Thoughts from Last Year

Notes from Peter’s journal, May 2011

“Well, another year, another waning laptop battery, and another wait in the same chair at Kilimanjaro International Airport.  One more month-plus of my life spent on the “dark continent,” yet so much is bright.  I am nervous and excited to have made the leap to start my own company with my best friend Rob Lindner.  I am incredibly fortunate to have formed this well supported partnership so that we may continue to facilitate the much needed courses in East Africa.

With my very good friend and colleague, I am convinced my desires for continuing the pursuit of well-trained guides and park service staff can continue.  I have no desires or illusions that this pursuit will make us rich, but rather, I am driven by helping Tanzanians realize their responsibility and the potential of their rich natural resources.

My last night in Africa was spent gazing at the amazing stars while camping in the bush of Lake Manyara National Park with my friend Jean DuPlessis of Wayo Africa.  As is the usual for me, the bush, or wilderness, provides so much focus and tranquility.  My heartbeat and respirations slowed as my mind cleared.  While Arusha was a great city to hang out in for the last month, the bush grounded me.  As we sat talking with two huge bull elephants less than 100 meters away and all of the other sounds of wild animals and birds surrounding us, I felt so reassured about continuing this journey teaching in a truly wild and education-thirsty part of the world.  Maybe it was how real the dangers of the bush felt, or maybe just finding the moment to reflect on the opportunity to be here teaching in Africa.  While I know this training helps the wageni, or foreign guests, in times of need; possibly the more important product is training people to help their family, friends, fellow guides/staff and villages.  I have always believed that teaching wilderness medicine is more about confirming essential life skills and knowledge, not just a desired certification.  Additionally, no one can take away this knowledge.

I was proud of the team we had teaching this year, with my good friends Tanzanian instructor Alex and Kenyan instructor Shikuku assisting.  They have been essential for course planning and a relief from continuous lecturing.  More than that, they provided a lot of mental support drawn from their years of teaching experience.  Alex and Shikuku provided vital translation of complex topics and one-on-one help for struggling students.  Alex is a highly respected and experienced guide in Tanzania, which increases the integrity and quality of every course we teach.  Shikuku’s vast outdoor leadership experience, extreme patience, and wise words add a calming effect for students and instructors alike in every course.  When either Alex or Shikuku spoke, the students moved to the edge of their seats to make sure they absorbed every bit of information they provided.  I feel very lucky to have worked with such a strong group of instructors, and hope to continue working with all of them long into the future.  With this strong team, we had the most student success of any course we have taught in the last three years.  It feels good knowing that it was the team of instructors that made this possible… not just one person’s accomplishments.”

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