Saturday, 28 July 2012


Kenya was by far the greatest trip I've ever been on. I went on a Free the Children trip from July 1-21, 2012. It changed my outlook on life. These are the entries from my trip journal.
Day 1: Flights & Nairobi Drove up with my friend Genny's family from Toronto to Kemptville where we spent the night. Left the next morning for Montreal. Flew out of the airport around 5pm after meeting the group and going through security. Good flight to Zurich, Switzerland (7 hours) with a 3 hour layover. Left Zurich at 9:30am local time. Seven hour flight on Swiss Airlines to Nairobi, Kenya. Great food on the flight! Arrived in Nairobi at 6:30pm local time, purchased my visa at the airport and exchanged some U.S. money for Kenyan shillings. Did not get to the Rosslyn Centre until 9:15pm and had a buffet dinner around 9:45pm. Had a shower (the power kept going out!) and off the bed. Early wake up tomorrow with a 5 hour bus ride to Sikirar (the FTC community we'll be working in)!
Day 2: Nairobi & Sikirar Left Nairobi around 9am to leave for the village. Hour and a half bus ride to the Great Rift Valley. Still an amazing view even though it was very foggy(second picture above). Our truck had roll-up plastic windows like a jeep so the whole thing was open. Very cold until the afternoon. Three hours to a picnic lunch in a small town and an hour and a half to Sikirar. So sweet to see everyone wave as we went past and the kids shout, "JAMBO!" and run after the bus. Reminds me a lot of the kids in India. We almost got stuck in the mud on the way here...throw back to Peru. Our tent at the camp in Sikirar is huge! It fits four beds, dressers and night stands! Off to bed now and learning how to build a school tomorrow!
Day 3: Sikirar Woke up at 6:15am, at the break of dawn. So beautiful to see the sunrise over the tree while you're brushing your teeth outside. I slept pretty well except it was freezing at night and my bed is really noisy. Had breakfast, went over build site safety and played some games. Had a nice salad lunch and then a Kiswahili lesson with our Maasai warrior, Livingstone. Jina langu ni Hannah na niko na miaka kumi na nane. Which roughly translates to My name is Hannah and I'm eighteen. Then we went over to Sikirar Primary School where we'll be building! The kids were all so nice and incredibly happy to see us! It was hard not to become friends with everyone but I met this one little girl that is very shy and loves piggyback rides and playing hide and seek in the grass. she also loves high fives and nail polish. Not only was playing with the kids great but we also had a tour of the school. We got to see the old classrooms and the new classrooms! What a difference! The new classrooms are cooler with big windows and sound-proofed. We also saw the clean water system that FTC built. All the kids at the school get free lunches as well as water (open to the community for 2 hours a day). More girls have started going to the school now that they can bring home water from there. The school also has its own garden and signs like "brush your teeth daily" and "say yes to the child". The kids love beatboxing and dancing games such as Bungalow. Sad to leave them but we'll be back tomorrow. Showered (interesting being in a shower with the open sky above you), had dinner and talked about the history/future of Kenya. Off to the build site tomorrow! As they say in Kiswahili, Lala salama!
Day 4: Sikirar Woke up at 7:30am with breakfast at 8am; omelettes, toast and cereal. Went to the build site and worked on the teachers' living facilities. First we mixed sand, cement and water and flung it at the walls to reinforce them. Then we chiseled at the bricks on the outside to make straight edges. We then went back to camp for lunch (mac&cheese and potato salad) and then another Swahili lesson. Livingstone taught us large numbers and family members as well as the Jambo Song. After the lesson we went to play with the kids at the school! The little girl I played with yesterday found me and her name is Naipei. She ran up to me immediately and jumped on me. She loves to be picked up and calls me "mama". After playing, the elders/community members preformed a welcome ceremony for us. There was lots of singing and dancing. After we played bungalow with the kids. When we had to leave I told Naipei "Kesho" (tomorrow) and she said "No". We came back to camp as it started raining and had dinner and played a leadership game. Kesho!
