From Anna and the rest of the Robert Mays School 2012 Kenya Expedition Team
Jambo from Kenya!
So it’s been two weeks now, and it would be fair to say that everyone here is really enjoying every single aspect of camp life. We’ve all discovered by now how different life out here is compared to our luxurious lifestyles at home, 4000 miles away (Ros H: "‘We’ve all been open to a new way of life that makes you appreciate what you have"). But it’s very obvious that we’ve all brought a part of home with us to Kenya that we are sharing with the locals living with and around us (Kathryn P: ‘I’ve really enjoyed meeting the school children and seeing how interested they are in us, and how they stare at our nail varnish’).
Not only have we shared our own culture, though, we’ve managed to see, live with and learn from an entirely new way of life. Even after just 14 days in country, we’ve already encountered experiences that have deeply moved and changed all of us here, and we have stayed together as a community throughout. (Ally L-B: ‘Through illness and homesickness we’ve all come together and achieved something amazing – and that’s why Kenya has been a life changing experience’) (Nadia T: ‘Being out in the community really makes you think about your lifestyle at home. I’ve found it a really humbling experience.’) We’ve all grown well as a group, and got to know everyone here like a new family (Callum S: ‘Everyone’s been such a great laugh, and I didn’t realize how well we’d get on, especially as a group’). So far, we’ve lived together in three camps – Muhaka, Ocean and Makongeni: here are our experiences from each one.
We arrived at Muhaka, our first camp at about two in the morning, after roughly nineteen hours of travel together. We got our first real taste of Africa when, after being kept awake until half three by what we thought was someone’s alarm, Ros, Dan, Sam K and a few others got out of bed in only pajamas and underwear to go and complain – only to be informed by a camp worker, who was in stitches, that it was just a bush baby mating call… whoops. After that, no one on the trip thought bush babies where cute anymore.
One of the best aspects of camp life at Muhaka was the community around us (Sam O:‘Playing rugby with the kids at Muhaka was really good, seeing how excited they were as they’d never played it before’) (Vicky O: ‘Working with and around the community was really nice’). We were also involved in building the new Muhaka Secondary school kitchen, and some of the locals, employed and supported by camps, came out to help us with the job. This included Edwin, who was nicknamed Dan’s new brother because of how well they got on (Mr Warman: ‘We were all really appreciative of Edwin’s help at Muhaka camp’). Obviously, construction has been hard work, but everyone is working really hard to achieve something worthwhile for the community here (Beth B: ‘I’ve enjoyed the feeling of making a difference, looking at a project before and after and seeing the change you’ve made, and that it helps everyone here’) (Caitlin O’S: ‘The work is hard and the sun is hot, but it’s really good fun and people are enjoying the experience.’)
Ocean Camp, however, was completely different to anything we have experienced so far. – after being exposed to a very basic way of living in Muhaka Camp. With cold weak showers that would periodically shut off if not enough water had been hand pumped to power them, and using holes in the ground for toilets on the project work, everybody was really surprised to see a mosaic built swimming pool, accompanied by a bar with a snooker table. Not that most of us had the time to appreciate it, though.
In Camp Ocean, we spent most of our time in wetsuits, either at the bottom of the sea or in the pool (Tim M: ‘The Scuba was a life changing experience – I could see the world from a different angle.’) Unfortunately, though not everyone could do the actual Scuba dive, as, believe it or not, it was way harder than it looks. For those people who didn’t dive, we were offered an optional snorkeling excursion on our rest and recuperation day, where we were guided through the local reefs by diving professionals (Charlie S: ‘The chance to go to the reefs snorkeling and all of the new learning opportunities has been great.’) We also tried some of the local cuisine at an authentic Kenyan restaurant, which was incredible, and miles away from the unusual food at camp (vegetarians on the trip had been subjected to a lot of lentils!) Even Helen, who swears by her diet of chocolate, pancakes and chicken, tried some and loved it.
Finally, Makongeni, that appears to be the most basic camp we have stayed at to date, but still most peoples’ favourite. The staff here treat us like family (Helen G: ‘The people here are so lovely and welcoming, really making us all feel at home.’) All of the community work we have done here is next to, or very near to, the local school – either making desks, or building an office block for the local women’s conservation work group and many people are enjoying that aspect. (Miss O’B: ‘One of my favourite things so far has been meeting Ameena. She’s come to say hello to us every day’), (Fiona P: ‘I’ve really enjoyed getting to know the Kenyan people, especially the children’).
Every time we leave project work, children run up to us shouting “jambo” and grab our hands (Emily P: ‘I’m going to miss hearing the word “jambo” everywhere I go’). The community work here has been difficult, too, and the weather has been hotter, but no one seems to mind too much (Reece H: ‘The work is tough, but rewarding’) (Emily P: ‘I like waking up with a purpose. There is always something to do’). The trip here has not just been hard work, though (Dan M: ‘My favourite part of the whole thing so far was planking in the middle of the beach sellers. Congrats to Vicki O, for NOT beating me in a giant pizza eating contest’). We’ve all also learned to appreciate the luxuries in the little things out here (Alex B: ‘The coffee. It’s really good instant coffee’).
It’s amazing to think that we are only half way through an experience that has changed us all uniquely so much, and also changed our attitudes to each other and to the rest of society around us. The group dynamic is awesome (Vicky G: ‘I like the atmosphere the group has made together, it feels like we’ve known each other for so long we can just make a lively and energetic attitude together’), and we are all starting to learn each other’s unique quirks – Emily hates being called bubbly, Sam K’s always on time, Joe never smiles and Charlie doesn’t tan, he freckles. In my opinion, at least, that’s definitely been the best part of coming out here together – learning and living together as a group, and coming home better individuals for it. Hopefully, in two weeks time, we’ll remember every lesson we’ve picked up here, and bring part of the Kenyan culture back home.
(Sam K: ‘I didn’t know what to expect when coming out to Africa, and if I’m honest, I still don’t. Every day is a surprise. All I know is, that it was worth every minute, every second and every drop of sweat it took to get out here. It will be something I remember for a long time to come.’)
See you all in two weeks, Hakuna Matata!