Monday, August 27, 2012

Closing Post

In retrospect, it comes a time to evaluate the project to see if we accomplished what we set out to do. Every member of the team has a slightly different goal but in general, it was to see the world, have fun and, as our motto says, Help to Create a Better World.

With a retrospective look, the Shiru project was a great success in turning a dream into reality by laying a foundation for the expansion to the Health Centre that will have an incredible impact in the quality of life for the community for many generations. Twenty years ago, Scouts Canada ventured out on the first Brotherhood project. It succeeded in taking a run down building and transformed it into a health centre, with additional buildings. Over time, it grew to a health facility that was treating a huge volume of people that wouldn’t normally have easy access to medical care. The seed of change that was planted 20 years ago grew into Kenya 2012, which was the catalyst that turned this basic facility into the envy of the surrounding health centres with supplies, lab/computer equipment, and the 8 room short stay unit. Our shared successes will continue to change the lives of the Shiru people for decades, in so many ways that we can’t even imagine. This truly was an adventure of a lifetime filled with amazing memories and fellowship.  

With that in mind – the project was a huge success; however, we need to look a little deeper to see the true impact of our successes. As our younger generation evolves and slowly becomes the voice of the world, we can only hope that projects like South Africa 2010, Kenya 2012 and Madagascar 2012 was successful in planting a healthy virus, a virus of positive change, into the next generation. I hope that the Kenya 2012 virus will slowly grow within each of you and spread to those you share your experiences with, to a point that one day, the virus will evolve, inspires and empower others to make change and to help create a better world.   

Thank you for an amazing trip and continue to celebrate the wonderful memories but most of all keep the Kenya 2012 virus spreading to your family, friends, and mostly to the younger generation following you, so they to can help create a better world.

I look forward working with you again on the next adventure.


Sunday, August 26, 2012

A letter from Corporal Bernie Flapjack Jr.

Hello there, Corporal Bernie Flapjack Jr. here (call me Bernie), world traveller and hitchhiker extraordinaire.  A few days ago I arrived back in Canada after going on a trip to Africa with a group of 23 scouts on a humanitarian effort.  A month previous, I had managed to get onboard their trip by posing as an item in an airport shop, and one (Jenn I think her name was) actually PAID to have me hitchhike along with them.  Together we saw many incredible things, and did some great volunteer work.  Of course, when I say we worked, I refer mainly to them, as I sneakily kept up my pretense of being a stuffed animal throughout the trip.  While this allowed me to escape the work (and get free travel and accommodations), it was quite disappointing when they would forget about me and I would sit for hours or days stuck in a bag.  Nevertheless, I got to visit the streets of Amsterdam, hang out with some giraffes and see my poor friends in the Nairobi National Prison err, Museum.  I sunbathed on the Indian Ocean, nearly got kidnapped by some monkeys, and did my best to haggle with the vendors (despite their best efforts, I didn’t give in to them and bought nothing!).  While the sightseeing was nice, I never expected to enjoy the volunteer work so much.  All the happy children and laughing was incredible, and the kids I was on the trip with turned out to be pretty cool.  After all we went through together, I figured I owed them something for taking me along, so I snuck through their paperwork and got all their e-mail addresses.  Then I sent them all a nice thank you and asked them for their thoughts on the trip.  I would like to share with you what they responded with.

First: Give a quick outline of your experiences and reactions since you arrived in Toronto.

Brandon Scott
"It was different this time in comparison with the countless times I have arrived home from trips.  The differences between Kenyan and Canadian culture are much more subtle in nature, which may be due to our shared connection to the British Commonwealth. In any case, the biggest difference that struck me is our oblivious use here in Canada of the question “How are you?” in place of “Hello”.  In Kenya, an individual will usually begin with “Hello, how are you?” and expect to hear how you are.
Another great defining character between these two countries is the difference in food available. Not exactly one of my usual ingredients, but our meals in Kenya often lacked cheese. In fact, most meals are limited to that of what can be cooked fresh, because refrigerators cannot be relied upon due to the inconsistency electricity (which was the case for us while in Shiru).
To this day, even as I am writing this, I still feel the urge to get up and go share my thoughts with another member of the contingent.  However, I quickly come to the realization that they are nowhere in sight. Through all the positive and negative emotions associated with being home, one can always reflect upon that moment in time when amazing people surrounded them."

Michael Nash
Canada is a pretty weird place...We should have stayed in Africa.

