About ten years ago, I was a resident of Kenya. I was teaching there as part of a young adult volunteer program organized by the ELCA. Fresh out of college, leaving behind heartbreak, hoping for adventure, and genuinely wanting to make the world a better place…you know the story. I landed as an English teacher in a rural village that didn’t even have a name, really, in the southwest corner of Kenya, just a skip away from both Uganda and Tanzania. Funny enough, the first and only time I lived alone was in this rural patch of east African savannah. Here’s my first house:
Ten years passed in a flash, and it took me until last night to get around to digitizing all of the 35-mm pictures I took. In 2003, digital cameras were becoming ubiquitous, but memory cards were still expensive, and I didn’t have a way to transfer photos off the memory card. Relying on old-fashioned film seemed the safest bet. Oh, the regret! Many of the photos are just terrible–grainy, out of focus, poor contrast. Stuff you notice and fix immediately on a digital camera. I scanned the negatives using a Veho Slide and Negative Scanner, which did a fine job of it. But my ten-year delay in tackling this project was unfortunate; many of the negatives had been scratched or damaged during their years in less-than-delicate storage.
I don’t know what took me so long. Or, maybe I do. There’s a reason I don’t scrapbook, and I don’t re-read old letters (although I have a file drawer full of them). These artifacts pick open emotional vaults. As a 22-year-old living alone in rural Africa, I imagined my life from that point on would be a series of equally great, eclipsing-ly crazy adventures. That hasn’t quite turned out to be the case. Adventures have become smaller, more subtle…backpacking trips, marriage, short international vacations, buying a home, learning a career…thus far, it’s been a life much more stable (and much less risky) than I had imagined for myself.
Not that I’m complaining. I’m actually a pretty risk-averse person, so this life suits me well.
But these photos do bring to mind so many stories, and I can’t begin to tell them in one blog post…so maybe I’ll chip at it a story at a time. One of my Kenyan friends said “You have to see where you’ve been to know where you’re going.” I’ve been some interesting places.