The one where I kindly ask you to help me make my dreams of volunteering in Africa a reality. Please.

Dearest Readers,

Jambo! (Swahili for Hello!) As you may remember, I have deemed this year The Year of Caryn and I am doing everything I can to follow through with the goals I set for myself.  I can accomplish goals #3,4 & 6 but need your help to make my dreams come true. For as long as I can remember, I have wanted to volunteer somewhere in Africa. I have always felt that it was a calling of mine to give back, to make a difference, to do something bigger than myself, to volunteer abroad. While I always envisioned myself volunteering somewhere in Africa, I didn’t think it was a dream that I could actually make into a reality. It wasn’t until recent life changes that I began to do some serious soul-searching. I realized that even though there will always be excuses and doubters, there is no better time than now to listen to and follow my heart.

Thanks to Cross-Cultural Solutions (CCS), I am able to make my volunteering dream come true this coming September. CCS is a 501(c)3 non-profit international volunteer organization with no religious or political affiliations, whose mission is to operate volunteer programs around the world in partnership with sustainable community initiatives, bringing people together to work side-by-side while sharing perspectives and fostering cultural understanding.

I have selected CCS’s program in Kilimanjaro- Tanzania where I will teach children for four (4) weeks. Stationed near the town of Moshi, I’ll be joined by 25 other volunteers. I will be living in shared rooms with bunk beds at the CCS provided home-base where hot water and electricity will be very sparse. We will have to go to Internet cafes in town to get Internet (technology detox, yes!).

Despite the fact that many people do not have a lot of belongings and live in poverty, I’ve heard they are some of the happiest and most grateful people you will ever meet. My plan, while I’m there, is to get off the tourist path, immerse myself into the culture, connect with the people, and of course, to help educate and make a difference. I am now attempting to teach myself Swahili so that I am better prepared for this experience. I want to fully embrace this opportunity. I know this will be a very difficult, eye-opening experience, and one of the biggest life challenges I will ever face.

You are probably asking yourself, why does she have to pay to be in a volunteer program? Well, the only free program is the Peace Corp. and I honestly cannot commit to 27 months away from my family, friends & life. I am not asking for your help to go on a leisurely vacation, rather I am asking for you to sponsor me so I can mentor children and to give them the opportunity to be educated and literate. Did you know that Africa lacks quality teachers? In fact, according to the International Development Research Centre, even though literacy rates have greatly improved in Africa over the last few decades, approximately 40% of Africans over the age of 15, and 50% of women above the age of 25 remain illiterate. Education is important for many reasons, some of which are child health, maternal health, combating HIV/AIDS and environmental sustainability.

Everyone deserves an education and this is why I need your help. I am kindly asking you to not only help me educate and improve a child’s life, to help make my dream a reality, but to also help raise awareness. You can click here to make your tax-deductible donation. Any donation is immensely appreciated. It would mean so much to me if you would consider sponsoring me and making a donation on my behalf. To do so, please click here to access my fundraising page: (My username is Carynlevy should you need it to login.) If you do not want to make an online donation, but still wish to sponsor me, please contact me for alternatives. Please note that any donation that is not submitted through the website is not tax-deductible.

You, my readers, have given me so much love and support and encouraged me to follow my dreams. I would not be here, on the path to making my dreams a reality if it weren’t for you. I can’t thank you enough for changing my life. I only hope that I can have that kind of impact on the children of Kilimanjaro.

I have decided that if I reach my goal, I will conquer a trapeze class  as suggested by the lovely Amber. Being as I am a blogger and all, I will video the experience and blog about it for all my readers and supporters to laugh at my lack of grace and skills.

Thank you from the bottom of my heart, in advance, for your generosity and support.

All my love,

Caryn

Kilimanjaro-Tanzania

Volunteer Abroad Sep 22, 2012

Where in the world is Caryn going?

Where In The World is Caryn?

The Dash

I came across this poem this weekend and want to share it with you. It really hit home with me about how I strive to live my life.

I read of a man who stood to speak
At the funeral of a friend.
He referred to the dates on her tombstone
From the beginning..to the end.
He noted that first came her date of birth
And spoke the following date with tears, 1964-1994
But he said what mattered most of all
Was the dash between those years.

