Thursday, August 5, 2010

Community Welcome

Elenerai Primary School
We were an oddly pieced together group who seemed to have an easy bond. Conversation was bubbling constantly, enthusiasm overflowing like foam on a hastily poured beer. It was as though we needed one another for nothing else than to have assurances that we were indeed experiencing something special.

We loaded into the fleet of Land rovers and headed over to Elenerai Primary School to meet the community. We were reminded that we were considered to be guests by the local people and to conduct ourselves accordingly; refrain from randomly snapping pictures without first establishing a relationship or asking permission.

As we pulled up we were once again greeted with song. The children were clustered at the entrance and sang through their grins. Each one high-fived us or shook our hand as we passed, and asked us "What is your name?". We walked slowly, navigating the flood of children and the ocean of emotion that was welling, and the joy that was flowing abundantly.  Such open, genuine hospitality as I have ever known.

We sat under a canopy as the welcome continued in a somewhat more "formal" fashion. The whole community turned out - teachers, students, parents, elders and the Me to We youth groupfrom the Bogani tent camp who were there to school build. Each adult stood and introduced themselves, as did we. The children organized in front of us and performed a few songs, clapping and moving their bodies to the rhythm. Then the Mamas took over, singing and clapping as they made their way from the back to the front where we sat, motioning to join them, pulling us up to dance. We sat shyly at first and then one by one we just let go and went with it ... losing ourselves in the moment, in the celebration.
Cameron's dad was presented with a goat as a gift from the community and suddenly the little herd of goats that wandered the Bogani camp made sense.

Speeches were eloquently delivered, applause given, and gratitudes exchanged. The sense of community pride was palpable. One of the community elders thanked us for using our precious time to visit his country and to learn more about Kenya. He told us that although they appreciated the work we would do at the school, the real value in us being there was that we would become ambassadors of the Kenya we would soon discover; that we would take our stories and knowledge about their country home to our own countries. He stood tall and erect, his voice strong and words measured. After a pregnant pause and more applause everyone dispersed to play with the children.

Elenerai Primary School childrenWe asked each child their name ... and I was surprised at the number of biblical names. I met at least a dozen little girls named Naomi. They would ask us our names and then repeat them back to us like a chorus. You could tell they enjoyed the sound of some names more than others by their smiles and inflections. Names they liked would be hollered out in sing song voices ending with giggles. Others would simply be repeated in quick monotone response.
Elenerai Primary School children
Darcy's new friends showing her their new classroom.
The children were full of fun and wanted nothing from us other than a picture. They posed willingly, regrouping with different friends and then gathering eagerly around the camera to wait for their image to appear. Then they would ask, "Please - one more. Me only".

The whole time I tried to grasp what I was witnessing and the experience I was partaking in. The first day of our Bogani journey was a long one ... full and emotional. We ended the day with dinner in the dining porch. It was magical. The fires blazing in the fireplace and the chimineas that dotted the perimeter countered the chill of the fresh Mara air and coupled with the vast inky sky - created the perfect atmosphere to decompress. We nursed our wine and Tuskers as we chattered about our day and when it came time to honour the tradition of sharing our highlight of the day, my throat mysteriously tightened and all I could muster was "ditto" to the previous person's remarks. More tears. Honestly -- as someone who prides myself on my iron clad control and restraint, I was completely baffled by my teary responses - and the cause of them.

Darcy and I donned our headlamps (ha! and she laughed at me when I bought them) to journal as the electricity was only turned on for a few hours each evening and shut off around 10:30. This of course varied according to the World Cup game schedule. Our good intentions to journal were cut short ... the sum total of the day took its toll. We dropped our mosquito nets and snuggled our hot water bottles and succumbed.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Our Fearless Leaders and Caregivers

Our first day at Bogani was a long one - long but satisfying. There was so much "new" to absorb, with little time to do it. After we settled into our new digs, rinsed the Mara dust from our faces and inhaled deeply we relaxed into a delicious lunch served al fresco under the canopy and Mara breezes of our dining porch.
Kim and Mary

