When I was in High School, every year my school would send us on trips to rural Kenya to help familiarize and help the local communities. It was a week long, and we’d have to live however the people accommodating us told us to. In 2012, I was sent to an area called Suswa Mountain—around 4 hours away from my home city, Nairobi. Our objective in the area was two fold: create a liveable campsite for campers to set up comfortably, and create an underground pipe system that would collect groundwater, seeing as the region was going through a draught and really needed accessible water. Arriving to the destination, all I could see was lots of land and trees, and nothing else. It turns out that the very first thing we needed to do was to clean the ground of all weed and rocks to actually create a barren floor so we could set up our tents. However, there’s only so much a small group of fifteen-year-olds could do with our strength. Immediately after spending several hours digging, cleaning, and actually setting up the campground, it starts pouring down rain—no biggie, I figured I could just lay down for a bit as the drops of water become less aggressive, but that’s when I realized my chosen spot in a cramped tent of 5 girls had a huge hole where my head goes and a giant rock right underneath my back. I was clearly getting more and more upset, but at least the rain stopped. I decided that I needed to use the restroom, but the sad, makeshift long-drop that was shielded by some plastic had been completely blown away by the unfortunate weather. We were told that if we needed to “use the restroom,” we would have to hike a half a mile away into the forest, but to not wander too far because the hyenas could get us… I was so sad that first night. I couldn’t talk to my parents, I felt so out of my element and extremely uncomfortable. Although I had my friends, I just felt so lonely and there was no way I could get out of this for the next week.

But as upset as I was feeling, I couldn’t deny the energy that came to life as the sun went down and the stars came out. Even the campfire, our main source of light, was growing as the mystery and the excitement of the night came alive. The sky was dusted with silver as thousands of stars twinkled against the black background; each shooting star was as mesmerizing as the one before it. It was during those nights that I found real power and real insignificance simultaneously. I become aware of the fact that the galaxy is so big, and I am just a little Silmi. But suddenly, I wasn’t lonely—I was curious and awestruck and ready to explore this seemingly unknown universe.