Saturday, December 19, 2009

just a quick note

Hey everyone!

I promise to put up pictures from Kate's trip soon, but I just wanted to say I got home safely. Thanks to everyone who followed my blog this year and to everyone who made my year in Kenya one of the best of my life.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

The long journey home

Well considering I have about 15 more hours to kill on my layover in Belgium, I thought i'd blog about my vacation with Kate. Hopefully she'll agree to guest blog about her impression of Kenya when I get home.
Anways, she and Kiirsten arrived in Kenya safely late last Tuesday night and Tom and I picked them from the airport n Kisumu on Wed. morning. Kate only got to spend about 24 hours in Malava, but she said it was her favority part of the trip.
Friday morning we headed down to Kisumu where we parted ways with Tom and Kiirsten. Kate and I wandered around Kisumu and took a long walk so she could see the Lake. Saturday we took the bus to Nairobi instead of flying b/c Kate wanted to seethe Rift Valley. By Saturday night we were in Mombasa. We stayed at the Castle Royal again and after a very long day of traveling, we enjoyed live music and cool beers. Sunday I took Kate for a tour around Old Town Mombasa and then headed to our hotel in Diani beach. We strolled on the beach, but not for long. The Beach boys were being very aggressive (people say its gotten worse b/c the tourist season is slow). Our hotel in Diani was lovely. It wasn't beach from, but right across the street. We had a pool and an air conditioned room- which is really all you need. The staff was so attentive and courteous. We spent most of our time either lounging by the pool or swimming in the ocean, although we did manage to get up early for a half day safari in Shimba Hills National Reserve. The pictures will be up soon- but we saw lots of cool animals. We hiked down to a water hall with two older Scottish gentlemen, saw giraffes right next to our car and a whole family of elepants walking back from a bath.
We decided to take the train back from Mombasa and arrived in Nairobi with just enought time to wander around downtown (although I got us lost and we ended up in a bad part of town I'd never been to before), get cleaned up and have one last dinner with the sisters in Nairobi. But when we got to the airport, our flight has been delayed for two hours. We didn't end up leaving until almost 3 in the morning, but Kate managed to make her connecting flight home today. I am still in Brussels, enjoying a very cushy hotel room and avoid the three inches of snow on the ground outside.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

World Day for Disabled

There are new pics up on my picasa page from out World Day for Disabled Celebration on Thursday. It was a TON of work, but I think everything went pretty well. It was certainly worth it, seeing all our clients together, having fun.
This is my last weekend in Malava and my house has been taken over by teenage girls. There are like 30 aspiring sisters here this weekend for workshops. Needless to say, my quiet little home is not to tranquil right now. I'm looking forward to having my space back to myself tomorrow.
This is also the last week at St. Julie's. We have a ton of end of the year wrap up stuff to do, like taking toy inventories. Hopefully that well help me keep my mind off the fact that I'm SUPER excited for Kate to get here. She leaves the states tomorrow morning, but won't be here in Malava until Wed. After a short 24 hour visit in Malava, we're off for a whirlwind 8 day vacation around Kenya, and then its back to the states next week. I recently discovered that I read my itinerary wrong for the flight home and I have a 26 hour layover in Brussels. Initially I was really frustrating, but now I'm kind of excited. I've never been anywhere in Europe before, so I'm going to walk around, enjoy the architecture, have some waffles and drink some of the best beer in Europe. I'll be back in Cincinnati (back to winter!) on Friday December 18th.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Kenyan Thanksgiving

