Saturday, December 4, 2010

Learning lessons and saying good-bye

The last few weeks have been rich, full of activity and pretty funny events to store in our memories.  The renovations at Oloile Secondary School started as the school year was coming to a close and are now in full effect.  Mike has been busy working with the local building teams and the school is looking absolutely beautiful! The students are thrilled and eager to return to new classrooms (fully equipped with windows, doors, and solid floors) in January.  It has been really great to watch the guys all working together and learning from each other.  Mike has learned some of the ins and outs of building in a small town in Kenya and he has taught the team new ways of performing quality work.
Mike with the local building team

Our hope is that this school continues to develop into a safe haven for learning, one that encourages the students to strive for excellence.  We have observed the tendency among many of the local students to settle for less than average in their schoolwork.  The Kenyan school system is based upon exams, two to be exact.  One's entire grade for the year is based upon two exam scores (I totally would have failed in school!). We have been told that teachers will teach to the exams and will rarely have the time or desire to venture outside the syllabus.  The students only require a D+ to pass!  That means they have an understanding of no more than 40% of the information.  I find this unsatisfactory, especially if students are striving to compete in our global job market.  Two major obstacles are the past and the future.  The students come to Oloile from various backgrounds with different levels of education.  You can imagine it would be difficult to teach in such a linear fashion directed towards passing an exam if you have students with such a vast difference in their educational background.  Once they have completed secondary school, many have no way to continue their education.  Approximately 80% of the students of Oloile receive sponsorship to attend. However, there is no funding for students to move on to university, a challenge that requires some consideration and additional fundraising.  So many of the students wish to pursue additional education, earn a professional degree and do things to improve their country.  Unfortunately, many will finish secondary school and have no opportunity to continue with their education.  But, they have such big dreams!

Outside before
 During the last 2 weeks of school, I presented an opportunity to the students to earn some school supplies for the coming school year (thanks to Sarah, Jim, Maddy, and Sam for donating all the school supplies!).  Those interested were to submit a short essay regarding their dreams and how they planned to make their dreams come true.  It was quite inspiring to read the students' reflections about ambitions to become doctors, lawyers, engineers, news broadcasters, and many more.  They wrote about how they have to work hard, remain disciplined and not give into many of the temptations surrounding them in order to make their dreams a reality.  Our hope is that Oloile becomes an exceptional school in that demands more and creates opportunities for success among its students so that they can fulfill their dreams.  One also that can become self sustaining for the community.   One that can prove that change is possible.
Inside before

Outside After (still in process)

Inside after
Walking bridge to school
Change is difficult in any environment.  One thing is certain though, change must come from within.  You cannot enter a community with a "fix-it" or savior mentality, which is all too often the mindset of our western world.  You must enter humbly with the hope that you will be welcomed by a community to sit and to listen, to share stories, and to learn how and why things are done.  It is easy to judge from a detached point of view, but start having conversations and it becomes a lot more complex with the

inter-workings of local culture, history, economic development, family structures, and resource availability.  Kenya is ripe for new growth and development, but it is a challenge that demands individual desire and participation from within.  There is a fine line between aid that empowers and disempowers a community.  Even with the best of intentions, foreign aid can sometimes disable the self sustaining efforts of a community.  We wrestle with the tension between entitlement and empowerment, for instance, as we walk down the street and every child screams at you  "mzunguli" (roughly "my white person") and "give me sweet/money/pen/pencil!"  There are several exceptional individuals with whom we have had the privilege to know here who are working very hard to create positive change from within their communities.  As much as I believe foreign aid must continue, it must do so in ways that create partnerships and works from within to empower communities to create their own desired changes. I find that it is a time in which individuals can and must be encouraged to stretch beyond mediocrity to that of expectations for more.  It is also a time stretch a bit beyond personal survival and fulfillment to embrace the need to make changes for the greater good (a challenge we also struggle with greatly in America, uhemm... anyone want to discuss healthcare?)   It is a challenge we face across the globe. Having spent only a little over 3 months here, I admit that I am in no way an expert on Kenyan affairs.  But, we have learned many lessons from our teachers in Kenya and we will continue to wrestle with these issues.  We hope our time here has been a step in the direction of empowerment.  We have learned so much from those around us and we can only hope we have planted some seeds here as well.

And so, it was with a mix of sadness and anticipation that we left Kimana on Thursday, Dec. 2.  Sadness, as we are going to miss everyone so much and we would like to stay to continue working.  And, anticipation as we look forward to seeing our families at home, and, hopefully, returning to Kenya again in the future.
Saying good-bye in Kimana
Mama Nasieku made us all our favorite meals during the days before departing including githeri and chapatis! I was able to spend all day on Wednesday working in Mama Nasieku's shamba (farmland) harvesting green peppers.  It is ridiculous to witness the strength of African women. Try carrying 150 pound bags of peppers on your back!  It is so hard and they make it look so easy!

We had a lovely morning on Thursday, sipping chai and sharing pictures.  Then, we had a tearful goodbye and we drove off....and, about 200 yards later, we got completely stuck in the mud!  It was awesome.  Nearly 4 months in Kenya without getting stuck in the mud and we get stuck on the last day!  Of course.  It was quite a comical site. Mike advised me to drive as all the men pushed the car out of a deep hole.  We successfully got the car out and I drove to more solid ground.  I took a deep breath, looked down and laughed hysterically.  In all the excitement (I was totally afraid I was going to drive deeper into the hole, or that the car was going to fall over), I had forgotten to take off the emergency brake!  Well, mike needed a good work-out anyway:)  Hakuna Matata.

No explanation needed!
We made it to Nairobi where we have been enjoying time with friends.  Our wonderful and wise friend, Mr. Juma, had us to his home in Kiserian for lunch with the family en route to Nairobi.  It was a lovely time and we were so grateful to spend time with his family before departing.  We are currently in Nairobi staying with Delphin and Fabiola, our gracious family in Nairobi:)  We ventured to Lake Nakuru and Lake Naivasha yesterday where we saw flamingos, buffalo, zebras, gazelles, impalas, baboons, and, oh yes, hippos mating (quite a site!).  We also had a little adventure with some baboons climbing into our car to steal some juice and a banana peal...they climbed in through the open roof!  
We plan to relax and say a few more good-byes over the next few days.  It is very surreal right now, as it always is after such a short period of rapid transitions. We are beyond grateful for this opportunity, for the lessons we have learned and the many that will continue to surface.  Peace to you all and thanks for all your support.
Standing above Lake Nakuru

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving!  It is hard to believe it is Thanksgiving as it is about 100 degrees here with blue skies as far as the eye can see.  We hope you are all enjoying a wonderful Thanksgiving celebration wherever you may be in the world!  We plan to celebrate with our Kenyan family with a dessert of watermelon and sodas.  I am not brave enough to prepare a Thanksgiving meal on an outdoor fire…nor am I brave enough to kill a bird and pluck it!  So, we will have metoke, which is a wonderful stew of bananas and potatoes.  We find it very important on this Thanksgiving holiday to give thanks to all our friends and family!  We love and miss you, and we are so grateful to all of you for supporting us along this journey.   We are looking forward to sharing more of our adventures when we return in a few weeks.  We cannot thank you enough for helping to make this experience happen.  I will write more and send pictures soon (very limited battery right now and nowhere to chargeJ).  Love and blessings to you all!

