Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Ndoto: Countdown to Kenya

This blog post is very special. Not only does it mark the beginning of my first overseas trip, it's also my first ever blog-by-email (NOTE: Blog-by-email failed. VIA free-because-it's-slow-and-not-really-working-station-Wi-Fi worked). Let's hope the formatting doesn't get too messed up!

You might also notice that my grammar and spelling is poorer when I'm typing on my BlackBerry. I blame it on the fingers. I promise my brain is fully functional.

"Ndoto" is the Swahili word for "dream". I found it when I first leafed through my brand new Lonely Planet Swahili language guide, and it seemed oddly appealing. I have been using it for the past week or so in my Gtalk and Skype status messages but now, I am finally ready to make it public!

This trip truly is a dream. It definitely seems like a dream. Until last night, or even this morning, this whole experience didn't feel real. I guess the fact that I'm spending an extra day in Ottawa before the group arrives probably contributed to that, but it's mostly because I just don't know what to expect!

Luckily, we received a lot of guidance from Aga Khan Foundation Canada, who is organizing the trip. I am also fortunate to have a good friend who is from Nairobi and who could enlighten me on weather patterns and local customs. I'm very thankful to be staying with her mother for a few days after the AKFC portion of the trip is over.

The purpose of the trip, as I think I might have mentioned in an earlier post, is to provide promising volunteers with an opportunity to visit the project sites we work hard to raise funds for through the World Partnership Walk and meet the people whose lives we are attempting to change. There is no doubt in my mind that this will be a life changing event. For one, I will probably learn the benefits of packing light.

More importantly, I think I will be humbled by the simpler way of life, one which I have always admired but never seem to be able to adopt. I will be using my laptop to backup pictures but I probably won't be online much, if at all. Sure, there are some health concerns, but if I'm smart with my choices, there shouldn't be any problems. I am a little concerned about theft based on the research I did on various travel sites, but people like to complain a lot... So I'm taking their feedback with a grain of salt. Or two.

I am very excited about the opportunity to see for myself how poverty affects not just individuals but whole communities. I can't wait to be amazed at how happy children are to go to school or help out on the farm. I know that I will feel pain at some of the sights and wonder at parents' smiles even though they live in conditions that developed countries would term despicable.

On a personal note, I am SO excited to be going to Africa much earlier than I had planned. To be honest, I had penciled-in Europe and Australia beforehand, but my first real overseas trip - I don't think trips I took as a baby count - and first exploration of a different continent couldn't start at a better place: East Africa, where my mom's family grew up, a mere border away from where my mom was born!

I am also thrilled that I will be able to do a safari. The plan is to do a one-day trip locally, probably to see some giraffes and elephants, and then, once the AKFC portion of the trip is done, do a 2-day, 2-night stint in Masai Mara.

All in all, it's sure to be an unforgettable, once in a lifetime trip. *insert more clich├ęs here*

I will be keeping a journal throughout the trip and might post them directly to my blog, so keep checking this space over the next 10 days!

Bonus trip update: My VIA train to Ottawa was delayed by 45 minutes due to technical problems. Then they canceled it and put us on a train leaving one hour later. That's a 1h45mins delay. My dinner plans are definitely ruined, but I wonder... Is this a bad omen for the whole trip or just a coincidence? Also, could these "technical problems" be a pressure tactic? Inquiring minds want to know!

Stay tuned...

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