Kenya Calling

Caroline ColwellNovember 29, 2016Beauty and the SensesAwesome Moments

Alarmed by an unfamiliar noise, I took my eyes off the path beneath my feet just in time to see a little green bird take off in front of me. I rushed after it, my camera ready, hoping to capture its unique splendor.

My eyes focused on the bird as it darted off to the right. After it had disappeared from sight, my eyes readjusted. The beauty of what lay before me was striking: from the edge of the trail, I was presented with a complete image of the Kenyan landscape. The lush forests of Mt. Kenya rushed down the mountain and blended with the flourishing farmland, which in the distance reached the wide-open plains of the savanna. In this moment, the vast beauty of the country overwhelmed me.

My trip to Kenya was not a leisurely sequence of five-star safari camps found in travel journals, rather I had come to Kenya as an assistant teacher working in a rural primary school, and volunteering at the nearby orphanage which meant that I kept a busy schedule. Although there was a lot of work to be done, I was pleased to take a day off to experience what Kenya had to offer by spending the day hiking Mt. Kenya.

I took a moment to explore the other details that I had been overlooking as my mind wandered from my to-do list to my calendar and back. Once I had escaped from my unconscious distractions, I was awed by what I found: colobus monkeys hiding behind the vines of an African oak, leopard tracks trailing off into the brush, and an army of siafu ants scurrying to find shelter from the approaching storm. Off in the distance I heard the grunting of a water buffalo that drowned out the chirps of the birds that were gathering seeds from an African rosewood.

I never cease to be astounded by the exquisite beauty in our world that goes unnoticed as daily concerns consume our lives. Whether it be rushing from the car to front door and failing to admire the fresh spring day, or that moment of panic when I realized how much time the hike had taken, I regularly find that my life revolves around the need for expediency. We live in a world in which Wikipedia and YouTube have become substitutes for learning through experience ourselves. It only takes a small but significant moment to remind us that there is a world around us that operates outside the sphere of technology, work, and efficiency. In these moments, I remember that we are all part of a greater picture. As a result, those daily worries become mere trivialities. On that hike, I found satisfaction in the knowledge that the drifting thoughts and daily concerns that previously divided us had faded as we developed an appreciation for the same view that stood before each of us. In that moment none of us thought about the college essay we had to write, or the flights home that we had to check in to that night.

As modern conveniences become more accessible, the importance we place on expediency distracts us from the richness of a world around us that operates at a different pace. I have found the most remarkable moments in my life to be those in which I am able to take a step back from the chaos that is my day-to-day life, and absorb the natural wonders of the earth. When I am overwhelmed by daily stresses, I think back to those birds, darting in and out of the canopy of trees, adding color and life to an already vibrant landscape. Remembering that moment, I remind myself of how fortunate I am to live in such a beautiful place, and my worries are slightly diminished. Those moments have served as a source of comfort to me over the years as the demands and pressures of modern society continue to build and weigh upon my shoulders.

Caroline Colwell is a senior at Miramonte High School in the Bay Area of California. In her free time, she enjoys sailing, running, and helping run her non-profit organization, Harambee East Africa.