This morning we went to school at 7:45 am after being up until the wee hours of the morning making mandazi by candlelight. We went to school to practice with the liturgical dancers before 9:15 am mass. Today the students were scheduled to spend the day with members from the Dominican Laity who are active in the community. The entire school (faculty, staff, administration, and students) collaborated together all week to plan a very special farewell mass for Julia and me. The theme of today was “friendship.” In Kiswahili, “rafiki” means friend and “wasasi” means family.
At mass, Father Martin spoke very fondly and openly about Wycliff. He was very up front with the students and explained to them how he died. He emphasized the importance of the truth so that they are not left wondering. Father Martin and Sister Mary talked about how much more difficult it is to deal with death if you lack faith. Father spoke about how real friends undergo suffering together whether it is over great distances geographically or between one life and the next. He gave one of the best homilies I have ever heard. One African proverb states: "Death is an occasion for seeking more life."
Julia and I danced with the liturgical dancers who are typically some of the older girls but even some of the older boys participated after learning the dances this week. Everyone was singing louder than ever today – whistling, hollering, and hooting during the songs and dances. I read the first reading which was about being prepared to respond to God’s call. The prayer of Thanksgiving was offered up to the both of us. We were given special turquoise kangas to wear with the other dancers. There were speeches given by the head boy, head girl, Mr. Okofe, Sister Mary, and Father Martin all thanking us for our presence at OLG. Julia and I sat in the front of the dining hall at this point and both of us could not help from crying. All of the speeches were so meaningful and heartfelt. The time and energy that went into this mass was truly a labor of love. Everyone sang the Dominican blessing together.
The sisters gave us a carving of a giraffe to place on our desks at school. Sister Mary encouraged us to realize the importance of the giraffe's symbolism. She looked at us in the eyes and said to use the strong legs that giraffes have to kick hard when we need to for what is important. Also, to promise that we will stick our neck out for others who need it most and for justice, peace, and the truth. We were given a hand woven tunic with the map of Africa on it also for when we ambassadors for Our Lady of Grace at PC. Even though there will be many, many miles between the wasasi and rafikis I have in Kenya, we are all connected by the relationships we have formed. Today I felt like my heart was overflowing. We were dared in the beginning of our trip to “let the Dominicans get under our skin.” We definitely have allowed ourselves to be fully immersed.
Later on, we showed the children the movie and handed out our 400, yes 400, mandazi (with powdered sugar on top)! It was a big hit! We finally sadly said goodbye to everyone and promised that we will come back as soon as we can. I gave away some of my PC t-shirts. Penina, one of the girls I have grown close to, burst out crying and said this was the best gift she has ever received. We went to every dormitory door to hug the students goodbye before they went to sleep. One lesson I am learning more and more is to “trust in the truth.” I cannot believe that I am leaving Kisumu tomorrow. Today was physically and mentally exhausting. Its difficult for me to grasp the reality of this right now but I know it will all make sense soon. Most of all, I am grateful that I have become so bonded with everyone here that it is so difficult to say goodbye or see you later.