Lake Nakuru National Park

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We visit with staff and patients that make up The Village Cooperative  (TVC) sponsored Medical Center in Nakuru.  The staff is meticulous at maintaining records of how many patients they serve and tracking diseases. We take a hike up to the internally displaced persons (IDP) camp. 75 families live here living out of tents made up of tarps that desperately need to be replaced. These families were displaced after Kenya’s post-election violence in late 2007. They are still waiting for the government to place them. TVC is raising to supply the families with much needed blankets and food as of this writing. Fundraising goal: 25 US per family or $1875. Donate here (and note that you’d like to support the Nakuru IDP Camp).

We stay at Lake Nakuru Lodge, one of two lodges actually inside Lake Nakuru National Park. We partake in a morning safari and spot zebra, white rhino and a leopard! It was surreal to watch all of the zebra and gazelles call to one another to warn their herds. All eyes on this plain are in the direction of the leopard. A panoramic sight to be enjoyed from our vehicle. He hides in the bush from the buffalo. They spot him and chase him into a tree.

We visit the Jacaranda Girl’s Home on our way back to the lodge. The home houses over 30 girls learning agricultural skills. The fruits and vegetables grown here are sold to Nakuru Lodge for meals. What a treat to see our little farm to table.


Walking Safari on Crescent Island

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On our drive to Naivasha Crescent Camp we pass mutatu stations with Wangari Maathai graffiti. Maathai was a Kenyan environmental and political activist. I read her memoir, Unbowed, recommended by our Village Experience guide prior to this trip. Maathai does a great job of telling her story where the reader can understand what it was like to grow up in Kenya and the history of the country.

We pass several nyama choma markets on our journey. The meat hangs freely in the window display. We managed to stop at one and try some lamb, liver and ribs. Small bites dipped in salt. Coca-Cola loves Kenya. Managed to find Guinness Foreign Extra, brewed in Kenya.

We take a hippo boat ride to Crescent Island for a walking safari. The walking safari not to be missed! A few movies have been filmed here including Out of Africa with Meryl Streep and Robert Redford and the sequel to Tomb Raider. It’s simply surreal to be walking with zebra, giraffe, wildebeests and gazelles. Would love to picnic here.

We have colobus monkey’s visiting with us at the Camp and enjoy the best broth based soups of my life. I sit and enjoy the stillness. I feel like I hear the birds chirping “rafiki, rafiki” and “karibu, karibu.”

The Best of Kazuri Beads

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Visited Kazuri (small and beautiful) Beads. We meet the women that make beautiful beaded jewelry and accessories and take a tour of the facility. From soil to clay to paint to bake.

Those reading in Indianapolis can check out the selection  of jewelry at The Village Experience fair trade retail location at 6055 N. College Ave.

The Best of Nairobi National Park

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Took in our first safari (journey) at Nairobi National Park where in some areas you can make out the downtown skyline. We spot our first zebra, gazelles, giraffes, warthog  and a black rhino.

On Nairobi and a visit to the elephant orphanage

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Jambo (Hello) and Karibu (Welcome)

Arriving to Nairobi on a Sunday evening is good form as traffic can be troublesome during weekdays and Friday and Saturday nights. I get picked up from the airport and simply observe Nairobi on our drive to Wildebeest Eco Camp. The matatu (bus) stations have no lighting. In fact, there isn’t much light at all along man-made walking paths in the grass along the side of the road. It is a struggle for passengers to even cross street battling against the traffic. We pass mutatu stations with Wangari Maathai graffiti. Maathai was a Kenyan environmental and political activist. Her memoir, Unbowed, was recommended by our Village Experience guide prior to the trip. In Unbowed, Maathai does a great job of telling her story where the reader can understand what it was like to grow up in Kenya alongside learning about the history of the country. Drivers, my driver included, seem to drive without fear. They drive with faith, assertiveness and confidence. There are very few traffic lights and a couple roundabouts on this particular journey. Approaching the gated Eco Camp at dark, I hear frogs and walking up to my tent I take in the wonderful floral essence.

Our first day in Nairobi we visit The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust elephant orphanage. A beautiful and peaceful way to start the trip. They are open to the public daily during the 11 a.m. feeding time. We were joined by two classrooms of children. I couldn’t help but wonder if this is a frequent opportunity for these students or if today, together, we are all sharing this experience for the first time.

Grateful for the opportunity to join this itinerary organized by our host and Indy native, Kelly Campbell for The Village Experience: Upcoming Sustainable Tourism Trips.

