This is it! My first trip as a team leader from start to finish… Pressure? No. Just an immense amount of fun – awesome people and a beautiful place. 🙂
When I was deciding where to plan my first trip as a team leader, I was overwhelmed by the choices. So many places, so little vacation time… I’ve never been one to do the “popular” thing or to steer away from a challenge, so I picked one of the remotest and challenging destinations I had heard of – rural Kyrgyzstan. I reasoned that it had good reviews from my volunteer friends and I might as well put that Russian study to use. Right? Right.
I had a long runway for recruiting and managed to put together a fantastic group of 11 very “normal” volunteers…haha, maybe you had to be there to get that joke. 🙂 But seriously – it was fantastic. We stayed in a local home and despite sharing one working toilet, one outhouse and every possible minute together for 2 weeks, we managed to not only tolerate each other but become fast friends very quickly.
The stories abound – vodka and mustache nights, the bikini model in Lake Issyk Kul, the quote book…not to mention the incredible kindness of the family and community during our stay in Barskoon. This is location that I highly recommend. Then you too will be able to say “I don’t know anyone else who _(fill in your favorite memory here)_ in Kyrgyzstan!”
When I returned from Kenya in August, I was happy and satisfied. Traveling always gives me a feeling of adventure, but I was ready to “settle down” for a while! However, that was not in the cards…
Shortly before I went to Africa, a good friend called with a request: would I be willing to take over leadership of a team she was planning to lead to Thailand in October? Wow. A 14,000 mile journey in August followed by a 17,000 mile trip in October? Could I survive? Well, might as well try. 🙂
This was a great way to get me “out of Africa” and into volunteering in additional destinations! I’m thankful that it turned out as it did. We had a small but mighty team that spent 2 weeks in Phuket building, helping, touring and taking it all in. It was also the first time I had “repeat volunteer” on a trip – what a great experience!
I was scheduled to build in Kenya in March of 2013, but unfortunately that trip was cancelled due to uncertainty around the upcoming Presidential elections. You may recall that in 2008, there were riots following the December 2007 elections, which led to a humanitarian crisis. Habitat for Humanity made the difficult decision to cancel our scheduled trip based on an analysis of safety. Thankfully, those concerns turned out to be for naught as the elections were relatively peaceful. Nevertheless, it left me without a trip!
Around this same time, the folks at Habitat for Humanity Kenya were reevaluating their program and were planning to put hosting of international volunteer programs on hold in order to focus their efforts in other ways. When I learned that it might be some time before teams would be returning to Kenya, I quickly found one of the remaining teams and joined what turned out to be the last team of the year!
This time we worked in a different area of town relative to my first two trips, so the experience was new for us all. We met Dinah John, an elderly woman who cared for her orphaned grandchildren when there were not attending boarding school. Over the course of a week, we laughed, cried, danced and sang with our new community. Simon and Stanley, with the help of occasional translation and usual jokes from Eric, taught us to mix mortar, lay bricks and plumb corners of the house. We chatted and played with the kids and ate delicious meals (ugali! chapati! mandazi!) prepared by the women of the community.
What a team. What a country!
Exploring and learning while enjoying life and doing my part. Here, there and everywhere…