Vicki came to Kenya

Trip Start Jan 07, 2005
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Trip End Feb 15, 2005


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Sunday, January 30, 2005

So much to talk about! Well, we leave tomorrow for Ugenya, an eight hour bus ride across the great rift valley out to near lake victoria. I'm very excited. Vicki, my official, wonderfully on task, American boss arrived in Kenya on Thursday, and since, things have been very busy- but productive. She has an emmensly busy ten day trip planned, going all over Kenya, culminating in the opening of SOTENI's first clinic in Mbakalo. We will be in Ugenya until friday or saturday, and then move to Mbakalo to help out there. We had more car trouble on the way to Nairobi from Meru, running out of gas twice. Yesterday there was a monster SOTENI meeting, at which i was deemed secretary. The meeting started two hours late, and then lasted for four hours before it moved to Chris Opondo's house for dinner. Me and Gina spent last night, today, and will stay the night there again tonight. It is a beautiful house, in an area called Westlands. This area looks a lot like America- clean, developed, but organized. I feel emmensly comfortable- also being with running water again is great. The meeting at Opondo's didn't last very long before it dissolved into merriment, partially because it was decided that we couldn't do any work because the power went out. We stayed up until 2 am anyways, just yakking and doing a little bit of work every now and then. Got up this morning at 6 to try and catch a bus, which didn't work. So instead, I went to church. It was an anglican church in Westlands. It was remarkably similar to a protestant church service in the United States, from what I know of these. This particular service was a special family service that lasted 2 1/2 hours, with every group from the youth group to the mothers union to the kenyan men's group getting up and singing, sometimes tunelessly, some kind of religious song. then the vicar came up and preached a sermon which he started by having everyone wave at jesus. the sermon was about how the three essential things we should strive for being: good character, compassion, and to be bold. I might have missed the point, but i believe the sermom, which focused around the parable of the prodigal son, commended the prodigal son himself for being bold enough to come back around, repent, and ask for what he needed. As opposed to the meeker son who just always did what he was told, who just got the short end of the stick because he didn't stick up for himself. Opondo noted that the press was there and he emphasized the connection of this message to politics (the vicar also made this connection)- that the members of parliment and leaders needed to be bold in going after what is right, to be strong in their convictions and not be afraid to come back to the "way of the righteous" even though they may have sinned in the past. What Opondo told me about Kenyan politics-okay quick side note about technology- opondo's son who took us to the internet cafe just had us say hi to his girl friend through a webcam- she is in germany, and this process involves seeing both yourself and her- she looked a bit scared when she saw me- it was infinitly strange, i don't know if i like that technology- okay, back to politics. Opondo said that this goverment is a coalition party that came together to win the election but didn't actually have much of an idea of how it would govern once elected, hence the issues it is facing. They have succeeded at making primary school (up through eight grade) free of charge. We talked at length about the challenges of having secondary school be so expensive. For me, it is really hard to even fathom what i would be like if my education had stopped after middle school. I can't really seperate what I know from who I am, not to mention when I learned it. Opondo went as far as saying that without secondary education, you would not really be a person- perhaps he ment, the same person, but the harshness of this first statement is interesting to me. Not to judge and dismiss people, but rather as a comment upon the inability of people to access opportunities.
On a lighter note, we did our own laundry the other day. It took two hours and my jeans are still not really clean. I've realized that it will be so nice to be able to wear some different clothes- all i have with me is four shirts, two skirts and jeans. Also a sweatshirt, which I rarely wear, since it is Kenya, afterall.
There is a new intern around, though she left with Vic and we won't really see her again until next week. Her name is Catalina- she is 21, from Chile. She's really fun. After Vicki leaves on February 9th, she will be running the clinic in Mbakalo until March 1. She is here volunteering on her summer break from school- she's in her fifth year studying medicine. We will be spending a lot of time with her when we are in Mbakalo, which is great.
Opondo and his wife, Elizabeth, have been treating us so well. This morning Elizabeth said "Tomorrow, you're on your own again, but for today, we are your parents." Which meant they bought us a wonderful lunch- take out from this really nice Indian and Mexican food restaurant- i had Malak Korma (?) which is a kind of dumpling in a sweet cashew curry sauce and Gina had enchiladas. So good! My favorite Kenyan food is chipati- originally indian, they are kind of like thick tortillas. Elizabeth is making us some to take on our journey. They are pretty common, along with ugali- officially described as stiff maize meal- it's not quite porridge and not quite bread, it is just ugali. I don't mind it too much, that said, I'm not crazy about it and apparently they eat a lot of it in Ugenya. Gina has had many frustrating experiences ordering chicken here, sometimes even specifically chicken breasts and just getting a piece of bone and a little bit of meat. From what she says, the meat is very tough and there is never much of it in comparison to the bony/ gross parts. Right now, the internet cafe is playing a sad cover of Piece of my heart by Janis Joplin. just thought I'd keep you all posted on music selection. The thing I have learned about food in Kenya is that it is never quite what you expect. For example, we bought mozzerela cheese from the grocery store the other door (after not having eaten all day) as a treat for ourselves with a baguette and tomatoes, and it ended up smelling and kind of tasting like vinegar. I didn't eat it, though Gina had some of it- it wasn't quite as vile when heated. People drink a lot of soda here, though it is very hard to obtain diet soda. Most everywhere they sell Coca-cola, sprite, fanta- which comes in three flavors: orange, citrus, and black currant (my favorite), also a drink called stoney which is kind of a citrus drink with ginger. I had it a few times and kind of liked it, but now I am over it. Okay, that's enough now. I don't know when I will next be able to post, as we will be really busy the next two weeks. We are scrapping the orphan story project (except when a case really sticks out) to concentrate our efforts on the needs assessment project. The aim is to have a 15 page report accompanied with 20 pages of tables which will cover all three locations. This all needs to be done before we leave in just over two weeks. We aim to collect 50-60 surveys in each location, as well as help in the clinic in Mbakalo. I will update this when I can. I'm very excited for this next adventure, and will keep you posted when i can! Hope all of you in the states are braving the cold well. Stay well!
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