Thursday, September 12, 2013

don't make plans

There's nothing like a warm sleeping bag...on a padded a cozy the fresh air...under a starry sky to guarantee a good night's sleep. That's IF you can ignore the hyenas that are yipping and foraging right outside your door!

Thankfully, we had a warrior in our midst...Talek, a Maasai moran, who roamed the camp at night to drive out (or, if necessary, to spear...) any unwelcome intruders.

Last year, Talek was shy around us. This year...not so much. Last year we fed him S'mores for the first time. This year...he was waiting for them!

Thanks to him, we got a good night's sleep, waking up at 5:45 for breakfast at 7:00: eggs, sausage (think: hot dogs), fried tomatoes, toast, and papaya. Because we got in so late last night, we still had to sort and organize, and to count out and bag the almost $10,000 worth of medicine and supplies that were still packed in our suitcases.

In the afternoon couple of us went out to the clinic to see if we could configure a medical clinic out of a circus tent. Easy: string up some rope and hang bed sheets from it. Voila! Ready for business:

Unfortunately, business had to wait until the next day. Sorting and setting up took all day long. And that wasn't all we did.

Back at camp--in denial that there might be any danger to it--a couple of us decided to take a walk along the road to who-knew-where. We found ourselves following a young Maasai girl on her way home from school.

Patty and Jannice with their new friend.

When we overtook her, she led us to her home, or boma--a traditional shelter built of tree trunks and sticks covered with a mixture of mud and dung. We also met up with two young English-speaking Maasai men who were in the early stages of building their boma. We were befriended by a couple of other children--literally in the middle of nowhere. And lived to tell about it!


Today, the warrior/hunters among us took down a wildebeest. 

Glenn Johnson holding the head.
When sous chef Peter announced that supper would be "beef stew"...I'm pretty sure he meant "wilde-beef stew." The Maasai consider cattle to be the symbol of their wealth. Historically, they believed that the gods had destined all the cattle on earth to be theirs. They will starve before they will slaughter one of their herd. Ergo, they do not eat beef stew...nor serve it to guests. Nor do they sell cattle to earn income. They milk for their own use but most do not pasteurize, bottle or sell the milk for profit. The animal is sacred to them. Poverty is their plight.

Around the campfire that night, we heard one man's tale of a lion attack and he showed us the scars to prove it. We learned how to start a fire using a friction stick--no easy task.

As dusk fell, we watched the ceremonial "jumping dance" of the Maasai warriors.

Finally we sent up a symbolic DIY hot air balloon fashioned out of paper, wire and wood. For some, its release represented sending up a prayer--a prayer of gratitude for our safe arrival, for the privilege of serving this village, and for divine intervention on behalf of our efforts. For me, it represented a letting go...letting go of anxiety in order to allow this experience to unfold on its own terms. Letting go of self. But mostly, letting go of fiercely held expectations. Especially, the expectations.

If you are thinking about travelling to Africa, here is a piece of advice:


Last year we expected dry weather. Instead it rained almost every day. This year we expected warm weather. Instead we shivered in the cold morning wind.

This year, our construction team expected to tile the floor of the medical clinic. Instead, they ended up replacing the roof.

A multi-talented group of men!
The medical team expected to travel from village to village during our stay. Instead, we set up the clinic in a tent...a regular little MASH unit (minus running water and generator.)

One of our exam "rooms."

Not to worry. Not a problem. We fielded not one complaint from any of the OVER 700 PATIENTS we saw during the week. So, if you go to Africa, put your plans on hold! Leave your expectations behind! Flexibility and irrepressible optimism will get you through.

Not to mention faith...
"Not everything that is faced
can be changed, 
but nothing can be changed until it is faced."
--James Baldwin--
Tomorrow we get down to work.


  1. I don't think I could do this, Jan! Wow - how primitive and challenging! Great blog!

    Your brudder.

  2. But the people are friendly, and that makes all the difference.