Eric Kyle
Well... I slept a lot, organized/edited pictures and drank real milk. I enjoyed returning to Canadian culture, as it means a considerably larger variety of food. My family and friends have been marginally excited to have me back.

Caitlind Matthews
"As soon as I was off the plane I was overwhelmed with happiness and sadness at the same time, I was glad to be home and so happy that the trip happened but I was sad that it was over. So many of the people on the trip live fairly far away And the thought that I will probably never see any of them again is highly upsetting. Saying goodbye to everyone was terrible. I hate goodbyes. Before we even left the airport I missed everyone. And when we got to Bryson I missed everyone even more.
Getting home was so nice. Seeing my moms and my neighbor bob was the greatest. I swear I didn't stop talking for like 2 hours. Oh gosh hot showers are fantastic. My best friend and I had a screaming/crying fit when we finally saw each other!
My stomach is still adjusting back to Canadian food.. That's not fun and I might be a little bit jet lagged.... I will never forget the experience it has changed my life. And so has everyone from the contingent. "

Andrea Loughlean - Medical Advisor
"It has been wonderful seeing my family again. Being away from your family for a month gives you the opportunity to miss them and realize just how valuable their love and support is.
Returning to Canada has been somewhat surreal. Everything that was so common and comfortable to me only a month ago, now seems a little foreign and a slightly uncomfortable. I am now very aware of all the excess that we have in our lives and how happy a people can be living with so much less; the essentials only and sometimes not even that.
Being Canadian inherently offers us a ""better life"" with more wealth, more conveniences, and quite simply more stuff than our Kenyan friends. However, during this month, in no way have I seen evidence that any of these things make Canadians a happier people. I envy my Kenyan friends for their life lessons already learned."

Kayla Powell
When I tried to explain certain things it was like I couldn't find the English word to use, so then I would say words in Swahili which they didn't know what it meant.  It was funny to see their expressions.

Kristin Ransome
Lack of cows and goats crossing the street, nobody using Matatu-style to get somewhere, seatbelts!, and Mzungus!!

Eric Post
"After finally making my way through customs (Yes, lady, you DO have to declare a massive collection of designer leather purses, and thanks for splitting them up amongst all 10 of your bags!), I emerged to find my parents snapping away with their cameras and very happy to see me.  The drive home passed as I told stories of my adventures, and found out about my family's own summer adventures. 
Having been through this all once before, I was prepared for what would come next: the sudden thrust back into ""normal"" life, the expectations of preparing for school and the readjusting to Canadian time and food.  This time was different though, for two reasons.  First, my mom and brother had been in Costa Rica for a bit, so they were undergoing some of the same reactions, which made it much easier for me.  Second, preping for school this time means moving for first-year university.  I arrived home to discover my dad had found an apartment for me, and began the long task of figuring out everything I need to do to get ready for a new chapter of my life.
The usual jet-lag and reverse cuisine shock still plague me, but they are a minor bother.  Everyone is still buzzing with the excitement of the trip, and much story and photo sharing is occurring.  From experience I know this will die down eventually (though never fade entirely), but I intend to preserve our current euphoria for years to come, with plans for several film projects based on my experiences.  While I would rather be back in Kenya, things are pretty good here too.”

Ryan Pepper
My arrival back was, in one way, actually pretty disappointing, because I was thinking "Finally, Canadian food!" but alas, food just made me feel sick for a few days. However, I was the center of a conspiracy theory to drag me down to Iron Horse Festival because my friends had arranged some surprise "Look he's back" thing, so I got to see some of my friends for a while and bask in Western festival consumerism, which smells quite a bit better than markets in Kenya. Plus my mom bought me pajamas and Big Bang Theory bobble heads, so, all in all, it's been pretty spectacular to be back in Canada.

Jamie Schaffler - Patrol Advisor
When I first returned home, I was really excited to see my family,  my friends and my boyfriend. They were all really excited to see me as well and greeted me with hugs and many questions about my trip. After settling in to the fact of being back in Canada with friends and family, I began to miss the contingent members, the traveling and Kenya itself. Kenyan life is full of simplicity and being back in Canada brings you back to reality: figuring out school courses; work and responsibilities. Although being back in Canada has it perks, warm showers, forks, roadway regulations, and your own bed, it is difficult to go on the same way as before our trip.
After seeing everything we saw and experiencing all that we did, it is hard not to be thankful for our lives in Canada. It is difficult not to compare your life to that of a Kenyan. It is impossible to forget the poverty and disease that affects so many people in Kenya. Its weird to walk down the street without children yelling "Mzungu" at you. And most of all, its weird not waking up to 23 people who have been your family over the past month.

