A few months ago I tossed the dice toward my future and at least one of them landed in Kenya. Navigating the mystery of career/life crossroads, I can say for certain my biggest passion in the world is African wildlife conservation; one thing led to another and I found myself on a learning safari in Kenya in May.
My motivation there was a design thinking certificate course in Mombasa. Once that fell into place, I decided to invest a whole month to be in Kenya to see what I could learn, and by proximity, discover more of how I might be able to make my livelihood dreams come true.
It was a little bit crazy because the timing of my trip began right as my unemployment benefits ended. This meant I had to go about things really economically and budget travel just like when I was a young adult first traveling the world. The logistical hustles with luggage made my body stronger. I had to make sure I had rides, money, lodging etc, which still isn’t always easy-a couple of times it was downright difficult. I always traveled in the daytime (for safety as solo woman traveler,) but this also meant many challenging timing logistics and endless numbers of lines wading through the profusion of security check points. I was constantly on the go for 30 days. I haven’t had a trip like this for many years; it pressed me into the sustained consciousness of Beginner’s Mind in The Zone maintaining heightened situational awareness. It was a good energy muscle workout.
This was a big leap into Mystery. Guided by Tarot’s Fool, I stepped off into the unknown courageous to promote myself to the Future. Financially, it felt terrifying making new debt; spiritually, it was super nourishing to make a risk. Everyday wisdom says follow your dreams; this takes huge courage especially when the whole world has made it difficult to live a noble life and pursue meaning making. How can I work on behalf of the African Wild? How can I show up the 5-Alarm Fire on our planet and still make the little monies for mortgage payments and groceries? Following the dream to find out!
Here is a recounting of what I did and learned.
Distant Relatives Eco-Backpackers Lodge, Kilifi
I found Distant Relatives on the Internet – I wanted to go someplace to rest through jet lag before my design course. This is a permaculture-designed ecolodge set just inland up the Kilifi Rv on the coast. From en suite compost toilets, natural building materials, bioremediation swales, plant nurseries, local community engagement campaigns, local food – I felt they were really living into a localized permaculture design system. I had an incredible experience taking a yoga class with Mohammed-a recent graduate of the Africa Yoga Project Teacher Training. This is an amazing program providing wellness-based livelihood opportunities. And for this young man, teaching yoga meant that he doesn’t have to be yet another driver and can meaningfully work towards his dream to be a performance artist.
Development programs have an obvious focus on education – it is one of the main ways to get people into the market economy and hopefully move people out of poverty. But the rate of education hasn’t matched the rate of new job creation, and moreover, no one is assessing the meaning quality of jobs that are created. Just because a person can earn money, it doesn’t mean that life is necessarily improved; this is the big fiction of modernity and the development of civilisations. In the pursuit of literacy, skills of all kinds have been lost and elite attitudes of wealth have downplayed the very noble and right livelihood pursuits of working with our hands and bodies. Carpentry, electrical and plumbing, mechanics, farming, teaching music, landscaping, basket making, teaching yoga, fishing-all of these great pursuits that earn a living can also give people autonomy and dignity. Human being capacity through hands, hearts and minds has been eschewed avidly by mainstream development replaced by factory-style schools that lead to nowhere.
By the serendipity of unplanned good timing, I met up with Katrina Zalvaney, Executive Director of Aranya Solutions in Mombasa. She was meeting colleague Barry Cogbill, (Aranya Board Member just like me), attending the Rotary International East Africa Project Fair along with another colleague, Isaac Semuyaba. Isaac was representing a Rotary project in western Tanzania working with marginalized kids living on the street – he and his organization are heroes.
The four of us stayed in a “luxury Airbnb penthouse” and enjoyed the Rotary International East Africa project fair and events. I learned tons about Rotary International – that in itself was great; moreover, I learned about myriad projects happening throughout east Africa. Incidental highlights included being attacked by a Goose and defended by Isaac, getting rained off the gourmet beach banquet by spectacular clouds and participating in an official Aranya Solutions board meeting.