those of us who follow you because our your open heart- your very unsureness is palpable and validates the whole idea of a journey in life- at any age- you are still a “girl,” not jaded and ready to take on new challenges, ready to think, learn, and try again. I’m so proud to know you, girl!!

  2. Kenisha Makau says

    If someone would have told me three years ago that I would have quit my comfortable and well paying job, leave my nice, two bedroom condo, live in Kenya for six months, come back to San Diego for a month and spend the majority of my time in a low income area in San Diego called City Heights and be speaking Swahili, I would have laughed hysterically and told you that no part of that story will ever be mine.

    I’ve been thinking about this part of your blog all week! God is so crazy and so good. His plans aren’t our plans that’s for sure.

    Also I can’t wait to hear you Swahili! Spoiler: I’m coming to Kenya this summer and I’m bringing my family! We are hoping to stop by Kipkaren for a weekend because I want to show them all the places!! =) Sending a volunteer application to Cathy Lessing soon. =)

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