On Aug. 28 my daughter Jayna and I will travel 9,000 miles, landing in the bustling city of Nairobi, Kenya. We are returning to “God’s Place” — a country that has a permanent reservation in my heart. From the smile on Jayna’s face when we speak of returning, it’s evident she feels the same way. I will be teaching at the all-girls boarding school, Daraja, which translated means “Bridge”, through December. Jayna will be my assistant. At age six, Jayna’s ability to absorb information will most definitely come in handy as I try to bargain at the market in Swahili.
My name is Jane Davis and I am about to, through a series of letters from Kenya, share the adventures and challenges that Jayna and I will face during our four months in a rural community at the base of Mount Kenya. I’m a proud Wenatchee native who from a very early age was given the gift of travel and the power of experiential education from my amazing parents Marie and Roland Tiedemann.
My love affair with Africa began in June of 1998 when I set foot in Malawi as a Peace Corps Volunteer. It is difficult to describe this passion in words, but as this will be my fourth trip back to the continent and my second to Kenya, my passion clearly speaks for itself.
Last fall Jayna and I traveled to Kenya as I had the opportunity to participate in the Amazing Maasai Ultramarathon, a 75 km running race that provides scholarships to young Maasai girls that would not otherwise have the ability to attend secondary school. The experience was absolutely beautiful, a complete joy. During our time in Kenya, prior to the race, we spent a day at Daraja where the director suggested that I should return to assist with the health education curriculum development. I knew right away this was exactly what we would do and now that suggestion is becoming a reality.
I’m turning 40 July 23. Jayna’s dad Quincy passed away in 2010 after a 16 month battle with prostate cancer — he was 43. I turned to ultra running to cope, and in fact, I ran the Amazing Maasai Ultramarathon in his honor. Before he died I promised to ensure that his daughter experience life to it’s fullest, to teach her that despite great sadness, there is always hope. In Kenya, a country of extreme poverty, despite envisioning utter despair there is beauty, peace and HOPE. This is what draws me in, pulls me back and helps me to appreciate what I continue to be blessed with. This journey will be another step in that process and to share it with my daughter is absolutely priceless. On that note, welcome! I hope you too will feel, through these letters, the joy and the beauty that is Africa. Asante Sana (Thank you very much).
Jane Davis, a Wenatchee native, and her daughter Jayna will be in Kenya this fall where Jane will be teaching at a girl’s school. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.