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EKATERINA SHUSTKHEM

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EXPERIENCE

VOLUNTEERING IN KENYA. AFRICAN JOURNAL

While I was thinking how to describe my first volunteer trip in Africa, so that it was natural, I found my journal. It contained descriptions of just several days out of entire month, however, the mood and purpose was precisely clear.


Five years’ prescription events. 

Описание изображения

First day


6.00 a.m

I have just arrived in Nairobi. Check in was too late yesterday. When we were leaving airport it was already around 10.00 p.m and dark, thus, I did not see anything on the way to the center. It is 6 a.m currently and in half an hour we are moving from intermediate camp to the main one. There are three more people with me. A fellow at the age of 18- Maksim, Mary- she is about 50 and Sarah – she is 25.


2.00 p.m

We have arrived to the main campus. On our way (with lack of road somewhere) we saw herds of zebras, antelopes and buffalos. They were running across in front of us. It was awkward to look at the country’s landscapes foretasting our campus.


10.00 p.m

Right after our arrival we were taken to meet with students and other people. Then we went to the ranger tour. Today I saw 6 lions, 2 crocodiles, 7 hippos and innumerable amount of horned species, baboons and birds. I am taking pictures of everything, and all of them will be shown. It was prohibited to get closer than 10 meters near lions. But I wanted a picture of nose kissing.


It is scary even to describe our campus. I live with the Masayan girl in a tent in reservation area. There is no fence or even hint of it around us.  It still seems like I am asleep. Pinch me! It is not about braveness but riskiness! I filmed a lion who was 100 meters away from my tent. That’s why one shouldn’t go to the bathroom at the night time. At the day time you see animals and behave accordingly, but at the night time only they can see you.


I have gotten tons of experience and adrenaline!

I am a brave dude.


Day two


10.00 p.m

After the rain was over we went to look for lions again. And…we found a couple, which was peacefully wheezing after a good diner.  A lion, lying on its back with extended legs was wheezing. I got closer to the lions and made a photo discovery. It was important to picture the muzzle. That lion was not in any known pride! Although he is about 6 years old (oh, I will teach you how to determine the age of the lion according to it mane and nose), nobody has ever seen him before! And…he had only one eye! Apparently his second eye was damaged in a fight. Well done! Everybody acclaims me. For them it is a real discovery. Tomorrow at the morning we are going to go there again. But actually, the entire future day will be dedicated to the school and student teaching which will be mentioned later. We also met a rare African Eagle, which is the biggest bird on the continent. Its size is usually within 100-110 centimeters from beak to tail.


That was a crazy day! What a photos!  A hyenas’ breakfast in the morning is still bothering me. A leopard with buffalo on the tree and a lion with only one eye were astonishing!


Furthermore, there is an elephant 50 meters away from our tent. We saw him, while going to sleep. Running, to be precise. And I still can hear it. I and my Masayan acquaintance are scared.  But it is so cool!

A Masayan that lives with me is a pretty funny girl. All locals are hilarious! That is astonishing!


Day three


6.45 p.m

The schedule of volunteers was so full, that we had free time only either during breakfast, supper and dinner, or whenever we were about to go to sleep. We were occupied even during the lunch time today. We woke up at 7.30, which was later than usually. We had to be at the school at the 8.00 a.m. Today everyone presented his country and himself. I told how vast and powerful we were! After that we hung out in the Masay women club and discussed the issue of a woman circumcision in Africa and why it should be stopped. Can you imagine? They cut off a clitoris in public! Moreover, some tribes encourage a circumcision of vulvar lips. But the worst part is that women themselves do not understand why it is bad. A circumcision usually occurs outside, public, using a piece of glass… We saw pictures, which almost made me throw up. And we were discussing – why it must be prohibited.


A supper, which was afterwards, was utterly pleasurable. After lunch we went to look for certain herd of elephants in order to make sure that young species were fine. However, we found only an adult one, which was about 40 years old and had a giant penis, which he showed off whenever he noticed us. It was hilarious! He was posing! From the list of unknown animals for me was a secretary bird that we had encountered. The road in front of us was full of running giraffes (stalking, to be precise). There were around 20 species! Pictures were incredible!


While we were on the tour, it started raining suddenly. I could not imagine that huge amount of water! It was unbelievable! It was impossible to see a thing not just at the several meters away point, but right beside the window. Everything was turned to a huge lake, and the road became a large river, which was washed out at once. We were stuck. For the next 3 hours, with partial success, we were attempting to get out. Being deeply in a mud at the knee point, we were digging a raw. Afterwards, the Masay people from the nearest country came and pushed us out. However, even after that, our way, which was getting better later and looked like a swamp, was full of water. They have good cars here…


8.30 p.m

There is an 8 tent hotel beside us and we are going to visit it and get some proper food and drink. I got to get up at 6 a.m tomorrow!

Likewise, a guy named Niles arrived (for them – returned). He films for National Geographic our lions and cheetahs. He is popular here. He told us about his recent projects and showed us photos. And tomorrow we are going to get a master-class.


Day four


8.50 p.m 

Yesterday I did not go to get a proper food, but went to sleep. We woke up at 6 a.m. It was a regular painful morning. Tomorrow, by the way, it is going to be at the same time. Everybody makes fun of me, due to my sleepiness. There is joke about me that I need to sleep not less than 20 hours like a lion. I was called Lion-Kate.


The morning started from sorrowing of Steve Jobs’ death. After all, we went to count up our animals. I am not going to even tell you who I have encountered, because we encountered almost everyone. There was an amusing flock of hyenas with their kids. The “Lion King’s” Pumba was also there! He does exist! He is real, and we know each other!