Aaron Rollins
I just remember driving down the roads and thinking we are lucky we have such great infrastructure because there weren't any potholes.

Ashley Wong
"After getting off the airplane in Toronto, I was a step closer to being home. While the majority had a 2-3 hour bus ride to London or their parents picking them up in Toronto, I had a 5hr flight back to Vancouver, BC. After many hugs and tearful goodbyes, Krysta and I left to check in. I regret not taking a final photo of everyone waving goodbye as I left...grrrr. The 5hr flight was slow and boring. Krysta was sitting 2 rows ahead of me and she was taking a nap. I was on an adrenaline rush and was not able to sleep so I read the comments left in my sketchbook, some photos on my camera and the journal I kept from day 1.
As soon as I got to the airport, my parents were already waiting at the luggage pick-up area. I gave them a long hug and told them it was an amazing experience and thanks for letting me go. We picked up my bags and I said good-bye to Krysta. When my brothers came back home, they didn't have much of a reaction besides ""oh, you're back.""
The first thing I did when I got back was open up my laptop to put all ~4200 photos in! It was an accomplishment to be able to take that many photos in a month and I didn't want to risk something happening to it. After all my photos were transferred, I took a shower and then a quick dinner with rice, steak and veggies. Unfortunately, it wasn't really asian (besides the rice)...but my breakfast the next morning was! Then, headed to a long and much-needed rest.
Now my final days before heading to University consists of running around getting back to school supplies, organizing my photos, fighting jet-lag and meeting with friends and family to share my time in Kenya and make them as jealous as possible ;) "

Rachel Thorburn
Arriving in Toronto, things seemed almost unreal- the buildings were straight and symmetrical, there were no goats on the road, etc. I felt almost out of place- things didn't quite seem as I had remembered them, somehow. But it was good to be home. After tearful goodbyes at the airport, we headed home. On the bus ride back, Kevin turned back to me and yelled "Hey Rachel, your parents won't be at Bryson right away, they went to the beach." "Very funny" I replied, rolling my eyes. "No seriously," he said. "They thought you were getting home at 6".
This was about the last thing I expected, and I left a message on my mom's cell phone letting her know exactly what I thought about the ordeal. Luckily, Kevin let them know just in time, and they arrived just minutes late. It was great to see my family again- I hadn't realized how much I missed them until I finally saw them again. After saying my goodbyes to the contingent, I headed home.
Inside, my brothers had laid out cutlery to form the words "WELCOME HOME" on the living room floor- it was absolutely adorable. After some visiting, I showered (which was a fantastic experience) and went to bed, only to wake up at 5am feeling like it was mid afternoon, and wondering where I was and where my 20 contingent members were, before remembering they were all in their respective homes- we were back in Canada. It was over.
Overall, my homecoming was bittersweet. As much as I missed hot showers and forks, I will miss everyone, too.”

Eric Davison
“The food was refreshing and the sheer size of everything suddenly seemed a lot more impressive, that and roads...roads are nice.”

Daniel Wassmansdorf
I’m amazed at the difference in prosperity and wastefulness of North American culture compared to Kenyan culture. The whole experience of being back in Canada has involved a lot of culture shock. The amount of questions I have gotten has been as surprising as some of the questions themselves.  I’m quite surprised at the lack of knowledge of life in other parts of the world, though I was guilty of the same thing before going on this trip. The difference in culture has been massive and it has been an interesting transition between lifestyles.

Hannes Filler
Since I arrived home, I've hit the ground running; getting back up to date with news, university, friends and family. I found that most of all I missed the people rather than the things; eating at Subway was nice, but I'd trade it for chapati with what we pretended was bruschetta any day. Seeing my parents again was undeniably the best thing that happened that day, closely followed to everyone else (and my cat). I'll miss Kenya, but I'm glad to be back. :D

