In Nairobi – A Few Final Thoughts

Hi all,

The group just arrived back at Wildebeest Eco Camp — and we will have a relaxed morning here tomorrow before we head to the airport for the (epic) journey home.  Everyone is happy, healthy and full of mostly mixed emotions: happiness to see loved ones again soon, sadness to leave this place.

A few thoughts to consider as our group heads home and will be greeted by all of you.  They have experienced something in Samburu that will change them. The type and magnitude of those changes will vary from student to student, and may not be evident for weeks or months after we return.  Be supportive and encouraging as they continue to process and reflect about the past 14 days.  Samburu changed Spencer and me in ways I could have never imagined when I first visited 8 years ago.  I know that the students on this trip experienced something similar.  Some of the best people I have ever met on this planet are in Samburu, people who walk more than a mile to fetch water and live on less than a few hundred dollars a year.  But they smile and laugh abundantly, and they embrace a tremendous amount of hope for their families and their community. It reminds of us of what’s important in this world.

Ask for stories. Ask about people and culture. The wildlife are amazing but it’s the people that have affected us. “How was Kenya?” can’t be easily answered.  Describing day to day activities will be easy — what we did, food we ate, wildlife we saw, games we played.  The stuff that affects the more central part of our core being and  challenges what we previously believed to be true about the world, the stuff that inevitably causes us to re-examine our lives…well, be patient as they figure that out, and create the supportive space and time to talk about it with them.  Listen, ask questions, listen, and listen more.

The initial flight is South African Airways 0185 from Nairobi to Johannesburg on January 13. From there, the group is on Delta Airlines Flight 0201 from J-Burg to Atlanta, then the final leg is Delta 2241 to Denver, which is scheduled to arrive at 9:35 am on January 14th. We will clear customs upon our first arrival to a U.S. city (Atlanta). If you’re planning to meet them at the airport in Denver, you can do so at the normal domestic arrivals area (at the top of the escalators from the train).

All the best, Karina & Spencer

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Last Few Days in Archer’s Post

Emily here with the blog again!

Our time in Samburu is coming to a close as we are all filled with a bittersweet mixture of emotions. On the one hand, we are eager to return to the loved ones back home who we miss, and we have all been reenergized with motivation and appreciation for this upcoming semester at school. On the other hand, we are sad about what we are leaving behind. Each one of us has made unforgettable connections here. We know that we leave behind friendships and bonds with inspirational people. Though many of them do not have access to the technology required to stay in contact, which makes the goodbyes even sadder, we know that the love and memories will always stay with us.

We spent our last few days here finishing up some of our projects and buying beaded jewelry from the women. Our shade structure at the children’s home is complete! And we have made progress on the manyatta in the village, with the whole frame and most of the roof completed, and we even dug the foundation for a second one.

Sitting with the women in the village today as we bought jewelry and took final pictures made me think of how much has changed since the first time we arrived. On the first day, we were focused on how different everything was from the housing to the way they dressed. Today, we are laughing and sharing inside jokes with friends who we have connected with on a deep level.

The ephemeral beauty of this trip isn’t just in the people and the wildlife, but also in the small things. It’s in the way we all now pile into the safari car and fit twice as many people as we once thought possible. It’s in the way we comfortably sit in the shade on a hot day and bead as if it’s second nature, not needing to check our phones or worry about what we are doing next. It’s in the way we all share our water and medicine with each other and take care of one another like a family. It’s in the way we all sing the same three songs in the car and call each other by new nicknames. It’s in the way we no longer flinch at bugs and bats. The time we have now, free from school, work, and whatever else will consume us when we’re back home, has a certain magic to it.

So, when we are back, please be patient with us. We may greet you in the morning with a “sopa!” and be surprised when you do not reply with “oye,” or we may ask for some skuma wiki when asked what we want to do for lunch, because our minds and our hearts are still in Kenya.

Rift Valley Adventures!

Hey family and friends!  

Gaby here… This past Monday and Tuesday our group and the SYEF graduates drove 2 hours to Ngare Ndare.. fun fact that means water for goats. Before I start let me say what and amazing 2 days! Everyone conquered some sort of fear they had and we all meshed together as one supportive and courageous being.

