Dora the Explorer

I nearly didn’t blog this week, and I certainly won’t over the next couple of weeks (clear your diaries, people), but I find myself with a couple of hours before I leave to catch up with the intrepid group of teachers and students who have led the forward party to Kenya without me. I have decided that if I spend the time writing a cheeky blog, it will prevent me from double checking that I have packed everything I need for this journey.

I wish my sister was by my side to help me pack; I would love to arrive with a rucksack that is colour coded and precisely folded. This is not going to happen.  Still, I do know which side pocket I have packed my head torch in, and I have learnt the hard way that this is a priority.   Bizarre that I am such a worry wart but that I never seem to calm myself by triple checking and repacking.  Perhaps I do like adrenalin after all.

Sorry, just had to break off; I remembered I hadn’t taken my malaria tablet. Close call. Still, as I also squeezed in a coffee break, it gave me a perfect excuse to test out my new camping mug. Failure to prepare and all that…

My heart feels in two places as I pack, but I do leave for Kenya with my sister’s blessing and I know her too well to defy her wishes.  By allowing the forward party to leave without me, I have had a few days to spend time with sis in the most peaceful hospice setting.  Always a silver lining if you look for one, and along with spending time with sis,  I seem to have swapped a long distance flight at the weekend with 40 students, to a long distance mid-week flight on my tod. (FS will think this is hilarious having witnessed the debacle of Mama J coping with Stanstead and a short haul flight last Summer). This is a first for me, and it may even allow me to get my head back together.

Mind you, we know how chatty I am when I am nervous, so it will probably be me on the flight who engages a fellow passenger in conversation as soon as I sit down, and it will be me who emerges 10 hours later having had no opportunity to use my new eye mask (rainbow coloured, get me), watch  a film or open my book.   However, I will be  fully versed in a stranger’s life story and one day this story may give me the narrative for a block buster novel.  I remain optimistic about this trip – my sister has me well trained.

Notice how my fretting is allowing me to self obsess about my travel when my sister is writing out a much more important itineray . I say to her that I can not believe that this is my fourth trip to Kenya; she comments that travelling alone this time does highlight how far my dragonfly journey has taken/is taking me.  I sit in the sunshine at the hospice with my sister this weekend and we reflect on our journeys. We reflect that some journeys have to be taken alone and that this is the point of them.

She is one of the few residents in the hospice who wants to soak up the sun and smell the fresh air, so we have had the garden to ourselves and have got into a little routine of taking the right pillows, to the right bench, to see the right view.  Even her little meals have been taken al fresco.  I heard she encouraged the family to sneak in some gin cocktails last week and charmed  the staff into opening the windows so she could hear piano music float down the garden as a member of staff practised their scales.

Sis has always been a Dora the Explorer, scaring our father witless with her post-wedding gap year (no pension plan, no children yet, what are you thinking of daughter?!) and for the rest of her life making up for the fact that our parents believed that a week’s cycling/YMCA holiday on the Isle of Wight was overly adventurous.

So it was lovely to hear sis chuckle as we talked about holidays we have shared together over the years.  Naturally most of the chuckling was at my expense for I am not the most logical or practical person in a crisis. (Remind me why I am going to Kenya).  It was sis who walked my small son around the grounds of a French gite after he slipped by the swimming pool – I was too dense to realise he could be concussed and she was too sensitive to alarm me. No wonder both my children adore her.

Then there were those holidays in Egypt.  These days, I don’t think ‘Elf and Safety would allow children to roll around on a ‘magic carpet’ in the back of the pick up truck which pretended to be a taxi and took us all into town each night. I know there were no seat belts, but it was worth it just to hear four children squealing in delight as we raced down a very dusty and bumpy track.  I would take that form of transport over a camel any day – and we also experienced that bad tempered mode of transport on the same holiday, so I am in a position to judge with authority.

So, sis thinks this upcoming Kenyan adventure will be good for me.  She tells me she is going nowhere and will be here when I get back.  First off I thought she was looking for me to bring back some fresh Kenyan coffee beans, but I realise she is so selfless these days that she has even swapped coffee for a brand of mint tea with a dragonfly on the label.

As I resist any temptation to double check my rucksack, I will also try really hard to resist the temptation to continually check up on my sister, callous though that reads.  She has her journey peacefully organised  and she repeatedly told me this in our garden conversations.  All I could tell her back was how highly my children and I would rate her on Trip Advisor if she allowed us to do so.  Mind you, there would be no category high enough to rate someone who continues to walk me through any exploring – metaphorical or Kenyan – that lies on the horizon.

I sense on my return sis will have had the garden furniture reorganised, some of the flower beds replanted and that those piano recitals will be a daily event.  She will continue to explore all the options and her fellow travellers will reap the benefits .  I had better board that plane. I know she is in good hands and that she will want to hear about my adventures.


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