Alanna Cunningham Rogers
"The trip was long, the plane flights arduous - but the most difficult part yet still awaited us, and that was leaving behind 23 of the best friends we'd ever made. Backbreaking work in the equatorial sun and 10 hour drives in cramped quarters on kenyan roads were nothing compared to walking away from the airport, knowing what I left behind. On our return to Canada, I was sick and tired and I didn't care because those were the last few days I would get to spend with my contingent. Right now, sitting in my backyard with a cold drink and book in hand, I would give anything to go back to the porch swing in Shiru one last time.
Sitting on the bus to London wasn't so bad; I still had most of my friends and it was easy to pretend another adventure was just starting. We had our first taste of Canadian cuisine in a month together (we went to Timmies) and we all watched as our friends reunited with their families. To say it was bittersweet would be an understatement.
Personally, I went home, had a 45 minute shower, and promptly fell asleep. It was 5pm. When I woke up two hours later (or so I thought) I was a little confused as to where my family had gone, since we always stay up late. It was actually 7am; I'd been asleep for more than ten hours and hadn't realized it.
I've spent the last two days sleeping, organizing pictures and talking to my contingent buddies. My family has taken my reappearance in stride; it's been quiet here. My scars and bruises from brick-tossing are fading and so is my sunburn from Mombasa. Slowly, the physical evidence of my month in Kenya is disappearing, but I know that for me and for 23 others, the mental and emotional effects will never fade."

Second: What are your final thoughts looking back on the entire trip?

Michael Nash
It was pretty chill.

Eric Kyle
Totally worth it.

Caitlind Matthews
"I wish it wasn't over.
I want to go back and finish building the clinic.
It was the most amazing experience of my life and I am so happy I got to share it with the people I did.
I want to go back.
It changed my life. It changed who I am and how I look at life."

Andrea Loughlean - Medical Advisor
I learned a lot of life changing lessons and met a lot of lifelong friends during my time in Kenya. I wouldn’t change a thing even if I had the chance and I would do it all again tomorrow if given the opportunity. This trip was an eye opener in so many ways and was nothing short of amazing to say the least.

Kayla Powell
It was an amazing and life changing experience.

Kristin Ransome
Absolutely amazing, with fantastic and outgoing people and leadership and I can't wait to share the next trip with some of these people!

Eric Davison
The trip was incredibly eye opening and it was interesting witnessing the contrast between the two cultures.The group was amazing and I hope to see you all at some future event (just hurt yourself and I might be there).

Ryan Pepper
Now that the trip is over, I really, really miss it. Looking at all the pictures of the trip, I realize just how amazing it was. It truly was a once-in-a-lifetime  experience. I'm going to miss Kenya, but I'm especially going to miss all the people who really made the trip so fantastic.

Alanna Cunningham Rogers
"Oh. My. Lord.
Where can I even begin? Words are paltry, jaded things that can not begin to capture the magnitude of what they describe. Ink on paper and pixels on a computer screen are poor substitutes for the real thing, and the real thing is what we had. Life-changing is such an easy thing to say, but it is another thing to truly experience it. Shiru will never be the same. WE will never be the same.
We built the foundations of a clinic in a small town in Africa. Our sweat and blood and grime were the last push the project needed to change lives in that community for years to come.
We touched and fed and kissed giraffes. How many people get to say that? And get to say oh, yeah, we also rode ostriches? And went snorkeling in the Indian Ocean? We bargained with the best of them and (mostly) held our own. We made friends with Kenyan scouts. We were proposed to. We learned how many cows we were worth.  We learned just how far we could push ourselves in a day, and then pushed harder. We threw bricks at each other. We survived Kenyan driving and learned to laugh in the face of 18-wheeler trucks.
I'd like to say that we'll stick together, but I know that's not the truth. While I'll be friends with everyone for life, I know we'll grow apart, and that's what upsets me the most about the trip ending. Time and school and work will make it hard, but I know I'll always be able to look at the bracelet on my wrist and remember every single person who has an identical one.

Jamie Schaffler - Patrol Advisor
It was a fabulous experience. There are so many memories, laughs and tears that were shared amongst the contingent that will never be forgotten. I am so thankful that I had this experience and am counting down the days until I can return once more to Africa.

Daniel Wassmansdorf
It was an amazing experience. The team was incredible. Everyone connected extremely well which made the whole experience so much better. Seeing what life is really like in other parts of the world was mind blowing and it really helped to put things in perspective. The leadership team was outstanding and handled the ever changing situations extremely well. Communication was certainly something that could have improved between the Kenyan and the Canadian leadership teams but that didn't take away from the overall experience. This trip was definitely something that changed my life and my perspective. It was so much fun and I will never forget it.

