Into the darkness

Some added context:

This post has nothing to do with the conditions of Kenya and everything to do with the conditions of my own interior judgment and darkness. To conflate the two is to miss the point. This posts was written during and after a period of intense sickness. I was exhausted physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. It was written from my perspective about the hopelessness I felt about myself and, more broadly, the conditions of the world. This post laments the endemic and systemic problems that plague all parts of the world and the seemingly insurmountable climb towards freedom and justice for all people that social justice advocates worldwide are fighting for. After willingly choosing to volunteer my summer to get sick and experience a headache as I had never felt before, a fever that caused my spine to ache, and cramps that caused my joints to buckle, I felt a total rejection of faith and an abandonment of hope. What use am I if I can’t use my body? Was I being punished for something? I’ve spent vast swaths of my life volunteering, serving, advocating, and assisting others, and this is the thanks I get?! No matter how hard I work, it will never be enough.

Warning: This isn’t my standard happy-go-lucky post about working, serving, and living in Kenya with the Xaverian Brothers. This is my honest brass reaction to the dark realities that I’m exhausted of sugarcoating. If you want a more positive post, wait until after I get back from vacation “recharged and refreshed” and having escaped a few miserable days of witnessing perpetual trauma.

Darkness in Kenya is unlike any other darkness I have experienced before. Its position on the equator provides it with relatively little dusk. The sun sets in seconds. Darkness emerges in mere minutes.

Given the lack of infrastructure, light pollution is visibly nonexistent. When darkness arrives, you are instantly encased in a tomb of blackness. Driving from town to town, even the high beams and brights of the headlight can barely cut into the void. Moving through a space devoid of light, unable to see mere feet in front of you, cultivates eerie suspense and tension. Dogs, people, livestock, vehicles, anything can emerge with little warning.

Flying over Kenya, from Kisumu to Nairobi, for a much-needed break, the country below is already blanketed in darkness before the clock strikes 7:30 PM. Speckled below are a few rare dots on lights. Reflecting on similarly timed flights over the US, there are often oceans of lights layering the land connecting vast roadways, subdivisions, rural towns, and major cities.

Given my disposition to well-lit nights, the darkness here is jarring.

Following a few days of sickness, a month’s worth of cultural adjustments, a repetitive menu of foods, frustrations over the limitations that exist here, and what feels to be an insurmountable mountain that prevents real noticeable change and progress, I feel as if the darkness has seeped into my veins.

In the last week, I have become noticeably irritable—my normal, carefree, and optimistic self, lost to the shadows. After days of fever and experiencing intense muscle and joint pain at levels I’ve never felt before, I feel beaten and belittled. The flames of hope and promise feel diminished to a spark.

Looking around Kenya, it’s hard to maintain the facade that “this is normal.”

Nothing here is normal. People live in squalor conditions. Cats have no fucking place in hospitals. Bandaids should be given without question after drawing someone’s blood rather than being rationed. Roads should not be used as political ploys to garner votes taking pointlessly long to build. Politicians should not give out money or food to literally buy votes. Power should not be a commodity expected to go out without warning frequently. Access to clean and healthy drinking water should not be something the government leaves up to the goodwill of international volunteers. Sidewalks should be a mandatory investment so that people don’t have to walk inches away from passenger motorbikes, semi-trucks, cars, buses, cargo-trailers, and the endless flood of lawless traffic. Politicians shouldn’t steal most government funds directed toward the people they serve to line their pockets. Presidential elections should not bring fear to a country that people might revolt in violence if their candidate doesn’t win. Police should not stop people so that they can get bribes and bolster their paycheck. Women should not be treated and man-handled like objects for a man’s desire. Exams should not take nearly a month to finish draining students’ drive and efforts.

My list of grievances is lengthy and seemingly endless. How in the hell is it possible that these levels of disparity exist? How can countries like Kenya, Ecuador, and the United States exist on the same planet?! It’s frustrating as hell to witness and experience the absurd and cruel realities that separate the extremes.

With every action we take, it seems as if we are only moving deeper into the void without a light. It feels perilous at times to even try.

I have spent most of my life rooted in some generic social service agency. Like Sisyphus, the work is endless. It doesn’t matter how many people we feed today; there will still be a hundred more tomorrow. It doesn’t matter if we vote out one politician; there will be another criminal in line to fill his place. It doesn’t matter.

Driving down the road at highway speeds, the headlights only provide a few meters of sight. Let’s pray everything darts away in time; otherwise, it’ll be pulverized. The darkness has fully set in.

So why continue? Why not just leave now? Why not give up? Stupidity? An inability to say no? An unwillingness to leave something early and be seen as a quitter? A realization that I’ll have nothing better today?

All of these are true.

Perhaps deeper it is that I have built relationships with the people here and their lives and woven themselves into mine. Their story is my story. Their pain is my pain.

Oh God, I hate that. That started to sound like the beginning of a cliché college admission essay that ends something like “it was my life that was changed the most.” While those essays do contain truths, they reveal the great privilege of getting to leave “this place” and return to the life of prosperity and excess.

