Having already been to Africa several times, I couldn't wait to show my good friend Andrea all of the beautiful things that make Africa such a great place to visit (and volunteer)! Thanks to Free the Children, Me to We and Medicis I would get the opportunity! We left New York and hopped on a total of an 18 hour journey and landed in Nairobi just in time to go to bed at the gorgeous Tribe hotel! That next morning we had a chance to visit the Giraffe sanctuary and meet our team before hopping on a small plane that would carry us over the Great Rift Valley and land on a tiny dirt airstrip in the Masai Mara. . . and from there our journey would be begin. We would be spending 10 days seeing dermatology patients in the Masai Mara with a team of 15 other volunteers from the US (a combination of dermatologists, MAs, PAs and even an ER doc).
Some of the highlights of this 10 day trip included:
1. The stunning vistas which I can never get enough of . . . including rural villages, sunflower farms, grazing animals under big skies and even heart shaped clouds! Do you see the heart or am I the only romantic?
2. The welcoming and friendly people, especially, the schoolchildren and villagers who would wave their hands furiously as we drove by, singing and dancing on the side of the road to show their appreciation for our visit! The patients were also extremely appreciative and offered shy smiles and held back their laughter as they listened to our funny attempts at speaking Swahili. The local clinic staff was extremely patient, hard-working and motivated to assist us in any way necessary. . even when there were 30 patients waiting for their medications or 100 patients sitting on the lawn waiting to be seen.
Our facilitators Kate, Tobiko and Breanna from Me to We were phenomenal and made sure we had a comfortable, educational and productive experience!
3. The Way of Life that is so different from our own: much slower and also much more labor intensive. . . we learned this on our morning walks with our Masai warrior guides. We also had a fireside story night where Steven, David and Peter shared quite a bit about their way of living over popcorn! We experienced some of their hardships firsthand when we walked to a village and attempted to carry jerry cans filled with either 25 or 50 lbs of water from the Mara River back to Mama Jane's house the traditional way. . . with a rope tied to the can and balanced across our forehead. Can you believe she makes the trip to collect water 5 times a day?!? Thanks to Free the Children hopefully she will not be doing that for long thanks to the up and coming Clean Water projects. Seeing the transformation of the old school with it's dirt floors and desks made of splintered wood to the newly built school for the children really made me proud to be a part of this project.
4. The Wildlife: Always beautiful new things to see, every journey we take . . .some faves were the goat who ate my flowers right out of my hand, the zebras we encountered on our morning Masai walk on one of our first days there, the loud group of yellow weavers birds fixing up their nests, a pile of lazy sunning hippos and of course 3 men and a goat on a motorcycle LOL!
At the end of the trip, we felt very fortunate to have made amazing friends and memories. . . we are already trying to plan our next trip back to the Baraka clinic! That is exactly what I wished for as I tied my ribbon onto this wishing tree. .