Sorry everyone. I know I've been delinquent about blogging. Life has been so so busy the last few weeks. We had a ton of work to do for the parent meeting a few weeks ago and since then we've been getting ready for World Day for Disabled which is next Thursday and of course, all the cooking for our Kenyan Thanksgiving. So in lieu of writing everything out, I put up a ton of new pictures. There's an album from Katie's going away party. She left two weeks ago Monday and will be spending some quality time with her family before going back to Nigeria in January. She does have to fund raise if you're interested in helping her out, you can contact her from her blog "How Did I Get Here" which is in my blog list.
The other album is a compilations from our St. Julie staff outing at the Kitale Nature Conservancy, the St. Julie parents meeting and play day, our Kenyan Thanksgiving and of course, Tom and Micheal's barely month old puppies. The staff outing was alot of fun, although a little sad. The place has a home for disabled animals, which I thought would be animals that were injured but were infact animals born with disfiguring birth defects. The parenst play day was also alot of fun...mostly b/c I had to most popular play station. Kenyan adults loved to learn how to play spud.
Finally, our Thanksgiving was a HUGE sucess. Tom and Micheal did the Turkey, cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes, gravy and hosted. I was in charge of everything that needed to be baked in an over- so I made green bean cassarole, stuffing, apple crisp and pumpkin pie, from an actual pumpkin I bought from the market. I have to say, I'm pretty proud of myself, and the boys. Despite all the adjustments that needed to be made cooking Thanksgiving the Kenyans ingredients, things came out delicious! I'm especially proud of my pumpkin pie. I'd never made pie crust, let alone the inside from a real pumpkin. I wasn't there for the slaughtering of the turkey, although I'm sure Tom will have pictures up on his picasa page. Anyways, we enjoyed the day with a selection of Sisters from both communities, some St. Julie people and Hezbon from Tumaini (and of course Shinzi and her puppies!). As sad as I was to miss Thanksgiving with my American family, it was a really wonderful meal with my Kenyans friends.
Kate will be in Kenya in a week and a half and I'll be back in the states just in time for Christmas. I'm so sad to be leaving this wonderful place that has been my home for almost 11 months, but i'm also very excited to see my friends and family (not to mention have access to a microwave and washing machine again!).

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Whirlwind international trip

Well Tom and I arrived back safely in Malava on Sunday after an amazing trip to Uganda and Rwanda. There's a ton to tell, but let me begin with these three points:
1) My dad was right about it always being helpful to have a handkerchief with you. In this case, it helped when it started raining inside of our bus.
2) If you're going to go to Rwanda, consider learning a few words in Kinyarwanda or at least French. Knowing English did us almost no good.
3) The best way to see a new city is from the back of a motorcycle.

