Sunday, May 26, 2013

AFRICA at last!

I can't remember when Africa crept into the back of my mind. Earlier this year I had a gut feeling that this was the summer of Africa. But, I didn't want to do my usual sprint from place to place. I wanted to anchor down and do volunteer work. So here's the plan:
1. June 1 - 15: Missions at African Renewal University in Kampala, Uganda, developing curriculum.
2. June 15-July 1: Wildlife conservation work in Mara Naboisho, Kenya

Why? What? How? 
Part 1: I felt a pull to go on missions again. My past missions trips were both orphan care. In 2005, I went to Guatemala with Bucker and 2002 to Romania with Livada. I had no preference where or what in Africa, except I wanted to go solo. This required some advance prep (ie. more than my usual 3 weeks). Two months ago I asked my pastor at Cornerstone West LA if we have any connections in Africa. We partner with African Renewal University in Uganda. They are developing a Community Health Bachelor's degree program. Would I be interested in helping? Absolutely! Little did they know that I have a strong background in curriculum development so this is a great, unforeseen fit. Who knew I had applicable skills? I thought I'd just go dig a hole.

Part 2: Lionesses are pretty amazing. So I put into Google search "lionesses" + "Africa" + "volunteer"  and launched my research from there. My friend, Elaine, became intrigued and jumped on board. We decided on African Impact and Mara Naboisho Conservancy because it seems reputable, the bush location is removed from tourism and the organization has strong, continuous ties with empowering the local community.

5 days left. I met with my pastor today who traveled to ARU (the university) last year. He asked:
1. Have you been preparing? Yes. Packing? No.
2. Can you rough it? Yup! Bring it on.
3. Do you like potatoes? Yes! (Thanks to my Denmark stint.)

Other questions:
1. Are you nervous? No. Should I be?
2. Have you checked out (of work)? No. Too much to do. I accidentally scheduled my flight 2 days before my last final exam. My bad. Work is hectic, but this is how I roll. The good news is that I have never missed a plane.
3. How can you take 1 month off? "Professional development." Curriculum development at a university and field work in ecology. Sometimes you just got to make it happen.
4. Is it safe? A jeep can out-drive a lion, right?
5. Are you looking to stay more long term? I don't plan too, but there are two reasons why I might not come back: 1. I love it (always a concern) or 2. I get eaten by a lion.

I just found out where the university is (1.5 hrs out of the capital). Logistics are covered so I'll just show up and go from there. But, I'm prepping in other ways. I started working on the curriculum and will load up my laptop. I got more shots (I thought I was all shot up for the Amazon, but apparently there's more) and air evacuation insurance (what?!). Oh yeah, and I'm loading up on veggies and fruits!

This trip is unlike any other I have blogged about. This is evident from this long post 5 whole days in advance! I'm crazy excited to see what is in store! Now I just need to make it on that plane...