My heart is definitely full right now. Even with being miserably sick for weeks on end, I'm finding it very hard to say good-bye to Kenya.
The Yum staff threw Layne a going-away party on Saturday night. Like all Yum parties, the staff got hilariously drunk. We don't drink, but it is so fun to watch as they all lose their inhibitions more and more as the night goes on. We played a game where we would make a statement about Layne, and the staff had to guess if it was true or false. If they got it wrong, they had to take a shot. It was hilarious to see what they knew or did not know about Layne, and some of the facts they were absolutely shocked by. There was a lot of food, dancing, and laughing, but the night ended on a very somber note. Joyce - one of my favorite staff members! - invited everyone to make a little speech. Their lowered inhibitions only made the speeches more sincere, and there were many times that I got a little choked up.
While obviously I have always thought Layne is awesome, this is the first chance we've really had to work together and for me to see him in action in a professional setting. He has this amazing way about him that makes everyone feel special. He brought the staff together with his friendly and caring leadership style, and inspired all of them to take pride in their work and to achieve goals they hadn't even thought of setting before he came around. He believed in them, and took the time to get to know each individual, and it led to almost every single person saying that they love their job and feel that Yum is now their family. His ever-present sense of humor lent itself so well to a leadership style that created unity and teamwork, but he was also really respected for his business acumen and the success he brought to the company. Everyone wanted to do well to please him, and his personality and sharp mind have made a lasting impacting on the business and the staff. I don't know that I've ever had a boss quite like him, though I wish many more were.
Something else that was a recurring theme throughout the night was our relationship. Before I got sick, I came into the office pretty frequently and helped Yum a bit with their marketing when I had time between my paid work. We hadn't really considered that we were being observed, but the staff noticed the ways we respected, joked with, and loved one another. I put my world on pause to allow Layne to explore this opportunity, and though I was happy to do so, the staff really saw it as a sacrifice. And though there are numerous reasons for why we are returning to the States, they also recognized the sacrifice Layne is making to leave Yum and the life we have carved out for ourselves here. After five years or marriage, these kinds of things are pretty natural to us. We are each other's best friends, and know that everything is give and take. It's not always easy, but we do try to put each other first. It was incredibly rewarding to hear that so many people think we're doing a good job of it. In addition to the professional lessons Layne was able to teach them, I was so honored that they were also able to learn from our relationship and to see things that they want to emulate.
Basically since their speeches Saturday night, I've been a heartbeat away from tearing up at any moment. There is so much I have loved about living here in Kenya, and I can't believe our time here is coming to a close. It is incredibly rewarding to immerse yourself in a different culture - you learn so much about the world and yourself and people. The opportunities and experiences we have had here have no comparison to the life I had known before. Some of the friends we have made are the sweetest people with the biggest hearts, and we are incredibly lucky to have been welcomed with open arms. So much about our time here stands apart as singularly unique and special. And while living abroad is not without its challenges, I would jump at the chance to do it again. Kenya - our friends, the country, the adventures we have had - will always hold a very special place in my heart. I already want to return to the noise of Nairobi, the peace of the white sand beaches on the coast, and the endless adventure of the safari grasses. Though I know that moving forward is the right decision for us, my heart breaks to leave this place.