This was an incredible experience--it was physical, emotional, social, and spiritual. It was heart-opening and life-affirming. It was transformative.
We had eight amazing people from all over the country in our hiking group. We quickly gelled and formed a connection that will last forever. We also had four African guides plus about 30 porters (including cooks and waiters) with us. In everything they did, the Africans showed us compassion, joy, and thoughtfulness.
I am so grateful to the Africans for all they did for us--for the chai they brought to our tents every morning, for the delicious food they made for us, for the table they always set with care, for carrying so much up and down the mountain, for always having smiles on their faces.
I am grateful for the stories they told, for their love of the mountain and for their families, and for the way they sang to us in Swahili on the final ascent, when the skies were black, the stars were out, and the air was still except for the sound of their voices. I am grateful for their happiness, for dancing and singing with them at camp after a day of hiking, and for the way they guided me and others so carefully down the snowy, steep summit, and for the way they always cared for us. and put our safety first.
I am grateful for Rick from Pack Paddle Ski. He has a joyousness that pours out of him and into everyone around him--we all felt it. Everyone on the mountain seemed to know him and love him. He has a way of rallying everyone's spirits. He would cheer on the porters and he would hoot and holler for us, every step of the way. He has a super-safe mindset, is tremendously mountain-smart, and is the epitome of a great leader. Besides all that, he can be quite silly, which made things terrifically fun.
I am also grateful many other things including but not limited to butterflies; hard candy; Diamox; Hefty bags; electric flowers; Vibram soles; porta potties; Dr. Suess trees; African tea and honey; Snackwell vanilla cookies; mountain-made birthday cakes; fleece, down, and Smart Wool; climber friends with camera chargers; a cozy, zero degree sleeping bag; and toe warmers that work with limited available oxygen. I can't forget to mention our festive gear-giveaway/singing and dance party with the Africans. This took place the night we came down off the mountain and were back at the hotel. It really infused joy into all of us.
I am also especially, beyond grateful for having had this experience with my son, Ben, and for witnessing him as one of the group--mature, smart, funny, and a real contributor. This was his first experience seeing a developing country and I think he saw what I saw and what we all saw: although things look very different and people live very differently there, our hearts--no matter where we are from--are the essentially the same. If we are open to it, we can tap into and soak in the spirit of goodness and lightness that is at the core of all us.
We could not have done this without the help of so many. We are so glad we could carry so many friends, family, and sponsor up the mountain with us. Every step of the way, we could feel the spirit of Jessie and of Nick, too. We will never forget them.
There's so much more to say, about the city of Moshi, about street vendors and sugar cane, about school children singing to us, about Mama Wara and the Tumaini School, about sunny safaris and the Masai people, about sipping chai street-side and visiting the market, about being welcomed into the home of our lead guide, Yusuf, and enjoying an African feast there, about visiting land that many heart-committed volunteers purchased that will soon be home to houses for a few of the porters who climb with Pack Paddle Ski. So much to say. . .so much we all felt.
My next few posts will feature safari pictures; favorite arty shots of the mountain and Africa; and snaps from the orphanage, school, and various towns. Stay tuned, if interested!
Again, asante sana to all! Thank you!