We stayed with a company called Rift Valley Adventures, we all slept in big tents and listened to the hyenas laugh during our evening activity. The afternoon we arrived at the RVA lodge, we were treated to goat as well as potatoes and vegetables with sides of fruit and salad. Since meat has not been present on our plates very often this past week and a half, we all ate till our hearts content and then got ready for rock climbing! The guides took us into a protected area and set up three routes for us all to climb and then we climbed! People in the group had all sorts of fears like heights and getting hurts, but despite the mental obstacles every individual had, everyone faced their fears and climbed up at least one route. There were tears, panic attacks, scrapes, and bruises but everyone showed tremendous amounts of strength. After getting back to the lodge and showering we were treated to meat once again😊 as well as garlic bread and watermelon.

For our evening activity we divided into 4 teams and played a game called waiter where one person from each team carried a tray on their finger tips and tried to knock the tray out of their opponents hands. The game got super intense, everyone was screaming and encouraging their team member to knock down people’s trays. Spencer, Apin, and George all cheated. Never the less the game was super fun and was pointed out (by me😊) that the game symbolizes how when you focus on other people and knocking them down you often fall down yourself. After that we played some games of mafia, chess, and mancala and then settled in for a super cold and long night in the tent.

The next day we went Cliff Jumping!! And what an amazing experience it was. After walking three miles to the blue pools where we would be jumping, we put on wetsuits and helmets and started jumping. First 6 feet and working our way up to 18 feet, everyone took a plunge into the freezing water that scared them. For me standing on top of the highest jump wearing someone else’s slippery shoes that were way to big for me made my legs shake and heart race uncontrollably. However as always with this group, everyone else’s love and support helped me get over the fear in my own head and jump into the pools. And believe it or not those jumps were only the practice jumps, from there we hiked up to pools with some waterfalls, swam for a bit, and then went to our final couple jumps which were 24ft high! If you jumped off the first jump you had to jump of the second in order to get out of the canyon we were in, so not everyone chose to jump. But those who did over came their fears and everyone was safe in the end. Also we saw three frogs!! 

The rest of the day consisted of driving back, showering, eating, and then a very heart warming and supportive reflection before the end of the day.

Since I know all of you are not reading for me but rather your individual child, friend, etc.. on the trip I will tell you how everyone over came their fears.

Angelica: Was so scared of both climbing and cliff jumping but sucked it up and climbed an entire wall all the way to the top and jumped off all the jumps into the pools.

Varehya: Cant swim and is also super scared of heights but jumped of the cliffs (twice) and swam anyways.

Thanh Tu: Climbed a rock wall all the way to the top and killed it taking pictures of everyone cliff jumping  

Danielle: Jumped of all of the Cliffs despite saying she wasn’t going to do any.

Baylee: Did all the activities with no fear and used her lifeguard skills to help everyone who was scared of the water conquer their fears  

Miguel: Did every activity with so much poise and confidence despite being scared and out of his element

Emily: Did all the activities despite having genuine concerns about her health and abilities.. but she rocked it and did an amazing job.

Paige: got over her fear of climbing and reached the top of the rock wall as well as jumping off all the cliffs without hesitation

Kiana: Used her experience in climbing to help others and was her kind and supportive self to everyone who needed it, also jumped off all the cliffs

Maeve: Did all the activities despite having some doubts, but she excelled and climbed all they way up the hardest climb and jumped off a cliff    

Gaby (meee): I jumped of a 24ft cliff!!!   

Spencer: Had no fear but kindly reassured everyone who was scared of jumping of the cliff that “its just like jumping off a cliff)

Karina: was supportive and fearless as always and jumped off all the cliffs  

So that about sums up our two days with Rift Valley Adventures, sorry if it was long but even in this length its hard to encapsulate everything we experienced into words that would make you understand even a part of everything that was felt over these past couple of days. To all our family and friends we miss you all greatly and are thinking of you often as we are soon to go home and be able to talk to you all directly. If you want anything from the women’s village please comment down below as we are starting to purchase things before we leave. Your comments mean so so much to us so please comment and we are so excited to see you all soon!      