For that dash represents all the time
That she spent alive on earth.
And now only those who loved her
Know what that little line is worth.
For it matters not, how much we own;
The cars…the house…the cash,
What matters is how we live and love
And how we spend our dash.

So think about this long and hard.
Are there things you’d like to change?
For you never know how much time is left,
That can still be rearranged.
If we could just slow down enough
To consider what’s true and real,
And always try to understand
The way other people feel.

And be less quick to anger,
And show appreciation more
And love the people in our lives
Like we’ve never loved before.
If we treat each other with respect,
And more often wear a smile.
Remembering that this special dash
Might only last a little while.

So, when your eulogy’s being read
With your life’s actions to rehash,
Would you be proud of the things they say
About how you spent your dash?

A poem by Linda Ellis

Life is unpredictable. In the end, the petty bullshit drama and the material possessions do not matter. It is the love you share and how you treat people (animals and all beings too) that matters. I want to live my dash as a positive soul who enriches, impacts, and brightens the lives of others. I want to bring smiles to the faces of others. I want to experience everything possible, all the magnificent wonders and cultures in this world. I want to follow my dreams and make the most out of my time here. I want to have no regrets. I want to focus on the important things in life and remember to stop and smile. I want to give back often. I want to help preserve this world, its beauty, its mere existence, for our grandchildren’s children. I want to do my part in protecting the animals from extinction. I want to always appreciate and be grateful for all the beauty in the world. You only get one Dash; I want to spend my Dash experiencing, living, giving and loving.

How are you spending your Dash?

Lessons Learned: The Magic that is #BiSC in Vegas (2.0)

I had been blogging for just over a month when I signed up for Bloggers in Sin City last year. What possessed me to think that I, an unknown virgin blogger, should fly to Vegas for a weekend to meet 50+ strangers from the Internet is still beyond me. But I did and it was literally life changing. So when it came to registering for BiSC ’12, there was absolutely no question in my mind that I would return.

I learned a lot last year about myself and life. I really thought the second year was going to be different – if I already gained so much previously, what more could I possibly learn this time? I already knew what to expect, what to pack, (fast flats and more casual dresses), I actually knew people this time, so I didn’t have to worry about being an outcast, and I was acutely aware of how my life had drastically changed already. I expected to treat this more as a reunion with old friends and an opportunity to meet new. I really thought there would be less personal growth this time. But was I wrong.

When you try to explain to friends that you’re heading to Vegas for a bloggers event, they just smile and silently assume you are an Internet dweeb going for the Hangover experience. But BiSC is so much more than that. Being as this is the un-conference with no lectures or panels, and just 59(!) Internet rock stars being awesome together in the city of sins, you wouldn’t think that there would be any actual eye-opening life-changing epiphanies that realign your entire view of the world. This concept of meeting long-lost friends that you never knew you were missing, having more fun than you thought was possible, and reconnecting and confirming who you are at your core, all in four days – mind you, seems impossible to the common person. But something happens from when you enter the registration suite Thursday to when you say goodbye at brunch on Sunday that just transforms you. Your perspective on who you are, your purpose, your job, your friendships, your outlook on life and what you want to do with it, shifts. No, I am not being dramatic. It is true.

BiSC is magical.

It is more than just four days in Vegas with blogger friends. It is the weekend I look forward to most out of the entire year because not only do I get to spend a few days having the time of my life with some of my favorite people on the planet, who happen to be the most hilarious, genuine, lovely, caring, quirky, inspiring, supportive, magnetic people in all of the Internets, but I also wind up walking away learning a lot, too.

28 things I learned this year (not all life changing):

1. Last year was not a fluke: BiSC really is amazeballs. Upon returning, I quickly pre-registered to go again next year because the thought of not going is just unbearable. I admit, last January, I was worried that the group dynamic would change and that it would not be as fun this year with different people. Well, you all rock my world. Nicole knows how to plan an epic weekend (thank you!) and everyone better sign up again. What up, BiSC 2013!