Day 5: Sikirar Woke up at 7:30am again and slept with my mosquito net on last night. Kind of felt like I was in a coffin but it also made me feel safer. Went to the site to build after breakfast. Put mortar on the walls again and started the foundation of the new schoolroom by mixing mortar with small rocks. Very hard work. The tap broke while we were filling buckets and a bunch of school boys ran to help. Then we went back for lunch (quiche and salad) and had another Swahili lesson. My favourite colour is buluu (blue). After we went on a hike and ran into some small children with sheep. Livingstone taught us all about different kinds of plants including the green hat tree which you can brush your teeth with (you bet I did!). We then had Livingstone teach us about Maasai weapons such as the conga and the bow. He also did demonstrations! Then we came back to camp and I showered before dinner. After dinner we had a campfire and played games and sang songs. Off to bed now as the lights are flickering for the generator to turn off!
Day 6: Sikirar Started the day off with a breakfast of eggs and toast. After we went to bead with Mama Leah and she taught us how to make keychains. I made a blue and yellow one. Genny spotted a weird orange caterpillar and dared me to touch it so I did. It was probably poisonous but whatever. It was very hot out today so we worked in the late afternoon after lunch. We evened out ground around the new classroom we're building using pickaxes. Then we chiseled the bricks on the teachers' quarters again. I did some laundry today too and everything dried very quickly on the lines. We ate dinner with tea masala and malaria pills. Yum! Lala salama!
Day 7: Tree Nursery and Conga Making Had a breakfast of eggs and cornflakes this morning. After we went to the tree nursery. It was really cool to see all the different types of trees they were growing there, including the miracle tree which prevents over 300 diseases. They plant all the seedlings in milk cartons (donated by a Kenyan milk company) because they are biodegradable. Julius showed us around and then we visited the FTC store onsite. I bought lots of gifts and a safari shirt. We ate lunch and got back on the lorry to drive to the middle of nowhere. We got off the lorry and walked to a remote village where the men's club taught us how to make congas. It was very interesting to learn all the different steps in the process such as sanding it down and rubbing it with cow fat. We also played with some of the local children and then went back to camp. We had some free time before dinner so I showered and organized my tent. Then we had dinner (shepard's pie and fries)with passionfruit custard for dessert! So delicious. Then we did another leadership activity about stereotypes. Off to bed now; building in the morning!
Day 8: Sikirar Woke up at the regular time and had a spanish omelette with toast for breakfast. Went building in the morning and laid more foundation down. I saw Naipei in the yard and she smiled at me. Irene and I helped fill up water jugs for a water truck going to another community. It was very hot today. When we were filling up the bottles some kids took our wheelbarrows and ran away with them. As we were putting the tools away later, I went into the classroom and Naipei was there waving at me. After lunch we went on a blindfolded hike. It was a really weird experience guiding someone and explaining what you were seeing. We walked through a beautiful wheat field and to a watering hole. On the way back I was blindfolded and it was really strange having to use my other senses to guide me. We came back and played cards for a while. We had dinner after (peppered steak and banana fritters!) and were then about to do our nightly activity when it started storming. There was lots of thunder and lightning and the generator went out. So now I'm sitting in the tent writing by flashlight under my mosquito net. Going for a sunrise hike in the morning! Then a full day of building!
Day 9: Sikirar Woke up at 5:50am to go on a sunrise hike! We walked from the camp up to a field. It was a bit hard to see the sunrise because it was a bit foggy and cloudy this morning. The sun was a brilliant red that my camera had trouble picking up. We came back for breakfast and spent the morning at the school finishing the foundation. Robert let us write our initials and handprints into the cement! After we played with the kids a bit and I found Naipei. She showed me her schoolbook and I think she had a bath last night because she was very clean and wearing clean clothes. I walked her to her classroom and then we took a group picture on the new foundation! We had lunch and then did an activity about local diseases. Then we went back to the build site and I evened out the piles of dirt from the wheelbarrows. I got to know Josephart (one of the foreman) more. He's 19 and going to university in Nairobi for physics/construction. He likes all fruit but doesn't know what cheerios or peanut butter is. We came back for tea masala and we played crazy eights with Livingstone. He wasn't very good but he picked it up pretty quickly. Then we had dinner. Off to bed now to read Stephen King's "Under the Dome"!
