We tumbled down a dirt trail and the bus eventually screeched to a stop at the rust-covered gate. The premise was hushed, dormant under an all-encompassing blanket of calm—until a student would notice us entering, and the field would abruptly startle to life. Tattered-uniform clad Kenyan children rushing from all corners, boys fervently yanking me around, eager to boast all of their four classrooms, and little girls delicately intertwining their fingers with mine, every inch of their bodies hungry for food—but hungrier for attention.
Brainshine Academy was a local school of 200 for orphans, the disabled and the underprivileged in the Gachie area, Nairobi. The school days were marked with distinct monotonousness: ones that only foreigners like us or new students could shatter with short pumps of fresh air.
That December, a shy face curiously poked into the classroom. Her scintillating eyes scanned the dim tables, and her right hand, flaky with dust, was tightly enclosed within the principle’s palm. Seven pairs of scrutinizing gazes pierced Marilyn’s awkward shuffle from the door to the empty table, and as her fingers inched out the chair, her new classmates toyed with their own ragged sleeves.
The class had started, and celebrating a week to Christmas, the students pushed their conversation down a slope of jumbled festive jitters. Questions of “What do you want for Christmas”-es were shooting from one side of the room to the other, while voices fizzing with raw enthusiasm would reply mixed combination of mangoes, meat and soda.
“Ey na wewe?”— And you? Ian nudged Marilyn.
“I think I would like to see snow this Christmas,” she replied, and the air momentarily quivered with white noise, the scuttle of nails running across wooden desks tickling my ears. Soon, the room gushed with sound, as the children began to share their own stories of witnessing snow.
She was a breath of novelty, offering new insight into the rural, isolated Kenya they were all clumped up in. But she was also one of them, just another snow-craving girl with frizzy ringlets dangling limply down her hand-me-down uniform.
We tumbled down the dirt trail and cramped onto the bus at the rust-covered gate. The premise had returned to hide under its all-encompassing blanket of calm; but in this small school of 200, something was now different. We rolled up our windows and drove off, leaving the school subtly more vibrant than we had found it.