So anyways, Tom and I left last Tuesday and crossed the boarder at Busia and got into Kampala around 8:30. We had no idea where to stay, so I asked the taxi man and he took us to "the place where all the mzungus like you go". He was right. Backpackers Hostel is this strange little hippy oasis for European indenpendant travelers. But the price was right, the food was good and the beer was cold. We spent a day in Kampala, wandering around the city, and then down to Entebbe for lunch on the lake. Kampala is a beautiful city. Uganda all around is better maintained than any city I've been in in Kenya.
Having seen what we wanted in Kampala, Thursday morning we got on a bus bound for Kigali. A ride that was said to be 8 hours ended up being around 10, but it was beautiful. I think Rwanda is the most beatuiful place I've ever been. Southern Uganda goes from these brillant green hills to these rolling mountains, over the boarder into Rwanda. We got there as it started to rain, so the mist was rolling in over the tops of the hills. The bottom of the valley was covered in neon green tea fields. I could have stared out the window forever. But just as it got dark, the hillsides became covered in lights. Kigali is a city sprawled out over the sides of the hills. It was so beautiful. We got off the bus however into what felt like pure chaos. It was raining hard and cold and it was so hard to find a cab, considering we didn't speak a language that the people around us spoke. I only knew the name of one hotel so when we finally took a cab there, we found it was $90 a night. We learned very quickly that Kigali is an expensive city. We obviously couldn't spend that kind of money, so we bargained them down to $50. They ended up having a wonderful chef with inexpensive food and good beer. I realized on this trip that Kenya got the short end of the stick from the East African brewing company. All the good beers are in Rwanda and Uganda.
Anyways, we spent all of Friday in Kigali. We were planning on going to the Parc du Volcans (?) on Saturday, but when we found out the boarder crossing into Uganda was only opened from 7 am to 7pm, we had to scrap it. I'm very disappointed we didn't make it, but Kigali alone was worth the trip. After securing bus tickets back to Kampala for the next day and checking into a less expensive hotel, we headed out to the genocide memorial. I have to say, I think it was one of the most intense experiences in my short life. Its amazingly well done. The outside of the museuam is a series of symbolic gardens and 15 mass graves where 300,000 of the genocide victims are buried. The memorial opened ten years after the genocide and people brought the reamins of their loved ones from all over the country to be buried there. I couldn't bring myself to photograph them, but I did take pictures of the beautiful gardens. The inside is set up in three sections. The first a a historical time line, going from colonialism to the aftermath. It was facinating...I learned so much I'd never known before, and I feel like I've read alot about it. The second section wa about other genocides from around the world- including Armenia, Namibia, the Holocaust and Serbia. It was interesting and well done and I was especially interested in the sections on Armenia and Nambia, which I knew little about. The final section is devoted to the children victims of the genocide. The rooms were filled with wall to ceiling photos of children who had been targeted and killed with plaques about their favorite things, their last words, what they saw and how they died. The Hutus specifically targeted children and women to ensure that the Tutsis couldn't continue into future generations. I practically ran through the whole exhibit- it was just too overwhelming. Kigal is a strange place to be after being at the memorial. Its like a haunted city. The president, Paul Kagame, has worked very hard to unite one Rwanda, but it still strange to look at Rwandas and wonder how the genocide affected their lives.
I could have spent a lot more time in Kigali, but we had a long journey back to Kenya, so we hopped on a bus back ot Kampala at 5:45 am, hoping to be back in Kampala by around 3 and make it back over the Kenya boarder before we found a place to stay. That did not happen. Firstly, the boarder crossing back into Uganda took like three hours. There were a bunch of other Americans on our bus (which is REALLY rare) so we chatted in line with a guy who had been on fellowship in Rwanda, working for the ministry of finance. There was also a group of college kids studying abroad in Kampala with the School of International Training. Finally we're back in Uganda, about half of the way back to Kampala and it starts pouring down rain. Then I feel it raining on me and sure enough, the window isn't sealed correctly. Sprinkles turn into pouring so I do my best to stuff the whole with a handkerchief, wringing it out every few minutes. Mean while, the hatch in the top of the bus isn't closed properly, so its pouring down on Tom and several other people as well. Tom rigged up my kikoi, which I had been using as a blanket, and it helped some, but mostly we just sat and got rained on. At least it was a break from the heat. So the 2:30 bus finally arrived in Kampala at 6, and we took motorcycles back to Backpackers for one final night. We got a bus going back to Busia in the morning- althought the bus did not end up going to Busia at all. The conductor took our money and let us ride all the way to Mbale, almost 100 kms out of the way, before making us get off the bus , putting us in a very overcrowded matatu and sending us to cross the boarder at Malaba instead of Busia. As luck would have it however, we happened to be crossing the boarder right as a guy from Austria working in Nairobi was crossing- in his own car. He and the girl- she was Slovenia- he was traveling with stopped and offered to give us a ride since they were going through Eldoret to get to Nairobi. They took us as far as Kaburgenia (about 20 kms north of Malava) and wouldn't take any gas money from us. It was luxurious after the crowded bus and matatu and they told us about the work they were doing in Nairobi (he works on water sanitation projects for the World Bank, she's working on her PhD in Art Anthropology). We finally arrives back in Malava on Sunday afternoon.
The next 4 weeks are crazy busy. Katie heads back to the states next Monday. We have a ton of meetings for the center, including planning for World Day for Disabled, a staff outing and an epilepsy clinic. Kate will be in Malava in less than a month and I'll be back on US soil five weeks from Thursday. Its all ending so quickly, I'm trying to savor the little time I have left.
Pictures from the Uganda/ Rwanda trip will go up today, so check the picasa page. Tom already posted his, so you can check out his blog as well.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Its been kind of a sad week. Another client died, and while its terrible when ever any child dies, this one hit close to home. His name was Kevin and not even a year old. I'd been to his house, taken him to the clinic. He came to therapy almost every week. And his story is so sad. His parents are super young- his dad is away at secondary school, his mother is 16. Her parents kicked her out when they found out she was pregnant and she was living with the dad's parents. But mostly, its sad b/c he died from neglect and it was completly preventable. And in some ways, I feel like St. Julie's is partially at fault. While I was going over his file, I found the reports from his Community Based Rehab Worker and each of the last four visits said that the child was too ill to do anything. I just wish someone had alerted us to his condition. We could have provided him with help at the hospital or food. But we didn't know, so we couldn't do anything about it.
Next week Tom and I are headed out of Kenya. The center is closed on Wed and Thurs so we're using 5 days off to see Uganda and Rwanda. It'll be whirlwind, but I'm so excited to have a chance to see more of East Africa and quadruple the number of stamps in my passport. Expect a long entry and pictures sometime after the trip.
Unfortunately, we had to cancel the trip to Karunga this weekend. We'll miss partying with Americans, but we're going to have a smaller version with all our Malava friends on Saturday. I still don't have a costume, but I have one more day to figure it out.