Lots of love,

Gaby

A Few Photos

Hi family and friends!

Karina here, and first of all I’d like to say that this group of CSU students is absolutely phenomenal and Spencer and I are so appreciative to be surrounded by such stellar individuals for this trip!

We’re currently in Ngare Dare at Rift Valley Adventures on a surprise overnight with the SYEF graduates doing some rock climbing and canyoneering. While we have some more predictable wifi, I’d like to upload a couple photos!

Cheers, Karina

On a walk near our camp
Group photo with Unity!


Church n’ Children

Hey family and friends, Kianna here!

We started the day dressed in our Sunday best which actually took the form of our least smelly clothes that weren’t cargo shorts and a t-shirt. We were presented with the opportunity to attend church in town and all of us chose to attend for various reasons. Many of my fellow trip participants chose to partake because they aligned themselves with that religious perspective but I think it is fair to say that we were all simply curious to see how church service went here in Samburu. In my mind, going to church wasn’t about us, in fact it was quite the opposite where it was about observing another aspect of the culture here. I was afraid going into the experience that we would create too much of a spectacle and that we would distract from the main reason people were there which was to worship but when the service started the priest made it very clear (in English thank goodness) that we were welcome in their church. I was blown about by how soulful and rich the sound of the church choir was with the children dancing to the rhythm of the music; it genuinely brought tears to my eyes to see and experience something so beautiful even though I couldn’t understand what was being sung. Throughout the service, the church seemed to erupt into deep, harmonious sound with periodical dancing and clapping. I had so much more of an emotional experience than I thought I would. I came into this church experience with the sole purpose of learning and observing and I came away with so much raw feeling that I had to take a couple hours after to fully process everything. I felt their sound in the deepest parts of my soul.

After resting for a bit and eating more of Isaiah’s delicious food for lunch, we headed over to the children’s home/ orphanage which was an unexpected part of the trip because we were originally planning on visiting the primary school. When we arrived, we were first tasked to paint their entry gate green which of course turned all of us into mini Shrek’s, both in attitude because it was quite hot and we got cranky and in physical appearance since none of us are that skilled in the art of gate painting and we got more paint on ourselves than we would care to admit. We joked around about how this or that bothered us in that moment whether it be the heat or even each other at times but I think the beautiful thing about this entire trip is that we have been taught a great sense of perspective. We have been humbled here in Samburu and sure, we will complain about the heat or being dirty but I am confident that each and every one of us knows the importance of perspective now.

Visiting the orphanage was honestly a very intense part of the day for me personally. As someone who lived in an orphanage for the first nine months of my life before getting adopted, I found myself relating a bit to these children but in a very different way because I was an infant and these were older children and adolescents. As I worked on the shade hut that we were building, I really thought about the personal connection that I had to this specific experience. It’s very hard to see all of these children and speak to them to hear them talk about their parents or that we should go back to America and tell our parents to adopt them. While I was incredibly saddened to see that all of these children were orphaned in some way and also battled with my own connection to that reality with my biological parents when I was very young, I was also made aware of how massively fortunate and privileged I was to be able to experience this very thing. How privileged am I to come here to Samburu, Kenya to reap the fruits of Brett and Karina’s labor of working for years to establish so many opportunities to help this community and establish deep and meaningful relationships with the people here. I have been humbled each and every day and I have been made aware of the power of the individual. If there is one thing that I am certain of, it is how far compassion and dedication can go and how none of us will return to the States as the same people we left as. My mind and headspace have been broadened so much by this experience and Brett, if you are reading this, I look forward to the day that I finally get to meet you. I came onto this trip pretty last minute but my life, in a week’s time, has already been changed tremendously and in the most beautiful way and I have you to thank for that.

That is all for now!

Time with Unity

Emily here with the blog today!

Each time we arrive at Unity, we are welcomed like family returning from a long journey. Even if we have seen them in the morning and are only returning a few hours later, we are still given the same amount of love. From the moment our safari car is visible from the entrance, the wattotto (children) come running up, shouting our names and grabbing our hands to bring us to their home. As we are led inside, the women individually hug us and ask about our day. Part of the culture that I have really appreciated has been the greetings: it is custom for greetings to be very personal and one-on-one, and we can tell that each woman is genuinely happy to see us each time.

