Pamela asked me what our mission on this trip is. Strangely hard to answer for me -- of course, to see the kids, to make sure things on the ground are what they are supposed to be. I got some good advice from an Ethiopian cab driver yesterday about not getting the wool pulled over my White do-gooder eyes. (He was a lot nicer than that ;-)). He told me about a kids' home he knows about in Addis that was rife with corruption, etc.
So yes, at the most pragmatic level, it's about checking in, making plans for the next year, connecting with our partners in country. And of course, it's about the kids -- the kids that really do live inside me, both avatars of some higher purpose and hope, and individuals that I want to hold close to me, let them touch my arms and crazy weird hair.
One thing I realize I haven't done in prep is to come up with some good games and songs -- I realized last year that I don't know ANY (duck duck goose, barely; hokey pokey -- and was reminded that the boxes-on-the-head lady previously written about was STELLAR at leading songs and games). [BTW, I really really love it when people comment on this blog -- so if you have a chance to make suggestions for songs and games before I go, I'd be most grateful!]
Really, the songs and games are about a way to be with the kids in some concerted way, where everyone gets to be part of it. Fun at some level, and just simple connection in another. So that's the kids... and then for me, there's a big adventure portion.
Every possible kind of adventure, really -- connection with the kids for just over week, then a day in a nearby game park (the same place I saw elephants from the road last year), then a trip to Bwindi Impenetrable Forest. (Could there be a better name?) I'm reading a book about some gorilla folks who followed Dian Fossey's work, and it turns out that Bwindi was separated from the bigger park that borders Rwanda/DRC/Uganda about 120 years ago by homesteads, and the population of mountain gorillas in Bwindi now a kind of island, and about half the total number of all of the mountain gorillas in the world.
Here's what wikipedia says about it: The park has about 340 individual mountain gorillas (Gorilla beringei beringei), almost half of all the mountain gorillas in the world. A 2006 census of the mountain gorilla population in the park showed that its numbers had increased from 320 individuals in 2002 to 340 individuals in 2006. Disease and habitat loss are the greatest threat to the gorillas. Poaching is also a threat. Mountain gorillas are an endangered species, with an estimated total population of about 650 individuals. There are no mountain gorillas in captivity. In the 1960s and 1970s, mountain gorillas were captured in order to begin a population of them in captive facilities. No baby gorillas survived in captivity, and no mountain gorillas are known of that are currently in captivity.
Bwindi is also apparently a stunning example of biodiversity -- and at the end of an arduous road journey. <adding lots of gravol to my travel pack> My guide seems to be named Silver, and my lodge Silver Back, and I'm afraid I'm going to have to forego Lee's request to nibble the ear of a little gorilla for her.
After the gorillas, back to Kampala, then more tedious travel (Kenya airlines, even) to Kilmanjaro... when I embark on the least thought-out physical trek of my life. I just swallowed the nauseating Dukoral (anti-cholera and travellers' diarrhea vaccine), but I fully expect some kind of bacterial onslaught, bedbugs, cold feet and altitude issues. And if I can channel the fierceness inside, a summit to match the one my sister and BIL made on NY's day 2003. Then, a long flight back to BC, and a quiet grey Canadian Christmas/New Year's.
My actual dates are:
Nov 28: Leave Canada
Nov 30 - Dec 8: Kasese, with the kids
Dec 10: Gorilla tracking!
Dec 13 - 19: Kilimanjaro
Dec 20: Back to BC
Somewhere in there is some kind of more complex mission, about the fusing of Adventurous Cate and Humanitarian Cate and Hopeful Cate and leap-and-the-net-appears, Cate.