Aaron Rollins
"The people were awesome, energetic and always happy.  The food was good but had no variety.  The landscape was beautiful."

Ashley Wong
"Although, it was challenging trying to adjust to a new environment it was an amazing and unforgettable experience. At first I had troubles trying to fit in and just took photos, but as time progressed and with being stuck in vehicles for so long, I slowly warmed up to the group and got to know everyone a bit better. I wouldn't have survived the trip without the guidance of the leaders and the support from everyone else in the contingent. I'm thankful to have been given the chance of coming along and I’m glad I didn't back out even when some others did due to civil unrest in the country (which did linger in my mind for awhile). I fulfilled my ""goal"" of this trip to be able to record the laughter and the memories of this trip and be able to share the stories with my friends and family about the month I spent in Kenya with 22 other mzungus.
Final thought? I'm going back to sleep...stupid jet lag.
Just kidding...VISIT ME WHEN YOU'RE IN BC. or else..... :) "

Hannes Filler
This was a wonderful experience. I have learned things I could never have learned in a classroom or from any book. It has been incredibly rewarding to make my own experiences and see with my own eyes. I have learned hard work, the value of a dollar, the value of helping and the value of friends. I know that sounds cliche but sometimes cliches are the best ways of putting things. I had fun, and I learned a lot and I would do it again in a heartbeat.

Eric Post
"12 years ago I was a little kid staring fascinated at the screen as the Lion King played over and over again.  2 years ago I would have never expected to travel to Kenya within the year (but I did with Me to We).  1 year ago I would have never expected to be back in Kenya for the second summer in a row.  10 years from now I know I will look back at this year's experience and say: "That was the defining trip of my life."" 
I have known for most of my life that I wanted to humanitarian work, most likely medical in nature.  The past 5 years of my life I have been working towards that goal, and this summer I achieved it.  There was nothing more incredible than standing there in that small church in Kenya, watching hundreds line up to be treated by a team that I was a part of.  Every single dose of medication I handed out was another life who might have been potentially saved as a result.  Every single brick we moved was one step closer to a higher level of healthcare for the community of Shiru.  Every single second that passed was another lesson learned for everyone present.
Scouting is a way of bringing together people to work towards a common cause.  Never before in my life has this been more true, and never again will I ever doubt the power of youth brought together to stand for what they believe is right."

Brandon Scott
Throughout the entirety of this project we were reminded how it would change our lives. Looking back on this project, it has been an incredible journey. One could truly describe this as a life changing experience. Would I do this again? The simple answer is yes – in a heartbeat.

Overall, I think they had a once-in-a-lifetime experience that affected not only them, but the people they met, and me as well.  Personally, I am quite tired from all this travelling and writing, so I think I am just going to grab a few fresh branches to nibble on and curl up next to a tree in my den to sleep a while.  Maybe next year I’ll find another group of scouts and head out on another adventure.

This Corporal Bernie Flapjack Jr., signing off.

“Most importantly, besides the friends you made and the stories you can tell, besides the scratches and sunburns, besides all your souvenirs, if there's one thing that you hang onto from this summer, let it be this: you made a difference.
Whether you're a teen struggling to find your identity, or an adult with rules and routines, never get too depressed. While everyone else worries about if they'll be remembered when they're gone, you don't need to worry because you already will be. Maybe they won't remember your name, maybe they'll forget what you looked like, but you have changed the world and that is not something to take lightly. It was a change for the better and it came in the shape of money, dirt, bricks and rocks and you got to be a part of it, to see it happen.
So if you're feeling powerless, or bored, or depressed, think back to the month you spent in Africa bettering lives. Never, ever forget that you have changed the world."
- Alanna Cunningham Rogers

