The tropical forest of the east African coast was amazing, but it was the quintessential Africa, the vast plains and harsh bush I had dreamed of.
It was 6 weeks into my Kenya volunteership and I was having the time of my life! Every day was a totally new and extreme experience. Once my training in the forest ended, I finally got the opportunity to visit inland Kenya and see firsthand the Africa I had so long awaited!
The volunteers and I headed for a town called Tsavo, near the border of Tanzania, to work with a rural community and develop sustainable methods for better health, education and resources.
The road to Tsavo is long and dusty. I mean really dusty, almost like fine-grade sand. Anything it touched was stained red, forever marked by the African earth.
Due to the human population of this area, sightings of popular African wildlife were rare, but still possible.
Of all the opportunities I was privy to during my internship in Kenya, Most agreed that Tsavo was their favorite. It was special. There was no running water or electricity. The vols spread out on the floor of houses made from sticks and mud bricks, topped with a tin roof. During the day, you could hear dung beetles crash hard into the roof and roll down! At first, it sounded like kids were throwing rocks!
We cooked dinner outside to the setting sun, told stories and drank cups of tea around the fire till late, until our eyelids were too heavy to keep open any longer. No one wanted to go to bed and miss a single second of waking life in that place. And at night… we had security guards stand watch with spears to protect us from lions. I shit you not.
The presence of life there was… more alive, vivid and colorful than I knew could exist, like something out of a Disney story. The birds were so brightly colored and new to me, I simply couldn’t get over how wonderful it was to be surrounded by Fish eagles, Hornbills, Red throated Bee-eaters, Lilac Breasted Rollers and even the African green Parrot!There is something so grounding about standing barefoot in the African dirt. Click To Tweet
Every morning when I woke up and stepped out into the world, I would turn left and be greeted by the majestic and legendary, Mt. Kilimanjaro. Sometimes, I’d put on my IPod and listen to Toto’s Africa while I watched the clouds unveil that snow-caped mountain, and my heart would sing.
I did a number of projects out in the nearby communities including teaching accounting lessons, building schools, organizing logistics for a library and methods for wildlife conservation.
At the end of the week, we were blessed to have many from the community, come and say thank you and perform a traditional dance. I felt closer to those people, more in touch with their spirit and character than anyone I’d ever met, and I’d known them for 6 days. Something so strange and inspiring about overcoming a language barrier and working together to improve the quality of life for others. I’ll never forget it.
I’m standing alone, trying to avoid the prickly Acacia bushes near me. Clothed only in a pair of shorts, I let my bare feet dig into the warm, red dirt and connect me to the Earth’s energy. I look to the west, speechless, as the sun sets with haste over the distant mountain. That perfectly formed orb, both temperate and powerful slips away, marking the end of another day. In the foreground, a giant Baobab stands tall, harboring hornbills and swaying gently under the coming winds. I have never felt more awake.
(This moment I’ve mentioned, was for me, the most powerful experience of my life and to this day, remains the happiest I’ve ever been.)