Kate and Karin Take on Africa: The Pre-Departure

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June 29th 2010
Published: June 29th 2010
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Time for my second guest-blogger! May I present to you: Karin Henschel (aka my mom). Starting July 1 (June 30 for her), we will be taking on Lisbon and various cities/town/villages in Senegal. Crazy, you say? You might be right. But this isn't our first trip together. When I was just 17, we set off to Europe together. She trusted me and my three years of high school French to plan the entire trip, reserve all the hotels, and get us around. We've both come a long way since then, so Africa should be shaking in its boots, not us. Right? Well, we'll see, I suppose.

Most people, when I tell them I am going back to Senegal, are hardly surprised. When I add that my mother is coming along, they all look a bit shocked. Doesn't she know what she's getting herself into? Is she going to be able to handle it? OMG, your mom?! In Africa?! Let me assure you all - she is one tough cookie.

But here it is. In her own words (with limited input from me):

In the spring of 2009, Kate was waiting to hear if she was accepted as a teacher’s assistant somewhere near Paris for the next academic year. Her options were a seven or nine month contract. If she was fortunate enough to land a nine monther, than the deal was that I would meet her in Paris right after school was out, and we would leisurely travel around Greece and Italy.

Then the phone call came. Kate informed me that the plans had changed and I assumed I had been ditched. Not so, the new plans were to go to Senegal, Africa and volunteer with the 10,000 Girls Program. Kate spent a semester in Senegal and also volunteered for this organization and spoke very highly of both.

How tough could it be, seeing as how I was a Girl Scout leader for eleven years and even camped out in a tent while cooking over a fire. Besides, I already had a passport. What more would I have to do other than throw some clothes and sunscreen in my backpack and hop on a plane?

Well, surprise, surprise!! The planning ( Kate’s job) and the$ savings$ (Dave’s Job), fundraising for the 10,000 Girls (my job) and the constant smart ass support (Kevin’s job) swung into high gear. I regularly received emails and calls from Kate telling me what needed to be done and getting approval for all of the plans that she was making. My standard response was,”I trust your judgement, Kate”.

On my end, I had to get my vaccinations, lose weight (45 pounds) and keep Dave calm and focused about all of the money that was being spent. My main responsibility was to raise funds for the 10,000 Girls so that we could buy supplies for them. I decided to hold a series of raffles of various items such as quilts, a wine basket, an afghan, and other hand crafted treasures. My goal was to raise $1,000 but in the end it was more like $1,800, thanks to my generous family, friends, neighbors, and strangers. Kevin even bought me a top of the line water purification bottle to keep me parasite free.

My original thought was to raise the money and have it available so that we could donate it to them and they could use it as they saw fit. But one day, Kate forwarded an email to me that was a list from 10,000 Girls of needed supplies that were not available in their markets. They needed bras and underwear (preferable new) for girls ages 10-25 years and toothbrushes. My friend, Teresa, found super duper bargains on snazzy bras ($2 each) and Oral B toothbrushes for 25 cents each. I was in shopper’s heaven and wound up getting 80 bras, 30 training bras for the younger girls, 60 pairs of underwear, 150 toothbrushes and my favorite part: a mountain of sewing supplies for their sewing program. I had so much fun buying, sorting, fondling, packing and dreaming of who would get them. We still have $1,000 to give to them.

The original plan was for me to meet Kate in Dakar, but I vetoed that because I don’t know the language or customs and if anything would go wrong, I’d be screwed. So Kate compromised and we are meeting in Lisbon, Portugal because all of the signs are in English. Besides, this is one country that she hasn’t been to.

This adventure seemed so far off and now it is a mere 48 hours away. Dave , the Boy Scout Leader and Kevin, the Eagle Scout, have been instructing me on the proper way to pack my (pretty blue) backpack and how to manage all of my supplies while maneuvering around airports and cities. Thanks guys!

Kate has kept me very informed on what to expect but in this case I think that ignorance is bliss. I will just face whatever comes my way.
I have to let go of all the comforts of home and embrace this adventure with Kate as a once in a lifetime blessing. Look out Senegal, I’m on my way!!!!

Final Editor's Note: I am so happy my mother is taking this huge risk and setting off to Africa with me. The four months I spent there were some of the happiest (and hottest, dirtiest, sickest, overwhelming, most amazing) months of my life. My experiences have definitely shaped my life and my future plans, and I'm hoping that when my mom sees and experiences all this (good and bad) for herself, she'll understand a bit better why I am the way I am. Please keep your fingers crossed that everything will go according to plan for us. We will have internet access (inshallah) along the way, so check back for updates and photos!

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30th June 2010

What was she thinking when she agreed to go?
Wow Kate! Your mom is either super adventurous or crazy. Time will tell. :-*
30th June 2010

karin and kate, you both are in my prayers. i love you
30th June 2010

Good luck Karin
Karin, you look fantastic. Hopefully you'll be as healthy on your return to the states. Enjoy this experience. Kate - you better take very good care of your Mom. Be safe!
4th July 2010

all i can say is i love the usa, pizza, fast food, air conditioning, my bed, pepsi, showers, carpeting, nice smelling sheets, non bug water, etc etc!! but i am proud of you 2 for taking the trip!! its gonna be an adventure!!! sorry i couldnt get off work to come!!! harry potter park was great!!! be careful love you both!!!!!!

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