How-to: host a clothing swap

Why a clothing swap? What is this all about? How does it work? When I was in my mid 20s I used to host Friday Night Ladies Nights at my home. I love to entertain. I would make hors d’oeuvres maybe a specialty cocktail or shot to feature. It was so great to catch up with the girls and stay connected as we all went through our daily lives. Maybe we’d go out afterwards to hit up a bar or club. Then I noticed something was changing. Some of my girlfriends weren’t able to make it on Friday nights, or had to cancel last-minute due to other obligations. As my friends were marrying and starting families of their own, their interests changed and this wasn’t the best fit anymore.

I read about the idea of a Clothing Swap several years ago in Real Simple Magazine during this same time that interests were shifting a bit among the ladies. I didn’t over think it. I just said to myself, “I’ll do it.” I’ve been hosting them now for what could be 4-5 years every Spring and Fall to prepare for the next season. It’s a great opportunity to visit with your girlfriends you’ve had over your lifetime, introduce new friends and walk away with the memories of the event as you wear the items you bring home.

Vintage floral top find at clothing swap
Vintage floral top find at clothing swap

How do you get started:

One thing that I should note, which may better determine if you should be hosting or if you have a friend in mind that should be hosting. I have never belonged to a clique. I have a variety of friends on different friendship levels whether close friends to acquaintances. I meet new people all of the time. I think what makes my events unique is that it won’t be the same clique that gathers every season. There’s some new people to meet and new wardrobes to exchange with. Of course I have girlfriends that have been to a couple of the events and I love that. Just something to keep in mind to keep the “goods” fresh. And before making a commitment to host, make sure you have enough space inside our home to host it, like a retail type environment.

Clothing Swap How-To’s:

Leading up to the Clothing Swap:

1. Set a Date. I live in Indianapolis where we truly have the opportunity to embrace all 4 seasons. When speaking of clothing, it means for most of us that we box up our winter line to welcome the summer line and vice versa. When the weather starts to change and I have to dig for a sweater or jacket to welcome Fall, I look at my calendar to pick a date to host the next swap. I like giving 3 weekends notice. That’s 3 weekends for friends to find the opportunity to clean out their closets. I look at my date compared to the events going on around in the city. Probably not going to have it over Labor Day weekend. And probably not going to have it during an Indianapolis Colt’s football game, etc. The exchange portion could wrap up in 1-2 hours, I usually select a 3 hour window of time for the event, or you could leave an end time open-ended.

2. Provide a little detail for how the event is going to go to your guests. I have hosted events as pitch in’s where I ask guests to bring a snack and I provide a specialty cocktail I’ve been playing around with. I’ve also kept it incredibly simple where I just make some spiced cocktail nuts and fill a couple growlers of Cider from the neighborhood local, New Day Meadery. One of my favorites is to host the event on a Sunday and make a frittata brunch and offer sparking wine. I would let guests know that was the plan so they aren’t arriving already fed. You know; Brunch at Noon, Exchange at 1 p.m. if guest wanted to skip out on brunch, they were free to arrive at 1 p.m. or later. You are free to ask your friends to bring something or I simply let mine know that this is what I am providing, if you’d like something else, you are welcome to provide it for the party. If you are providing a meal, I would also include an open request in your invite for those with dietary restrictions to please let you know and plan an option for them accordingly. I have made a vegetarian option of my meal for guests before, it’s not too much trouble at all.

3. Provide details for how the Clothing Swap will go. There are no “rules” for these. I’m simply sharing my experiences over the few times I have hosted. I have in my invite that I encourage guests to bring 5-10 items or more that are still in good, wearable shape. As we ladies can sometimes changes sizes dramatically over our lifetimes and need to unload or gain a whole new wardrobe. I also include in the invite that participating in the clothing exchange is not required. I encourage friends to come out for some much-needed girl time or to simply observe to see what a clothing swap is all about. I think that cleaning out your closet is one of the fun parts because I feel like you could play to karma a bit. Maybe there is something in your closet that you love and haven’t worn in years. It’s interesting to bring that item and find karma’s fate for you as to filling your closet with something you could wear. And it’s a little easier to part with when you know who gets it versus taking to consignment or Goodwill. This is probably the extent of information I provide in the invite and of course ask people to contact me with any questions. Things that have come up:

What if I’m worried about people being there with my similar size?

I completely understand this. If you’d like to share your size with me, I would ask that our guests invite someone who they know that shares a similar size.

Can I bring slightly used bra’s, workout clothes, beauty products, etc.?

I said, absolutely. You’re the host, you can call the shots as to the event you want to host.

