It was January of 2014, I was traveling in the Northern Frontier on a camel/walking safari with my cousin Dianne Forsyth and friend, Helen Douglas-Dufresne, of the Milgis Trust/Northern Frontiers Camel Safari's.
It is a hot and desolate country - almost every inch blanketed with thorns of every size and yet, somehow, the magic oozes out of every ancient rock and puffy animal shaped cloud in the endless cobalt sky. You can't describe it properly - it's a feeling that seeps into your very soul, and I have been hooked for the last 17 years.
We trek across the wide open landscape of rolling pyramid shaped hills that go on forever - the faint trumpet of elephants, the call of baboons high up in the rocks, or the woop of the hyena that seems a bit too close at night, is the music of the bush.
We walk by a palm frond covered shelter created by the local village that stands as their school. The colorful momma's festooned in their daily decoration of beads, a baby tied to their back and one screaming at their feet. Screaming because of Dianne and I; the first white people they have ever seen! An older child may be brave enough to touch my hand to see if my color will rub off on them. The Chief is present by chance, and pleads for a proper school. The seed is planted and when I return in September we begin to plan with the help of my Canadian cousins, Dianne and Jane Schnute.
This year, September 2018, my cousin Dianne was in Canada, Helen stayed back in camp with a horrible cold and Pete, Helen's partner, had to head back to Nanyuki for business. That left me to trek the 10 miles alone with Lemagas, one of Helen's top Samburu guides and Ndoto, the safari dog. Lemagas was on a mission this morning (and I believe a bee in his bonnet as well), this wasn't a leisurely stroll! The truck was to meet us for a camp breakfast in 3 hours time and was very surprised to find us waiting for them!
I found the kids in purple and gold uniforms, supplied by the Government and as a wonderful surprise for us, all sitting around one huge table, waiting patiently for our arrival. The government however, does not pay for our teacher. He is waiting for his degree, so in the meantime we (WDCP) support him and his assistant.
So fun to see the kids (all 37 of them) wearing my high school and college colors. Bright and cheery, the smiles subdued as they still don't know what to think of me. Every square inch of space in the small classroom is filled with parents that have come to say thank you. I brought book bags made out of colorful "katanga" fabric, sewn by one of our graduates in tailoring and a load of exercise books and other school supplies.
After a few songs by the kids, and speeches by the Elders we headed back to camp in the relevant comfort of the truck before the heat of the day became too much.