The MAF plane was a large one, with few passengers. The plane had four rows of three seats each. The back center section was open, with no seats, and was intended as an area to strap down loads of supplies. There was also a back row of seats occupied by a MAF pilot, his wife and a small child in a car seat. Sarah and I joined the other passengers — another MAF pilot, headed to Nairobi for treatment of an eye infection, and two young men from Sudan.
The flight was uneventful. Upon landing, the two Sudanese men were dropped at customs. The plane taxied with the rest of the passengers to the MAF terminal, where our bags were held while I paid the $1,200 fee for the diverted flight. Best left to say that I was not a happy girl.
Once released from the MAF terminal, I checked in with Eutychus of Baisy Safaris. Many of the travelers in the safari group had arrived, and more would be landing shortly. Once Sarah was checked in at the Fairview Hotel, I made the rounds of the hotel grounds and introduced myself to group members whom I recognized from passport pictures. With sweaty clothes covered in dust, I needed a shower and clean clothes, but there was no time to indulge in this luxury. At the hotel business center, I printed a letter with the following day’s schedule and it was distributed to the clients’ rooms. With just four passengers left to arrive, I finally went to bed at 11:30 p.m..
The safari started with a presentation by Ken Okoth of St. Lawrence University, who gave us a tour of his facility in the Kibera slums of Nairobi. Once we were out of the city, the safari was especially successful because of the wildlife. In Samburu we saw cheetah, lion and leopard, as well as an unbelievable sighting of rare wild dogs. One afternoon, we watched a delighted group of young elephants swim and bathe in the rushing waters of the Ewaso Nyiro River. We were given a private presentation at the Save the Elephant research center by David Daballen, who was born in the northern Kenyan village of Karare. Rebecca Lolosoli inspired us with her work on behalf of Samburu women’s rights and the battle against the unfortunate practice of female genital cutting. We were treated to a presentation on essential African oils at the beautiful home of Hilary Sommerlatte of Arbor Oils, and charmed by the young women who manage Maili Saba Camp. In the Mara, we learned about the work of the Peregrine Fund by vulture researchers and visited a private school for Maasai children that melds the Maasai culture with an inspiring curriculum for young children. At a surprise sundowner setting in the hills surrounding Sekenani Camp, I awarded two of our travelers a rungu — the traditional club of Maasai and Samburu men — for their intrepid will to carry on with the trip despite becoming ill.
The journey to the north began with another flight on MAF. I had since reconciled an equitable agreement with the director of MAF operations in regards to our previously cancelled flight. While I waited for the MAF departure with Sarah Ellis, BOMA’s Director of New Program Development, I made peace with the MAF staff, who were very understanding of my previous frustration and anger. Hodgson, dear soul, took it upon himself to make a first attempt at saving my lapsed Catholic soul. He asked if he could pray with me and I accepted the offer.
Semeji and Maina were at the Korr airstrip with Gumps, the affectionately nicknamed BOMA vehicle. They would drive us the 2 ½ hours to South Horr, where Mentor University was underway. This is our annual training session for the BOMA Village Mentors.
Maina drove slowly and carefully in the searing heat. At times, dust poured into Gumps as unanticipated dust devils rose up and slammed the side of the vehicle. There was never enough time to quickly close the windows before we were assaulted. The devils left us coughing and sputtering, with grit and dust in our teeth and hair and clothes. We arrived at the Samburu Sports Club as the training was proceeding.
Sarah and I quietly slipped into the large round hut. The training program for our 26 Village Mentors was led by Kura and some of the first BOMA Mentors. This program, this organization, belongs to them. I said hello but was not expected to do anything else. The goal of local leadership and ownership has now become a reality. I was now an observer — not only of a grassroots organization, but of a movement led by committed people who seek to build a world of hope and opportunity.