In all honesty, I do want to say that the works of the Xaverian Brothers give me hope, and that is terribly true, but I’m going to be more honest. This work sucks. It is difficult. It is endless. It is monotonous. It is a constant uphill climb against an ever-increasing Everest.

So often, we try to find some silver lining, some tread of hope, some hallmark ending. Life, however, rarely gets a fairytale ending. Life so often ends in the unknown. I cannot write a picture book ending. I do not know where or how this story will end.

I leave today for the Masai Mara for a thousand-dollar safari adventure because that seems fucking fair, knowing damn well that a thousand dollars could feed the students for a month or find the tuition of two students. Still, no, I’m spending it on a three-day luxury trip to see animals from National Geographic. Then the break continues with a beach vacation at a resort in Mombasa before school resumes next week. Sure this break will be nice, but it’s just a stark reminder that I can afford to leave the poverty and pain while the majority of the world remains to wallow in their suffering.

Onward, we drive into the darkness, hoping we’ll eventually make our way home to see the sunrise.


  1. What a great perspective Bobby! Incredibly well said. I hope the rest of your time there is without any sickness.


  2. Bobby⭐️, I appreciate your brutal honesty. I feel so very – very badly for the people of Kenya. I wonder if they even see what you see.

    My other reaction is to say even more prayers for you. I know you will do everything you can to help these people even though you are frustrated, sad and feeling somewhat helpless and hopeless in trying to help them. Please stay safe and healthy. Hang in There Bobby⭐️!!! Bergy

    Sent from my iPad



  3. To the author of this article(s), I feel you are emotionally abusing us who were born and raised in this beautiful country. You are literally, through your articles frustrating the efforts of those of us who have given all to serve our struggling brothers and sisters.

    I do not think you have a right to compare the US and Kenya. Your American realities are different from us. Respect our unique realities and pray over what you experience as different. You remind me of comparative philosophy class between African philosophy and European philosophy that said, if it is black it is bad and if it is white it is good. I thought we have come along way from the middle ages.

    You can’t continue emotionally abusing people you live with. It is immoral. Go back to where you came from and have more “light” for yourself.

    You can go back to the USA and continue your reflections from there. As a brother, I find your articles very disrespectful.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Moses, you have every right to be frustrated, angry, and offended with this post. I wrote it in a state of anger, frustration, and pain. I was coming off an intense sickness and was broken down from fever, muscle aches, and pains. The writing was intentionally “dark.” I even included a warning to indicate that I had nothing positive to share. My intention was not to offend, but to simply stress my painful frustrations and negative emotions.

      With the exception of this and the previous post, I have been nothing but positive, appreciative, and overwhelmed by the love, life, and light that shines upon Kenya. I have written about, discussed, and emphasized that extensively.

      I can assure you that we both share the same distaste for “if it’s black it’s bad.”

      By and large, these posts have always been a personal journal and reflection of my near-day-to-day experience, the ups-and-downs, the highs and the lows.

      I came here to learn. As educators, we both know that learning often comes with difficulties, struggles, and challenges. Moreover, we know that when students triumph through their struggle they find nothing but elated joy.

      Moses, I can assure you that my intention is nothing but affirmative and to share the incredible and transformative work of the Xaverian Brothers. My hope and prayer has always been to uplift and support this mission.

      I look forward to further conversations and dialogues with you.



      1. My advice to you Bobby, is that instead of heading to the Mara and the Mombasa beaches afterwards, just get on the next flight and head back home where there’s plenty of lighting! For your information, those two places are actually in Kenya, still engulfed in the darkness you described.

        Why ‘hang in there’? For whom?

        Obviously, you’re not happy being in this dark country whose darkness evokes eerie feelings in you. Why are you here?

        Your attitude comes through very clearly in your piece of writing, and you can’t purport to help the locals when you utterly despise their home/country.

        Go home in peace!


      2. Hello, thank you for your comment. I am not discounting your reaction to my post, and I can assure you that I was not calling Kenya a “dark country.” My use of the dark imagery was merely a metaphor to discuss the darkness I felt after being sick. This was written following a hospital trip and after having the flu. It was written from a place of mental, physical, spiritual, and emotional exhaustion. It was a raw, honest look at myself, not at Kenya. I can assure you that I have an endless list of joys to speak of Kenya, much of which I have written about already. In my time here, I have fallen in love with the students, teachers, brothers, and neighbors. When you love something, you can do nothing but want what’s best for them. Following my sickness and exhaustion, I felt defeated and unable to do anything.

        If you’d like to discuss this further, I would be happy to follow up with you.



  4. Bobby, I can feel your pain and frustrations in this writing, but it’s not always what you achieve, but simply that you tried! Peace❤️


  5. Your honesty is humbling. The experience and wisdom you are gaining is part of the fabric of your being now. The relationships you are making matter. You will see. They deepen your compassion and help you grow and feel and live. Suffering is real. So is joy. Balance your adventure with your safari and pampering. Maybe it doesn’t make sense today or feel good to compare what the trip costs to your students needs, but it’s real and honest. You are wonderful doing this mission work. You are strong and kind. You are an earth angel perhaps…


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.