An American Interlude

While Michael and Emilee eat the Christmas Cow on December 25, I’ll be with some family in Camp Verde, AZ. The kids were disappointed when they heard I was going home for Christmas, and I don’t blame them–in fact, I’m sad to miss the celebrations at Tumaini myself! A good number of the kids also thought I was purposefully abandoning them in favor of a ‘White Christmas’, and it was hard to convince them otherwise.

In actual fact, this is a sort of landmark Christmas for our family, since for the first time ever we have opted to forego all gift-giving and holiday money-spending, and instead are traveling to Arizona to fix up my aunt and uncle’s house, which has happened to be in a bit of a sad state. I’m certainly a bit self-conscious about how ‘self-righteous’ this tactic can come across to people (I know I’ve thought that about those people who go work in soup kitchens on Christmas). Therefore, I am in no way passing judgment on those who do partake in The Rush this year. Still, there’s a genuine satisfaction in the idea as well, and indeed, my family can’t go anywhere without having a bit of fun, so we’re also planning a 2-day hike down and up the Grand Canyon. I haven’t been there for probably 15 years, so I’m excited to camp in the wintry desert location.

But all this was hard to explain to the kids, until I got a clue from Cucu Kariuki and decided to start telling people I was going to a ‘harambe’–a sort of Kenyan festival held by friends or relatives of people who are in need, in order to raise money and supplies for them. It’s not the same, of course, but it’s close enough, and it did the trick: as soon as I mentioned ‘harambe’, they understood the need to go home. Still, had it been any other year, I would have loved to stay at Tumaini, and I envy Michael’s and Emilee’s opportunity to share Christmas with the kids.

Well, after a long 42 hours of travel, I arrived back in San Francisco last night. What surprised me most was how unsurprising it was to be back in the States. After my previous 2-month stint in Kenya, the mass of development, the showers, the clean running water, etc…, all caught me rather off guard. It took almost a full week to shake the feeling that something was very wrong somewhere. This time, everything just seems like, well, what it is. I suppose this state of affairs is neither good nor bad, but I found it interesting.

Now, I’m killing the hour or two I have left before our midnight departure to the Grand Canyon. (On family road trips, we like to leave in the 2nd watch of the night, when traffic is at a minimum–and this practice holds a lot of nostalgia for me). I’ve taken my fill of fast internet and hot showers (though finding high-protein vegetarian food has proved more difficult than in Kenya), and will now leave the blogging to those who are actually remaining in Kenya, until I return in early January. Happy Christmas! (And perhaps more appropriate for this particular day: Happy Winter Solstice!)

By Jonathan Lipps

Jonathan worked as a programmer in tech startups for several decades, but is also passionate about all kinds of creative pursuits and academic discussion. Jonathan has master’s degrees in philosophy and linguistics, from Stanford and Oxford respectively, and is working on another in theology. An American-Canadian, he lives in Vancouver, BC and has way too many hobbies.

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