Friday, November 19, 2010

A few more weeks

It has been a while since I have written.  It has been a mix of emotions as we keep busy with new projects and dive deeper into relationships here, and as we prepare to leave in just a few short weeks. It is so difficult to believe we are leaving so soon.  We continue to remain present to our lives here, and we look forward to building upon these experiences in the future.  We have started to be able to listen and understand conversations...and respond slowly, which is usually mixed with a bit of laughter from everyone.  It is good.

The last several weeks since leaving Karero have been busy.  We spent a couple days in Nairobi where we had to renew our visas. I consulted with some of the local physicians regarding an interesting case at Nairobi hospital - thank you to all you wonderful physicians who consulted from America.  It was pretty incredible to be seeing a patient in a hospital in Kenya, and then receiving consults from specialists in America only hours later.  The boy is making progress and we hope for more answers as he recovers.

Since returning to Kimana, we have been busy teaching and doing renovations at Oloile.  Mike has been leading local teams through complete renovation of multiple classrooms. It is already looking so much better.  The concrete in all of the classrooms was completely chipped with deep holes and cracks.  Some rooms still have no floor aside from gravel.  We spent the first few days getting dirty as we demolished the existing floors...oh, nothing like destroying concrete with a sledgehammer and then shoveling.  SO MUCH DUST!!!  There is a bit more demolishing to accomplish, but they have already started to pour new floors and they plan to lay tile on Monday!  The students are really excited for the new classrooms as well as the new girls' dormitory that will be constructed.  We hope the new classrooms will not only attract more students, but empower the current students to take better care of the school.

The health club continues to be active at the school. One of the classes put together a drama performance about cholera.  It was great to see them get excited about a subject that is so relevant to the health of their communities, and then to design a play to teach their peers.  I have also met with all the female students and they plan to continue a girls' club next year.  The school year here is January through December with month-long breaks every three months, so they are about to break for holiday next week.  I hope the excitement of their clubs will carry over to next year:)  I am doing a final HIV/AIDS teaching with the entire school on Monday, including many faculty who will participate.  I will do free HIV testing following the seminar.  The clinic has generously donated several HIV testing kits, so we will see how it goes.

Aside from work at the school, I have been participating in a mass treatment for trachoma eye infections...a very common infection here that causes blindness.  It is an 8-day long outreach where several teams go out into the communities, particularly the schools, churches, and bomas, giving antibiotics to everyone. It has been great to work with local volunteers and public health teams.

So much more to say as there has been so much to process, but that is a quick update. I hope to write more and send pictures soon.  As much as we are sad to leave here, we are looking forward to seeing all of you when we return!

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Leaving Karero...

It was a busy week in Karero full of projects and patients.  We showed up to a beautiful site!  The clinic looked wonderful.  The community has taken such good care of it, creating walking and car paths and keeping it clean.  The rains came so we stayed a few more days than expected, which was really a blessing.  Mike and I put in windows using clear plastic instead of glass.  Mike brilliantly figured out a way to make the windows open and close to accommodate for the fluctuations in the weather.  Oh my wise husband!  The Maasai have given him a new Maasai name, Eloshordro (El – oh – shor –dro, you have to roll the “r”s with your tongue).  It means something like “the one who gives of his heart without asking.”  Typical Mike fashion, he works diligently and quietly and, before you know it, things are done!  He is an inspirational fellow that one.  The windows work really well to protect against the heat, wind, dust, and various animal noises.  We also tiled the bathing room floor as the concrete was quickly eroding from all the water.  And, we built a door for one of the rooms.  It was quite a site watching two westerners construct a door with old, run-down wood and some rusty nails.  We had some help from the locals and it turned out really well. 

It was a busy week with some complicated patients.  We went to the nearby boma to visit a woman who had had stillbirth at 8 months.  This was her second miscarriage. She was very dizzy, lightheaded, and weak.   Lab tests are limited in Karero without electricity and we have no way of getting hematocrit or hemoglobin, but I expected both tests would have been extremely low. She was so anemic that her tongue was white. We walked to her boma, brought her to the clinic where we were able to do an exam, give her some IV fluid, medication (vitamins, antibiotics, and analgesics) and to observe her for several hours while she rested.  It started pouring while she was at the clinic so she was stuck with us for several hours! She stabilized with foods, fluids, and rest.  I instructed to get to the clinic in Namanga for lab tests.  I checked on her the next day in her home where we shared tea.   It turns out she is the wife of the man whose head I sewed up the first night we arrived!  She was doing a bit better. As expected, she did not tolerate the vitamins I gave her... imagine prenatals on an empty stomach, yuck!  She was told to keep trying and to take with food.  I expect a slow steady recovery.  Her husband and all the other women in her boma were extremely supportive. I was told that after a woman gives birth or miscarries, she often resides in her manyatta (the house within the boma) for a whole month while the other women take care of her and the other children.  It is a beautiful lesson in community. Her husband was very grateful, and offered to slaughter a goat for us next week!  I told him it was unnecessary, but that he had to take care of his wife.  He agreed:) 