Before we ate, Kim - one of our facilitators - introduced Mary, who introduced the meal. Through her wide, glistening smile she gave a run down of the delectables about to be served. This was a ritual that was repeated every meal. Isaiah was our waiter and he worked with Mary to pamper us, filling our glasses with fresh juice and our bowls with desserts and fruit salad. He was Maasai and had large holes in his ears with beaded jewelry in them. We were fascinated by them and he laughed when I told him that Darcy had tried to make bigger holes in her ears too. And then there was Flo - a fantastic, beautiful force of positivity who managed Bogani and took care of our every comfort. She shared so much of herself with us and was a big part of the reason we felt so welcomed and at home there.
Flo, Darcy and Mary

The facilitators were great; intelligent warm and accommodating. We started with Emily and Kim in Nairobi. We left Emily behind and met Michelle at Wilson airport for the flight to the Mara. Kim has been involved with Free the Children since she was twelve years old and is now an accomplished speaker and motivator. Michelle and her husband both work for Free the Children and are raising a son in Nairobi.

Michelle - photo courtesy of Robin Strachan
Cameron rounded out the facilitator team - the sole male amongst a pride of courageous lionesses. He was affectionately called Camaroon by everyone we met. Kim and Cameron were especially supportive of and encouraging to Darcy regarding her interest in international development. The staff worked nonstop and had a way of providing a cohesive foundation for the group.

I couldn't end this post without introducing the four Maasai warriors who accompanied us everywhere and shared their knowledge of the wildlife, plants and culture.
James, Darcy, Jackson, Lyn & Clinton


Now that everyone has been introduced, you can all come along for the rest of the journey - the next best thing to being there.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

On the Mara - Jambo Bogani

Maasai Mara
Landed on the Mara

The Great Rift Valley

We landed in our Cessna on the grassy plains of the Mara. It was like a scene from Out of Africa. Children with wide grins and dogs suddenly appeared out of no where (or so it seemed), racing our plane as it taxied to a stop. It was our first welcome party and as I viewed the scene from the small portal window in the plane, I could feel my eyes filling.  The flight had debuted the majestic vistas of the Great Rift Valley, the mountain ranges and the lush green and gold patchwork of the farms and grazing lands below. I was running on emo-overload; Darcy was struggling not to toss her cookies!

We eagerly accepted the invitation to hike the 15 minutes from the airstrip to the Bogani cottages. I lingered back from the pack, casually snapping pictures as I walked, breathing deeply - filling my lungs with the freshness of the cool air, admiring every plant, tree and curiosity that I saw. I got a personal introduction to the thorny acacia tree while I wasn't looking.
We walked through the gates of Bogani with more than a little excitement tingling in our tummies. There was a collective feeling of anticipation building which deepened even further when we heart faint strains of what sounded like children singing. It got louder the closer we got, and when we rounded the corner, nothing could have prepared me for what we saw next, and the welcome that awaited us. The Bogani staff were lined up, swaying, singing their hearts out. More tears ...

I knew we were in for something extra special. We got introduced to the cottage that would be our home for the next five days. And now I will do the same for you ...

Our open air dining hall
The view from the dining hall.

Notes from my journal:
Surreal to be here. Everyone feels it. I have to pinch myself to assure that I am indeed in this majestic, magical country. I am more excited than ever for the rest of our journey to unfold. Our group is lively, from different occupations and walks of life, ages - with one thing in common: a desire to learn and understand the Kenyan way of life and the challenges this nation faces. We all want to give back in any way we can. The group is giving, unselfish and generous with one another. It is amazing to me that in a few short days they are feeling like old friends.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Day 1 - Ellies, Giraffes and Beads

To ease us into our new time zone and sooth the jet lag somewhat they had us spend a full day in the Nairobi area before we headed out to Bogani. This included visiting David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust Elephant Orphanage - our first taste of the African wildlife up close and personal. Many of the ellies were orphaned as a result of poaching and the killing of their parents. The handlers bring the baby ellies out each day for an hour at 11 am so people can watch them feed and then romp and play. The infants love to wrestle with one another, piling into a muddle of reddish skin and dirt. It was mesmerizing to watch the personalities of these playful mini giants emerge so quickly before our eyes. Just when it wasn't surreal enough ... "cue giraffes"  two giraffes sauntered gracefully across the backdrop of the whole ellie scene. Pinch me.
We moved along to the Giraffe Centre which is dedicated to breeding and preserving the endangered Rothschild giraffe. You can feed the giraffes and if you are feeling a little lonely and don't mind a long tongue, you can even share a big wet kiss with a long necked beauty.