Day 10: Sikirar and Waterwalk Woke up at regular time and had a spanish omelette with cornflakes and tea masala. Walked with the group to the gates of the school where we met a local mama. We all walked down the road for about five minutes to a little pond. The mama went in a filled up all our 20L jerry cans. We carried the jugs on our backs with a rope tied around our forehead. I thought it was hard because of the strain on your hands while holding the rope but it felt comfortable on my back. After we took the water about ten minutes up the road to her house, dumped it out and went back to do it again. After the second time we toured her house (2 small rooms; one with a fire and bed, all made of mud) and asked questions. She asked us if in our country we went with our husbands to get water or if individuals just did it. That hit me really hard because how do you explain the concept of plumbing a clean water coming out of a tap to someone that walks miles each day just to have enough water to do laundry with? We went back to the camp for tea and lunch. We had free time so I did laundry and read in the sun. We went to visit the kids after but the young ones went home after lunch so Naipei wasn't there. We played us versus the older boys and teachers in a soccer match. They are incredibly good to play without shoes and on uneven ground, dodging cow pies. One of the boys was also a very good referee and he ever called offside. We lost 5-2. It was a lot of fun, even though we lost. I was dirty and sweaty so after tea and cards I showered for the first time in 3 days. After dinner we did an activity about water that was really eye-opening to me. I was shocked by how many people don't have access to clean water, how easy it would be to fix it and how much I use daily. Off to bed; busy day tomorrow.
Day 11: Tree Planting Today we woke up at normal time to a breakfast of fried eggs and toast. We went to the build site and I worked on the outside walls of the teachers' accommodations. We worked until around 12:30pm and came back to camp for lunch. We had some free time after so I read in the sun. We went back to the site after and worked on the walls of the new schoolroom. We laid 3 levels of bricks! Then we planted trees around the school fence with a teacher named Kenneth! Kenneth dug us holes to put the saplings in. I planted two. It feels nice being able to leave something for the community that will be there for a long time; other than the school. 60 minutes is here filming a segment on FTC trips. We came back and had free time until dinner so I read some more. Dinner was chicken and french fries with orange jello for dessert. After we did a leadership activity. Turns out I'm a southwest logical thinker and team player. Going to read now then off to bed! Late wake up tomorrow and community day! P.S. I have a huge bruise on my spine from the water walk.
Day 12: Community Day It rained really hard last night. It was community day so we only ate food typical Kenyans would eat. For breakfast we had ugi (cornmeal and water), which tasted like pureed oatmeal. After breakfast we were divided into group by picking out of a hat. I was a farmer. Each group was given a certain amount/type of food to make for lunch. We also all had our own languages and were able to trade between groups. We started with a fire, cooking oil, beans and corn. We ended up with fire, cooking oil, beans, corn, rice, tomatoes, onion and a potato. We made our own fire without matches so apparently we broke the rules so we had to give the government some of our food as punishment. We rebelled against the government and resorted to stealing and thought about taking hostages. A member of our group stole 2 spoons and she went to jail. Another member stole a bowl of rice and dumped it into our pot so he went to jail and our rice was taken away. Someone else stole a tomato but he wasn't caught. After we barely ate lunch, we did an activity and had free time. We had ugali for dinner with cabbage. Very good and filling! Off to bed!
Day 13: Build Site We worked on the build site after breakfast. We leveled out the ground around the new school and I got a blister on my thumb from pickaxing. Livingstone and I talked about whale sharks and borrowing cats in the community. After lunch and an activity, we went back to the build site and i plastered the walls in the teachers' quarters. Josephart said he''d give me one of his kittens to take on the plane if I named it Josephart. After working we had dinner and a campfire! Off to the build site again in the morning!