Friday, August 24, 2012


The last three days of our trip have been mostly consumed by the extensive journeys required in order to return home. On Wednesday we left Mombasa to make the long drive to
Nairobi; we stopped very little along the way, with the intention of saving as much time as possible.  We passed back through the bustle of Mombasa and the breathtaking landscape of the Tsavo National Parks, continuously climbing higher towards the highlands of central Kenya.  We stopped for a quick bathroom break, followed by an equally quick lunch break later on.  Our best stop was a little convenience store/bakery which sold fresh baked goods; though the Kenyan concept of pastries is slightly less exciting.  After much deliberation, it was decided that we would actually stop short of Nairobi this day, staying the night in a small hotel in a mountain village by the name of Machakos. We turned off the main highway to head for the hills, and soon came upon the fourth beautiful landscape of the trip.  Next to the awesome panorama of the Great Rift Valley, the breathtaking beauty of the savanna and the awesome sights of the Indian Ocean, the incredible imagery of the Kenyan mountains were amazing.  We enjoyed our last night in Kenya by visiting small restaurant on the 8th floor of a building.  We dined on traditional Kenyan-Western food, then headed back to the hotel for the night.  We had a quick meeting where Tom was finally able to present us with the gifts that the Ministry of Health had gotten for us.  Each of the male youth received a handmade necklace and bracelet, while the girls got a bracelet and some enormous earrings.  The moms (Andi and Jenn) got woven purses, and the dads (Kevin and David) got leather, three-legged stools.  We headed to bed, sad to be leaving the next day, but excited for the future.

When we awoke, we had a quick breakfast, then loaded up (in an interesting way) to hit the road.  We passed once again through the cornucopia of mountains and valleys,
en-route to the much anticipated carver's market.  This small habitation is where every single wooden souvenir (that all the vendors claim to have made themselves) is
ACTUALLY made.  Dozens of workers carve away laboriously, carefully sculpting out delicate statues and decorations.  Everything from pencil thin crocodile models, to
life sized figurines of George Bush were created, no challenge was too small (or big - like a 10ft tall giraffe).  We even got to see what ebony wood looks like before it’s been carved from the centre of a branch. After exploring the process of making these iconic
souvenirs, we headed inside their shop for our last chance shopping.  We discovered a seemingly endless collection of everything we had seen before, plus much more.
On top of the excellent selection, everything was at a great price, and even those of us less apt to spend ended up with something (yay drums!!!).  We piled back into
the bus with our purchases, and set off on what was to be our last drive through Kenya.

We arrived back at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport, and the chaos began.  We unloaded bags onto the road as an endless line of cars tried to make their way through the maze that was the drop-off zone.  We piled our gear into carts and lined up at the door to go through security (yes, there is security to get INTO the airport). We said our goodbyes to our good friend Tom and our driver David, did a final check to ensure we all had everything (Note: Over the past few days, Tom had pulled out all the stops to get Kiki's wallet back from our hotel in Mombasa where she had left it; YAY TOM!!!), then braced ourselves and stepped up to the security checkpoint.  We all made it through no problem, so we did our final bit of packing loose items away and divvying up the bags to everyone as some of us got changed into our (for
most of us) last pair of clean clothes for the long flights.  We checked our bags, went through passport control, then sat around for awhile as we waited for our boarding time.  Many used this opportunity to buy food or last minute souvenirs; some just talked.  We were lucky enough to chance upon a group of scouts from Congo, who were headed to a scouting conference in Egypt (the very destination that some of our Kenyan Rover friends were headed to after we left).  Those of us who truly embraced our Canadian bilingualism talked with them for our entire wait, as our only common language was French.  Through them we were able to glimpse another side to the African scout story, and we left the departure lounge with some new friends.  Our flight was called, we lined up at the gate, then with our body worn out but our spirits high, we took our last steps on Kenyan soil, and boarded the airplane.

The next day or so of our lives were spent sitting around flying across the surface of the earth at over 600 km/hr.  We watched movies, we listened to music; we read, we wrote; we ate, we didn't eat (though I personally think the food was pretty good); we sat there doing nothing but thinking, and most importantly: we slept.  Our time in Amsterdam was less than 3 hours this time, and we spent it sitting on the floor near our gate hanging out like longtime friends.  Many of us passed around our journals to have friends write in it, and many of us once again just slept.  Our flight was called (for the last time this trip), and spent another several hours over the Atlantic.  Due to the time change, while the clocks said we landed just after takeoff, we had actually spent a whole 7 hours or so in the air, and were very appreciative of the amount of nap time on the plane.  As we collected our baggage, it dawned on us how suddenly it was about to be over.  Some of us needed to catch connecting flights, so we said our goodbyes (group HUGGGGGGGGGG!!!!!), and that was it.  The remaining group made their way through customs, showed the agents our copious amounts of souvenirs, and then stepped bleary-eyed back into Canadian civilization.

