2009 has been a year of real adventure. Because of a great team, and some understanding colleagues, I was lucky enough to take some long term leave to cross some of those ‘I always wanted to…’ things off the list. So armed with clear instructions to take a break, and leave my blackberry in the top drawer, I set off.
I fit in some travel – some of my favourites, managing to catch piranha, hunt anaconda, trek the Andes, and eat some stuff like sheep’s brain, and camel.
But the real highlights have been 2 development stints, in Guyana and Kenya.
2 months, Guyana, South America
Positioned on the edge of South America, Guyana affiliates itself with the Caribbean and doesn’t feel like South America as you imagine it. A legacy of its colonial history, it’s a cultural melting pot, with an African, East Indian, and Amerindian cultural mix. Our volunteer group was in a semi-permanent logging community called Anarika, around 3 hours by bus from the capital Georgetown. We were on the edge of what’s referred to as ‘the interior’ – the hard to get to, travel through and live in jungle. Think Amazon… and you’re not too far off. We had a two bedroom wooden stilted house/shack – definitely pretty outback for this city girl… washing in a river for two months, flushing the toilet with a bucket, and sharing your living space with 7 others not to mention bats, cockroaches and tarantula’s!
We did a range of work projects from construction, to HIV/AIDS education, teaching and literacy programs. It took us just over a month, but we were actually able to get immersed in the community – really seeing and living another type of life. It’s pretty rare you get to do that travelling, as you’re usually seeing the best or the worst from the other side of a camera lens.
For me, it was a first taste into what it means to go to another part of the world and assist in its development in a small way. Due to nature of the group, project, location, community etc, it wasn’t full on or remote like I expected, and the importance of our efforts was more about the relationships we helped develop and foster in the community, than the physical works we left. I think in our culture, where we’re so used to moving quickly and distinctly, that it was important to remember that even the smallest change, that may have seemed like a very small pebble, was a difference.
A few highlights:
- Having fun with parasites: I had a few envious people after I got a ‘chigger’ in my foot – a parasite that lays eggs deep under your skin. Removed said ‘chigger’ in home operation, only to have a flea try and live in foot. Result, walked around with wrapped foot, and was forced on at least one occasion to rock a sock and sandal (my disgust was complete).
- Food: After consumption often cold, and 3 times a day rice, in this spoilt girls opinion, rice is lower on the desirable food chain than a teaspoon of instant coffee, mixed in a margarine tub, with room temperature water and a scoop of powdered milk (a daily caffeine treat in our house for the last couple of weeks).
- How to fish Anarika style: mix this herb called Kunami, with spiders and cockroaches and flour, and roll them into balls. You take the boat around the islands in the river, and through this stuff in, and it ‘makes the fish drunk’. They then start flopping up and down like mad, and the local boys, just dive in and it becomes a chase to catch them by hand… one of the craziest things I’ve ever seen!
3 weeks, Kenya, Africa
After 5 months on the road, it was back into central Kenya to the Mully Children’s Family Orphanage. MCF’s functional Mission and Vision is to reach out, rescue, rehabilitate, protect, and care for the less fortunate and vulnerable children in the community. Each Year MCF becomes a home and a hope to street children, orphans, abandoned, abused, HIV & AIDS affected and infected, desperate and neglected children, who have nowhere to call home and no one to care for them.
Focused on developing agriculture and other programs to be fully self-sustaining it was so heartening to see a potentially sustainable development model, after seeing such extreme poverty around the world. Since its inception, the organisation has witnessed more than 5,000 children being successfully rehabilitated. We were lucky enough to get involved with the kids, and run health clinics and education programs.
I was lucky enough to land on trench digging duty – digging house foundations with a pick and shovel. Nothing more rewarding than toiling someone else’s soil – especially in an area that’s so drought stricken around 10.000 people are dying from lack of access to water each week. It’s groups like MCF that make a difference, and being part of that chain was a rewarding experience.
Not to mention I can add to my affectionate title of ‘Queen of the Tramps’, with ‘Trench Wench’.
Thanks for reading – until next time, safe jumping!