We had a full car of Masayan kids, who were taken to school by us during our tour. In fact, sometimes they walk about 10 km to approach the school. The funny thing is that they attend classes without any bag, but with a machete and in a school uniform.

At the lunch (the food was essentially disgusting today) we were preparing lessons for students. These lessons will be given on Monday and Wednesday at the next week. There was an astonishing fact that I have found out: A one day of staying here costs 80$. Thus, the overall cost of the trip is 2400$, which includes only staying within the closed territory. I am shocked! Masayans lend their territories for lots of money, almost like maories do.


The most interesting part was in the evening, when we went to look for lions. And we found! There was a lion with a dark mane, and it was peacefully sleeping after an abundant diner. Also, we met a couple of lions that was mating. They literally do it every 20 minutes. 3 times was absolutely enough for us. It has gotten darker then. It was amazing to witness how lions make love. Today we filmed on the 5 meter height. You will see beautiful photos of lions’ love.


Besides, sun sets are incredibly fascinating here every evening..


Africa, I love you!

Pumba’s friend.

Hakuna-mattata.


Day five


8.00 a.m

We have just returned from the walk, where we, chasing the footsteps and poops, were trying to find and research local animals. Apparently, there is so much stuff to say about only one footstep. Interesting! We have two similar lessons a week with students – guides, who practice using us. We woke up at 6 a.m again.


6.10 p.m

I have just taken a cool shower. It was not that sunny today, and water did not get hot. Post breakfast we went to seek elephants, but found a leopard! It is a rare animal and it’s hard to notice it, due to its ability to hide. For the last four years it was noticed only once. It is a beautiful and graceful animal. Usually, they hide on the trees or in impassable areas. Our leopard was resting on a tree. And, of course, there were more lions. It is getting conventional. “Pumbas”, hyenas, hoofed species and other inhabitants were encountered as well.


After lunch we went to the local elementary school to give a lesson. OMG! That was awful! In fact, I asked not to take me here anymore. For that I agreed to do any work in main camp. I believe - one clean African is better than a crowd of dirty and stinky ones. We are going to have a diner and I am about to go to the so-called bar with others. Everyone wishes me to have a good rest. The thing is that I am busy here for an entire day. Even at home I was not that busy. It is an incredible journey!


Leopard’s friend.


Day six

6.50 p.m

I woke up at 4 at the morning today. It is funny anymore. And all my efforts were put in order to witness a sunrise on the hot air balloon. I know that I should not do it because of my back, but I was convinced that there were no any rough movements on it. So, me, Mary, who is about 50 years old, Niles, who films for National Geographic, were down. We woke up at the clear darkness and drove 30 km for new experience. I have never ever flown on the hot air balloon before, and I was excessively astonished whenever we approached a field with a huge cloth and basket beside it. We jumped in a basket and laid on the bottom. And only after that the balloon started to get filled with hot air.


The overall flight was around 40 minutes. We have travelled 45 km. From the height we saw two groups of lions. One of them, which consisted of 3 species, was eating and another one, of 6, was gracefully hanging out. A group of 17 elephants was taking morning shower. There were likewise lots of other walking, sleeping, eating animals.

We have stopped at the Mara reserve, where was a great breakfast right on one of the hills with nice view. After breakfast, we moved back.


As we had returned to the camp, I fell asleep at once. And then we left for one more safaris. Unfortunately, we did not find any cats, which was not that significant because it was still interesting.


As nobody cooks for us on weekends, we are about to go to the nearest hotel to take a diner. A sun set was incredibly beautiful. Sky was colored vividly. I am getting used to fall asleep listening to hyenas, trees eaten by elephants and other sounds of African nature. It would be awesome to live in a tent in Africa! Such a romantic.


Local people have a funny feature. Their common response on any occasion is TIA! Well done – TIA! Messed up – TIA! Using that word one can easily become a part of a local society.


Day nine


12.30 p.m

Today I have finally felt that I am used to get up at 6-7 at the morning. I told everybody about that.


At 8.00 a.m we got together at the school and met with a couple of scientists, who spent their entire lives to research elephants. They are 55-60 years old now. They have started their expeditions at the age of 18. Their incredible enthusiasm and passion upon elephants is something impossible. Elephants have something from people: they like hugging, they help each other, and they remember voices and faces of people who they met with once. There are 200 species in our reserve, and each of them has a name and certain distinguishable features. Overall, there are more than 200000 around the entire world! Scientists made a website, on which it is available to find information about a certain elephant. I will show you, whenever I come back. One made an astonishingly great work to achieve that result.


By the end of the presentation some Arabian Prince visited us. He arrived here by a personal airplane. And there was long talk about our decent contribution. His relative died and he was pilgrimaging across the Africa. After lunch we went to the local market. That market occurs once in a week. Everybody bring something for sale. All that looks exactly like Papua New Guinea. However, here people just sit on the ground unlike in Papua New Guinea. It was creepy! Everybody tries to touch you and sell something. It took a while to refuse. By the way, it was very hot, so our water was almost boiling.


Guess who is the most sensitive to cold person? I am the only one who covers with two sheets and suffers from lack of warm clothes. Today was 28 degrees but there was a cold wind, and for the entire day I have been wearing a pullover.

With respect to the market, I have bought fruits worth 20$ (12 pineapples, 10 mango, a pack of bananas and 20 oranges) and a sheep for 40$!!!


We took that sheep to the camp and eyes of it started to bother me. I was hesitating. Eventually, the sheep was fried and we, adults, were allowed to sip a wine quietly. An entire evening was spent around the fire, listening to the stories of journeys from each of us. It was fabulous! I am definitely going to come back here again!


Would you like to come with me?