There’s really no better way to learn about someone’s life than to stay in his or her home, eat meals together, journey to work together, and witness the ups and downs of everyday life. Homestays are such an integral part of the GROW internship; partnership is started in the office, but strengthened in those everyday moments. While U-Tena’s office is constantly filled with the sounds of banter and laughter, I have learned the most about the members of U-Tena during the times that we all have gone out together, or when we are invited into their homes for a delicious home-cooked meal. A house does not define the person living in it, but there is something personal about entering someone’s home that offers a look into his or her life that you wouldn’t get by just sitting next to each other in the office. If we only saw each other at work, I would not have: witnessed Fundi knock back vodka like it’s water, tried my first Kenyan pancake (courtesy of Dot), eaten Niko the Bachelor’s delicious homemade chapati and mokimo, nor seen MC Jonah dance by himself with more confidence than anyone else I know. You can’t spend time with any member of U-Tena without your abs hurting from laughing so much. I’ve also had the pleasure of getting to know the rest of the GROW team. I know I can always count on Assistant Fundi, Floater, and Kiki for anything, and I could not have asked for a better team to work with.
And, of course, I can’t forget about my wonderful host. If you asked me what the best part of GROW has been, I would have to say living with Chacha. Chacha is one of the funniest people I know, and he always brightens my day. He’s the only person I know who drinks water out of a flask and uses “superdouche” as a positive exclamation. He has graciously welcomed me into his home, and I have learned so much from him in the two and a half weeks I have been here. From our conversations while walking to work (during which I occasionally have to jog to keep up with his huge stride), to hearing all about his life growing up and all of the things he has experienced. I got to look at photo albums with pictures starting from when Chacha was a child, all the way up to more recent pictures of his beautiful wife and son. He has taught me how to cook Kenyan dishes and hand-wash my clothes, showed me how to eat a whole fish around the bones (I failed miserably), and pushed me to be independent. I have learned my way around Donholm and can walk to the nearby shop to ask for what I need in Swahili. Chacha continually inspires me to do more, and is a constant reminder of why everything we do in GlobeMed is so important.