2. There are two cities: Vegas and BiSC’s Vegas. Vegas is not my favorite city. There I said it. I can’t spend more than 2-3 days at a time without itching to leave. While the shows are great, Vegas makes me feel dirty, the crowds shove, sadness and smoke fills the air, girls flash everything that can be flashed, there are sketchy creepos at every turn, you have to wait in line for everything and you come home broke. But when you are in BiSC’s Vegas you are surrounded by 60 instant-best friends in this magical land of VIP status, eternal happiness, epic experiences and shenanigans, tackle hugs, and an endless supply of smiles, love and support. All you need to flash is your BiSC badge and just like that you skip all the lines and have access to private parties because you are actually VIP. You have eye-opening revelations that confirm who you are and that you should follow your dreams. 4 days in BiSC’s Vegas is simply not enough. And with that, Vegas becomes the best and happiest place on earth. I enjoy Vegas every few years, but I can’t get back to BiSC’s Vegas fast enough. 

Our Twitter love handles

3. It resets intentions: It is easy to get wrapped up in the stress of day-to-day life, the work, the drama, your partner’s needs, etc. and forget what makes you happy and well, YOU. But BiSC manages to strip all that away and reminds you who you are at your heart’s center. It resets your intentions and puts you on an optimistic path of possibilities. It serves as an annual refresh button that gets you to refocus on your purpose, priorities and goals. BiSC somehow manages to serve as a reminder that you should pursue whatever it is that makes your heart sing. This year, I realized that I have some big changes ahead of me, but despite not knowing exactly what the future holds for me, I do know that I have a support system to help guide me in the right direction.

4. It boosts your confidence: Usually, dancing makes me self-conscious so when I was complimented on my skills, I nearly melted. While I doubt he even knows how much his words meant to me, it’s the little words of encouragement that boost your confidence. It’s the supportive words or the random comments, thoughtful texts or tweets that remind you that there are people who actually care about you. I left Vegas with a renewed sense of self-confidence and hope, and not just about the dancing, but in general. I felt on top of the world, as if I could do or be anything, talk to anyone, and as though I was meant for something bigger.

5. The Internet is one attractive bunch. The Internet is really ridiculously good-looking. Even by the pool with no makeup and wet hair, we are a good-looking bunch. But man, BiSCuits clean up well. Our theme party this year was Mad Men and I was really impressed with everyone’s creativity and style. We looked so good that even oblivious tourists on the strip noticed us and knew the theme of this hot group of well dressed Joans, Peggys and Dons. When strangers can tell your group theme, you’re doing something right.

6. Apparently Miss America contestants eat at buffets. They all looked really fake with their caked on makeup and perfect posture while eating at the Planet Hollywood dinner buffet. But to be fair, their plates were filled mostly with salad, shocking, I know.

7. Hey I just met you, and this is crazy. Here’s my life story, so call me maybe. If I’m being completely honest here, until BiSC last year, I never felt like I belonged. I wondered if I was ever going to have friends who I felt truly comfortable confiding it, who wanted to actually include me, and who would appreciate me for who I am. But BiSC changed that. I feel like I finally found my people. There is this magical instant connection that immediately makes BiSCuits feel like family. Within minutes of meeting, you feel this spark and bam! you find yourself comfortable enough to share personal secrets and stories. You don’t feel like you have to impress anyone because it feels like they already see the real you. You are so comfortable around each other that you don’t care if you are seen without makeup, if your hair is so frizzy it looks like you got stuck in an electric fence, or if you have to ask people you haven’t known for very long to wait for you to make a pit stop at CVS for deodorant before you go dancing because you don’t feel fresh enough. No? Just me, okay, moving on. Point is, we are more than just blogger friends, we are a family who loves each other as is, weird quirks and all. BiSC has brought so many amazing, tackle-huggable people into my life and has completely opened my eyes to true friendship. It is the most wonderful community of friends that I am proud to call my people.

8. BiSCuits bring out the most authentic version of me: In my everyday life, I am usually that serious friend you go to for advice, not the funny, wacky friend you go to for laughs. I can be the quiet, filtered, reserved, and introverted type who hides her quirky self from the world. But something happens when I enter that registration room and find myself surrounded by BiSCuits. This time, I instantly felt giddy. I felt a release of all the stress that had eaten me up over the past year and just let it all go. I was told that I was being “overly goofy and energetic and had let out all the crazy”; that it was a side of me that hadn’t been exposed before. While this temporarily lowered my spirits, I didn’t let it stop me from being me. Another person told me “sober Caryn is fun but drunk Caryn is fantastic.” I’ll let you in on a little secret- I never got wasted. Sure, I drank a lot. But was never drunkdrunk. It was just me being me, releasing my inhibitions, saying to-hell-with-the-bullshit, letting my authentic self shine through and enjoying the weekend for all that I could. Maybe it was all in my head and this was a false sense of security or maybe it was all the excitement of the weekend, but whatever it was, I wasn’t afraid of what people thought. I felt liberated and embraced my quirky self. I felt free to be the truest, most authentic version of myself.

