Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Kenya Imagine

Twenty-two years ago I spent a summer in Kenya with some of the best folks I’ve ever met. Without email or cell phones with free long-distance calling (yes, children, I remember a time when the phone was attached to the wall) my team members and I lost contact. But thanks to Facebook we’ve gotten back in touch.

One of my former team mates, Dan, is now a missionary in Nairobi. He floated the idea of a reunion in Kenya. At first it sounded impossible. I checked flights to Nairobi – not cheap. And the estimated length of the trip – 10 days – also seemed impractical. Sean’s never taken that many days off in a row. I was feeling pretty down; it didn’t look like we’d be able to go.

That was before yesterday.

Yesterday at 3:30 pm Dan, Shannon and Angela (two other team mates) and I chatted on Skype about the reunion. Dan mapped out the tentative plan he’d thought of for us: spending some time helping with his work in northern Kenya, a few days at our team’s worksite and two days at a game preserve. By the time our 45 minute call was over I was ready to sign up! I could not wait. I was already figuring out where I could cut our budget and figuring the kids wouldn’t mind eating mac ‘n cheese for a few months if going to Kenya was the end result.

What won me over was not the opportunity to help Dan, although I’m thrilled at that prospect. It wasn’t the plan to see the building we built or the wild animals. It was Shannon. When I heard her voice for the first time in 20 years I knew I had to go. She was my best bud and closest friend on the team. We’d kept up with each other for a few years after our summer in Kenya – I even visited her in Chicago where she was in college. But time moves on and we got busy and before I knew it I couldn’t find her. Dang submission and women taking husband’s names…

But I found her on Facebook over a year ago and since then it’s been such a joy catching up. We’ve shared pictures of our families and emailed about our current lives. Unfortunately she’s not in Chicago anymore – she’s across the pond so visiting via Facebook is as good as it gets for right now.

I sent her a message on FB after the conference call, a generic, “So glad to hear your voice, hope the reunion works out.” I didn’t want to gush and write what I really meant: “Oh my word, I’ve missed you!” Because even though Shannon has held a special place in my heart I’ve wondered if our closeness was somehow magnified in my mind. Sort of like men and their fish stories, only without the nasty bait and slimy fish. So I kept it cool.

Her response was anything but: “I still feel such a bond with you pal! I think having the Africa experience has connected us for life?!”

Anyone who knows me knows what I’m about to type: I cried. Yep. Big, snotty tears of joy that someone I thought was such a good friend feels the same.

I’ve gotta look at that budget again… I wonder how the kids feel about rice and beans?

Shannon and me, June 1987