Jambo!! I just arrived home from Kenya, Africa and boy, was it the trip of a lifetime! I met the most incredible people, ate delicious food and saw things that took my breath away. Here is a shortened version of my Journey to Africa Journal!
The Journey to the Maasai Mara has just begun and I couldn't be more excited! I'm going to miss my family and friends very much, but I know that this trip will be very much worth it!
We have just arrived in Zurich, Switzerland and all I can say is wow! Our seven hour flight went very smoothly and we are now boarding our plane to Nairobi! In another seven hours, I will be in Africa!
We have finally made it to our new home! It has been a whirlwind of adventure in just three days and it has only just begun. We were lucky enough to eat breakfast this morning at the High Commissioner of Canada's house in Nairobi and then we visited the Rothschild Giraffes at the Giraffe Sanctuary. We even got to 'kiss' the giraffes! Reason being, giraffes have antiseptic tongues so any germs or bacteria that would come into contact with it would no longer be harmful. After our giraffe dates, we continued our scenic drive through the Great Rift Valley and finally into Salabwek Village! We were greeted by smiling faces, songs, cheers and a downpour of rain. Today was so much to take in and it has made me very excited to learn all of the things still to come.
Today, I woke up to the sounds of howling animals and croaking frogs. Oh, the sounds of the wild. Today has been an absolutely incredible day! We had our first Swahili lesson with Felix the Maasai Warrior (who killed a lion when he was eleven to become a Warrior) and then we received a wonderful welcome at the Opening Ceremonies at Salabwek Primary School. Oh and what a welcome it was. As we rounded the corner of a schoolhouse, three hundred school children in blue uniforms came running at us, grabbing our hands, yelling, "Jambo!" and "What is your name?" I was lost for words. They guided us to four rows of desks and seated us for the ceremony. The blew us away with their songs and dances and the teachers moved us with their words.
"It used to be money that would come and not the people. But it is the peple who make the difference." Male Teacher at Salabwek Primary School
"You come from the other side of the world to help people you don't even know. God has planned well for you." Female Teacher at Salabwek Primary School
I would never think that these beaming children who come running to us in barefeet with open arms and open hearts would end up being the happiest people I have ever met. And the craziest thing about that is that most of their families live on less than a dollar a day.
Today was our first day of building, and what a hard day it was! We broke ground on the new classroom as well as continued construction on an uncompleted schoolhouse. It was a challenging day in the sun, but it was extremely rewarding to see our progress.
Robin Wiszowaty, author of "My Maasai Life," came to chat with us today! She is such an inspiring person and has a heart of gold. She shared some stories with us on her experiences in Kenya and a quote she said that really moved me was, "Opportunity is not a chance, it is a choice." We finished off our day with a beautiful nature hike and were joined by several young kids some of which were carrying their baby siblings on their backs. They were so happy just to walk along side us and enjoy our company. I have already fallen in love with Kenya and it's people and we are only six days in!
At the build site this morning, we had to spend two hours emptying rain water from the three feet deep trench. It was strenuous work and the blazing sun took away so much of our energy. Again, it was a tough day, but very much worth the effort.
We went on a Momma walk today! We walked throughout the community with two Mamas named Sharon and Beatrice. They were wonderful! We all had the opportunity to carry 20L of water in a "mitungi" and boy, was it hard! The average Kenyan family used 80L of water and mamas walk an average of 3km which takes about two hours. That means that many of the mamas spend eight or more hours a day just carrying water! The average North American uses about 364L of water. I have learned now how precious water is and am going to make a conscious effort to conserve water when I arrive back home.
Another thing today that was pretty incredible was just how proud the mamas were to show us around their homes even though they were only made out of mud, dung and twigs. If only we were just as proud of our beautiful homes back at home. The people here in Kenya have taught me so much more than I could ever teach or give them. They are remarkable.
Today we visited a Primary Boarding School called Nairrok which is a Free The Children School and it is in the Maasai Mara Game Reserve. The kids were so knowledgable and knew english very well. Two young girls told me they wanted to become pilots so they could fly to Canada and thank all of the people who have helped them and assisted in building their school. I though that was awe-inspiring.