We had a very complicated patient the last night we were there.  A mama brought her two-year-old baby in at about 9pm complaining she had been having “convulsions” through the day.  She said she had about four convulsions without any other symptoms.  She had similar symptoms about 1 month ago when she was diagnosed and treated for malaria.  I assessed her and she was burning up with a fever of 39.1C, otherwise unremarkable.  She had a normal affect for a sick child, alert and responsive without any seizure activity.  Her blood slide was negative for malaria.  I diagnosed her with febrile seizures and covered her for infection with both septra and AL for malaria.  Her fever was reduced with paracetamol.  She was given clean water and instructed to push fluids and return in the morning for reassessment.  When she returned, she was afebrile, but very lethargic. Mama said she had had a few convulsions in the morning.  I was concerned that this was much more than just febrile seizures. Her typhoid test was negative.  There was no history of trauma and no family history, so far as we could tell, of seizure activity (but this is hard to determine!).  She had a small seizure in the clinic that lasted for about 1 minute, despite the anti-seizure medication that was given.  It was helpful, although very difficult, to observe the type and duration of seizure.  The child was postictal.  Our concern, obviously, was that this child would continue to seize and suffer irreparable damage.  She needed to get to the district hospital asap where they could observe her and perform more tests.  Tyson was expected to come to Karero to pick us up and he arrived just as I was calling him to tell him we needed to take this baby to the hospital.  I was really worried he would not make it due to the rains and the roads, but thankfully he arrived just in time.  Again, it was really incredible to watch the community come together.   The baby’s father was not around, but several men in the community came to discuss how they could get this mama and baby to the hospital.  Most people will not go to the hospital when referred because they cannot afford transportation.  The district hospital is in Kajiedo which is about 2 ½ hours from Karero.  They have to get a motorbike or car to come to Karero and drive them to the main road in Mal tisa, which is about 400 Ksh.  Then, they have to get a matatu (the local bus system which is terrifying – imagine 20 people in a small minivan with people hanging out the doors and on the roof travelling along bumpy roads!).  The matatu to Kajiedo costs about 200 ksh.  We all worked together to find a solution.   The plan was to drive them to the main road where they would then get a ride to the hospital.  Ester, the mama, baby, one of the men from the community, and another older mama came with us to Mal tisa.  I was a bit concerned about them making to to the hospital, so we ended up just driving all the way to the district hospital where the child was admitted immediately.  I was so thankful for the Kenyan doctor that we met right away.  We discussed the situation and we were immediately on the same page.  She was started on IV diazepam (valium), given IV fluids with dextrose, treated with quinine for malaria and was going to have more blood work and an EEG, if possible.  The hospital took the baby with the mama and they will take care of her, keeping her at least through Monday.  The baby had several small seizures en route to the hospital and was post ictal and sleeping the rest of the time in my arms.  The mama was having a very hard time observing all of this, as expected, as it is incredibly difficult to help a little one through a seizure.  Thankfully, the seizures were short and her airway was not compromised.  We all worked together to care for her and she made it safely.  My hope is that the seizures are secondary to a curable illness or electrolyte imbalance, but I am also concerned about epilepsy…especially if there has been a history of seizures in the past (again, hard to determine).   It will be very difficult if the result is in fact a chronic illness that requires frequent observation and continuous medication.   I hope and pray for the recovery of this baby.  It was a true experience of the challenges facing much of the rural population in Kenya.  It was also a tribute to how important it is to have a clinic in Karero where there are hardly any other resources.  I am not sure what the outcome would have been for this little one had they had no place to go, or had they walked four hours through the bush to the other nearest clinic.  Thank you to all of you who have helped create and sustain the clinic…you helped save a baby’s life.

We will not be returning to Karero during the remainder of our time here.  We will really miss living and working with the community.  I must mention that the use of alcohol in Karero has drastically reduced, if not disappeared.  Those women really made a difference when they protested last month!  All the stores have stopped selling alcohol.  We got to spend a lot of quality time with the ladies at the clinic as well as several members of the community.  We hope we can return there again to continue to work with the community….perhaps next year to build some housing for the ladies at the clinic???  Although, the Maasai women have informed me that I should have at least two babies by now so maybe that will have to come first!  We cannot express our gratitude towards Ester, Faith, and Joyce, as well as towards the entire community for welcoming and taking care of us while we were in Karero.  We cannot begin to articulate all that we have and continue to learn.  This last trip to Karero allowed us to go deeper into the community, and I believe it is a testament to time…time spent sharing, sitting, drinking chai, and lots of time spent laughing as we were trying to communicate in different languages.   It has been the exchange of stories that, I believe, will generate the most change. Perhaps we have all gained a little more global perspective, become a little more patient with that which we initially don’t understand, and gained a little more stillness with that which feels so uncomfortable.  This is my hope.

Now, back to Kimana!  We have only about 1 month left of our journey.   I have almost completely lost track of time, so it seems bazaar to make note of that timeframe. The money has arrived for more renovations and the building of the girls’ dormitory at Oloile!  We are going to be busy organizing, building, and teaching.  Thank you again to all of you for making this journey possible.  Peace to you all!

Sunday, October 31, 2010


Back at Tizi camp, this is likely our last trip to Mal Tisa and Karero.  This has been our little home away from home.  We spent the night discussing various strengths and challenges in Kenya.  That is to say, we have been wrestling with and talking about our experience of what we understand to be strengths and challenges.  I say this with great humility as a mzungu who has only been in Kenya for 2 months.  I remember struggling with something similar in JVC…struggling with owning and reflecting upon my understanding of my lived experience. I was working in an AIDS hospice, which was very difficult at times.  For months upon end I refused to acknowledge my own sadness and grief because I did not think I was “worthy” for such feelings. After all, who was I to be sad or to grieve when the real suffering was occurring in the lives around me.  Well, time (and many months of therapy) revealed to me the absurdity of this egotistical way of thinking and I finally embraced my own experience of the life I was living.  As I finally came to realize, who was I not to be sad or to grieve?

That being explained (again to myself) I now embrace my understanding of my lived experience in Kenya.  It is hard.  Life is hard here.   There is development happening all around, but a bit of chaos throughout as various organizations work at different paces with many projects left unfinished. Most days are spent waiting, mixed with moments of hard work.  There are so many uncontrollable factors and the idea of a plan is laughable.  Poor roads, lack of supplies, unpredictable weather conditions, and, unfortunately, unreliability influence every project.  One thing holds true, the women work so hard.  They cook, clean, farm, chop wood, sew, make jewelry, and raise the children.  I struggle with the treatment of women, particularly in rural Kenya (as we have not spent much time in Nairobi so am unable to speak to urban gender roles). I can get behind clear role separation, but it is difficult to accept the lack of conversation about the role definitions.  Many of the women have no voice.  They have no options if the man drinks away the money or sleeps with other women.  There is no recourse.  I struggle with the tension between that which I can accept as “cultural” and that, which, in my opinion, is simply wrong.  I see hope in the younger generations and I believe the key is education.  I have started to teach health classes at Oloile Secondary School.   I am teaching these young adults about health, reproduction, contraception and disease.  We have started a health club, with the hope of empowering young men and women to become health consultants within their own families and communities.  My next step is to work with the young women to create a women’s group.  I would love to share discussion around individual and communal esteem so that women feel confident and entitled to stand up for their rights. I know there are exceptions to the rule, but I have seen only few of these exceptions.  Young females are at a disadvantage in society due to their gender as well as their age.  The youth grow up in a hierarchical system in which corporal punishment is liberally utilized…and without explanation. I often wonder if these kids and young adults know and understand why they are being beaten.  Do they really learn a lesson?  Do they learn not to be late because it is irresponsible and a reflection of character, or do they learn to be punctual so they are not beaten?  I think the latter.