After lunch our final stop was a visit to the Kazuri Bead Factory. Kazuri means “small and beautiful” in Swahili and the factory produces hand made ceramic jewellery, beads and tableware. The neat thing about this place is that it started with two Kenyan women and grew to provide sustainable employment for many other single mothers who need regular employment. Kazuri has grown and prospered and now ships their handmade jewellery all over the world. The shop is an explosion of colour and textures and completely lures you in. I found myself loading my basket with a potpourri of shiny beads, necklaces and bracelets - gifts for the girls and women in my life back home. Because it was Sunday, the workers were off however the shop echoed with their vibration, laughter and the positive, handwritten posters taped to the walls told the rest of the story. This was a good place in which dignity resides - a workplace in which the women could access the health clinic; feel proud of their craftsmanship and entertain possibility.
Notes from my journal:
~ peaceful breakfast on the veranda at Karen Blixen, breathing in the freshness and peace
~ an embarassing encounter with the coffee press
~ getting a piece of branch from a local man to clean my teeth
~ scenic beauty of the National Reserve
~ Tuskers in the bar before dinner
~ dinner with candlelight and Celtic strings
~ stimulating conversation
~ tearful when asked about my personal highlight of the day ... dream come true
~ wishing I could share this with hubby
Next stop ... FTC Bogani camp on the Mara.

Let Me Introduce You

Our original group of 13 expanded to include some other smaller groups. We ranged in age from 14 to 60, and came from central and west coast areas of Canada, Phoenix, San Fransisco, and Texas. We started off strangers and within a day, were like a blended disfunctional family who took care of one another.

Let me make some introductions:

Lovely Lisa (Texas teacher) & Mama Megan (Phoenix). These beautiful ladies shared our Bogani cottage ... as the gigglers in the loft. Lisa was seeking reflection time for the next phase of her life. Megan and I shared something special and had more than being 50 in common.
The Canadian Teachers - Stephanie, Naomi & Susan. They journeyed to Kenya to help build and see first hand the school that their primary students had worked so hard to raise the funds for.
Travis the Single Guy & Rebecca the Sweet Single Teacher. Travis took alot of teasing as "the single guy" and was under close monitoring by Darcy as she studied for potential sparks. Think we found some?
West Coast Honey Mooners Drew & Kim. This dynamic duo plunged themselves into this experience in the name of their son who at age 8 worked for several years to help raise money for the school.

Sweet Janine  & Lively Laura ( Can Teacher). Janine was a loving soul who has dedicated herself to her personal convictions. Laura was our roommate at Bogani and we loved her perspectives on education and life.

Dr Jon & Janice (another Canadian teacher). This couple really grew on me. Jon was quiet and reflective and Janice was extremely inqusitive and expressive.
San Fran Teacher Tania, origninally from Mexico. Anything this tender hearted lady said sounded glorious; her soft accent was addictive.

The Family T - Denise, Adriana, Jeremy, Lorne. This family have travelled the world together and are the most interesting family I have met.

Robin and Gavin (Cameron's other mom and dad) were there to see their son in action!

More than once I caught Gavin's eyes brimming with pride and big wet ones as he watched his son interact with the children, and saw how they loved him back so freely.

Here is a shot of part of the group on the top of the Mountain of Strength - including Jackson, the Maasai Warrior who spent alot of time with us.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Landed in a Dream

When I was thinking of what to write first about our trip, the answer seems logical: start at the beginning. But honestly, I can't decide when the trip started. So our posts will not be linear, in a perfect straight timeline, but rather in clumps of memories and impressions, just as they materialized to us.

I suppose the magic started just outside the ladies' washroom in the Nairobi airport. A pretty woman with golden hair grabbed my arm and asked me if I was Lyn. My mind raced ... had I dropped my passport? I answered that yes I was, and her face burst into a sparkling smile. "I recognised you ... actually Darcy ... from your blog." Instantaneous warmth, familiarity and kinship. She introduced herself as Megan and the spark was set. We had our first friend! In the hours following the lengthy wait for a visa and then baggage Megan was assigned to the same bungalow as Darcy and I at the Karen Blixen Coffee Garden Cottages. The universe made a perfect match. Later that night we met our roommate Lisa who would complete our quartet for our Nairobi stay.