Day 14: Build Site This morning we woke up at normal time and had eggs and toast for breakfast. We went to the school and I worked on the teachers' facilities. We completed the walls! It feels like such an accomplishment! After we came back for a spaghetti lunch and had free time until 3pm. I read in the sun and acquired a nice burn. We went on a hike for two hours after. We came back through the wheat field and watering hole we went to earlier in the trip (pictures above). We came back and I had tea masala and then showered (first time in 4 days!). We ate dinner after and off to bed now; early morning tomorrow for the SAFARI!
Day 15: SAFARI! Woke up at 5am and had toast, tea and orange slices for breakfast! Genny and I were in the back of the land rover for the safari. The drive out to the game reserve was two hours long and we were lead by a beautiful sunrise. We had a bathroom break and peed behind blankets; it was really weird at first but you get used to it. About a half hour until we got to the reserve we drove into a field where a large group of giraffes was. They were just milling around near some farms. There was also a bunch of zebras! They were all so close we could have touched them. Once we were on the reserve we saw so many animals! We saw wild boar, more zebras and giraffes, ostriches, water buffalo, wildebeest, all types of antelopes, elephants and even a lion! Everything was so beautiful. We stopped by a river for lunch where we were greeted by the sounds of hippos! After lunch we started making our way back and on our way we saw some more animals! When we got back to the camp we had some free time so I read and had some tea. After dinner, Livingstone taught us about the Maasai culture and traditions. Off to bed!
Day 16: Building We woke up at normal time today and went to the build site after breakfast. I worked on the new schoolroom. We laid 3 layers of bricks! Only two more to go! I can't believe we've almost completed the new classroom! It feels like it was so long ago when we built the floor. We came back for lunch and then had some free time so I continued my book. After we went to play with the kids! Naipei found me right away. All the kids were amazed by my camera and they took lots of pictures with it. I didn't even hold it once while we were there. We said goodbye and came back for showers and dinner. It was Meghan's birthday so we got a cake delivered by the dancing camp staff! After dinner we worked on our action plans. Busy day tomorrow so I'm off to bed!
Day 17: Tours Woke up at regular time and left at 9:30am after breakfast to go to the Mulot Market. We walked around and it was really cool to see where the locals hung out and bought their produce and clothes. The avocados were huge! Livingstone bought some shoes for his mother and wife. After we drove to the Baraka Health Clinic and had a tour. It is a really amazing place and they're currently building a new maternity ward (pictured above)! They even have a lab on site where they can test for different diseases such as HIV. We ate lunch there and then went next door to visit Kisuruni Girls' High School. It is an all girls school that the girls can attend if someone sponsors them. We were shown around by two very bright learners that spoke fluent English. All the learners live in dorms there and go home for holidays. There is even a computer lab, library and science lab. Genny and I really want to be sponsors for these girls some day. After our tours we came back and had some tea before dinner. Last day tomorrow!
Day 18: Last Day Woke up at 6am to go on a sunrise hike. However, it was too cloudy again. We wrote letters to ourselves that the staff will mail us later. We came back for breakfast and then headed to the build site. We finished the school! Yay! So proud of all of us. We also worked on the roof. We came back for lunch and then did the laundry of the clothes we are leaving here for donation. My bag feels so much lighter. After we went to the school for our goodbye ceremony. It was very sad and touching and we know that we're loved in Sikirar. The children danced and sang and we preformed a song as a group and brought the kids up to dance. I'm going to miss everyone so much. We played our last soccer game with them and we only lost 2-1 so I think we're getting better. I also played with Naipei a lot. I told her "Nita kuku mbuka me lele" which roughly means "I'll always remember you" which made her start crying and hence made me cry. All the kids gave us beaded bracelets and necklaces. After some long and teary goodbyes we left. I showered and then we ate dinner with the camp staff. I tried goat. Josephart told me I should stay in Kenya and look after his cats. After dinner we had a campfire for the last time. Our last night together was very bittersweet but I'm happy to be seeing my family soon. I can't believe we're off to the airport tomorrow.