And so are some of the challenges.  In the midst of the challenges, we are repeatedly overwhelmed with the hospitality and generosity of the people.  As I have mentioned many times before, there is bold spirit among the people.  Their resiliency and perseverance in the face of corruption and poverty continues to humble me.  It is beyond words. I always hate to generalize.  For every generalization, there are many contradictions.  But, I embrace my understanding at this time with an open invitation to learn and to grow in my insights. 

We are off to Karero now, going to check on the clinic and do a bit of work.  We are looking forward to visiting with the community and, of course, falling asleep to the sounds of hyenas.  My fear of hyenas has diminished a bit now that I have had my first black mamba sighting!  It occurred last week in Kimana and I am trying very hard to forget that snakes exist in Africa.  I think the Poisonwood Bible scarred me for life!  Anyway, we are off to the bush.  Hope to write again soon.

Monday, October 25, 2010

More pictures

Karero clinic before

Karero clinic consultation room before
Karero clinic after some cleaning, scraping, and painting

Consultation room after
Ahh, Mombasa

Dinner in Mombasa

Tyson's beautiful family - Tyson, Mama Nasieku,
(girls from left to right) Rachel, Siente, Nasieku

Saturday, October 23, 2010

The rains have come

     Another silencing rain, the first in Kimana since we have been here. It smells of freshness. If renewal had a scent, this would be it.  Mombasa was breathtaking. The Indian ocean is clear turquoise and salty.  We sat for hours reading and talking, sipping drinks and enjoying fresh fruit by the water.  It was certainly a different experience of Kenya, one we were happy (and very privileged) to enjoy. We were both grateful, however, that the beach was not our only experience of Kenya.  We are now back to our home in Kimana, enjoying the comfort of family.
      It is like a summer vacation that is rained out and the whole family (or town) is stuck inside one room.  Everything stops as the dusty roads flood and huge drops fall continuously.  We made it to town before the rains, and now it simply pours.  We sit in the “Paradise Hotel” with about 20 other people, sitting in the dark with flies all around.  The hotel is a one-room restaurant with a balcony.  The door leading outside is open and a thin white sheet separates us from the water and the light that makes its way inside.  You can feel the warm humidity all around and just have to surrender to the stickiness that pervades every inch of your body.  Painted portraits, mirrors, posters decorate the wall.  The images range from country cottages, city streets, a white baby in a cup of lettuce (in the style of Ann Geddes, unfortunately!), and a life-size poster of a white Jesus proclaiming the way, the truth, and the life.  There is no rhyme or reason to the arrangement. In fact, I wonder if there was an effort made to make it as disorderly and freestyle as possible.   There is the smell of grease, fried meat, and dust.  Several anonymous voices fill the room with constant conversation. I can hear the Maasai.  There sentences always sound like songs, continuous without pauses.  Mothers yell instructions to the little ones and I can hear little feet dragging across the room.  It is perfect.  There is energy all around.

Sitting in this hotel, I cannot help but think about how this little room is a microcosm of our experiences in Kenya.  The surroundings are often a bit disorderly and, occasionally, a bit unattractive in appearance.  But, the insides are full of spirit.  There is life in the midst of what may appear from a distance as lifeless.  There is bold spirit and relationship as thick as the humidity that permeates our surroundings.  We often find ourselves contemplating the slow change of pace in Kenya.  The rains make me realize that business life may operate slowly, but there is never a shortage or "slowness" of spirit.  There are always conversations to be shared and, of course, hot chai to drink.  Faces often stare at us blankly, but with curiousity.  The moment you say “jambo” or “habari” the stares soften into smiles and, almost, an awakening as if he or she did not realize they were in the midst of an intense gaze, and they respond with a sweetness that appears genuine and happy to make the aquantaince of someone new.  We are humbled and grateful to be surrounded by such a welcoming majority.
The reality is that I have had to rely on all my senses to understand this community and, when it comes down to it, I will only be able to access the surface this time.  I wish I knew the language better and I finally I have a little glimpse into what it would be like to be a minority who cannot communicate. We are so lucky so many people here speak English, but it would be great to be able to converse in the native language...ah, little by little we learn.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Back in Kimana

We made it back to Kimana safely and have enjoyed being back with Tyson's family.  It was like coming home.  We are grateful to have such a wonderful family welcoming us into their home and taking care of us.  Our work in Kimana varies daily.  We have been eager to complete some projects at Oloile secondary school, but we have had some setbacks or delays as we wait for additional funding for the projects that need to be completed.  It has been a long waiting process, but we are assured the funding is finally available and that Mike should be able to dive into the projects by next week.  The school is absolutely beautiful, but needs a bit more work in terms of repairs as well as new buildings.  I have been working at the Kimana clinic.  I have been able to spend some time working in the maternal/child/family planning clinic assessing expectant mothers, providing birth control, weighing babies, and doing HIV testing. In addition to working at the clinic, I have been preparing to do some health teachings at the school. I will be teaching health classes two days a week, mainly focusing on reproductive health, disease, and pregnancy.   I am eager to get into the classroom.  The teachers are happy to have a foreigner come and teach about reproductive health, especially some of the more conservative teachers.  One teacher explained that much of the reproductive health material is still very taboo and he personally prefers not to discuss these subjects.  This frightens me a little…but is not suprising. The same is true in much of America. 

We have decided to take a little time away to explore another part of Kenya, and to do a little processing away from the daily work.  We are headed to Mombasa tomorrow.  It is a bit last minute, but we thought this would be optimal time as we wait to start the work at the school.  It is hard to believe we have already been here for nearly 8 weeks!  We are eager to see another part of Kenya.  Of course mike is very excited to get into the water. I will write more soon.  Some sort of ant just crawled into my computer...we will see how this one plays out:)

Much love to all of you!

Friday, October 8, 2010

A women's revolt

We made it back to Karero with the paint earlier this week (slightly different color again, but what can you do!). We returned to Karero to find a bit of an uproar among the women.  They finally united and took a stand against the men of the community.  As in many places of the world, alcoholism is a problem among the Maasai community in Karero.  The men purchase various types of alcohol from the local shops, including a somewhat lethal homemade mixture. They have been squandering their money on alcohol rather than spending it on food for the family.   So, the women all decided to walk out of their bomas together to leave the men to care for the children and animals.  They gathered at the local shops that sells the alcohol, surrounding them and forcing them to close.  They threatened to throw away all the alcohol. They came together in the night singing, praying, and yelling; calling women out of their bomas to join their struggle.  They spent the night together and sang into the morning.  We woke around 5am to songs in the distance.  What an amazing experience to witness!  I am so proud of these women. They were ultimately victorious, forcing at least one of the shops to pour out all its alcohol and promise not to sell in the future.  The women celebrated by slaughtering a goat for themselves. They found a common voice and made a positive change in the community.  Unfortunately, we returned to the shop a few days later and they were still selling alcohol. We hope the women will continue to stand against such ridiculous behavior and, hopefully, things will change little by little.