Staying on the exact property that made up Karen Blixen's coffee plantation was surreal for me. Out of Africa is one of my favourite movies and I found myself walking around in a dream turned into reality. This  would the recurring theme of our trip ... walking in a dream.

Our first night in Africa - in Kenya - was a mardi gras to my senses. Everything was exciting - the authentically decorated cottage with the mosquito net and stone floors and shower; the screams, twerps and chirps of exotic birds unknown to me; thumps and pitter patters of the feet of little creatures on our roof and the surprisingly cool, fresh air that we inhaled deeply and exhaled reluctantly.

Megan, Darcy and I walked explored our little patch of luxury eagerly chorusing oohs and ahhhs and giggling like school girls (that would be Megs and I).
From my journal: Woke up early this morning to the sounds of birds whistling, a dog barking and the crowing of a rooster. Africa is amazing. She assaults your senses, crawls under your skin and holds you tightly in her grip.
The first day was spent getting acquainted with the other people who would become our far away family. Introductions to follow!

Breakfast on the verandah at Karen Blixen Coffee Garden.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Home Again

We're back! And as you can probably guess, we didn't have Internet access but for a few minutes (in which Darcy managed to fire off a bunch of emails and update all of her social media statuses). So we recorded our impressions and thoughts the old fashioned way - by writing in our journals every night.

We are back from the greatest, most moving experience of our lives. I expected to be astonished, enlightened and mesmerized but I did not expect to dampen the Kenyan soil with my tears; nor to have my heart squeezed and filled to overflowing with love. I did not expect to find people with such generosity and strength of spirit or to be welcomed  with soaring song and celebration. I did not expect to be greeted by each and every person I encountered with the sing song "Jam-bo" -- including Mamas bearing water jugs, men herding goats and donkeys and children perched on the roadside hills. It was like an ongoing chorus ...jambo (hi!) accompanied with the widest smiles and two handed waves.

So if you are interested, you can watch for more posts as Darcy and I untangle the thoughts, emotions, connections and activities that made our trip the monumental experience it was.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Packed Up

After months of anticipation, the trip is here - now - tomorrow. I was determined to have my bag packed when I went to sleep tonight, and I am relieved that it's done. My medium sized duffel ensured that I didn't overpack.  I am definitely forfeiting variety and style for comfort and practicality. As I stacked my tee shirts it occurred to me that everything was the same colour - and solid. Oh well ... everything will match??

It's cold on the Masai Mara this time of year so I had to pack warm clothes; the bulky polar fleece and sweat suit to sleep in took up alot of room in the bag. Still had lots of room for my toothbrush though!

I am taking my netbook and camera equipment in my carry-on along with a book and journal. I will record most of my musings in my journal, but the netbook will come in handy for blogging when I get Internet access.

So I got all of the stuff sprawled out on the bed (above), into the duffel and messenger bag. Mission accomplished!
Honestly, I don't know how I will sleep tonight - way too excited!

I provided a detailed list of everything I am bringing with me on the Packing List page of the blog.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Good Wishes

My far away sister sent Darcy and I a card that moved me to tears. Firstly, she wrote her tender words on paper flourished with hummingbirds - something I have come to associate with my mom. She inserted a "movie" bookmark with elephants that makes it look as though the animals are walking. So clever - and thoughtful. The handwritten words urged Darcy and I to have the time of our lives ...

I never fail to be moved by the generosity of spirit of those souls who surround me, who guide me and accompany me on this journey that is my life.

 "Thank you," I whisper. "How could we not?"

Million Things To Do - Milliseconds Left

It's not like we didn't know it was coming ... it's only been in the works for two years or so. Why then do I find myself with 7 days to go - a cottage closing, high school prom, graduation ceremonies and a national holiday sandwiched in between - with an arm's length list of  "to  do's"? Why does it always come down to the millisecond with trip preparations?? That is spelled  p-r-o-c-a-s-t-i-n-a-t-i-o-n  or maybe it's just b-u-s-y. 