Day 19/20: Nairobi Airport/Zurich Airport/Home Woke up at 6:45am and finished packing for home. We ate breakfast and loaded up the bags on the lorry. It was a 3.5 hour drive to the Great Rift Valley and it was so sad to pass through Sikirar one last time. I'm going to miss all the great people I met so much. At the Great Rift Valley lookout we did some shopping and had lunch. We continued our drive to the Rosslyn Centre. When we got to Nairobi we went to the Me to We store there and I bought a couple things. We ate a dinner of spaghetti and then drove to the airport. Our flight left Nairobi at 12am (scheduled 11:25pm). I fell asleep right after takeoff and didn't wake up until they were serving breakfast (5.5hrs later). We landed in Zurich around 6:45am local time. Now we have a 7hr layover. We looked for the showers and got lost, so that killed an hour. I bought a few chocolates and an $11 sandwich. Off to home soon to see the family in Montreal! This was for sure the best trip of my life and I'll never forget everything I learned and all the amazing people I met. Next up, Romania!

Thursday, 14 June 2012


On this trip, which took place this March, I decided to write my parents emails every day about the trip to forward to relatives. So here are the emails that I sent them: Day 1: Belgium and Delhi Hey guys! Arrived safely in Delhi around 10:30 local time, 12:30 pm Toronto time. The weather here is really nice at night, a cool breeze and around 18 degrees. Guards in the airport were casually carrying machine guns :/ saw lots of poverty driving from the airport into the city; cows, pigs, digs, people. Haven't seen a cat yet though. The flight to Belgium was about 6.5 hours and I didn't sleep a wink. Slept about 4 out of the 7.5 hours to Delhi. Really bad turbulence made everyone nauseous. When we arrived in Delhi we got on a nice tour bus with air conditioning (yay!). It is around 2 in the morning here right now, we got at the hotel a little after one. They had to scan our bags and carry ons at the hotel! We went through security at Pearson, brussels, and here! Better get to bed now, wake up call at 9 with a full day of touring! Your favourite daughter Day 2: Old/New Delhi So it's about noon there for you guys, just got back to the hotel. 9:30pm here. We went to a mosque called jama masjid (Friday mosque). I had to pay to bring my camera in but it was worth it! People here think white people are really weird so I've caught people taking pictures of us with their cell phones and asking to have pictures taken with us. A huge group of teenage girls at the mosque thought we were the coolest things so we got lots of group photos with them. Before entering the mosque everyone had to take off their shoes and the girls had to wear full robes to cover themselves and the boys wearing shorts had to wear long plaid skirts to cover their legs. Then we went on a rikshaw ride through the market (98% sure today was going to be the day I die). Our driver even crashed into someone in front of us just for the thrill. Then we went to ghandi's memorial (so many people, also had to remove shoes). You know how much I love Indian food so I've been eating so much at every meal I practically throw up. Everything is so fricken' delicious...had authentic butter chicken today. Amazing. We also saw lots of monkeys today and even a painted elephant walking on the road. The drivers here are insane, I don't think there are even any rules....the speed limit differs with the type of vehicle. Anyways, off to Agra tomorrow! (home of the Taj!) Hannah Day 3: On the Road to Agra Hello! What you need to drive in Indian: good brakes, good horn, good luck. Our guide also said the bigger vehicle has the right of way. Pretty crazy on the 5 hour drive to Agra. Almost killed a few people, saw lots of cows and a camel! Went to a really pretty garden place for lunch with waiters that referred to Alix as the "black one" in Hindi (she was wearing a black shirt). We also went to another palace/mausoleum, so beautiful. People were taking videos of us today, something different! We then arrived to Agra and went to an outdoor restaurant and a magic show. It's wedding season here and ceremonies can last 14 days. A wedding party went past the restaurant so we got lots of pictures. The groom rides a horse to the bride's house and picks here up for the wedding. He is lead by a party of dancing friends and family and a band wagon playing loud music. It is quite the party. They sure know how to celebrate and enjoy life here. Off to the taj mahal early so goodnight! Hannah Day 4: Agra Hey! So we went to the Taj Mahal today! Absolutely breathtaking. There are no words to discribe its beauty. You