We completed the painting at the clinic. It looks so much brighter.  We left Karero yesterday.  We will return in a few weeks to check on things and do a few more repairs.  We spent last night at Tizi camp (the place we normally stay near Mali Tisa after we leave Karero before heading back to Kimana). I had a couple of adventures with some large cockroaches last night and this morning.  Unfortunately, Mike had to both fall asleep and wake to my screaming.  Last night, I lost my battle trying to catch a cockroach.  It fell down beside my feet and sent me running around the room a bit.  Then, I woke this morning to observe a large cockroach inside my mosquito net crawling right above my feet.  I screamed and jumped to Mike's bed.  Mike continues to remind me of these events and it is only 9am!  What can I say, it is not that I am afraid of the critters, but cockroaches are just gross little creatures.  I don't like them crawling on or near me.  I suppose it is better than snakes or hyenas...not sure, the jury is still out.

Last, but not least, it is important to mention that Mike spotted a local man wearing a Seahawks hat yesterday in Namanga.  Seattle sports are being well represented in Africa.  Let's hope for a better Seahawks performance this weekend.  Go Huskies!

Monday, October 4, 2010

Another week in Karero

It has been a busy week and I cannot believe it is already October! We are almost done painting the clinic, but we ran out of paint for the floor.  We actually bought the shop out of paint last time we were in Tanzania, but hopefully they will get more today.  We are headed back to Namanga and Tanzania today to stock up and then, hopefully, finish our project and head back to Kimana.  

It was a pretty eventful week in Karero.   The week started with an amazing rainstorm on Monday night.  It was a typical hot and windy afternoon when rain clouds suddenly blew in overhead.  Within minutes, the entire place was covered in water.  It reminded me of thunder showers in Houston where it would transition from sun to a rainy flash flood in a matter of moments.  The rain was so loud and forceful... silencing really.

A man appeared at the clinic during the storm.  A woman from his boma miles away had been laboring all day and was having pains.  Unfortunately, she could not get to the clinic by that time and we could not get to her due to the rains and the flooding.  We set out to her boma early the next morning.  Faith, Joyce, and I entered into the small dung and mud house where the woman had given birth.  She had successfully given birth to a beautiful and healthy baby girl, but was still in quite a bit of pain.  Her uterus was still about 2 fingerbreadths above her umbilicus and was not contracting back to where it needed to be.  I examined the baby who looked wonderful and strong.  I cleaned her, tied the cord, and encouraged mom to breastfeed as much as possible. Joyce and I both examined mom.  Joyce gave her some oxytocin and we both massaged the uterus a bit.  By the time we left, the uterus had already started to descend.  We checked on her later that night and she was much improved, smiling, and feeling better. The baby was breastfeeding well.  We were incredibly happy and thankful that they both survived the experience and were recovering.  They asked us to give the baby an English name.  We named her  “Mary.”  I think the name holds great strength.  

I  have much to learn about this traditional Maasai community, but over the last few weeks I have come to believe that the women possess great strength and fortitude.   I am still processing the complexities and challenges of its structure and gender roles.  More on this as I find the words.  We feel extremely blessed to be immersed into this community so quickly.  Working with Staff of Hope and Tyson, in particular, has allowed us to dive in and begin building relationships with the traditional Maasai community in Karero as well as the larger and more diverse communities in Kimana.  We are grateful to be able to work alongside members of the community, but also just to share in the daily flow and struggles.

More later. Must go now on the search for paint.  We miss you all and hope you are enjoying the fall.  

Monday, September 27, 2010

Lindsay's new name

I have a new Maasai name, and I think many of you will laught!  It is quite common for people here to have two names - an English name as well as a tribal (Maasai, Kikuu, etc) name.  Well, Kimare only has one name so one day when we were enjoying a meal, he decided his other name would be Simba.  This has been pretty funny because every time he sees us, he smiles and says "SIMBA" in a very deep and growling voice and then laughs.  Well, I thought it fitting to ask for a Maasai name.  After days of thought, yesterday Simba informed me that my Maasai name is Naasisho, which means "active one" or "the one who is always working."  I had to laugh.  Even in the bush in the middle of nowhere, I have to be doing something! Only a few days in the bush and these men already know me so well, even with a huge language barrier.  Simba plans to give Mike his Maasai name soon; he is still discerning.  I will keep you posted.

We are headed back out to Karero today, having loaded up with supplies in Tanzania and Namanga.  We had a restful day yesterday. We were able to post a few pictures and, of course, check the Seahawks score this morning (Go Seahawks!!!)  Hope to write again soon!

Lindsay's new name

I have a new Maasai name, and I think many of you will laught!  It is quite common for people here to have two names - an English name as well as a tribal (Maasai, Kikuu, etc) name.  Well, Kimare only has one name so one day when we were enjoying a meal, he decided his other name would be Simba.  This has been pretty funny because every time he sees us, he smiles and says "SIMBA" in a very deep and growling voice and then laughs.  Well, I thought it fitting to ask for a Maasai name.  After days of thought, yesterday Simba informed me that my Maasai name is Naasisho, which means "active one" or "the one who is always working."  I had to laugh.  Even in the bush in the middle of nowhere, I have to be doing something! Only a few days in the bush and these men already know me so well, even with a huge language barrier.  Simba plans to give Mike his Maasai name soon; his is still discerning.  I will keep you posted.

We are headed back out to Karero today, having loaded up with supplies in Tanzania and Namanga.  We had a restful day yesterday. We were able to post a few pictures and, of course, check the Seahawks score this morning (Go Seahawks!!!)  Hope to write again soon!

Here are a few pictures!

Loading the water tanks onto the tower at Oloile Secondary School in Kimana

Mike, Tyson and Kimara (aka "simba") standing by the new table Mike built

Doing a little teaching at the clinic with Faith and Joyce (Thank you EFM for the otoscope and all the supplies!)

