Suddenly, I find myself in Western Kenya, in the Kakamega rainforest, with a bright blue team t-shirt, a Kenyan cell phone, a Lifestraw Go Bottle that I’m instructed to use at all times, and surrounded not only by my team members from all over the World (yes, seriously there was people from Canada, USA, Switzerland, India, China, Malaysia just to name a few places…) not to mention all of the local Kenyan staff and drivers. I’m instructed to smile lots, ALWAYS shake everyone’s hands (no matter if they are covered in dirt), to sing and dance whenever possible, and to not be taken back if there are children that seemed to be frightened by me, as I might be the first white person they’ve ever had the opportunity to see…or touch. Oh and by the way, we’ll be driving all over the place, there’s usually a huge rainstorm in the afternoon, but sometimes it comes earlier, it’s likely we will at some point get stuck in the mud, the roads aren’t always roads, the drivers drive really fast, and we’ll be visiting 4 schools a day, approx 1.5-2 hours at each school, plus driving to each school. Sometimes you’ll have a full car, 5 people in 5 seats, sometimes you’ll end up with more in your car. It happens. When something goes wrong, or weird, well, you just have to go with the flow, and remember, you’re in Africa. You may not get lunch, or it might just be chapata (like a homemade naan bread) at a road side stand. Some schools you’ll be busting your butt to get the Lifestraw Community filters put together and working, other schools, you’ll be busting your butt to entertain 100-1000 kids that speak very very little English. Guaranteed, when you say, I’m Solana, from CANADA, you’re going to get a ton of laughs and giggles. Also guaranteed, if you reach your hand out to the kids, you will be swarmed with everyone wanting a turn to touch your white skin. If you dare, let down your hair, and let them touch it, you’re guaranteed to be mauled (in a good way).
Photo by Jess Daddio.
Whatever happens, you’re going to come out of each and every day, exhausted, happy, grateful for the experience, and thankful for all of the things we take for granted in Canada.
Let me tell you about my whirlwind experience in Kenya this November…