On reunions. . .
Certain moments stand as markers of our time here. Vincent’s wedding a few weekends ago was one of those. Vincent was part of the third intern class that came through Kijabe in our time here. During the medical education director’s maternity leave, I filled in for her to help shepherd these guys through the end of the year and have stayed close to many of them since they left. Vincent has been a life-saver for the last year, filling in in several months of crisis when we didn’t have enough physicians to cover our busy services.
David and I scheduled the weekend off and flew to Kisumu on the edge of Lake Victoria for the wedding. Our friends kept checking in to make sure we could maneuver the journey alone and laughed as I assured them we were okay. We made it to the Nairobi airport, to Kisumu, to the hotel, and were waiting when they arrived.
Kenyan weddings almost always started 3-4 hours late, and most people arrived 3 hours after the time on the brochure. David and I sat at the beautiful ceremony site and caught up with people as they arrived one by one.
Former nursery nurses, medical officer interns from the last 3 years, current clinical officers in Kijabe. Friends.
David said I was beaming all day, catching up, giving advice, finding out where their hearts and careers were taking them, what they loved, what they missed – how they were. And they asked about the girls, and us, and marveled at how time was passing.
We weren’t tourist Americans, we were among friends celebrating a long-awaited day. The MC was announcing that no one other than the official photographer could take pictures of the couple after the ceremony, and Vincent tapped him on the shoulder, “Except David,” he said for everyone to hear.
We were talking to new post-resident physicians at their retreat in the valley last week. One of the new doctors stopped me mid-sentence and said, “You talk about everyone as if they are your friends. How did you get there?”
To them it seemed revolutionary, to me, normal. The first days where I wondered about who to ask to dinner, if my accent was too much of a barrier, if I was too much a stranger, a nuisance to whom they were just being polite have faded. Now, those jitters are enveloped in warm hugs, spontaneous photos, genuine excitement as mentees have become friends and colleagues.
I could say it is slow work, but it doesn’t feel like that. More barriers existed, yes. You could say that. We grew up in different worlds. But friendship is built in the same way.
Sharing crisis and joy. Genuine concern for each other. Mutual need blasting down walls and replacing them with bridges. Seeing similarities instead of differences. Responding in time of need. Asking for help. Sharing weaknesses, strengths, and celebrating barriers overcome.
I looked around the wedding and felt at home – in random conversation, in the joy on the bride and groom’s faces, in the cheering, the singing, the dancing, the celebration. It was a reunion, certainly. A moment, on the edge of Lake Victoria where I saw evidence of solid bridges built and found deep abiding joy for we love, and are loved in return.