5 Life Lessons From Kenya

5 Life Lessons From Kenya

No two days in Kenya are exactly the same.

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Traveling the world has always been at the top of my bucket list and this summer I was able to cross off one more country. In July, I went on a mission trip to Kenya, a beautiful place with even more beautiful people. The purpose of my trip was to share the Gospel with local students and volunteer at soccer camps. While my goal was to teach the Kenyan people about God's love, I learned so much more about life from them. So here's a list of the five most important lessons I learned that I will carry with me for the rest of my life.

1. Don’t sweat the small stuff

Hannah Looney

In Kenya, there were so many luxuries, I, as an American am used to that were unavailable to me throughout the entire trip. There was no hot water, a constant layer of dirt on my feet, bugs in the shower, and bats in the attic, to name a few. At first I was totally freaked out but I quickly came to the realization that this was not the end of the world and that I had nothing to be afraid of. I could have easily allowed these discomforts to inhibit me from enjoying my time there but instead, I learned to overlook them and embrace the experience, bugs and all.

2. Every day is an adventure to be discovered

Hannah Looney

No two days in Kenya are the same. Each day contains the unexpected, from spontaneously climbing a mountain, to having a run in with a herd of cows, to meeting the kindest people in the most unlikely places. I learned to go with the flow and to be open to new things. Not everything went according to our plan and that's ok because those are the parts that I will remember most.

3. Children possess the purest form of joy

Hannah Looney

My favorite moments from the trip were spent playing, laughing, and talking with the children from the schools. Many of them did not have parents, a safe place to stay, or an abundance of food to eat but they were so happy to learn at school, play with each other, and get to know me while braiding my hair into an elaborate masterpiece. Their resilience taught me to look for joy in every situation and be thankful for what I have.

4. Selflessness is the best indicator of love

Hannah Looney

Every person that I met in Kenya went to great lengths to make me feel welcomed, loved, and comfortable. They lived their lives entirely for the purpose of others, whether that was leaving their luxuries and choosing to mentor children, or carrying heavy supplies to schools on top of mountains, or cooking enormous meals for my team every day so that we wouldn't be hungry. Their example of unconditional love is an example of God's love for everyone and it has inspired me to look beyond my selfish needs and care more for others.

5. Slow down

Hannah Looney

As Americans, we are always on the move or in a hurry to get to the next item on our busy schedules. Often times we miss out on special moments in life or even the opportunity to just take a deep breath and enjoy the present. Kenyans are the exact opposite. They savor the time spent with friends, they go out of their way to help a neighbor, and they genuinely want to get to know you. They have a sense of community that is unlike any other that I have seen. My hope is to create that same sense of camaraderie and friendship in my own communities at home and at UCLA.

My mission trip to Kenya has given me an entirely new perspective on life and if you ever have the opportunity to travel anywhere outside of your own country, do it. You will never regret it.

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I Visited The "Shameless" Houses And Here's Why You Shouldn't

Glamorizing a less-than-ideal way to live.
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After five hours of driving, hearing the GPS say "Turn right onto South Homan Avenue" was a blessing. My eyes peeled to the side of the road, viciously looking for what I have been driving so long for, when finally, I see it: the house from Shameless.

Shameless is a hit TV show produced by Showtime. It takes place in modern-day Southside, Chicago. The plot, while straying at times, largely revolves around the Gallagher family and their continual struggle with (extreme) poverty. While a majority of the show is filmed offsite in a studio in Los Angeles, many outside scenes are filmed in Southside and the houses of the Gallagher's and side-characters are very much based on real houses.

We walked down the street, stopped in front of the two houses, took pictures and admired seeing the house in real life. It was a surreal experience and I felt out-of-place like I didn't belong there. As we prepared to leave (and see other spots from the show), a man came strolling down on his bicycle and asked how we were doing.

"Great! How are you?"

It fell silent as the man stopped in front of the Gallagher house, opened the gate, parked his bike and entered his home. We left a donation on his front porch, got back to the car and took off.

As we took the drive to downtown Chicago, something didn't sit right with me. While it was exciting to have this experience, I began to feel a sense of guilt or wrongdoing. After discussing it with my friends, I came to a sudden realization: No one should visit the "Gallagher" house.