So I just have get our ginormous shipment of pharmaceutical prescriptions filled, start the malaria meds, buy that all important insect repellent (maybe I can just wrap myself in tent net), do our laundry, and lose the recent addition to the midriff (the I-knew-I-should-skip-the-bumbleberry-pie-AND-shortcake 5 pounds) so I can squeeze myself into my clothes. Note to self: pack safety pins. Then I have to make a gazillion copies of our "documents" and kill a small forest in the process, update make a will, organize our money, find that darn money belt, hunt down our camera chargers.

I am going to make a list of everything I pack so I can check back and see what worked and didn't. Looking forward to travelling light with no blower dryers etc; and containing it to 30 pounds and a medium sized duffel.  I did this when we took a catamaran trip in the B.V.I and it is liberating not to worry about what you are wearing (comfort rules!) or glamming it up - not that I spend enough alot of time in that department anyway ...

Darcy has promised me that she will be fully packed before the weekend. Uh-huh .... stay tuned.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Lucky 13

"You've got mail". The familiar dinging sound signals a new arrival in the IN Box. My interest is peaked when I spot that the message is from the trip coordinator at Free the Children. I am not ashamed to admit that I feel the same excitement as a kid on Christmas morning.

So today we found out that we will be a group of 13 on the trip, with only 3 males in this baker's dozen mix. Poor boys/men. I smell a hen party coming on. At first I was concerned that Darcy would have someone her own age in the midst but I think that regardless of who is in the group, she will likely be just as interested in talking to the trip facilitators and other Free the Children staff. Hakuna Matata!

The email went on to describe the procedures to follow once we land at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport in Nairobi and how to look for the smiling face holding the Free the Children sign. There was also a reminder to bring warm clothes ... polar fleece to be exact, as the evenings, nights and early mornings are chilly this time of year and the afternoons are HOT. Sounds just like the Arizona desert. They reminded us to pack and wear layers, but only 15 kg (33 lbs for you Americans) worth as that is the weight restriction for the intracountry flight that will take us to the Masaai Mara. This will be an excellent exercise in packing light for both of us.

As the days fall away and Africa looms ever closer, my thoughts turn to the lucky 13 and the places we'll go, and the things we will know. How lucky are we!

Monday, June 7, 2010

In the Necessary Room

I am continually overwhelmed by the generosity and kindness of others, Se'Lah from over at the Necessary Room interviewed me about our upcoming trip. Se'Lah promotes "one love" and her blog is dedicated to giving thanks for the gift of life. I knew we were kindred spirits when I read her heartfelt posts about Haiti and saw that she supported Yele Haiti and Save Darfur. She is one of those souls who aspires to be a shining light in dark times.

Se'LAH: "Wishing you safe travels to Mama Africa. Please place your palm on her soil and tell her I send her peace and love."

I will Se'Lah, I promise.

If you are interested you can read the interview here and check out Se'Lah's place of peace.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

One Month

In exactly one month from today Darcy and I will be on board a plane headed for Nairobi. That realization is swirling, and I can barely get my head wrapped around it.

I completed my FINAL bit of paperwork for the trip today. I had to fax a small mountain of paperwork to Free the Children - a stack of waivers, proof of medical insurance, medical history, dietary restrictions, copies of our passports and our flight itineraries.

I can see that after anticipating this adventure for more than a year, these final few weeks are going to race towards us at breakneck speed. I am going to start a packing list this weekend so we aren't rushing around at the last minute - even though I know we will be!

Our trip is landing smack dab in the middle of FIFA World Cup that is being held in South Africa. Our return flight is the day after the Cup ends. Not sure what effect, if any, this will have on security.

I found out today that there will be 11 others in our group. I am hoping there will be someone Darcy can connect with - although I don't know why I worry - she will probably be interrogating the program facilitators about their work and the experience they are having.

One month til take off. But in the meantime, I am loving the anticipation!

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Bang! She Got Me

I've been shot.. sort of. Yesterday morning I timidly drove behind my mums Jeep to the Regional office where we were to be vaccinated. I knew the day was coming when I would have to allow someone to prick me over and over with needles that were suppose to protect me from all the scary little germs out there. Let me start by saying I am NOT afraid of needles. Not to say I like them but I not going to cry (hopefully) or pass out (once or twice doesn't count). No, I'm going to go in there, sit down, and take it.