Scraping the floor and filling in the cracks with concrete at the clinic

Mike enjoying soup with the guys (Baba Nanoia, Simba, and Tyson)

The meeting of the men (similar to a trial)

Sunset in Karero

Tyson's house and our lovely home while we are in Kimana. Mike is playing catch with Tyson's nephew.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Life in Karero

Our life in Karero sort of goes like this:

We wake around 7:30am to the sounds of one of the following:
1)      1) KiMaasai being sung or spoken directly outside of our tent
2)      2)  Children singing at the adjacent primary school
3)      3) Donkeys walking right next to the tent in route to deposit our daily water supply in a large basin behind the clinic

A wonderful woman brings us tea every morning which we enjoy with our very traditional meal…PB&J.  We have introduced PB&J to a few of the Maasai men who seem to like it, but always note that it is very sweet.  I think they prefer roasted goat meat and goat soup as they enjoyed it one morning with much delight. Mike has enjoyed many types of goat soup with the guys (i.e. goat soup made from goat intestines, goat ribs, and goat head). I always come close, but graciously decline (just can’t do it!).

We get to work after breakfast.  Mike and I in typical American/”get to work” fashion set out to work right away.  We are soon joined by Tyson, Kimare (aka “simba”…a nickname he recently gave himself), and Baba Nanoia (named so after his first born “Nanoia”). You will have to excuse my spelling! Several other Maasai men and women stop by through the day to help with work or to visit. Work consists of endless scraping, sweeping, mopping, building, and painting.  I cannot begin to explain how much dust there is in the bush.  The other day, the wind and dust blew so hard that it blew down a metal kitchen at the school.  The dust is 2-3 inches deep in some areas.  This makes it difficult when you are trying to paint the floor!  Anyway, I work with the men doing the repairs, but am often interrupted to also assist with patient care and teaching.  The other day I was in my work clothes, mask and goggles, covered in dirt, bugs, and God knows what else, when I was asked to see a woman who was possibly having a miscarriage…quite a contrast of work, but it keeps me on my toes and I love it.  

The clinic is pretty much open 24 hours a day.  Things are starting to pick up and we are trying to help bring it back to life. It has been wonderful to work alongside members of the community.  The hope is really to empower the community to take ownership of and pride in this clinic.  We will see.
Joyce, Faith and her son, Alex, all live at the clinic as they await suitable housing to be built.  Ester is the laboratory technician.  Faith is the medical assistant who also helps with intake and Maasia translation.  Joyce is the new nurse who has been hired to see patients and is quickly taking ownership of clinic.  I will have to postpone an explanation of the Kenyan healthcare system, particularly roles of healthcare workers, as it would take way too long and I am still trying to understand (Alas, a “system” just as confusing and crazy as the American healthcare system!).   We exchange ideas and I have been doing some teaching. I have given her my old Sanford Guide to explain all about prescribing antibiotics, antiparasitics, etc.  Thank you to the entire Edmonds Family Medicine team, the Karero clinic is greatly benefitting from a huge donation of medical supplies. 

We break for lunch sometime between 1 and 3, depending on the meal (beans and rice vs. slaughtering a goat).  We work a bit after lunch until the early evening.  Every day varies depending on what is going on in the community, available supplies at the clinic, and tasks that need to be accomplished and how that is affected by supply (i.e. whether we have water that day).  Unlike in America, you can never assume or take for granted that you have anything, such as light or water. 

During our week at the clinic, there has been a lot of activity in the surrounding Karero Maasai community.  I cannot really explain our “typical” day in Karero without interjecting some of the week’s headlines.  Unfortunately, much of the activity has been that of violence among the Maasai men resulting in several community meetings. The Maasai judicial system works like this:
1)     1)  an event/crime  occurs such as a fight or theft *
2)     2) The next day, there is a meeting of all the Maasai men (only those who have been circumcised and older) in which all members have an opportunity to voice their opinions
3)     3) The elders then decide the punishment, which usually consists of a payment of Kenyan shillings, animals, and beer given to the victim’s family (the beer is usually for the elders)
*Note, the crime or event only includes those in which men are the victims.  For instance, there is no “trial” or punishment if a man beats his wife or if a woman is raped.  (Needless to say, this is a bit frustrating!)

I am acutely aware of the happenings in the community, as I have been seeing and treating the victims in the clinic.  The first night we were there, Joyce had left for the evening and the only people at the clinic were Faith, Alex, Mike and me.   Mike and I were just about to go to sleep when a few Maasai men and women came to the clinic.  There had been a fight and one of the men had been beaten over the head with a club, which resulted in a large open wound on his head.  Luckily, Faith could translate and I ended up suturing this guy’s head in the dark with a few broken flashlights to assist me.  Looking back, it was quite a comical scene...
 Picture this: a dark room in the middle of the bush with one broken flashlight that kept going on and off and one that continued to run out of batteries and a white American girl who speaks about 7 Maasai words (“thank you,” “how are you,” “yes”, and “no”) with an intoxicated patient who refused local anesthesia and insisted on moving his head every 2 minutes.  Ahh, it was a frustrating comedy to say the least.  Thankfully, I was able to repair his wound with ten stitches and not stick myself in the process!

The other event was that a man whipped a child with a branch across his face and the poor kid presented with a facial wound and swelling.  We bandaged him up and the man is awaiting punishment. 

These sort of violent activities are not acceptable and the community seems to take action quickly in order to establish punishment.  I hope that soon that their legal code will also apply to women. 

Mike and I sleep in tent outside of the clinic.  We prefer camping in our cozy tent to sleeping inside the clinic.  We are guarded through the night by our Maasai warrior watchman, Baba Nanoia.  Baba Nanoia (aka “leg guy” as he has a deformed foot from falling in a fire as a child and everyone calls him “leg guy” without question of insult) protects us through the night from the hyenas, donkeys, lions, and other animals that I try not to think about.  Despite his deformity, he was one of the best and fearless warriors of his tribe.   He is quickly becoming our good friend, teaching us KiMaasai language and learning some of our American slang.  We really enjoy spending time with him through the day and wish we were able to communicate better.  His KiSwahilli is a bit limited and our KiMaasai is very limited.  Despite the language barrier, we feel close to him and he protects us well.  In a sincere moment yesterday, he generously offered to give us one of his daughters as a gift.  I know this sounds absolutely crazy, but, apparently, Maasai families will sometimes give one of their children as a gift to a woman.  As much you know I would love to adopt a child from Africa, I could never imagine taking a child from his or her family.  We graciously declined…and were a bit speechless as I am not sure the proper response to this sort of offering. 

So, then, we usually fall asleep to the sound of donkeys and birds. I often wake in the middle of the night to the sound of cackling hyenas, which, if I were to think about it too closely, would scare the crap out of me!  Don’t worry mom and dad, I promise we are safe! 

So, that is a summary of our  “typical” day/week.  As you can tell amid all the digressions, there is nothing routine or typical about it.   We are in Mali Tisa and Namanga for a few days to gather more supplies before we head back out for another "week"...remember, no such as thing as time in Kenya!  

Thank you to all of you who have supported us with your generous donations. You are helping to provide a functioning clinic to this wonderful community.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

You know your in Africa when...