What if I bring all high-end name brand stuff, will I find that type of stuff at your exchange?

I bring up this question as this is an interesting point and completely up to you and the type of exchange you want to have. The more people you have at the exchange, the more options you’ll have. I would suggest a response similar to: maybe they only bring 1-2 items that are higher end for their first exchange to help manage their expectations. If they had great luck the first time, they may bring more items next time.

I’ve had friends who couldn’t make that date but had contributed to the clothing lineup anyway. I’ve had friends who come in late or have to leave early. With those that I know have to leave early, I do want to make sure they get the most out of their time and send them home with 5 items or so and check in to make sure they are happy with what they get to leave with having to leave early. Those that arrive late, we just add them to our rotation when they arrive.

4. Send out your invite. I have used Facebook Events and evite to invite guests. Sometimes I may have up to 100 people who receive the invite. I’ve had anywhere from 5 to 12 guests. So far in my experience, and with the space I have available, a group size of 8-12 people is perfect. If you have used these new online invite tools, you may have noticed that 9 times out of 10 you will receive more Yes RSVP’s than will actually make it to the event. Things happen, life is crazy busy. I’m simply happy to provide the opportunity for meeting and visiting with the women that make up our city and enhancing our wardrobes. I may send a final note through both channels 1-2 days prior to the event asking guests to confirm their RSVP as I prepare to provide food and drinks for the group. I also will include any other final details; directions, cell phone number, etc. Day of Clothing Swap:

5. Clothing Swap Initial Set-Up. One of the things that I bought prior to hosting my first swap was to buy a garment rack from Target. It was around $10. I now have two that I can easily unfold and store in their original boxes in a closet. I also have extra hangers that I already had on hand. If you don’t I’d recommend buying 20-40. What do you have around that house that you could use that could provide helpful? I have used book shelves to put up some folded clothing. I have a shelving unit in our bathroom that we keep our bath towels. I’ll bring that into the living room to organize some folded clothes. I’ve used the coffee table and the dining room table to display items. Be resourceful on this front. I also welcome jewelry, so I have an area on a smaller table that I use for that. I also welcome shoes. It works out well to have them lined up on the base of the garment racks. I set up the space and start to put out my contributions for the swap.

Trendy and unique shoe find
Trendy and unique shoe find

I have had friends who sell unique items like Stella and Dot or doTERRA essential oils that I welcome them to set up a display or mingle among guests to play with the jewelry or oils. Mary with Stella and Dot once sponsored the Bloody Mary bar. They probably didn’t get a lot of sales, but at least they were able to introduce their products to a new audience. My sister sells doTERRA essential oils and we incorporate it into the experience. You can have a relaxing or detoxifying oil through a diffuser or I add the orange or lemon essential oils to the water pitcher for us to all enjoy. She even provided some yummy peppermint essential oil to a batch of gluten-free brownies. They were a hit!

6. Guests Arrive and Contribute to Swap. Guests arrive and are offered a beverage, introductions and asked to lay out their items where they see fit. You could have designated areas for said items if you choose. Some guests simply bring their contribution in laundry hampers which I thought was brilliant. And then they have something they can carry to new finds in home. Some guests start to eyeball through items, some mingle over snacks in the kitchen until most of our guests have arrived and had a chance to get their items out. I probably allow 30 minutes for arrival, mingle, set-up.

Everybody needs a red dress in their wardrobe.
Everybody needs a red dress in their wardrobe. Photo Credit: Catherine Esselman

7. The Swap Begins. I started hosting the clothing swaps with a one at a time policy. I like it because no one will be fighting over items and everyone will be walking away with one of the most sought after items. To do this, I count all of the participants and write 1 through that number on little pieces of cut up paper. Then I have guests draw a number and that will be the shopping order. So #1 will shop first. Then #2 and so on. We’ll probably do this for at least 5 rounds, so everyone has 5 hot new items. Then we open it up for a free for all. This part is fun as friends will encourage guests they may be meeting for the first time to try something that may be out of their norm. This can go on until everyone is happy. Then we may turn to more mingling.