I followed as my mum lead me to the traveling clinic in the building. I'm told to sit down and wait... waiting just causes me to think.. and when I think, I get nervous. I start to fidget, my tongue starts to itch and I begin to think this wasn't such a good idea. I can handle the long plane ride, the hot weather, the work that awaits me in Africa, but the needles at home - I've been dreading! I'm used to getting needles. For my wasp allergy I get little needles once a month to build up an immunity. I've tried acupuncture a few times but that tends to result in me fainting. Going into these vaccinations I had nothing but images of massive needles and pain in my head.

We hear our names being called and my eyes go wide. Oh crap, I can't run. Greeting us is a smiling, full-of-energy woman named Beatrix. "Hi! How are you all doing this morning? I see you're going to Kenya! Amazing! I'm going to get you set with everything you need to know - it's going to be wonderful." Pfft. Wonderful. Ya right, sounds like a real joy.

We sit down in her office, a pretty bland room if you ask me, but she continues to smile. How can anyone be smiling so big? Your office is plain, your job can't be that much fun... unless you like causing pain.. then I  worry :|

She clearly sees my skeptical face because she turns to me and says, "Are you afraid of needles?"

"Umm, no not really" I reply. I guess I just have a pretty serious image in my mind of how this is going to go.

"Oh don't you worry for a single second! I'm great at my job and I LOVE my job! I know it sounds funny but wouldn't you rather someone giving you these needles who loves their job? And I'm great, I truly am. Not to brag but I'm the best. Sit back and relax. This will be EASY!"

To be continued ...

Friday, May 14, 2010

Some Kind of Wonderful

I got mail! And it had the best kind of news. It was a notification from Free the Children that someone had donated to our Milestones for Education 100 School Challenge. That someone is my spirited, fellow Canadian blogger friend Angela from over In My Element. She is a primary school teacher and she has been supportive from the very beginning and today's donation I believe is courtesy of her students.

New found friends from bloggerland have donated over $400 to help raise enough for a new school in Kenya. People I have never met, but with whom I have a kinship. Generous, giving people.

I am humbled by the support we are receiving for this cause, and I am hoping to close the gap even more with the charity garage sale we are having in a few weeks. We are almost half way there - 48% of the goal. Thank you to everyone who has contributed. You know who you are and I am eternally grateful. You are all some kind of wonderful!

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Shot in the Arm

A journey of a thousand miles must begin with a single step.  - Lao Tzu
After years and months of anticipation, this trip is now racing towards us at breakneck speed. How is that possible? So much to do, but one more important piece is almost out of the way. Darcy and I are scheduled May 18th for our inoculations at our regional travel clinic. They charge us $65 just to walk into the clinic, and then the shots will be additional.

Travel is expensive  business, but I can honestly say that after a lifetime of committing a good portion of our discretionary spending to travel, I have never regretted a cent. Things wear out, but experiences and memories are forever - except for when I am having one of those days in which my memory goes MIA.

Guess we can look forward to a good shot in the arm!

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Matriarchal Mutterings

As long as I can remember, I have had a penchant for elephants. I love the fact that they are family oriented and matriarchal. And aside from the fact that I feel like a "cow" some days or that I get my trunk tangled in my offsprings' business more than I should, I think maybe that I relate to the lives of elephants. We have alot in common.

An elephant family is led by a matriarch, the oldest and most experienced of the herd. Not that I want to flaunt my seniority, but that would be me! The matriarchal society consists of her female offspring and their young. Sounds similiar to me and my girls with the only exception that I have a gentle "bull" in our midst.  In some cases the family may include one of the matriarch's sisters and her offspring as well. My sister and her kids lived down the street for years. It is this close contact and relationship that allows the rest of the elephants to acquire the knowledge they need to thrive.  

So In Africa if I can only see one animal in its natural habitat, I hope it will be an elephant -- and even better -- a mama elephant and her babes. So Darcy and I are making like elephants this summer; staying close and learning what we need to know to survive and thrive.