9. BiSCuits give the best hugs: Saying goodbye on Sunday is the worst but that’s where you will find the best hugs. They are real, sincere hugs, the ones that have entire conversations without any words. The ones that say I care about you. You are special to me and I wish you would always be close by. This isn’t good-bye; this is until we meet again.

10. Friends should make you feel alive and happy.  They should inspire you to be the best version of yourself and make your day brighter. Friends should make you feel loved and wanted. I learned this last year, but being with people again who make you feel this way, really reminds you just how important it is. You know when you are driving in your car with the windows down, sun shining in, singing at the top of your lungs to the song on the radio and you feel as though you couldn’t possibly feel more alive than at this very moment and are completely as ease with yourself? You feel ALL THE HAPPINESS as people watch you rock out but you don’t care because you are totally content. BiSC is kind of like that, except you have a whole slew of people singing along with you.

11. The weekend is what you make it: If you want to have life changing epiphanies you have to be willing to let your guard down. If you want to make sure you meet everyone, make that effort to insert yourself into conversations. If you don’t want to partake in an activity because it isn’t for you that is OKAY, you don’t have to do everything just because it is on the itinerary. If you expected to hang out with someone 24/7 but that winds up not happening, don’t let it ruin your weekend. There are 58 other people all just as awesome who want to be with you, too. It is up to you to make the most of the weekend. You will get out of it what you put into it.

12. What happens in Vegas, DOES NOT stay in Vegas: After all, we are bloggers. We tweet, we blog, we instagram, we post on Facebook – if you don’t want your grandma or followers to know what you did in Vegas, don’t do it around this group.

13. IRL vs. Internet (where IRL wins): We often say IRL as if we feel a need to defend or justify this distinction between our online and offline lives. Somewhere that line has blurred for me, and the Internet has become my real life, my home, where my friends most accept me for who I am.

In order to put yourself in a situation like BiSC, you have to be some kind of awesome to begin with, so perhaps that is why we are such a special group. Yet, it still amazes me that of all the bloggers on the Internet, the select 60 that show up are the most cohesive, rad (and attractive!) bunch IRL. Nicole’s web of awesome really pulls in awesome people. We are all various ages and come from different walks of life, but when put together, none of that matters and it’s as if we had always been friends. I feel blessed that BiSC is happening at a time when I can actually be a part of it all. IRL FTW.

14. IRL vs. Internet (where Internet wins) I realized I have some friends who feel more comfortable opening up and sharing personal bits about their life when hiding behind a screen. While I wouldn’t trade those friendships for anything, it can be disheartening to learn that sometimes the relationship isn’t the same in both realities and that it is stronger online than it is IRL. On the contrary, some friendships need the Internet in order to develop those tight bonds. Regardless of if you met online first or met in person and then continued to build your friendship online –it is because of the Internet that these friendships have blossomed and that we even have BiSC at all.  Internet FTW.

15. I love pool time: The Flamingo has a beautiful pool and spending the day hanging out gives the group a chance to bond. Whether we are relaxing on day beds (yes, we are VIP), playing Never Have I Ever to win vibrators, cheering on Mikael in the booty-shaking contest, getting squirted in the eye the mouth with rum from a midget holding a super-soaker or just sitting and drinking on the pool’s edge soaking in the sun and the company, it is always one of the highlights of the weekend for me.

16. My new favorite drink is the Blueberry Bombshell: I asked our poolside waitress for a recommendation and she said she had the perfect drink for me. Since I don’t know the official name, I have renamed it the Blueberry Bombshell. It is Blueberry Stoli, 7 up, soda water and lime. It is a perfect summer drink that is deliciously refreshing. I’m a loser but I loved that I actually started a trend! Try it. You’ll thank me, too.