Friday, October 23, 2009

There's alot to report for a week that feels like its flown by.

Two of our clients- Vincent and Priscilla- needed ultrasounds before they could come to the clinic in Eldoret with us in November, so I played babysitter Tuesday for the kids while at Kakamega Provincial Hospital. After wait for a good half hour (quick by Kenyan standards) we were all called into the examine room by the doctor who took one look at Priscilla and exclaimed she was too big to have an ultra sound of her head. She has hydrocephallus and the docs at Eldoret wanted an ultra sound of the ventricals in her brain. She's absolutly tiny- a year and a half but about the size of an eight month old. As usual, the doctors assumed I was a doctor/ nurse/ physical therapist and proceded to do the procedure on Priscilla just to prove it wouldn't work. Now I have to take her to Moi Teaching and Referal Hospital later this month so she can have a CT scan. Vincents ultra sound of his kidneys and bladder was sucessful, even though he screamed through the whole thing. I don't think I convinced the doctor that I was not in the medical profession, however, b/c he gave me the results of the procedure in words only a nurse/ doctor would understand. Oh long as the docs at Eldoret understand, thats all we need.

Tuesday was Kenyatta Day...the birthday of Kenya's first president Jomo Kenyatta. It also meant Tom and I didn't have work, so we headed to Kisumu for a day trip. There is an AMAZING craft market there that has the best prices I've seen in Kenya. And everyone at their shops are hand making the things that they're selling. I bought almost everything I need for the Christmas holidays for less than $60 USD. We also went out to their airport to buy plane tickets for Kate and Kiirsten (his girlfriend) who are flying to Kisumu together in December. I'm so excited for Kate to get her, and October has flown by. After a few other errands, we took one of the nicest matatus I've ever been in (no stops between Kisumu and Malava, less than two hours to get home).

Thursday was our meeting to review the findings of the consultants who came to SJC a few weeks ago. In standard Kenya fashion, the meeting started an hour late, took three hours and was more preaching the reviewing. We went point by point through each of the strengths and challenges of the program while also going off on wild tangents and having disagreements about almost everything. By the end, I was so burned out I wasn't even really paying attention to the suggested reforms. The consultant made some really excellent points on how to improve the program, but I just think he didn't spend enough time at the center to really get a feel for us. Which isn't his fault, he was hired only for a week, but I still felt like the whole thing could have gone better. At one point he listed poor staff commitment to the program as a challenge, which I throughly disagrees with. Our staff is small, but each of us is fully committed to realizing the vision of SJP.

Tom and I promised Pst. Jairus (a community based rehab worker for SJC) that we would come to visit the school where his wife is the head teacher again so we could sit in on some of the classes. We went a few months back to meet the kids, but this morning we headed out a little earlier to see the teachers in action. The school is very small, but they're working hard to expand it. Right now they just have nursery thru class 4, but are hoping to add class five next year. To do that, they're need new classroom space, new land to expand the school, new teachers and new text books. Everyone there is working so hard, but like so many schools here, its drastically underfunded. If this sounds like a project you might like to help out with, I can put you in contact with Pst. Jairus. Check my picasa page and Tom's blog for pictures.

So thats what's been going on. The sisters are all in Nairobi this weekend, so Katie and I have the place to ourselves. The pump for the water turned out to be defective, so there's not running water again until we get a new one. I've found a way to prep myself for cold bucket showers. I put on my ipod in my room and dance like a fool until I'm hot enough that a cold shower feels good. I look forward to the return of running water. Tom and I are going to Karunga to visit Lauren and Krist (the other CMMB volunteers) next weekend- including a Kenyan toga/ halloween party. It should be a ton of fun and we'll get to see a part of Kenya we havn't seen yet. Looks forward to new pictures.