The plot largely revolves the Gallagher family and their continual struggle with (extreme) poverty. It represents what Southside is like for so many residents. While TV shows always dramatize reality, I realized coming to this house was an exploitation of their conditions. It's entertaining to see Frank's shenanigans on TV, the emotional roller coasters characters endure and the outlandish things they have to do to survive. I didn't come here to help better their conditions, immerse myself in what their reality is or even for the donation I left: I came here for my entertainment.

Southside, Chicago is notoriously dangerous. The thefts, murders and other crimes committed on the show are not a far-fetched fantasy for many of the residents, it's a brutal reality. It's a scary way to live. Besides the Milkovich home, all the houses typically seen by tourists are occupied by homeowners. It's not a corporation or a small museum -- it's their actual property. I don't know how many visitors these homes get per day, week, month or year. Still, these homeowners have to see frequent visitors at any hour of the day, interfering with their lives. In my view, coming to their homes and taking pictures of them is a silent way of glamorizing the cycle of poverty. It's a silent way of saying we find joy in their almost unlivable conditions.

The conceit of the show is not the issue. TV shows have a way of romanticizing very negative things all the time. The issue at hand is that several visitors are privileged enough to live in a higher quality of life.

I myself experienced the desire and excitement to see the houses. I came for the experience but left with a lesson. I understand that tourism will continue to the homes of these individuals and I am aware that my grievances may not be shared with everyone -- however, I think it's important to take a step back and think about if this were your life. Would you want hundreds, potentially thousands, of people coming to your house? Would you want people to find entertainment in your lifestyle, good and bad?

I understand the experience, excitement, and fun the trip can be. While I recommend skipping the houses altogether and just head downtown, it's most important to remember to be respectful to those very individuals whose lives have been affected so deeply by Shameless.

Cover Image Credit: itsfilmedthere.com

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7 Dream Vacations That Will Inspire You To Keep Working Hard

Just a list of dream vacations I like to think of going on after I achieve my goals.

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College can be a really overwhelming place to be. You're out of high school where life was planned out for you, but you don't have a job or a career yet. You're stuck in this middle ground of being a child and being the person you have always wanted to be. Because of this, thoughts start creeping into your head about why you're taking the classes you are or if you can even handle the life that you've been dreaming of. When these negative thoughts start creeping into my head, I like to think of dream vacations that I would want to take. Then it reminds me that I'll be able to finally go on at least one of these if I keep working hard for the life I want.

1. Me time at the Maldives.

I swear that I'm a people person, but a dream self-care vacation of mine is to go to the Maldives by myself. I would stay in a little house on the water with a glass floor. I'd bring my books and my phone and a speaker and spend at least three days taking in the crystal clear water.

2. Family vacation on a European cultural cruise.

Viking River Cruises are luxurious cruises where you can discover Europe, parts of Asia and parts of Africa. I always imagined that I would take my parents and sister on one of these cruises and we would spend almost two weeks floating down a river in the middle of Europe, exploring different countries and learning about their cultures.

3. Best friends take on Peru.

Peru has a beautiful Incan history that has always been intriguing to me. Machu Picchu is the most famous tourist attraction in Peru, and it's always been a dream to go there and explore the city with my best friend. And then, explore the rest of what Peru has to offer of course!

4. Lay under the stars and the northern lights of Ireland

The Northern Lights are a collision of gas particles that this girl can get with. Seeing this simple phenomenon with a boyfriend or girlfriend would be one of the most romantic experiences I can think of. And in a country like Ireland, nonetheless!

5. Explore the beauties of Botswana.

Botswana is an African country right above South Africa, known for its beautiful plant and animal life. I always imagined coming here with my sister and experiencing the incredible nature and culture that Botswana has to offer.

6. Gaze upon the pyramids of Giza.

These three pyramids have been a symbol for beauteous Egypt for as long as I can remember. I want to see these structures with my family and learn about the rich history of ancient Egypt and their emperors and empresses.

7. The Galapagos Islands.

As an animal admirer, the Galapagos Islands have always been a dream of mine. I want to see the sea lions and turtles. Better yet, I dream of being to touch one!

Now, it's time to get back to work so I can go to maybe one of these destinations one day!

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