Having been in Kenya for two weeks, I have fallen into some positive routines. I am relishing in the daytime energy I have with a sound eight hours straight of sleep. I am going to bed at a consistent time (lights go out with the generator at 10:00pm). I am waking up around 6:00am to the sound of chirping birds, no longer needing to set my iPhone alarm.
There is a reason that getting more sleep is the number one piece of advice from Arianna Huffington in her book “Thrive: The Third Metric to Redefining Success and Creating a Life of Well-Being, Wisdom, and Wonder.” It just took me a while to follow her wise words.
When I travel, early mornings are my favorite time of day. It is when I learn the routines of a culture. A favorite memory is hopping on a bicycle at 6:00am in Cambodia, pedaling alongside blue-and-white uniformed children heading to school on foot, bicycle, and motorbike. In Egypt, it was watching Bedouin women pulling out freshly baked breads from their cone-shaped ovens along the Nile River. In Ghana, it was having a young girl drop her broom and morning chores to join me as I passed her home on my morning run. She came up behind me like a bullet train and continued forward at her breakneck pace–barefoot.
I had another one of those memorable experiences today.
I have made a routine of starting each day at Daraja Academy with a morning sunrise hike. At 6000 feet elevation, my hike is a combination walk/run, with some sprints and stretching thrown in. Each day I hope to see a clear view of Mount Kenya as I climb one of the hills. Today was the closest I have gotten to that goal, seeing a ghostly grey outline of the mountain against the hazy skies.
As I climbed that first long-sloping hill today, the rising sun illuminated four children walking across the ridge top. When I reached the top, I followed them from a distance. As I walked, more children converged from many directions on our path. They walked alone, in pairs, and in small groups.
“My name is Stella” said the assumed leader of one of the small groups that hurried along to walk with me.
Stella is in eighth grade and was making her way to Ol Girigiri Primary School along with her three companions. Each of them carried a plastic bag with tattered books, and a handful of sticks for firewood, each piece long enough to be a walking stick.
“Do you want to see our school?” asked Stella.
“Yes!” I exclaimed, thrilled by the offer.
We passed a building, which Stella explained was her church. “It is Catholic,” she said.
We talked about Stella’s favorite subjects, and I told her I was staying at Daraja Academy. “Maybe you can apply for Daraja,” I encouraged her.
We stepped over what looked to be not-yet-raised electrical wires along the side of the dirt road, and stepped into the school yard on the opposite side. Kids were coming from everywhere now. “Stella, how many students are in your school?” I asked. “Over 600.”
The school is a series of several side-by-side classrooms. Stella ushered me into her 8th grade classroom. Still early, the class was maybe half-filled with girls and boys, who all looked at me in my fleece and spandex leggings. “Good morning,” I said in English to the group, who all responded in kind.
Stella had joined her friends in a far corner, so I waved goodbye and left the room. I stopped to talk to several children, encouraging the shy young girls who giggled and hid their face to shake my hand as I told them my name and asked for theirs.
I continued my hike, making a loop around the school before turning back. I would have loved to have taken photos with my iPhone to remember this experience, but purposely didn’t.
I just wanted to stay in the moment. But I added the memory to my list of good mornings.