You know you are in Africa when you drive 200 miles with a live sheep in the back of the car:)  Apparently, you also know you are in Africa when you see people walking down the street with Sonics jerseys!  Mike had another spotting of a Sonics jersey - this time it was Gary Payton!

It has been another busy week, every day settling in to life here. Poli poli (little by little).  We left Kimana yesterday are now in Namanga.  We are leaving today to spend two weeks living and working in the bush at the clinic in Karero.  Mike, Tyson, and many of the Maasai men will be building, painting, and restoring.  I am planning to do some public health teaching as well as some medical training.  I am bringing about 50 empty plastic water bottles in an attempt to teach about clean water - i.e. boiling or leaving in the sun to kill the bacteria.

We are building relationships and learning how and why things are done.  We hope to have an exchange of information, but first we must earn the right to be heard.  There are so many little things that make us laugh every day (i.e. why you wait for an hour to pick someone up, only to drive them 10 feet and drop them off or why when there is a rode that is 10 feet wide, the motorbike will come as close as possible to you walking down the street!).  Little by little we learn.  Despite the insecurities and feeling so out of place some days, I find myself falling in love with the spirit of the people here.  The generosity of spirit is truly humbling.  Thank you again to all of you for helping us get here.

Will write more soon

Friday, September 10, 2010

So much to little connectivity

Greetings to all!  Our internet connectivity is limited, to say the least, so I will try to summarize our last week as best as possible.  We travelled to Karero and then back to Kimana.  We have spent the last week in Kimana trying to settle into some sort of day to day structure.  We have quickly discovered that "structure" does not really exist in Kenya and you just have to go with the flow, as so many of you wise individuals have already advised.  Our moods ebb and flow very quickly throughout the day, fluctuating through points of optimism and frustration, hope and discouragement, and overwhelming joy and total insecurity.  We are learning some sort of balance between our eagerness and "need" to do things/ "let's get things done" mentality and the predominant societal tone to move at a slower pace.  I had a great conversation with one of the public health officers the other day, Muthoni.  She was explaining how there is no such thing as time in Kenya and that things are always disorganized.  I explained that we are very focused on organization, punctuality, and structure in the states...sometimes to a fault, just as in Kenya the disorganization can be to a fault.  We both agreed Americans need to learn a bit from Kenyans about how to live day to day just as Kenyans may benefit from a  little more organization.  In such a short time, I think we have both discovered that most is accomplished by simply sharing stories.  There is so much for us to learn regarding how and why things are done.  Our hope is to continue the conversations so that we may learn and, possibly, earn the right to be heard as well.

There is so much spiraling through our minds so I thought it only fitting that this blog post be just as scattered as my brain right now.  So many things are different here.  You know, there are the little things like walking by camels and monkeys on the way to town, seeing the brightest stars and a different organization of constellations at night, no running water, using the "cho" (ahh, fond memories for all who have travelled:)), etc..  Then there are the deeper differences and ethical dilemmas, particularly when it comes to public health, sanitation and hygiene, women's rights (or lack thereof)...more on this later.  I am seeing and treating tropical diseases I have never seen before and trying to work within the chaos that is the health care system.  Mike is working with totally different modes of construction.  He even built a shelf out of branches and cardboard....we are processing and will expand more on all of this as the days go by.  Now, a recap...

After I last blogged, we travelled back to Karero to help organize the medical clinic.  Mike built several shelves and a new desk.  They were using the birthing table as a desk and are now able to use the birthing table as it is meant to be used. I helped organized all the supplies and medications, and did some medical education for the new nurse who will be seeing patients.  We really love being with the Maasai community in Karero and look forward to returning.

In Kimana, I have been helping at the local health care clinic sponsored by the ministry of health. I have been seeing patients and working with the public health officers. I am trying to learn my Kiswahili as fast as possible as it is very difficult to communicate.  The clinic often arranges for a translator, but it is short staffed.  The supplies and medications are greatly limited. I am afraid the entire community is going to become resistant to sulfa!  I was able to observe and assist with an eye surgery for a trachoma infection.  Next week, I hope to continue to assist in the eye clinic, see patients, and work with the public health officers as they launch a major education effort about cholera.  I am also planning to do some health education at the secondary school in a few weeks. Mike has been working with some of the local construction crews, learning how things are done and trying to offer some insights from time to time.  We both will be returning to Karero next Friday to spend two weeks working at the clinic – doing more medical teaching/training, painting and repairing the clinic so it can be fully functional. 

Life with Tyson’s family is wonderful.  We come together every evening for meals, great conversation.   We joke with Tyson and his wife, Mama Nasieku, about how Mama and I are going to teach each other a few things… soon Mama will be calling the shots and I will be preparing all of my husbands meals:) Nasieku, Siente, and Rachel (their three daughters) are helping teach us the language, always playing and singing around the house.  It took a few days for all of us to warm to each other, but it now feels so comfortable, like we are family. 

I apologize if this is all a bit scattered. It is difficult to consolidate a week into a few paragraphs. I think pictures paint a thousand words so I will post pictures as soon as possible.  We love and miss you all!  Thank you again for all your continuous support.  Hope to write again soon…

Monday, August 30, 2010

A week to remember

Giraffe and Zebras on the side of the road on the way to Amboseli
It has been quite a full week...I do not even know where to begin.  We are temporarily back in Nairobi as we prepare to return to the clinic in Karero.  We have had so many incredible experiences; it is hard to believe it has only been one week!  There is no way I can give justice to all that we have experienced, but I will try to paint a few little pictures.  We have learned a few lessons very quickly:
Number 1 - The roads, and lack thereof, and traffic are HORRIBLE!!!  Things are improving, but we will never again complain about roads or traffic in Seattle!!! 
Number 2 -  "There is always room for one more."  This is a common Kenyan saying. The spirit of generosity among the Maasai and all we have met in Kenya is above and beyond.  We have been the recipients of so many gifts and hospitality, by people who barely know us.  I am relearning what it meants to be relate as humans in this large, and very diverse, global community.
Number 3 - Maasai LOVE their meat.
Number 4 - Kenyan time....let's just say you go with the flow.  We both really appreciate this philosophy, but also recognize it can be uncomfortable at times as we are so used to making plans and setting agendas.  I much prefer a little balance of both philosophies and so am very grateful for this time.
Okay, enough for the list of lessons (there are many more), and more about how this adventure is unfolding...