8. Swap Clean-up. 

Knitted sweater top (right) paired with a little Stella and Dot
Knitted sweater top (right) paired with a little Stella and Dot. Photo Credit: Diane Drake

Guests are free to take home whatever they want at the end for the clothing swap. If they wanted to take their initial contributions that didn’t get picked up, they are free to do so. Guests also know that I will take whatever is left behind to Goodwill. That trip is guaranteed, so it is not a big deal to leave anything behind. I have made a commitment to host these events 2 times a year and I am lucky to have some extra storage space. I have a bag that I keep with some miscellaneous items that had been left behind. More specifically, I’ll save some items that I think that are cool and have potential in unique sizes, petites, larger items, long-legged, etc. So if I do have someone attend a future event that may have a unique size. I have some options for them. I have now collected 15-30 items that I may take to the next exchange. If it doesn’t make it through the next exchange it goes to Goodwill.

dELiA's top
dELiA’s top. Photo Credit: Breana Elliott

I enjoy hearing the after event stories. Whether I personally get a compliment on one of my swap finds and I tell them, “Oh, I got it at a clothing swap.” Of course they ask to learn more so I hope that they would either attend a future event I host or be inspired to host their own. It’s fun for me or for my guests to see one another out and about and be like, “That was mine, it looks so amazing on you!” It’s fun to see when I had introduced new friends they connect on Facebook or follow-up to get another group visit together. I really enjoy it. I hope you feel inspired to host one as well. I welcome thoughts from anyone who has hosted or plans to host and has new experiences to share.

Banana Republic top (left) representing People for Urban Progress on IndyStyle
Banana Republic top (left) representing People for Urban Progress on IndyStyle. Photo Credit: IndyStyle

Why I Gave to Devington Community Hub and Bus Shelter via Power2Give

The story, as it has been shared with me, starts here:

Devington Shopping Center

This is Devington Shopping Center, located at Arlington Avenue and Staughton Drive (near 46th Street). The colorful mural here was painted by Arlington Students several years ago. Stop by and take a closer look sometime. But for this case, notice the color. It’s liveliness as seen here from the street. Arlington High School is the building  just north of here. A year ago, from this viewpoint, if you turned around, you’d see an abandoned housing community. Once vibrant in the 50’s and 60’s. The neighborhood can tell you more about that time when you stop by in person.

FD_Community_3Through community outreach, Devington discovered they were in need of a Senior Housing Community as a plan of action for this site. So the story continues…First Devington, plans to open this Summer 2013.

First Devington

The Community and the Seniors moving into this building were engaged in the design process. They even voted on the color of the building. They wanted bright colors that celebrated their neighborhood, their lives, something that pulls them outside to join their community.

The viewpoint in the images above, looking at First Devington and the Devington Shopping Plaza comes from the IndyGo Bus Stop at that intersection.

devington before photograph

From all of this community engagement, a question came about, “How do we transform the way residents feel about taking the bus?” What if we celebrated it. Continued to engage the community and add some color. Get more people involved not only within the community, but invite organizations outside of the community in to be a part of this. A dialogue started about what could happen here. Personal interviews with those at the stop and throughout the community. Devington learned even more about itself and residents continued to get to know one another.

DevingtonBusStopThey applied for the Keep Indianapolis Beautiful Greenspace grant, and won. IndyGo is helping out, they are getting a new shelter. They now have funding to support the visions of the site including adding salvaged and repurposed Bush Stadium Seats and RCA Dome fabric from People for Urban Progress. Plants and trees will be incorporated into the site. The KIB Greenspace Grant is just one funding partner of many more traditional, the City of Indianapolis, the Senior Housing Site Developer, Indianapolis Power and Light to name a few.

When the First Devington development began, w/purpose noticed old pavers on site and saw an opportunity to salvage and think about repurposing them at the bus stop. They are heavy. They took them to Arlington High School. Invited the new Art Teacher to be a part of this project. The students wanted to keep these vibrant colors that just seem fitting to be in eyeshot of the mural and the new First Devington project. The students painted these blocks and it didn’t stop there. They were engaged further and asked “What can you imagine at this bus stop?” The students had really creative ideas. We want to engage our youth, before they grow old and lose that creativity, imagining turning the seemingly impossible… possible. They had ideas like, what if you were sitting in the shelter and it was like you were in a fish bowl. Or what if the sides of the shelter had messages for the bus riders and the community etched into the glass. That is the direction that Devington wants to take. They are on Power2Give to fundraise, turning a seemingly impossible idea… possible.

installed (640x478)

Progress Report: They are well on their way to install these pavers. New concrete has been poured. They should have the PUPstop seats in soon. The shade structure is being developed. They can still use your help, to turn the students vision into reality. Please consider donating what you can, to Devington Community Hub and Bus Stop on Power2Give.

There are so many positive community building stories coming out of this Devington Bus Stop project that I didn’t even include in this post. I am grateful to be playing a small part. Come join us and be a part of this.


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