From a corner booth at Kenyan coffee shop:

I’m officially one month into my travels—coined by many of classmates as “Hannah’s World Coffeeshop Tour”. While they’re not entirely wrong, I’ll have you all know that I’ve only been consuming about 20% of my normal caffeine intake. Small victories.

My plane landed in Kenya four days ago, and I cried. I’ve prided myself in having not cried this entire trip (aside from watching the fire scene in This is Us), but when we landed—I broke down. They weren’t tears of exhaustion, homesickness, or any of the like. Rather, they were tears of relief, joy, and excitement:
• Tears of relief because I’m three countries in to my six-country world tour—I’m 30 days into my trip, but it’s simultaneously felt like both the shortest and longest month of my life. London and Liverpool feel like months ago, but the bedroom of my Meemaw’s guestroom feels like yesterday.
• Tears of joy because I’m back to where it all began—my first trip outside of the States was the long 35-hour journey to Kenya. The time I spent here the summer of 2016 was easily the most difficult and the most rewarding two months of my life. I experienced happiness, heartache, homesickness and everything in between. Despite every challenge thrown my way that summer, I had a lot of triumphs: I built priceless relationships, grew more independent, and gained a more global perspective. Ultimately, I was bitten by the travel bug and haven’t been able to stay in the U.S. for more than a few months at a time ever since. Kenya sparked my interest in world travel, and I must credit this beautiful country for all of my world adventures ever since.
• Tears of excitement because, in one week, I will be returning to Kakamega, Kenya—there, I’ll visit the host family that took me in as one of their own for two months and take a trip to the NGO with which I interned and spent the bulk of my time. When I said my goodbyes two years ago, they were incredibly difficult. I assumed it would be at least a couple decades before I’d be able to return for a visit, but luckily, I was incorrect.

I’ll be here in Kenya for a little over three weeks, the longest of any country visit this summer. During this time, I will visit two different El Sistema organizations: El Sistema Kenya and Ghetto Classics. I began my time with El Sistema Kenya earlier this week. Founded by Karis Crawford in 2014, this budding organization serves primary school children in three different schools across Nairobi. On Monday, I visited where it all began for the organization—Kawangware Primary School. El Sistema Kenya, like many similar organizations across the world, aims to provide more than just a violin instruction. The teachers strive to develop the character of students through growth in leadership, teamwork, respect, self-expression, and more.

Students at Kawangware Primary rehearse “Cradle Song” during an after-school lesson.

Stay tuned for more updates on my time with El Sistema Kenya! Feeling extra thankful for:
1. Spotify—whether cranking out interview transcriptions or just jamming in my hotel room, I’ve done a lot of music listening so far this summer. I’ve developed what I believe to be the most perfect country music playlist in the existence of all playlists. It’s over seven hours long, and I’m not even a little ashamed.
2. Thomas George Whitehouse, III—you may or may not be getting a charge on the phone bill for my $7 call with Mama last night. I’m sorry.
3. This still-not-real-feeling opportunity—you know that feeling when you spend the night at a friend’s house for the first time, and you wake up frantically asking yourself “Where am I?” for like 15 seconds? I’ve had that feeling every day for the past 30. I wake up each morning, panic, remember where I am, and become engulfed in a wave of gratitude. I couldn’t have asked for a smoother month of adventure and growth, and I look forward to another 7 weeks.