Planning a grand adventure
Our group begins its journey
An old expression reminds us that "a journey begins with a
At the beginning of the school year, Gary shared a metaphor with us in which he
compared our working together in The Learning Community to a group of mountain climbers
ascending a mountain. He emphasized that each step of the climb was important, and that we
needed to work together to ensure that everyone made it to the top.
In creating our journey to Kenya, we applied the image of a mountain climb to our
group's goal of getting everyone to Kenya. We committed ourselves to the basic idea
inherent in this imagery, supporting one another and helping each other up the mountain.
This concept helped me when things got difficult. The mountain metaphor enabled me to keep
my eye on the real goal.
When our group had decided to take on the Kenya adventure, I began looking for ways to
further understand the value of the trip by working with the mountain image. Every step we
completed in preparing for the trip became another step up the mountain. I saw that every
step was a learning experience and valuable to me, even if we did not reach the top. When
we completed our task and looked back at the path we had taken, I knew that the experience
gained along the way was worth every step.
At this point there was much work to do and not much time to do it. We made a timeline
for all the jobs that needed to be done. We set up a subgroup, the Sherpas, to track our
progress. Sherpas are Himalayans who carry loads for mountain expeditions; we liked the
symbolism. The work got under way, and we started to move forward.
It was at this point that we received what one of our students, Kelly, called a
gift from God. World Neighbors had brought in a group of farmers from the
Philippines who were visiting the U.S. on their way to Honduras. There, they would share
agricultural techniques with another community farming project set up by World Neighbors.
We told one of the hosts that we were planning to go to
Kenya. Her eyes lighted up as she suggested that we talk to Sandra, a woman from our area
with many ties to Kenya. Sandra had been to Kenya several times for travel and service
work, and she knew many people there. After a few phone calls, we had found the woman who
profoundly enriched our trip.
Gary came to class one day with hundreds of ideas for our trip written in tiny print
in his day planner book. He had just returned from a visit with Sandra. She gave us many
ideas and possibilities for our trip, which we discussed with great interest.
A week later Sandra brought her Kenyan friend, David Maina, into our classroom. He was
a language instructor in Kenya and this was his first trip outside his country. Maina came
to share his knowledge of Kenya and its culture with us.
Maina and Sandra brought a wealth of ideas to us for activities while in Kenya. They
gave us concrete activities such as Kiswahili lessons, rural and urban homestays, and an
expedition to Outward Bound Mountain School. Maina was willing to set up homestays for us
with his tribal relatives in the country and his friends in the city.
This was the first time that I had met a person from Kenya. The first thing I noticed
about Maina was his smile. His grinning presence brightened up the room. When our group
greeted him in chorus with, Jambo Maina (Hello Maina), his whole face glowed.
During his morning with us, he shared stories about his family and his home land. He made
Kenya come alive for me with vivid descriptions of the country-side and funny stories
about his friends.
Prior to his talk with us, our trip to Africa was just an idea, and the places we were
going to visit were just names on a map. Now, with Maina beaming at us and telling us how
we would love his country, Kenya became real for me. I got so excited to go to Africa that
I couldn't sit still.