17. Dancing is actually fun even though I suck. If you know me even a little bit, then you know I DO NOT dance. Or sing. Ever. If you ask me to, I’ll probably say something like I need to drink a lot more before I can do that or just politely decline. But not in BiSC’s Vegas. Amber and I made up a fantastically fun dance where we looked like frogs on crack. We’re Frogger Bloggers! Even on Friday when I was ready to call it a night, Brad invited me to join the dance party at Diablos, and I couldn’t turn the dancing down. Me? Couldn’t turn down a dance party?  That’s a first! I danced in the middle of groups, I danced with people, I danced alone, and I even danced on the tabletops at Chateau. I didn’t care if you thought I looked stupid. I owned that I can’t dance and had blast looking like a fool.

18. Zumanity is hotter than any strip club. I actually did both this trip and I cannot even begin to explain the hotness that is Zumanity. Despite taking a limo to the strip club, and sneaking in for free, ($33? No, thanks!) I was left totally unimpressed by this one and managed to fall asleep on Kelly’s chest. Vegas clubs, being the Mecca of all strip clubs, should be all sorts of hot, girls should be climbing poles up to the ceiling, and the guys should be getting lap dances. Instead, this one was the actual worst and I walked out highly disappointed, carrying a half-full bottle of vodka in my blazer and I was ready for bed. But Zumanity? Not only was it a funny, sexually charged, erotic cirque show, (except for bendy contortionist man. I had to look away) it was everything that the strip club wished it was. I walked out wishing I had a man that night. Ooh, is it getting hot in here? Excuse me…

Stripper Vodka

On that note, I also learned that if you let the actors at Zumanity take your phone, be ready for them to take photos of their junk and lick your phone before returning it.

19. BiSCuits really like to talk about bird sex, like annually. Last year a group of us were curious about this and Googled it to discover the bird’s cloacae. This year it came up again but this time we got a demonstration at In-N-Out with the hats. I don’t think I’ll look at those hats the same way again.

20. Don’t expect the same experience each year. Last year, being the new kid on the block, I pushed myself to meet everyone and felt free to be my real self because I was starting on a clean slate. Everything was shiny and new and I had no expectations. I think my first time was all-the-exclamation-points-amazing because of this. However, this year I had expectations. It felt more like a reunion and having these friendships already, changed the dynamic of my experience. Since I didn’t have a clean slate this time, I found myself worrying that those who knew me before May 16, might not like me anymore once we arrived. I questioned if the friendships I made were viewed as strong on the other end, as it was on mine. I realized it is okay that this year wasn’t quite on the same level of ecstatic excitement as last, but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t any less fun.

21. Asian snacks are delicious: Suki brought enough Asian snacks to feed an army and most of it wound up in my stomach. I don’t feel guilty a ton of seaweed.

22. BiSCuits are the some of the most supportive people I know: Between the encouraging “you can do it!” or caringI saw your tweet and was worried” – they are some of the most thoughtful, loving and supportive people I know. When we’re all in the same room, you can feel the love and warmth exploding from everyone. When I went through hell and back earlier this year, I could not have gotten through those dark days without the outpouring of love and support from my fellow BiSCuits.

23. We breathe ‘special air’: I mentioned the first day that there is ‘special air’ in the casinos that keeps you awake, but it goes beyond the casinos. When we are together, everything seems grandiose. The special air gives you such a high that everything all weekend is filled with ALL THE SMILES AND LAUGHS AND ALL THE AMAZING and none of the sads. You might swear you even saw unicorns covered in glitter with sunshine and rainbows. While I did continue the friendships throughout the last year, I thought the instant connections were so special because we met at BiSC in Vegas. I thought maybe it was the energy or adrenaline of the weekend. But the crazy thing, I realized this special air is not limited to just Vegas. Prior to BiSC, I went to DC and had the great fortune of meeting Brad and Berto beforehand. From the very millisecond we met, we greeted with bear hugs and they instantly felt like family. The magical BiSCuit instant connection isn’t because of the special air in Vegas. It is the love and energy that radiates from everyone who attends no matter where in the country they are.

24. At 27, I apparently can be 21 again, but only in BiSC’s Vegas. I pretty much drank all day and night and for four nights I stayed up chatting and dancing till about 330am and woke up really early every morning, hangover free and wide awake ready to take on the day. Yet, when I returned home, I went to bed at a reasonable hour and woke up around 8am wanting to DIE. Additionally, it wasn’t until I returned home that I began to sound like I ate a dog’s squeaky toy. I blame the special air.