have to see it in person because pictures don't do it justice. After that we had lunch and tanned by the pool. Then we went to the red fort where the guy who built the taj was imprisoned. You can see the Taj from the windows and the fort itself is incredible. The locals were especially stalker-y today. I got some pictures of the guys following our group. We got a lot of attention at the Taj, especially the pale, blonde girls. I really didn't think it would be so bad considering it's a huge tourist destination. After the fort we saw a play/dance about the creation/story behind the Taj. Off to bed and Ranthambore tomorrow! Day 5: Travel to Ranthambore Today we drove to the train station to board first class to Ranthambore. We stopped at a palace/town that had been abandoned since the 16th century until recently. They built the town before they realized they didn't have enough water to sustain it. It was only inhabited for 12 years before it was left behind. The train ride was interesting. Everything here runs on "Indian time" so the train arrived 2 and a half hours late. The roads in ranthambore are too small and rocky for our bus so we rode in open jeep-like safari trucks. Day 6: Ranthambore Had quite a busy day today! Started with an early morning tiger safari in the national park. Saw lots of spotted deer, samber deer, wild boar, peacocks and monkeys but no tigers. Got henna done on my hand by the pool, made pottery and went on another tiger safari in the evening. Saw two tigers this time! Male and female across the road from each other. Pretty cool to hear them roar. Folk dancing with fire breathing around the bon fire at night! Day 7: Journey to Jaipur Long ride in the bus today. Went on a camel ride before leaving Ranthambore! It was amazing, just like riding a really tall, awkward horse. They can run really fast and getting off them was quite a challenge. Mailed my postcards this morning. Then 6.5 hour bus ride to Jaipur. Went to the local market (crazy busy, so many people!). Just had pasta made in front of me for dinner and then elephant riding in the morning! Day 8: Jaipur Went elephant riding today up to the amber fort in Jaipur. Incredible views and incredible animals. Our elephant was a painted 25-year-old elephant named Moonie. Jaipur is famous for their diamonds so they took us to a gemstone dealer/store.....bad idea for the girls. Then we went to a pashmina/textile/saree/carpet factory in the afternoon. Apparently their carpets never catch on fire and you can tell if they're real by taking a blowtorch to the back on it. Then we went to a festival in town. Alix and I went on the sketchiest ferris wheel ever. It was pretty much a ride called "let's see who can spin the wheel the fastest" it was hand cranked and teeming with tetanus. I got my forearm henna'ed to extend my hand one but turns out the second henna is fake so it's fading quickly. Day 9: Jaipur/Journey back to Delhi Long day in the bus today. Started by seeing the white temple and local palace in Jaipur. Then went to see a miniature rice painting place. Really cool but pretty expensive. 7 hour bus ride back to Delhi. The reigning marahaja in Jaipur is only 12 and he was adopted from his mother to his grandfather so he could hold that title. So technically he's his own mother's brother. Weird. We went to see a Bollywood movie tonight. Just like silver city but with comfy reclining chairs. Then we crashed an Indian wedding. We were filmed on tv for it too because they thought we were the weirdest things. Off for touring Delhi tomorrow and then back to Canada! Day 10: Delhi Very busy day in Delhi today. Went to the world's largest temple today! It is absolutely amazing. It took 7000 workers 5 years to make. It is carved so beautifully but no pictures are allowed. The security is very strict, no belts, iPods, phones, cameras, water, gum, nothing. They have hundreds of life-sized elephant carvings. Google "akshardham". There's a tour you can go on that our tour guide called "the brainwash tour". It is a tour that includes talking/moving wax figures and an underground boat ride like willy wonka. Then we went to Boston Pizza in the centre of Delhi for lunch (so tired of Indian food!). Chicken pot pie sounds so good right about now. Then we went to a travelers' hot spot but we only counted like 5 white people and it was a pretty creepy neighbourhood so we just had cokes on the roof of a hotel that costs 5 dollars a night. We met an irish guy with a shirt that said "hell was full so i came back". Then we went for our farewell dinner at a nice restaurant. Now we're at the hotel watching courage the cowardly dog and leaving for the airport at 11:45 pm. See you soon!