RVA, old and new

When it began, RVA consisted of one building, Kiambogo.

In fact, in 1909, Teddy Roosevelt laid its cornerstone while he was in Kenya during a hunting trip.


This building is still in use, for all the administrative offices, and apart from a few additions, really hasn’t changed much!

My first dorm at RVA was Stevenson, where I spent my fifth and sixth grade years. It has been renovated fairly extensively since I lived there.

All of the other original elementary school dorms have been torn down and rebuilt. Davis was my older brother’s first dorm. It is a completely new (and much larger) building now.

In eighth grade I lived in a completely new dorm that was built where the old infirmary building used to be.
It took on the name Ndege (meaning ‘bird’ in kiswahili). Ndege was the name of the old eighth grade girls’ dorm, which, interestingly, was the original infirmary before it was converted into a dorm! That old building is still standing, and is now used as the art building. Recycling takes on a whole new meaning…

In high school I lived in the Kedong building. First on the ground floor, then on the top floor.

There have been quite a few additional changes to the campus in the 10 years since I graduated. The cafeteria I remember eating in has been completely rebuilt, and is a much larger building now.



During the school day there is a mid-morning break. It is fondly known as Chai Time, because an endless supply of chai (Kenyan tea with milk) is served, and any leftover desserts from a preceding meal. I laughed when I saw this newest addition to the Chai Time tradition. A tree for students to hang their chai mugs on.


RVA provides a laundry service for all its students, which is really quite incredible, actually, seeing as most other secondary students in Kenya have to wash their own clothes. By hand. The laundry building has been rebuilt and improved.

Every year the senior class contributes some money towards their ‘senior gift’ to the school. This clock tower behind the cafeteria, which shows the time in different places around the world, was built with the help of a senior gift.

One of the high school boy’s dorms, Westervelt, has been added on to and is now the maintenance and grounds building.

And there used to be a lot of tall trees surrounding the edge of what we call ‘lower field.’ Since they’ve been cut down, the view from the top of this field has expanded dramatically.

Although it’s still not quite as striking as the view of Mt. Longonot from the top of ‘upper field’.

Even with all the changes, though, there are parts of the campus that are still as familiar as ever. The library and science buildings, for example (as well as that big old tree).

And what we call the ‘guard’s trail’ – a path that allows campus security to monitor the perimeter of the campus. It was always one of my favorite places to walk when I needed some alone time. It’s also an excellent exercise circuit, since it boasts at least a couple hundred foot incline from top to bottom. The perimeter fence has certainly increased in strength over the years, though! (As have the jokes about RVA being a prison, no doubt.)

There are even still a group of colubus monkeys living in the forest just outside of the lower half of campus! A particularly curious monkey came close enough for me to catch some shots of him.

The very lowest point of the guard’s trail offers, I think, one of the best views of Mt. Longonot and that part of the valley.



And the prayer chapel is also exactly the same. It probably hasn’t changed since it was built.


It’s always interesting going back to visit this campus. It’s like visiting your old house after having sold it and moved away. The things that really make it your home aren’t there anymore, like your furniture and dishes, your curtains, paintings, and knickknacks. But you have so many memories built into its walls and rubbed into its floors that you still feel connected to it in a way that keeps you wanting to come back.


4 thoughts on “RVA, old and new

  1. Esther ~ Thank you for this wonderful, pictorial visit! It certainly made me long to go back in time and live with Rick and our family there once again! I’m SO glad you were able to go back! Blessings on you as you continue your trek!

  2. Wonderful! Thank you so much for this, Esther! It must have been a great stroll down memory lane to revisit a place you spent so much of your childhood. It’s lovely.

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