25. Returning to real life blows. It is challenging and brings on all the sads. Saying goodbye on Sunday brings all the emotions. You’re still on a high from the amazingness of the weekend, but you know the inevitable goodbye is just around the corner. I wish there was a pause button on life to freeze frame this moment instead of watching my best friends head to the airport. I’ll admit, I had a really hard time writing this post because I kept going back and forth between the YAY! I LOVED IT; IT WAS AMAZING! Tackle hugs for everyone!! To the – I’m SAD AND LONELY and wondering what if all the close friendships, the lack of judging, the comfort I felt was just in my head? I just got done writing about all the ways BiSC is life changing and how the people are one of a kind, which is all true, but now that we’re home and back to reality, my mind has begun to wonder what if it was all just my imagination? Being so removed from everyone and everything. I sometimes feel out-of-sight-out-of-mind but then I’ll get a texts or tweet from BiSCuits and my day is made. I feel helpless that I am so far away and can’t be there to every time a friend is hurting. It is really hard to go back to your everyday routine and feel so unmotivated. I miss waking up and checking twitter to see what everyone is doing (and being able to join them). I know this is crazy talk but to go from the constant stimulus and being with so many people all the time, to being alone in your apartment, it just brings on all the questions and sad feelings. Please come visit! The special BiSC air makes you forget all your stress and troubles. It isn’t until you say goodbye and return home that you are reminded that reality really sucks.

26. You will not be BFF with all 60 people. Even though BiSC attracts amazing people, you are not going to be besties and bond with ALL OF THEM. Accept that.

27. Adding a day before and after is the only way to go. Not only are the flights cheaper, those extra nights make the trip seem that much more complete. Even though I desperately was ready to go home Sunday after brunch, I was finally able to relax and unwind by the pool both Sunday afternoon and Monday morning. A group of us got to enjoy the Bellagio Fountain show together and get in more bonding time. It is hard to spend time with everyone, so I was really happy that I finally got to spend quality one-on-one time with Almie as we waiting for our flights Monday afternoon.

28. Lastly, I learned that it is really hard to be brief and summarize everything I’ve learned. No matter how much you try, you can never really explain BiSC to someone who hasn’t lived it for themselves.

I am going to write a recap on the events of the weekend, but hopefully that won’t be as lengthy or take me as long to post. If you made it through and are still reading thank you.

The one where I stop making excuses and decide to make shit happen.

“If you could do or be anything you want, what would do?” For as long as I can remember, my answer has always been the same.  I want to give back and help others. I want to start my own charity and volunteer in a less developed country. Ultimately, I want to make a difference in someone’s life.

Then reality struck. I got a job, settled down and prepared for my life as it seemed to be going. My dreams of volunteering and making a difference took a back seat to the hustle bustle of everyday life. I brushed it off as “just a dream” because it just didn’t seem practical or good timing. Then in January, everything I knew got turned upside down and I began to reevaluate my life, who I am (or am not) doing and I declared 2012 The Year Of Caryn.  

Some of my goals for The Year Of Caryn include actually making time to do the things that I’ve always wanted to do but managed to make excuses for as well as focusing on me. Those excuses stopped the second I put up that post. I realized if I really wanted something to change or to do something different, I had to do something about it. No more just sitting on the couch waiting for change. I had to go out and make that shit happen.

So I am done dreaming, done waiting for things to happen to me, done making excuses. I am on a positive path of self improvement and I am making my dreams a reality. So, in September, I am going to Africa! That’s right, I am spending 4 weeks  (FOUR!!!) volunteering in Tanzania! There are three volunteer programs to choose from: Caregiving (caring for kids in orphanages and daycares), Teaching English, (schools are overcrowded and there is a shortage of teachers and resources), or Community Development (women empowerment or helping AIDS patients). Because I have always felt that I was meant to do something big in this world, to give back, to make a difference in someone’s life, I want to be a role model and help educate the children. I want to immerse myself in the culture and make an impact on their lives. I am going with an international volunteer organization called Cross Cultural Solutions.  I am shaking with excitement, I cannot wait!

People ask why Africa? Because it just feels right. Ever since I was little, I have always envisioned myself volunteering in Africa so I want to follow that gut feeling. There is something to be said about following your intuition. Plus, one of my biggest Life List goals is to go on an African Safari. So why not kill two birds with one stone?

