Beneath the safari sun, a bloat of hippos bath in the Mara river. Their deep nostrils surface like whales gasping deep breaths of air before hiding from the cool breeze. The occasional snort to claim dominance over another or a face-to-face tussle ruffles the water, but after a few minutes, the tides wash over their behemoth bodies.
In the distance, elephants roam like gliding boulders through seas of tall grass. Their nearer neighbors chomp at an endless buffet of grasses.
Moving as a harem, the impala grazes upon the tall grass and low-hanging trees. Their ears are constantly alert to the slightest noise.
Mixing as a symbiotic herd, zebras, baboons, warthogs, waterbucks, and antelopes eat together, each one benefiting from the skills of others. Some offer sight, others offer hearing, and the remaining offer scent, all attentive to a potential predator.
Riding through the great plains, wind cutting through the grass, silence is the dominant sound. From the predator to the prey, each one rarely makes a noise, nervous of giving away their position and causing unnecessary attention.
To make noise is to take a risk.
It has come to my attention that some of my writing has made some noise and garnered some attention. In that case, allow me to clarify some points.
- My writings are a near-day-to-day reflection on my experiences working and living at Saint Xavier High School in Bungoma, Kenya. I have intended to write my honest highs and my difficult lows. Treating both extremes with great deference and offering up what remains to God.
- The Xaverian Brothers never asked me to write. I write because that is how I best reflect upon and process my thoughts. If you are here because the Xaverian Brothers recommended some of my pieces, thank you, but please know I am not writing on behalf of the brothers. I am treating this summer in Kenya with the same discretion I treated my walks on the Camino de Santiago, my Lenten and Advent reflections, and my various writings on news and culture; as a shared reflection of my Public Theology and Spirituality.
- Africa is not a shit-hole continent. As I’ve stated several times, there is incredible light, promise, hope, and love. Moreover, Africa is not a monolith. Don’t confuse my writings and experiences in Bungoma with the rest of Kenya and all of Africa. You wouldn’t confuse writings about South Bend, Indiana, with New York City, Denver, or Atlanta. When I compare one place and another, I am simply noticing differences. Different does not equate to good or bad. Different means different.
- The previous two posts, “Medical Judgment” and “Into the Darkness,” have 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 was to miss the point. Both of those posts were written during and after a period of intense sickness. I was exhausted physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. They were written from my perspective about the hopelessness I felt about myself and, more broadly, the conditions of the world. Those posts lament 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.
Finally, I want to make three additional points directed at you, the reader.
- If at any point you find yourself reacting emotionally (happy, sad, angry, mad, glad, etc.) to something I, or anyone, has written/said/done, ask yourself: “What is it within me that is causing me to react this way?” This piece of wisdom, once shared by a Jesuit spiritual director, has helped me process my emotions and challenge my internal assumptions. More often than not, what I am feeling has said more about me than the person who elicited the emotion.
- If you think my writing speaks for or about the experience of all of Africa, Kenya, the Xaverian Brothers, the Catholic Church, or any institution I’m connected to, then you are sorely mistaken. My views are mine and mine alone. If you want to learn about those topics, please allow me to direct you to some much better writers, historians, activists, theologians, and academics. If you want to learn about my personal experiences, struggles, joys, and spiritual wrestlings, you have come to the right place.
- If at any point you wish to comment, challenge, question, ask for clarification, or discuss anything with me, you are more than welcome to reach out to me. I am nothing but willing and open to mutual dialogue. Means to reach me are available through this website, each post’s comment section, and social media.
As the sound of the Mara whisper in the distance, I look forward to what lies ahead for the remaining month.