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Setting off on an incredible Kenyan adventure
After the heady cocktail of nerves, terror, and (hopefully) relief, that generally follows university exam terms, second year students' euphoria at arriving at the end of a sword-swinging gauntlet relatively unscathed is undermined by a new realisation: we are now finalists.
There's just one year until we're unceremoniously kicked from the comparatively comfortable nest of education into 'real life'. Then, having previously cursed it until our faces match the hue of those god-awful blue raspberry WKDs (resist, dear readers, with all your might), student life suddenly seems alarmingly attractive. Four-day-old spag bol for breakfast at 4pm never smelt so sweet.
But the most grief, I'm sure, will be expended over the loss of the holidays. Time stretching before you, waiting to be filled with opportunity. Or telly. But, this being my final thirteen week summer, I decided to choose the former.
As my Facebook wall teemed with snaps of chilled beers on Australian beaches, sunsets over the Taj Mahal and Peruvian expeditions throughout my first year, not taking the now-ubiquitous "gap yah" became one of my biggest regrets. So, I settled on a plan last November to solve this problem.
Instead of endless Friends re-runs, I'm currently sitting on top of a backpack the size of a fridge on a crammed York to London train, ready to grab a lift to Heathrow tomorrow.
The destination? Nairobi, Kenya. Why? The Lonely Planet guidebook to a country has two baby elephants on its front cover, as well as a safari guide at the beginning, and I was told by my small brother that if I did not return from my travels with photographic evidence of at least ten giraffes, there would be absolutely no welcome home hug. A most terrible prospect.
But, as well as appeasing a five-year-old tyrant, there is another, better, less safari-orientated reason for the trip. I'm travelling with the charity Kenya Education Partnerships to a secondary school in rural Kisii in need of a library, a laboratory and some serious resource investment. And my good friend Beth and I are the first project workers to visit it. Which is perhaps why I'm teetering on my belongings with a serious case of butterflies.
We've promised generous friends and family that their donations will bring a new lease of life to a needy school, and we've promised the staff and students of St Catherine's Iranda School that we'll provide the help that they need. For someone who recently struggled to digest the plot of an episode of Glee, that sounds intimidatingly confident.
But, jokes aside, there are too many expectations riding on us from both sides of the ocean for us to fail. Hence the nerves. And the whole cockroach/mosquito/parasite/wooden shack with long drop loo scenario doesn't do much to soothe them. A scenario which my family seem to find hilarious, and makes me go itchy all over.
Yet, as I stood on the platform and the final countdown began, (Passport? Check. Ticket? Check. Entire stock of Boots? Check) I suddenly comprehended that this will be an incredible adventure. And that there's nothing like shacking up with roaches for three months to beat an insect phobia.
My dad has to tip his newly-formed tortoise-daughter onto the train trembling on Platform 3 of York station. I wave, grinning, at my family through the fingerprint-stained window of the train. My brother mouths something to me; "I love you too!" I mime back, with gusto. And it's only as we pull away that I realise his little mouth is insistently forming the word "Giraffe".
Lydia will be blogging about travelling Kenya and Kisii life as and when she finds the internet. Which she very much hopes is often.