The Humanitarian Experience: Enduring Love

Cultural Somali Bridal Attire

Cultural Somali Bridal Attire

Since I have left the place that I called home for 25 years to this place called Nairobi, I have had to deal with the things that any person attached to a family will inevitably encounter, only this time it was from afar. Intermixed in the events of my homeland and family, I have also experienced good and bad events with those I am cultivating relationships with here in Nairobi. Reflecting on these events has made me understand the importance of each event encountered. It was as if there was purpose ;).

Over the summer months my family has gone through times of mourning and celebration. And as I use the great technologies of this century to keep in touch and follow the events that have occurred this summer, I see our resilience as a family in a different light.

I don’t want to delve into the times of mourning too much but I will say that, reflecting on them now makes me sigh a breath of relief that we as a family are getting past it and are on a path that looks hopeful. And should we have to be in that state again, I now know without a doubt that we are resilient enough to persevere through. And for that I thank God. So onto the good stuff!

My brother got married! He tied the knot with an amazingly beautiful woman inside and out. She has proven to be a woman of strength during the time of turbulence that we all experienced. And because of it all, their love has become a beacon of light that inspired many near and far to them. And now, as they make my brother’s bachelor pad a home of marriage and love, I smile and laugh remembering those times that my husband and I shared 5 years ago.

I did not get to attend the wedding because of the great distance and cost, but I was there in my mind the entire time that the event of their lives was taking place. And though I missed the day, I smile on the moments that were captured and sent to me in the form of JPEG. Thank you God for technology.


They were not the only ones to celebrate love and endure life’s events this year in my life…

I mentioned in an earlier post that a friend of mine contracted Typhoid fever. Her name is Maryanne, She recently moved to Nairobi, from a refugee camp to marry her husband Abdi. I attended their wedding earlier this spring. And boy oh boy was it fun! I will post about it soon enough.

I didn’t realize it at the time, but there are some parallels to these two marriages. As my brother and his young bride overcame a great time of sadness, the newlyweds Abdi and Maryanne, were also about to defeat a great obstacle. I watched as Abdi with great responsibility cared for his new bride as she defeated a disease that has stolen many lives here in Africa. Maryanne is now healthy for which those near and far to her are thankful for. I say far because when she married Abdi I shared to those I love that another whom I loved was celebrating, and when she became ill I did the same. The relationship that I share with her also includes people she does not know, just as I share a relationship with those whom she shares her life with.

Relationships are based off of sharing life events. Without the events of life a relationship is superficial. As I watch these two couples nurture their relationships, I see the strength grow exponentially from the physical events that they have encountered. Both my brother and my Somali friends have been blessed that they were able to endure their trials, for in some instances what they have experienced may have been fatal to their happiness together, and for that I rejoice.



The Humanitarian Experience: Once upon a Time a beautiful princess married her prince

Once upon a time a beautiful princess married her prince.

One of my first real acts of volunteerism, that I can truly say I devoted myself wholeheartedly to, was volunteering with the elderly. I remember the summer day that my mom signed me up to volunteer at the old convalescent home.  I can clearly remember the halls of the home, the smell and the light. There were hollers and crying, laughing and smiling, random handshakes and stone faces.

After a quick tour of the home I was introduced to the friendliest residents. The ones who swung open their small room doors with a smile and a hug ready and on occasion even a kiss. One of the very first residents I met was a small and squeaky woman. Her room was decked out in doilies and every nail on her hand was manicured to perfection. I cannot remember her name but I will never forget her story.

On the wall there was a classic 1940’s picture of a woman with a long white lace dress that was fit for a princess. The princess was standing tall next to a man with a well-tailored suit. She sat still in her chair and smiled at me as I gazed at her photo. Not knowing what to say to her I looked at the picture for a while and asked, “Is this you?”

“Oh yes, it is!” Her eyes lit and she clasped her hands. “That is my husband and that is the day we got married”.  She started to tell me about how in love they were and how the times were much different back then. She would giggle every so often and not tell me why. She must have been remembering some moment in time that could never be forgotten.  After she told me all about her serious looking husband she went on to show me her doilies.

A week later I was back, and I made a bee-line through the hallway to her room. I looked in the door and there she was sitting exactly where she was the previous week, looking out towards the door. I gently knocked and was eagerly greeted to sit. As I got comfortable she looked at the wedding photograph which hung next to the door. This time I mentioned how beautiful the lace dress was. Immediately she began to tell me her story. And as I listened, I realized it was the same exact story as the week before, filled with the same unexplained giggles. It was then that I realized that she had no idea who I was.

I sat there for an hour every week during the summer of 2001 and listened to her story of love and life. I began to prompt the story of her wedding every time I visited, because I could see the delight that it brought to her to share. It must have been Alzheimer’s that she suffered from in those days of her life. Like a thief in the night it came and stole my friend from me. As the summer came to an end and school was about to start-up again I was unsure as how to say goodbye. It is hard to say goodbye to someone who does not remember you, as it is hard to not over step your boundaries. I gave her a quick hug and nervously left that summer afternoon.

About a year later I returned and nervously walked down the hall to her room. When I got to the door there was no one there to greet me. I looked in and all the doilies were gone and no picture hung next to the door. As I think back, to how she was always staring out the door, I realize that she was probably staring at the picture of her wedding day. Constantly, reminding her self of a moment that was not to be overcome by old age. I like to think that she is with her prince charming of a husband.