We left Nairobi on Wednesday as we made our way to the clinic in Karero.  Now, in reference to lesson number 1, the distance between Nairobi and Mal tisa is approx 90 took us about 4 hours, which is quite good. We picked up a few members of Tyson's family (lesson number 2) - his cousin, his wife and two small children.  We drove to this small town called Mal tisa where we decided to stay for the night rather than attempt to make it to Karero in the dark.  We drove a bit out into the bush where there are scattered "bomas."  A boma is a group of dung/mud huts that are arranged in a large circle. In the center are the family's animals (i.e. goats, cattle).  The animals represent the wealth of the family.  This is an abbreviated definition, but here are a few pictures to help describe. It is very important to mention that we did receive permission to take and share these pictures. 
Goats in the center of the boma

Tyson's extended Maasai family, grandmother and children in the boma
We went to the boma that belongs to Tyson's cousin and family where we were welcomed into the home and given chai.   These homes are constructed in such a way that once you enter into the center of this 8ft x 6ft home (that houses 4 people!!!), the darkness keeps the flies away.  As you can imagine, flies are everywhere since the houses surround goats and cattle.  Mike and I were completely overwhelmed by the spirit of generosity and hospitality of this community.  They picked one of their best goats and slaughtered it in honor of having all of us to their home!  This is a huge sacrifice as their animals are their wealth and representation of prosperity.  We were very humbled to be able to share in this celebration. They invited us to be part of the ritual as they slaughted and carefully dissected this creature, careful not to waste any single part or to drop any ounce of blood (I do have pictures, but I think this is best shared in person as its is a beautifully complex process that is difficult to describe in words). They drank the blood and invited us to partake (I told you - the Maasai LOVE their meat...every single part of it including the kidney, liver, intestines, blood, can ask mike about the liver).  We graciously declined the blood, but did eat some of the roasted meat.  It was a wonderful celebration and, again, we are still humbled by the generosity we experienced with the Maasai that night. 
Goat meat and organs roasting
Maasai warriors, elders and children preparing the meat

We drove back to the main road and stayed the night in a small camp.  We woke early the next morning to go to the clinic in Karero.  In order to get to Karero, you drive off the main road into the bush to find, or make, your own road, travelling between 5-10kph, dodging branches, trees, huts, goats, children, cows, and river makes for a great adventure (particularly when you get a flat tire!).  I think the distance from Mal Tisa to Karero is only about 20-30 kilometers, but it takes about 3 hours.  We arrived at the clinic to find that it needs a few improvements... more on that as things unfold.  Several of the Maasai elders met to discuss the future of the clinic.  We stayed for a few hours, talked with several members of the Maasai community and visited the new water well.  We will be returning there tomorrow for another meeting between Tyson and the elders.  Mike and I are going to be cleaning up the clinic, organizing meds, cleaning some of the equipment and, perhaps, seeing some patients.  It is an exciting time and there is incredible potential for growth of this clinic.  A main priority for Staff of Hope is to empower the community to take ownership of these projects (i.e. healthcare, water, education, etc).  It is unique in that we are able to work side by side with these Maasai people, teaching and learning from one another.  We are eager to return tomorrow.
Karero clinic, meeting of Maasai elders
Tyson and Maasai elders meeting by the water well

So, after we left Karero, we stayed the night in Namanga where we were chanted to sleep by hundreds of Muslims praying on loud speakers.  Unfortunately, they were burning trash in barrels not far from our camp so it was quite uncomfortable and difficult to breath. I will have to write another novel blog about the pollution and lack of waste management as is always too common in much of the world.  We woke early to make our way to Kimana (finally, as we are so excited to meet Tyson's wife and children and see our home for the next three months).  In order to get to Kimana from Namanga, you either have to drive back to Nairobi, or you can pay to drive through Amboseli National park.  We decided to have our own private safari and drive through the park with Jeff (who has been coming to Kenya for the last 10 years) and Tyson (who lives just beyond Amboseli).  They were excellent guides and we saw more animals than I could have imagined - giraffes, zebras, wildebeasts, elephants, buffalo, hippos, gizelles, and more!  It is pretty incredible to see these creatures in their natural habitats without any fences or cages. 
Elephant in Amboseli

We made it to Kimana in the evening where Mama Naseaku (Tyson's wife) and his entire family greated us with a late lunch.  We toured his beautiful home and farm and immediately felt right at home (I will send pictures soon!).  Tyson is Maasai and his wife is Kikuyu.  Tyson's wife took the name of Mama Naseaku when her first born daughter, Naseaku, was born.  They have three beautiful daughters - Naseaku, Siente, and Rachel (who all also have Maasai names).  One of Tyson's brother, his wife and three children also live on the property.  We had a lovely evening which came to an end all too quickly.  The next morning, we woke to tour the school and Kimana clinic, and then to return to Nairobi for more meetings en route back to Karero.  As you can see, it takes a while to get places and you just have to go with the flow (lesson number 4!).  The school is a beautiful oasis, complete with patches of green grass and trees for the students to enjoy.  It has a good foundation and the beginning of a very efficient water system.  Mike is eager to dive in to help the community complete the water project and finish the buildings.  I will send pictures soon.  The clinic in Kimana is run by the Ministry of Health rather than Staff of Hope. I will be working alongside the community at this clinic while we are in Kimana in addition to the work in Karero. We are working out the details of my work, but I am already eager to do some teaching around sanitation, hygiene, reproductive health, STD prevention both at the school and the clinic. I find it a priority to build partnerships with the individuals working within the community.  We will see what unfolds. 

We made it to Nairobi late on Saturday night.  Mike and I stayed one night in the Methodist house and then were graciously taken in by a family we connected with through Mike Bayard, SJ at Seattle University (thank you again!!!).  This family is incredibly generous (again and again overwhelmed by the African hospitality).  They are from Burundi and currently live in Kenya.  The two oldest daughters actually go to school at Seattle University.  We look forward to continuing our relationship. They have opened their home to us whenever we return to Nairobi (which is so wonderful because Nairobi gets sooo expensive and can be a bit intimidating with the traffic!). We have had some good rest and feel rejuvenated to return to karero.  We leave tomorrow at 9am with Tyson.  Jeff has returned to the states and Moses will stay in Nairobi to continue his work with World Vision.  We are off and so anxious to dive into these projects.  I will update the blog as frequently as possible and try not to make all the posts as long as this one...but we will see how frequently I can connect to the internet:) 

Much love and thank you for reading/listening to our story.  We have already fallen in love with the people we have met and find it hard to believe we have only been here for 1 week (I mean that in a good way!).  We feel like we are part of a family.  We hope we can remain open to the unexpected, roll with the challenges of the unforseeable future, and wake each day with a spirit of service and hope for justice.  From what we have experienced in one week, the troubles in Kenya run deep.  It is difficult to untangle the mess of corruption, political and religious extremism, and poverty.  Despite the many troubles, there is a wealth within the people...the spirit of the people that is very tangible.  Our hope is that we may empower one another cross culturally to find working and sustainable solutions and to promote healthy change.   

Until next time...