The Proposal


On the day that I went to see my students in Mathare slum, whom I taught art classes to for almost 2 years, Shem and I had decided to teach the lesson together. Since I left last year, Shem has taken on the responsibility of teaching Saturday photography and filming classes. It was great to see my students again and teach them a lesson in watercolors. Through Shem’s initiative, a TV station had even gotten word of a particularly talented student among Shem’s class and they had chosen that day to come with the camera and interview one of the students. So between a film crew and my 30-some children squeezed int the small inspiration center room, it was a happening place!


At the end of the class I had each child stand up and present their work of art to the class. Afterwords, Shem stood up and formally thanked me for coming to teach and for inspiring him to do the same. He made me come up to say a few words, which I thought nothing of besides a culturally appropriate way to welcome a visitor. After my “few words” I turned to sit down. Shem grabbed my arm telling me he wasn’t finished and that is when I noticed that the film crew had shifted focus from Ben, our talented student, to me. Shem’s speech got more personal. It is a blur, really, though I will be able to refresh my memory because of the video. He dropped to one knee, revealed a beautiful ring in his hand, and asked me to marry him.


I looked at him, looked at my kids, looked at my American friend and her Kenyan husband, who were in a similar scenario just the year before. I think I scanned the crowd twice, lopping back to Shem each time. I wanted to take my time in answering and did not want to moment to slip by without absorbing the suspense in the room, all that hung on my answer. When I said yes, everyone cheered. I just remember hugging Shem very tightly after he slipped the ring on my finger and then inhaling coconut biscuits- maybe more biscuits would help my brain drink in and gulp the moment in its entirety. Our students asked when they would join us in the US for the wedding and I assured them that we would bring a wedding celebration to them in Kenya!



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