I originally planned to go in April but as April is almost over, you can deduce that it didn’t work out. As it turns out, it is rainy season now and it just didn’t give me enough time to prepare. My program runs 9/22 – 10/20 and I’m hoping to catch the return of the Serengeti migration and avoid the second rainy season. The best part? I don’t have to quit my job! I am extremely lucky that my company is supportive of my volunteer dreams and is letting me take this 4 week sabbatical. I have been itching to share this but had to go through proper HR protocol first. I am so excited I want to scream it from the rooftops!

Currently, I am trying to figure out the best flight path to get there that is the most cost efficient/shortest possible route. Looks like it will be 18-24 hours of traveling with a stop in Europe. If I can have my pit stop in Rome, and get to visit Africa and Italy in one trip, I might just be the happiest person on earth. But first, in order to be allowed into the country, I need to apply for a work permit and visa as well as clear all medical requirements. It is a good thing I am not scared of shots because I have a laundry list of shots I need to have done before I leave.

It isn’t required to have the Hep A/B shot series 100% completed before you leave, but because I am a planner like that and am aware of my travel plans so far in advance, I’d rather have everything completed before I leave. There is a lot to be done and anxieties to be calmed which could mean a lot of room for making excuses. But I won’t let happen. This dream will be checked off my list.

Shots I cleared 6 months out: My doctor did a blood test to check for evidence of previous childhood vaccinations. I am all about saving money and not repeating tests. They found remnants of Hep B, mumps, and Rubella in my blood.

Yellow Fever * (March 13) Yellow fever is spread through the bite of an infected mosquito and is not transferable by direct contact. I asked my Dr. of all the shots “I need, which will be the worst?” And the Dr. smiled and said “This one!” as she stabbed the back of my arm with the vaccine. It felt like she was holding the needle in place in my arm even after it had long been removed. It didn’t hurt though, just stung/burned/tingled for about 30 seconds. It has a reputation of being one of the worst shots and often gets people sick with flu-like symptoms and/or swelling at the site of the injection. I luckily didn’t get sick. In fact, I had such a mild reaction, if it weren’t for the stinging, I would have wondered if I actually received the correct shot. It only made my jaw and joints feel stiff that afternoon. I woke up the next day with a pretty bad hangover-like-headache without having had any alcohol the night before. If that was the worst shot, bring on Africa!

Polio (March 13) – done, check!

Hep A(March 27) 2 shot series if not combined with Hep B – 3 shot series if it is. One shot down – one to go! Easy enough, just your average shot.

Hep B booster – (March 27) I had already  have remnants in my blood from when I was child, so the Dr. said a one time shot of Hep B would suffice.

In July I return for the Meningitis, Typhoid and Measles shots and then the week before I leave I finish my Hep A series and pick up my Malaria pills.  These pills supposedly can make you hallucinate, so we’ll see how that goes.

*my mom keeps saying “she got yellow fever” and this cracks me up. I got the yellow fever shot, not the disease, thanks! Oh, semantics.

 

I know there are risks to going to Africa. If I don’t go now, when will I?  I’ve always believed actions speak louder than words. I am putting my words to action and making my dreams come true. I AM GOING TO AFRICA!! NBD. JK. OMG! BFD!

What dreams can you make a reality?

** UPDATE: as of 7/27 all shots complete. I can’t believe how time has gone so quickly.

Typhoid – no big deal. Just your average shot. You have a choice of taking a one time shot that requires a booster dose every two years for those who remain at risk or taking live vaccine pills. I chose the shot as it’s easy. One shot and your done. You just need to get it at least two weeks before travel to allow the vaccine time to work. The other option, taking oral pills, is more complicated. You need to take four doses which are given two days apart for each dose. The last dose needs to be taken at least one week before traveling. The bonus to the pills is that the booster dose is needed every five years for people who continue to travel. I prefer one and done.

MMR (Measles Mumps Rubella) or Meningitis – I don’t know which was which but NO WONDER KIDS CRY when they get shots. I am a pro at shots. They rarely phase me. But this one sucked. It was worse than the Yellow Fever vaccine for sure. I was advised to take advil or that it might swell, neither of which applied to me but it was a beast of a shot.