Some of us had more flights, others a 3 hour drive back to London, and we all went our separate ways back towards home.  Now here we are thrust back into our daily lives, and we seem to transition back into Western culture seamlessly.  We chat endlessly on Facebook, and sort through impossible amounts of pictures, hoping to find that one that will make an awesome profile picture.  We may appear to be the same teenagers that left a month ago, we inside we have changed.  The memories of the past month burn strongly inside of us, and we pour them out to anyone who cares to listen.  For a month we had eaten, slept, worked, played, laughed, breathed, ...and lived; as one.  We saw and experienced things made us look differently upon the world; question ourselves on what we held to be true.  The Kenya International
Development Project 2012 was the first of its kind in Scouts Canada; the first trip to bring together a group as highly specialized as Medical Venturer and Rover Scouts, and put them together to not only build in a developing country, but to bring medical assistance to an otherwise healthcare-deficient community.

Some of us have had previous similar experiences, though for most of us it was our first taste of international humanitarian work.  While we are all busy getting back into our lives (first year university for me, YIKES!!!) much is uncertain, but what is certain, is that this trip will have not been our last, and will never be far from our hearts and minds.

by Eric Post

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

A Day of Exploration

Today was our last day in Mombasa and most of us decided to investigate a day of snorkeling at Wasini Island National Marine Park, about 60 km south of Mombasa.  As not everyone wanted to spend the day in the water, David offered to take the remainder into Mombasa to experience more of the city.

Brandon writes:

It was an early wakeup for everyone, as the drive to Wasini took well over an hour.  The bus headed to the south side of Mombasa Island to catch the Likoni ferry.   On arrival, David’s party hopped off and watched us drive the bus up the ramp.  The ferry crew worked like clockwork to load and unload the ferry and ours was filled only with cars, contrasting with the others jammed with commuters.   

We arrived at the Kenya Wildlife Service facilities where we purchased tickets and changed our clothes.  A quick walk down the street took us to the boardwalk where we found the boat arranged for us by our tour guide Mohammad.  The Captain directed us to board his somewhat ramshackle boat, which we dubbed Allen, and we headed out into the Indian Ocean.  On the starboard side one could see the waves crashing into the small cliffs along the coastline.  On the port side was nothing but a vast expanse of water.  I asked the Captain’s permission to sit on plank protruding from the bow.  Very, very cool, and soon others wanted to do the same thing, so we took turns watching the sea rush past.  It was relaxing and tranquil.  

…and then the dolphins appeared.

About a dozen dolphins in two different groups joined the group of boats heading to the island.  Many of the dolphins swam alongside the boat and one jumped.  The group fell quiet and watched. 

On arrival at the coral reef the group grabbed snorkeling equipment and quickly jumped into the clear, light blue water.  Once in, we all tasted the water’s saltiness and felt its temperature, the latter coming as a bit of a surprise, as it was similar in temperature to bathwater.  Once everyone was in the water we began to sort out how to breathe with a snorkel, which for some novices was arduous.  The view below, though, was amazing and the world of the reef lay before our eyes, hidden like a precious gem under a plethora of di-hydrogen monoxide (H2O).  The fish were incredible and their colours were in many ways indescribable. As we returned to our boat, two sea turtles were spotted and we spent some time swimming along side them, each with a meter-wide shell. It was a surreal experience.

After some swimming we began to feel tired and hungry, so we climbed aboard the boat for lunch.  We motored to Wasini Island, which is inhabited by approximately one thousand people and transferred to a smaller boat taxi through the shallow water.  Onshore we walked about 10 minutes to our restaurant, which was a small shack at the back of a house.  Our contingent was divided between two tables - those eating seafood and those eating an alternative meal.  Those who were served the seafood meal enjoyed crab and a hand-sized fish.  Four boys ordered clawless lobster (and had to pay extra).  The others were served a mildly spicy seaweed sauce with chapatti as their starter, followed by chicken covered in a spicy coconut sauce, beans, coconut rice, more chapatti and finally Kenyan potatoes (the vegetarians ate the same meal without the chicken).   After lunch our captain led us to an interesting location where the coral reef is no longer entirely covered by water.  It sits above sea level except during a full moon where the water level rises and partially fills the area. The muddy ground was covered in small crabs and by chance, we happened upon a three-foot long monitor lizard racing from one end to the other, directly beneath our walkway.

