Her Extraordinary Education
And a way to improve the drinking water, which comes up on the backs of donkeys from the river at the bottom of the cow pastures, sometimes carrying disease. And better roads, and maybe electricity. And some positive leadership from an educated woman who can demonstrate on a daily basis that schooling is important, that feminism is good.
These are ambitious things, she knows. "It's gonna work," she says on another, sunnier day. "It's gonna take some time."
But in the summer of 2003, there are things Kakenya Ntaiya is not thinking so much about yet:
Like how the path back to Enoosaen is getting longer by the day, what with her growing interest in graduate school that could end up extending her stay in the United States by two years, maybe three.
Or how the kinds of jobs she may be suited for when she receives a master's degree in international studies are not likely to return her to Enoosaen.
Or how David, with whom she is growing more serious, has years of study ahead of him in yet another country.
Asked about these things, Ntaiya sighs but refuses to entertain doubt. You have to understand, she says, how much it took for the barefoot village girl to make it to the halls of academe.
"If I can go to college," she says surely, "I feel like I can do it."
Yet college has always been full of those people who burned brighter than anyone else in their home town's memory -- destined, it seemed, to change the world. Mostly, they just level off into normal lives, for who can continue shooting upward at such speed?
© 2003 The Washington Post Company
Kakenya Ntaiya, left, gets a boost from friends. Amid pressures of achieving in school and understanding a new culture, a friend's shoulder comes in handy.
(Photos Jahi Chikwendiu -- The Washington Post)
About This Series|
These articles are based on interviews with and observations of Kakenya Ntaiya (pronounced kah-KEHN-yah n-ta-YAH) that began in spring 2001, the year after she arrived in Lynchburg, Va., to attend Randolph-Macon Woman's College. In August, staff writer Amy Argetsinger and staff photographer Jahi Chikwendiu spent a week with Ntaiya's family, neighbors and teachers in Enoosaen (pronounced eh-noh-sah-YEHN), Kenya. Swahili and Maa translators assisted with some interviews there. Other sources were Ntaiya's classmates, professors and college officials in Virginia.