After greetings, we continued work on the manyatta (hut) that we are building for the village. Although the homes look simple, we are learning how intricate and complicated the building process is! We dug through the rocky terrain with pick axes and cups to lay the foundation, hiked up a mountain to collect the right sticks, and we are now working on tying the sticks together for the walls using special leaves called lodop. While working, we shared laughter and exchanged songs in both Samburu and English. One of the highlights was when Margaret, one of the women, started singing along with us to Apple Bottom Jeans.

In the village, we met Teku. He has been teaching us Kenyan sign language, and many of us are now able to finger spell and sign some basic phrases. Despite all the road blocks life threw in his path, Teku never let it bring him down, and he has excelled in school to the point where he is one of the new recipients of the SYEF scholarship! He will be starting Form 1 (the first year of high school) after break.  

While some of us were in the village, two groups of us were able to go on game drives at the reserve along with some of the local children. The children were just as excited for the car as they were for the actual animals and they loved every minute of the adventure. The groups got to see families of elephants including very young babies and some giraffes who were not afraid to come up to the jeep! Although some of us had seen elephants and giraffes in zoos, this experience was different because they were living in their natural habitat and could wander the land on their own free will.

We ended the day with an appreciation circle for one of our local leaders, Francis, a former recipient of the SYEF scholarship, who needed to go back to Nairobi for his University. He has been an integral part of our group and even gave the shoes off his feet to a participant who was struggling with blisters! He stayed with us for an extra day in order to make sure there were enough sticks cut for the hut. We all shared stories of how he has influenced our experience and wished him well. We will miss him terribly, but we know that the influence of his loving and selfless personality will stay with each of us for much longer than this trip.  

Thank you all for continuing to comment on these posts! Getting to read the comments continues to be one of the highlights of the evening and helps us feel connected to loved ones back home.

Climbing Ololokwe

Hey guys its Varehya!

Today has been filled with endurance, strength and courage as we set out to venture in terms of hiking, one of the tallest mountains in Samburu called Ololokwe. For me, it was an opportunity to step outside my comfort zone once again, being it was the first mountain I’ve ever hiked without backing out. At exactly 7:00am we started our journey on the trail, with the accompany of armed guards leading the way, along with our friends Francis, Benedict, Isaya and Apen. The mountain is located on Namunyak conservancy which is east of Samburu and is around 2000m ASC at its peak! And yes, we were dedicated to reaching the top. I must admit, 30 minutes into the hike, I felt my legs trembling and my body aching, but with the assistance and encouraging words from our group we all continued to strive forward. As we got further up, the top of the mountain lent its views to winding roads far below as well as a terrain packed with extremely steep hills. After about an hour into the hike, trekking at a comfortable pace and advise to go pole-pole (slowly) light showers of rain cleansed our bodies, which helped us pursue without the intense beaming of the sun on our shoulders. We were succeeding. The closer we got signs of elephant poop signified that we should proceed cautiously, and which we did. Each step became easier, and within approximately four hours we had finally reached the top to a view never expected. The whole entire scenery was shadowed with clouds, rain and wind blowing in our direction. We were cold, unprepared, and huddled together shivering as we tried to enjoy our lunch passed around.  And although we were uncomfortable, we were still happy, laughing and enjoying the relief of making it to the top. The view was impeccable, but lasted a short time due to the fact that majority couldn’t take the bizarre weather any longer. We headed back down with the comfort of each other, at peace, and filled with serenity. I’m sure it was a trip we will never forget and a shared moment that would always be cherished. With the support of everyone we got down, holding hands if need be. Around 1:00pm we finally touched down and I’m telling you, I’ve never been prouder of myself. So, I say to anyone reading, achieve those goals you never thought was attainable, even when you fill your body ache and your knees getting weaker, if you put your mind to it, you will succeed.

Feel free to leave a comment about a time you achieved something impossible. Regardless we enjoy reading ALL your comments!