A Kenyan Count Down

In the absence of a marathon to train for – or any last minute tickets for Glastonbury –  I find myself having to acknowledge that three weeks today, Dora The Explorer will head off to Kenya with a troop of lovely students and teachers.  Excited though I am, I have tried valiantly not to look at the pile of debris on the floor of the spare room because if I do,  I will have to work out how to Marie Kondo all of this kit into my rucksack.

At school, preparations for the trip are definitely hotting up.  I am touched that one of my  colleagues has resisted mentioning that we have been treating his office like my spare bedroom; piles of donations are gradually spreading across the room, and I notice last week that even his desk now seems to be disappearing under a pile of knitted red jumpers.

As we have discussed before, the red jumpers count as school uniform in Kenya and so act as a passport for the students in the villages we will visit, allowing them entry into a classroom.  Each year we visit Kenya, I am humbled beforehand by the productivity of our local Knit and Natter groups and their packages of hand-knitted school jumpers are now arriving daily.  Our Office Manager thinks I have forgotten we are a Sixth Form and have set up a clothing depot instead. I am inundated by  emails from staff asking how much longer they have to finish the jumper they are working on.  I don’t feel in a position to tell them to hurry up, because I still have an unfinished jumper I started in 2013.

This year, we are also donating bee hives  to families in the Mara as these will sustain a family for six to seven years.  I am a little concerned to discover that although we have sent the money ahead for the necessary materials, we may be expected to put the hives together ourselves when we get to Kenya.  As someone who comes out in a different version of hives at the mention of an Ikea flat pack, I am hoping that the students have greater spatial awareness than I do -even building a marble run has reduced me to tears in the past. I might just chuck a couple of Allen keys into my rucksack to at least look like the bee’s knees. I am left wondering whether I need to review the trip risk assessment forms.

As Kenya is so far ahead of us in banning plastic bags, we have also been blessed with donations of of canvas bags to take with us.  Some of these are school bag size and have been fashioned out of old curtains and t-towels, while others are big canvas shoppers for the adults.  Last time I went to Kenya, children were still making their own footballs out of plastic bags balled up and tied with string.  I’m pleased that Kenya is battling against plastic, but I am now angsting about whether we are taking enough real footballs with us.

Another colleague emails to offer our students Swahili lessons before we leave.  I email back, ‘Assante Sana’ feeling rather smug.  I rack my brains to remember the other ‘get out of jail’ phrases he gave me when we last travelled together in the Mara.  I am sure he told me that ‘me me maskini’ would fend off anyone trying to sell me Masai swords or bracelets, as I’m sure it means ‘I am broke’ – and I certainly am for I have just stocked up on a new head torch and sleeping mat and now realise I have no eating utensils for camping.  Would Cath Kidston’s enamel kitchenware look out of place around the camp fire, I wonder?

My other current worry is thinking about what songs our students can rehearse to sing in front of our hosts.  It is traditional for Kenyan school children to always greet us with some songs – and often some dancing.  The nursery school students usually sing a song called ‘happy to see you’  complete with actions, and I worry that we really can not get by with ‘London’s Burning’ and ‘Kumbaya’ for the fourth year in a row.   Perhaps we have time to contact Stormzy before he performs at Glastonbury this Friday? A couple of years back, the students performed a convincing version of Robbie Williams’ ‘Angels’ but I still feel a little disquiet that the Kenyan church choir thought this was a hymn.  Mind you, we had nailed that song by the time we left, and I think it will be a long time before fellow travellers on the transfer bus at Schiphol Airport will forget our final performance.

So, nothing more to stress about now other than checking each student claims their named trip hoodie before we travel.  There are so many students going on the trip this year that I will certainly struggle to learn all their names.  Thanks to these hoodies, at least if I am standing behind a student, I will always be able to blag my way through for their names should be in big white letters on their backs.  I am just hoping that they chose sensible names when they ordered their kit; I don’t want to sound too ridiculous calling after ‘Chief’ or ‘Razza’ at Heathrow.  I am also just rethinking my decision to put ‘Dora’ on the back of my hoodie …should I also be feeling anxious about wearing a hoodie if I am over 50?  At least this anxiety is leading to an inability to sleep well, and that will be great preparation for camping.  Let Kenyan count down commence.


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