Do You

3 countries, 6 weeks, and one too many bumpy and dusty bus rides later, OG’s East Africa Gender and Human Rights program is quickly coming to a close. I’m currently writing this on our final overnight bus ride from the beautiful coastal town of Watamu back to the bustling city of Nairobi (12 hours being flung side to side in your seat? NBD, we got this!).

It’s hard to believe that six weeks have flown by already, but at the same time it feels like we’ve been here for an eternity. We’ve just done so much, felt so much, and seen so much that it’s almost impossible it all happened in such a relatively short period of time. But here we are…

We’ve been through Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, and back. We’ve eaten beans and chapatti, ugali, sukuma, undengu, mandazi, and pilau more times than we’d like. We’ve been on our fair share of matatus, motos, and tuk tuks. We’ve squatted for long drops more times than we can count (what are toilets?!?!) We’ve biked through the savannah,  hiked through gorges, and rafted on the Nile River. We’ve met with local activists advocating for trans and intersex rights in Nairobi, engaged in discussions with sex workers in Kisumu who are educating their peers on sexual health, and exchanged insights at a Polytechnic University on what dating and sex is like in a Kenyan vs. North American context. Most importantly, we’ve connected and created what will be a long-term partnership with a youth-led community based organization called the Young County Change Makers.


But the best part about this journey? Sharing the entire experience with Alex, Ashley, Emily, Hailey, Jean, Josh, Leah, Meg, Morgan, Nicole, Steph, and Taylor — 12 unbelievably kind, strong, and beautiful people who have taught me more than I could have imagined. Each one has taught me some sort of lesson on patience, humility, generosity, and honesty. And collectively, we’ve all learned to just “do you”…to be unapologetic about who you are and what makes you happy. If you want to take some alone time, do you. If you want to explore a more specific issue or engage in a different aspect of our volunteer project, do you. If you want to wallow in frustration or spin around on the beach in happiness saying how beautiful you are (ahem, Tay), you go right ahead and do you! Whatever the case may be, just do you!

It’s been an exhilarating, challenging, frustrating, and just straight up amazing journey and I’m happy to have been able to “do me” the whole time…in all my beautiful, OCD, and hangry little self…without judgment or ridicule (ok, maybe a little ridicule!) And it’s been a gift to get to know each person on this trip, stripped of all make-up, attachments, and history…just as they are in the here and now.

So as we go our separate ways and board different planes to start new adventures, let’s never forget to stay true blue and always do you!

Sawa sawa.

Originally posted on the Operation Groundswell blog.