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

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