We just arrived back at Hinterland Camp from our "Mnyama Safari," meaning Animal Journey! Wow, was it a journey! We saw elephants, gazelles, hippos, lions, giraffes, water buffalo, topi, wildabeests, ostriches, hyenas and a cheetah! It was a long twelve hour day in the lorry, but it was definitely worth it.
There was a fly in my pancake this morning, I just ate around it because I was so hungry! We finally finished the trench today and we get to pour cement on our next build day. I found this very exciting because that means that after this trip, we would have built the foundation for one classroom and finished another which is quite an accomplishment.
Oh my gosh! Today was the greatest day! We went to a village called Sikarrar where a new Free The Children School is just being built and met up with two other Me to We groups. There were some other special guests there; Hedley!! The band was in Kenya filming a MTV Documentary and I got to interview them. It was pretty darn cool! They also performed four songs for us and the children and they did a spendid job. When they started singing, "It's Never Too Late," everyone, including the kids got up and started dancing. It was just like the scene from a movie. It was marvelous.
We visited the Mulot Market this morning and I purchased some souvenirs for my family and friends! We also took a look at the Mara River which is the main source of water for people in Kenya. The scene really made me cringe. Donkeys were drinking out of the water as well as going to the bathroom, and at the very same moment, Mamas were fetching water from the same river! I also learned that when an animal dies, the body is thrown into the river because there is no other way to dispose of it. This is the very same water that people clean with, make their food with and most importantly drink. This contaminated water is the main reason for so many illnesses and deaths of young people in Kenya. This to me, is such a terrible situation and is something that together we can change.
I met a lovely friend today name Viola. She is so beautiful and kind and seems to have a heart of gold. Viola is in Grade 7 and is thirteen years old and aspires to become a lawyer. I had a pleasant time getting to know her and even picked up some Swahili! I cannot wait to see her again at the Closing Ceremonies tomorrow back at the school.
I am happy, sad and excited all in the same moment. I am going to miss all of the children here at Salabwek so much, but I am so excited to share all of the inspiring stories with my friends and family back at home. Today one of the teacher's said to us, "Because of you, the children are getting an education so one day they can go and help other people." This is when I decided that I wanted to get my community together to start raising funds to further the work of Free The Children in Kenya because I saw all of the good things that were occuring because of the organization. Together we really can make a difference and it can happen now.
We travelled to the Free The Children Centre today and had a wonderful time touring around and planting trees at the Tree Nursery. We also had the opportunity to shop in the "Duka" meaning store in Swahili and purchase some Me to We stuff! I bought some shirts and they are all organic cotton and sweatshop free! To get your own Me to We Wear check out the Me to We Style Site!
Today was community day and it was an interesting day at that. All of us girls woke up bright and early and played the role of the mamas of the community and completed most of the chores they would accomplish on a regular basis. We fetched water, did laundry, served meals, prepared showers and cleaned all of the tents. It was a day that gave us a small taste of what life is like for many people living in Kenya. It shone a new light on the issue for me and now I am more determined to improve the lives of those living here in Salabwek and surrounding communities.
Before we arrived here at the airport, we went to the Nairobi Market and wow was that an experience and a half! It was cramped, hot and overwhelming. Numerous "store clerks" were pulling and yelling at you from all different directions beckoning for you to come take a look at their items. I ended up buying some really lovely things to take back home, so it was worth it!
I cannot believe that we are now here in the Nairobi Airport on our way back to Canada. It is a very sad time, but all the same very exciting. I cannot wait to see my family and friends again and discover to what they have been up to.
I am home!!! Seeing my family and friends again was even more wonderful than I expected! I am feeling now that I have gained many new perspectives over the last three weeks and changed in so many ways, but everything here at home is still the same. Although, my room does feel a little bigger and my bed a little softer I miss the comforts of Kenya. A piece of my heart will forever be with the people there and I hope that one day, I can visit again and see the new positive changes that have taken place. This journey has just begun and I cannot wait to start spreading my story and making change happen.
To plan your own Me to We Volunteer Trip Visit the Me to We Trips Site!