Friday, April 30, 2010


People who dream when they sleep at night know of a special kind of happiness which the world of the day holds not, a placid ecstasy, and ease of heart, that are like honey on the tongue. They also know that the real glory of dreams lies in their atmosphere of unlimited freedom....

The pleasure of the true dreamer does not lie in the substance of the dream, but in this: that there things happen without any interference from his side, and altogether outside his control. Great landscapes create themselves, long splendid views, rich and delicate colours, roads, houses, which he has never seen or heard of...

- Isak Dinesen (author, Out of Africa)

Monday, April 26, 2010

Just in Case

The pile of paperwork is due to Free the Children by Friday ... indemnity forms, waivers. health forms, dietary restrictions, and proof of travel insurance. Believe me when I tell you that it is easier to get a divorce. The hardest part of this segment is gathering up all of the documentation that is required ... where did I put Darcy's immunization record? -  the passports, the electronic flights itinerary, and the beat goes on ... I have to stop putting things in "safe places" - or should I say, I have to start remembering.

The missing piece is the travel insurance. As someone who had done her share of travelling, I am somewhat embarassed to admit that I have rarely bought insurance. So I was shocked to discover that it is going to cost $525 for both Darcy and I to get the premium level of health and travel insurance required by FTC.

Grumbling aside,  I suppose it is for the best... just in case.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Answering the Call

Kidlet here -  or I guess on this blog, I can just be Darcy.

It's hard to believe Africa, which has been calling to me for so long, is finally within reach. I don't know when my passion for change started within me; I just know I always feel it. I always have that feeling that encourages me to make a difference, to find ways to help and to recognize that while I have the ability to help I also have the responsibility to. It's not just about helping either it's about learning. Traveling around the word has been the best classroom and to think I've only scratched the surface.

Two summers ago I attended the Free the Children Leadership Academy. That's when I found absolute clarity. I realized then exactly what I needed to be doing and where I was headed. I met people that within a single week changed my life. Many of these friends I still keep in touch with frequently. Some have drifted farther apart but what I am sure of is that our paths will cross again. That's the amazing thing when you connect with someone beyond the artificial small talk, when you truly get to know someone's insides, you know that you are connected for life.

My Mum taught me something very special about people and spirituality. See, if you asked me, I would say I'm not a religious person though I have great admiration for those who have been able to make religion a positive outlet in their life. Mum has taught me the difference between religion and spirituality and where they meet. I have trouble wrapping my head around "God", you see. I have way too many questions; it just seems all too big. I find the greatest messages I've ever received are through people. Mum told me to look at these people as an "angel" of sorts and take their messages as a lesson. The more you are open to seeing the messages the more you will gain. I'm in the process of figuring out my path and am on a constant journey of learning, teaching, figuring myself out and most importantly figuring out who I want to be because those things are in my hands. And though I stray here and there and make mistakes, I feel ready for whatever comes my way.

Around my wrist I wear a single piece of string. To me this represents the things I am most passionate about. The string stands for my beliefs, for issues I am passionate about and for rights I am willing to fight for. I believe education is the greatest gift, I believe in equality for all people because in my mind we are all one human race. Many of my FTC friends wear a string which has a meaning important to them. There is a story about an ancient tribe and when their village was going to be attacked they all tied a rope around their stomach and attached the other end to a stake in the ground. It represented their bravery and that they would fight for what was theirs or die trying. I've put my stake in the ground and am now ready to fight for what I believe. We are just people, connected by a string, fighting for what we believe.

Africa is calling and I'm answering.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Dream to Real

We are Lyn and Darcy, a mother-daughter team living in Canada. We are set to fulfill a dream this summer before Darcy heads off to university. We hear the echoes of children in need of education; the stirrings from the wildlife that call the Masaai Mara home; and the rhythm of people who endure much - and have even more to share. Africa is calling ... and we are heeding the call.  
Follow along on our adventure as we travel to Kenya in July 2010 to help build a school and learn more about the world we live in -- and ourselves.We are a mother daughter team who want to share what we believe will a life changing experience. 

I just paid the final installment for the Free the Children trip this week. So that's it. The flights are booked and paid for (at twice the price - thank you World Cup!), and  Free the Children is booked and paid.

