Kerri Went to Kenya with Degrassi Stars.
If you watched the HALO Awards on TeenNick, you saw footage of Degrassi's Ray Ablack (Sav) and Charlotte Arnold (Holly J) on a trip to Africa with HALO contest winner Kerri Solitro. I interviewed Kerri to find out more about the trip.
Watch more videos about the Kenya trip.
So tell me about Kenya! Did you have to get a bunch of shots before you left?
My boyfriend and my friend Jessi went on the trip with me. The first day we went to get our shots they gave us four, and they really hurt. It was really intense. Then we had to go back and get follow up rabies shots, and get a certificate for yellow fever, or they wouldn't have let us into the country.
How long did it take for you to get to Kenya?
It was 7 hours and 20 minutes from Boston to Amsterdam, and then like 8 hours from Amsterdam to Kenya.
When did you first meet Ray and Charlotte?
Our plane landed in Nairobi first. We met two of the facilitators for the trip, and as we waited for Charlotte and Ray to arrive, I got to hold the sign that had their names.
My boyfriend was looking over everybody, and he's like "I think I see Ray! I think I see him!" Charlotte ran right up to me and gave me a huge hug, and she was like "Oh my gosh, aren't you so excited?" Ray was like, gonna shake my hand, and I was like "Can I hug you?"
The first night we stayed in a hotel. In the morning we took a small 18-seater plane from Nairobi to the Maasai Mara, where we were staying for the whole trip. The plane ride was like a bus ride. We went up, and then came down like 15 minutes later to let people off and have people come on. It would go up and down, and we were the last stop. At one point, we were landing and there were all these wildebeests on the landing strip, and the plane just kept landing anyway, and we could see all these wildebeests running away from the plane.
The cottages we stayed in were nice, very homey. They had flush toilets and all that stuff. We could only take hot showers at night or early in the morning, because they used the same fires for cooking food and heating our water. It got pretty chilly at night. We had mosquito nets over our beds and they would come and put hot water bottles in our beds.
Can you talk about the volunteer work you did with Free the Children?
They told us we were going to be working on a school, but it was actually a dorm room for teachers to stay in for the girls' high school. They're trying to get teachers from the city to come in, to give them a better education. A lot of teachers don't want to travel that far, so they want to build a dorm so the teachers will be able to stay there. We worked on building the walls of the first dorm. They give you a wheelbarrow with dirt and cement, and they mix it together with water. So you take the trowel and you put the mortar in between the bricks, which were stone. The first day we were there, we did four layers of the brick, and the guy who was the construction head was surprised at how fast we worked. The next day we went back and he was excited, because he knew that we were hardworking. The third day we went, it was raining, and we mixed cement for the floor of the second dorm.
We also went to visit the school that Ray and Charlotte worked on when they were there the last time, and now it's a big community of schoolhouses. They were excited to see how many more buildings there were, and we planted trees down a hill from there.
We also built a chimney. They have fireplaces in their homes, but no way to get the smoke out of the houses, so the kids have respiratory problems and are getting sick from breathing the smoke. So what they're trying to do now is build a chimney in every house. It kind of looks like a stove when it's done -- there are little rocks you can put a pot on, kind of like a four-burner stove.
What kinds of food did you eat in Kenya?
The first night we were there, my boyfriend and Jessi ordered burgers and it was actually bison meat. So that was unexpected. But while we were at the cottages we ate pretty normal food ... pasta, rice, chicken, lots of vegetables. The last night, we had a Kenyan barbecue, and we had goat. It was really good. It kind of tasted like chicken, but more like... flavorful. The very last night in Kenya, we ate at this restaurant called the Carnivore, where they serve all these different kinds of meat. They come around with, like, a whole animal on a sword, and they carve the meat off and it falls onto your plate. They came around with normal stuff at first, and then like, ostrich meatballs! Camel, goat, lamb... The most unique tasting meat was crocodile. It tasted like chicken at first, and then like fish.
What did you do for fun?
We learned how to make rungu, and how to make these little blessing sticks. The rungu is a weapon the warriors use to throw at animals that are far away. They're made of wood, but the top is really heavy and it has a little point on it. They make them and sell them at the market. There are a bunch of different steps, and to smooth them, they use leaves from a sandpaper tree. I didn't believe it at first, but the leaves of the tree really feel like sandpaper.
Our last night there, we did warrior training and we got to shoot arrows and throw those rungu things, and they had machetes.
I love your safari pictures! What was that like?
We went on two safaris! We saw hippos, and we saw lions a few feet away from us. They were eating a wildebeest. There were hyenas behind them, waiting for them to be finished, so they could eat the rest... and there were little jackals around, which sound like chihuahuas, like barking dogs. We sat there for like ten minutes watching them eat.
We had a snack while we were out. We put blankets down and ate cookies while there were animals running by. There was a giraffe eating off of a tree a few feet away from us. We also went to a giraffe center. You can put food in your mouth, and the giraffe will eat it out of your mouth.
Wow! What was that like?!! The giraffe's tongue felt like a cat's tongue, like it was really long and kind of slimy. Charlotte was sitting there, like "Did you know giraffes have really clean mouths? Their spit is antiseptic." and I'm like "The giraffe is licking my face!!" Ray wouldn't do it. My boyfriend wouldn't do it either.
I feel like if life gives you the opportunity to kiss a giraffe on the mouth, you kinda have to go for it. That's what I said! I was like "How many times is a giraffe gonna kiss you on the mouth?" and Charlotte said, "Um, that would be twice," because she had been there before.
Aside from kissing a giraffe, what was the most surprising part of the trip? I wasn't expecting everybody to be so nice! And I was really expecting to be homesick the whole trip, because I was going to be so far away. We couldn't call home, because there was no cell service. They had a satellite phone, but it was $5 a minute. But everybody was just really nice, and even like, the people on the side of the road were all waving. They made us feel right at home. I could probably live there. They were so excited to have us there. When we pulled up to the cottages, they were singing. When we went to visit the first school, the kids were singing and dancing for us, and they gave us necklaces. The last night we were there, they sang to us again and gave us a cake.
What were your impressions of Charlotte and Ray? I was expecting them to be more celebrity-ish, but they were just so nice and welcoming and open. They were down to earth, just like "Oh, we're friends!" After dinner at night, we'd just sit there and talk, and it felt like I'd known them for a long time. Every time we got in the car, we'd put on my iPod or Ray's phone and he and I would sing My Chemical Romance songs and stuff. When Charlotte and I were walking back from dinner to our cottages, we sang the songs from Rent.
Do you think you'll do more with Free the Children? I want to. It's a good feeling. The people in Kenya don't have what we have, but we're helping them be more healthy and have a nicer house to live in.
They have a shop there that sells all the Me to We artisan items, and I want to maybe get a stock of them and go to one of the colleges in my state, and talk about Free the Children, and promote that if you buy this stuff it goes back to the community in Kenya. The people who make the jewelry get a salary, and it helps them improve their lives.
I want to know how it works out. Keep me posted!
More pictures from the trip:
p.s. If you're on Twitter, follow Kerri: @Starsncyanide