After lunch we visited Shimoni Caves, a local historical site where slaves were kept during the 300 years of slave trading in East Africa.  We grabbed some refreshments, including local coconuts, before driving back to the hotel.  We stopped at a supermarket on the way to purchase tomorrow’s lunch.  Told shopping would only take ten minutes at most (Kenyan time) we soon discovered it would take about an hour, which was another reminder of how doing many things in Kenya will take much longer than planned.  The rest of the drive was very slow and we found ourselves stuck in traffic several times.

After arriving at our hotel at 9:30 p.m. we cleaned up before heading out to Yul’s Restaurant for the second evening in a row.  This time we ordered our meals and drinks and immediately headed to the ice cream bar to select our dessert for consumption before we received our starters or main course.  A smart decision, as dinner took a long time to arrive.   It was worth the wait, as our meals were unbelievably delicious.  My main course included creamy pasta with BACON and a side of French fries and for dessert I had two scoops of chocolate ice cream covered in chocolate sauce with a warm black coffee complemented by a small brownie.   Others had a similarly memorable meal. 

It was certainly a day to remember.

Ashley writes:

Exploring the city was a different and eye-opening experience.  When we were dropped off at the ferry terminal, David started off the day by taking us Geocaching (and for me it was my first experience).  Geocaching, for those not in the know, is a big scavenger hunt that connects other people around the world to find hidden items or points of interest called “caches” (there are 1.8 million of them worldwide).  The first cache that we found that day was an “earthcache” which just required a photograph of a particular tree found in East Africa: the Baobab.  Walking along the shoreline we snapped more photos and eventually ended up near Fort Jesus, which we visited yesterday.  Turning into the downtown core we stopped at the Aroma cafĂ© and had cinnamon Danishes and coffee.  

After our stomachs were full we continued on foot to the local spice and meat market. The spice market was a bit of a disappointment.   Even though there were a few spices and some interesting colours and smells, it was more of a vegetable market.  The meat market, though, was shocking and disgusting, (but in a cool way).  There were dead animals, flies and cats (not dead) everywhere!   There was a significant stench and the variety of dead animals parts hanging around was impressive.  There was even some goat heads lined up on a counter and one helpful butcher picked one up, parted its lips and said “look, it’s smiling!  

David is a train enthusiast so the next stop was the Kenya Railways train station.  We bundled into a tuk-tuk for the short ride.  Unfortunately, the train only comes once every two days… and today was not a day the train would be town.  The station was desolate and dusty, but that was kind of cool too.  We took a few photos of an abandoned boxcar and some other train cars beside the long, dreary and empty platform.

The next destination was the Mombasa Commonwealth War Graves cemetery.  We had troubles locating it on the map because we were unfamiliar with the city, but a local high school teacher was kind enough to offer assistance.  Coincidentally, he was from Kakamega and was surprised that we had visited the forest, the Rondo Resort and Shiru.  The cemetery is the final resting place for 199 soldiers who served in World War I and II and is well maintained (the groundskeepers were trimming hedges and replacing some grass when we visited).  David pointed out the regimental and unit badges on some of the headstones and we read about the East Africa campaigns during both wars.  We took some photos and then waved down another tuk-tuk to take us to lunch.

We headed north to the Nakumatt supermarket (Nakumatt has several upscale shopping facilities across the country), but first we wanted to find our second Geocache.   We found it at Julius T. Safari and Julius, a nice man, was the one who handed it to us.  It was a plastic box with some trade items inside, so David picked up a Travel Bug (a dog tag that travels around the world as an aspect of Geocaching) and a Geocoin.  In exchange, we left a few Canadian coins.   Lunch was inside the nearby Nakumatt and we had American-style burgers and cold drinks.  I had an ice cappuccino and was in heaven.   

After lunch we hit the road again and headed for Bombolulu crafts market, where locals with physical disabilities make top-quality crafts.  We were amazed at the quality of jewelry and other crafts and bought some stuff to support the program.  As it had been a busy day we boarded a matatu to head back to our hotel for a shower and rest.  We contacted the other group and found out that they were stuck in traffic, so we met up with Tom and had dinner at a small restaurant overlooking the beach that specialized in Japanese food.  The sushi wasn’t as good as that in BC, but it hit the spot.  It was also Tom’s first time eating Japanese and he enjoyed the different taste.  After we were done we headed to Yul’s and found the other group just arriving. 

Both groups had had a good day and lots of fun (but our group didn’t come back sunburned all over, so will probably enjoy tomorrow’s long bus ride more!)

by Brandon and Ashley