We visited the Nairobi National Park, the world’s only national park within sight of a major city. There, we saw gazelles, rhinos, lions, giraffes, zebras, baboons, and crocodiles.
We also checked out the adjoining elephant orphanage, and got to watch baby elephants feed and drink milk from big bottles. We also got to touch the elephants!
Yesterday, we visited Lake Victoria before we caught our flight back to Nairobi. We saw hippos, and egrets. It was cool to be at the source of the Nile, the world’s longest river.
The group visited the Maasai market in Nairobi and bargained for goods.
After the market, we experienced reentry as we visited a western-style supermarket and ate dinner at an upscale Nairobi restaurant.
Today, we went on a safari at Nairobi National Park and visited an adjoining elephant sanctuary. At the National Park, we saw giraffes, zebras, lions, gazelles, hippos, rhinos, and the Nairobi skyline simultaneously.
Today was our last day at the Care Center. Tears were shed as the Emma girls bid adieu to their new friends at the KOCC.
It’s been another great day! We visited two local primary schools. I met a 10 year-old aspiring rapper named John. Ines and Maria taught kids to play duck-duck-goose and to sing Spanish songs.
We also visited new KOCC homes, and experienced residential settings few of us could have imagined. Tina also met a cute kitten!
In a neat turn of events, the rainy season (which has been long overdue) appears to have begun, as it rained very hard today. Hopefully that will mean daily rain for the crops that Kenyans depend upon.
Jumapili (Sunday) is a big day here. Last night, we fell asleep and woke up to the sounds of all-night church services. It is common here to spend all Sunday at church.
So far it’s been another unforgettable day. The girls have been resilient and curious all trip, and have never shied away from experiencing Kenyan culture. This afternoon, they played soccer with the KOCC kids.
Speaking for myself, I know I will have fodder for thought and reflection for decades to come, and I suspect the girls will find similarly.
Each evening, the KOCC holds a “parade,” a time when all the kids and staff members meet to exchange motivation, news, and well-wishes. Tina shared a poem at this one – a beautiful verse reflecting on being present in the moment – that sums up the trip for me so far.
Standup comedy not understood by the comedian.
This morning, some of the girls went to the pool with the boys from the Care Center. Later, another group will be going with the Care Center girls.
Later today and tomorrow, the girls and the kids at the Care Center will be having a talent show. Lucy is rehearsing a traditional American gospel song with a group of KOCC children. Tina will be teaching the art of making Chinese dumplings. All the Emma girls have many talents that are going on display, and I am feeling comparatively untalented.
Also on the docket will be preparations for a relay race tomorrow led by the girls.
Tina led the girls and Lucy, along with several Kenyans, in dumpling production.
Today was another great day that started with bucket-laundering and discussions about women’s issues in Kenya. I have no pictures of either, but I’m switching to a photojournal format today:
Today was a fantastic day. The group woke up earlier, and individuals explored the coffee, yogurt and tea offerings of the KOCC in the morning, and also the balcony view of the bustling street outside the center. We all headed down to breakfast by 8:30 or 9:00, and chatted with staff.
After breakfast, we headed upstairs at the KOCC for an in-depth overview of the history and workings of the Kakamega Care Center, delivered by the charismatic Pastor Ida. We learned about how the KOCC began as a small program to provide food for AIDS orphans that was organized by a small group of women affiliated with the Quaker church, but how it has grown to become a program providing support for almost 200 at-risk children in and around Kakamega.
After Ida’s talk, we heard from Dorothy, a founder of the KOCC (currently KOCC’s board comprises 14 women in the community). Dorothy talked about the role of faith and destiny in her building of the Care Center. She described receiving a “call” which she denied twice, and the third time she received it, taking action to set up the KOCC. It was a powerful presentation very at odds with most of our experiences from back home.
On Saturday , we met with Leah Bennett of Friends of Kakamega and finished final preparations. On Sunday morning, we caught a shuttle at school, and rode to JFK. We had some time to kill before our 14-hour direct flight from JFK to Nairobi, which the girls skillfully filled with Jamba Juice and other airport delicacies.
Our flight was long, and though Kenya Airways’ new 787 was wonderfully comfortable, I think that by our arrival on Saturday morning we had all decided enough was enough when it came to airplanes!
Once we arrived in Kenya, we met the smiling face of Ida Nelson, the director of the Kakamega Care Center, and he led us to another shuttle.
Our driver, Nick, who is a “very good driver” according to Ida and frequently drives for him, dropped us off at our hotel in Nairobi, the Kenya Comfort Hotel. The rooms were nice and modern, and we unpacked and got settled into our rooms.
On our first day in Kenya, we had a bit more time than expected, and we walked to the IKCC (International Kenya Conference Center) to check out the view of Nairobi from the 105-meter helipad on top.
After the IKCC, we all got back to the hotel and went to bed early.
This morning, Tuesday, we all got up, had breakfast, and boarded our stuff onto a shuttle to take to Kakamega, the town where the Care Center is located.
The drive to the Care Center took about 7 hours, and we passed through many different human and natural environments on the way. We stopped several times, including at the Great Rift Valley and at the equator.
At the end of our drive, we were greeted at the Care Center by Pastor Ida and the kids singing and dancing welcoming us. We feasted on a meal of welcome, and met a lot of really cool staff members and great kids! At the end of the day, Leah led us in unpacking the experience so far, and the girls are proving to be a reflective and open group.
Can’t wait for the rest of the trip!
Hello Kenya parents,
After various behind-the-scenes trials and tribulations, vaccines are done, and visa paperwork is done. The Kenya AWAY trip is happening. The students are excited about working at the CARE Center in Kakamega. I am thrilled to be returning to a part of the world that I adore, and to be working with this group of students and adult leaders.
I am attaching our daily trip schedule and flight itineraries (The itineraries are in 2 documents only because some students are on one, and others on the other). We are asking students to pack their things in carry-on bags. That will allow us to have plenty of room for the games and activities that the students are planning, and also minimize the amount of stuff that we have to lug around in Kenya. If necessary, we will be able to pack spillover into group checked baggage, but we would like to minimize usage of that option. On Saturday, we will all be meeting at Emma to organize our bags together, and to check in with Leah Bennett (our 3rd trip chaperone, and the expert creative force behind organizing our wonderful upcoming trip).
On Sunday, We are hiring a shuttle bus to drive the group from Emma to JFK, so students should be transported to Emma on Sunday morning. We fly out on Sunday evening.
On the trip, I will have a school-provided satellite phone. Until then, my mobile phone number is 518-256-0777, and please don’t hesitate to call me if you have any questions. Lucy and I are thrilled to be working with Leah.
I would like to extend formal recognition to the people who have been instrumental in allowing the trip to happen:
*Leah Bennett of Friends of Kakamega is the reason the trip is happening. Nothing would have been able to happen without her expertise, concern for fun and safety, and experience.
*Robert Naeher, the AWAY Trips Coordinator at Emma: Thank you for the countless hours you have put into the trip (while balancing 10 million other job responsibilities).
*Lucy Marston, my lovely fiancée and trip co-leader: Thanks for all your assistance in communication, scheduling, etc.
*Lucy Wu of CSC Travel: Thanks for your tireless in her assistance of Emma in completing visa paperwork. She has an incredible attention to detail and has shown tremendous caring for our students.
*Evangeline Delgado of Emma Willard: Thanks for all your insight into packing, etc., and from sharing your experience traveling to Kenya with Emma in previous years.
Emma Willard School Trip Leader, March 2019 Kenya AWAY Trip