And considering how many months ago it was that we first put the wheels in motion for the Kenya trip, it is shocking to realize that we are only nine weeks out. Africa the dream is becoming a reality.

I still have a mound of paperwork to complete, and travel health insurance to buy. FTC requires that all trip participants get the best level of health insurance possible, including the emergency air lift options. With Darcy's anaphylaxis to bee and wasp stings, it is absolutely critical.

I also have to look into what shots and meds we'll need to get before we go to be fully protected against disease and the effects of insect bites etc.

The excitement that has been simmering for the past two years is heating to boil. And the support from our family, friends and work colleagues has been overwhelming. I feel like we have an army of angels pulling for us.

Africa ... the call is getting louder.


Itinerary: Here is what we are in for!

July 2, 2010 Adventure Begins

Day 2
  • Evening Arrival in Nairobi and meet the Me to We Trip facilitators.
  • Stay at Karen Blixen Coffee Garden: house was the home of the coffee farm manager for the Blixen Coffee Plantation. The home has been fully restored and now serves as a  resort.
Day 3
  • Visit the David Sheldrick Elephant Orphanage established in 1977 in memory of David Sheldrick, the famous naturalist and founding warden of Tsavo East National Park in Kenya.
  • Kenya Giraffe Centre
  • Alfresco dining at a popular local haunt.
  •  Karen Blixen Museum
  • Kazuri Beads Factory
  • Dinner at Karen Blixen Coffee Garden 
Day 4
  • Fly by plane to the Masai Mara for stay at Bogani Cottages and Luxury Tented Camp
  • Learn about Free The Children’s Adopt-A-Village Program
  • Learn about Free The Children’s unique Adopt-A-Village (AAV) model:  four key pillars to break the cycle of poverty and achieve long-term community development:
  1. Quality primary education
  2. Health care services
  3. Alternative income projects
  4. Safe/clean drinking water and sanitation systems
  • Visit Enerelai Primary School
  • Guided tour of Free The Children’s school – Enerelai, seeing the difference between an old and new school.
  • Dinner with Robin Wiszowaty, Free The Children’s Kenya Programs Director and author of a book about her experience living amongst the Maasai, entitled “My Maasai Life.”
Day 5
  • Community Water Walk: with the Mamas at Emori Joi for a special walk through the community. Learn more about how the Kipsigis organize their homes and live. Fetch water with the Mamas; talk by Mamas at Bogani about gender and culture in Kenya.
  • Lunch with Mamas
  • Community Welcome:  welcome ceremony in their community
  • School building 101: work along side Maasai/Kipsigi community members to help build a new school for the community. 
Day 6
  • Tree Nursery and Duka Tour
  • Visit Free The Children's newest program initiatives. Tour tree nursery, reputed to be one of the country’s largest, with 80,000 indigenous seedlings produced each year.
  • Visit the Duka, which offers beaded handicrafts by local women and is a part of Free The Children’s alternative income programming strategy.
  • School building: continue work on the volunteer school building project.
Day 7
  • Mulot Market:  an authentic African market and learn about the economic environment in which the community members live.
  • School building: continue working on your volunteer school building project. 
Day 8
  • School beautification
  • Plant  trees in memory of our visit to Bogani and Free The Children. Trees will be individually adopted by members of the community.
  • Medicine Walk and Maasai Warrior Training:  a leisurely hike as we learn about medicinal herbs from a local Maasai warrior. We'll also have the chance to train in the art of Maasai weaponry
  • Traditional Nyama Choma dinner – Kenya’s barbecue.
  • Say Kwaheri to the community
  • Debrief about the experience with  facilitators.
Day 9
  • Depart from Bogani for the Fairmont Mara Safari Club tented safari camp (more decadent than we'd prefer)
  • First safari: an evening drive through the Mara to look for giraffes, lions, elephants, hippos and buffalos
Day 10
  • More safari in the game park.
Day 11
  • Fly back to Nairobi by plane to Wilson Airport.
  • Market shopping
  • Re-packing  luggage for the journey home.
  • Feast at the Carnivore
  • Off to Jomo Kenyatta International Airport for  flight home
  • Kwaherini na safari jemma!
Day 12
  • Arrive home in North America
Too short of a journey, I know. But it will provide us with a taste and we will surely return some day.