Last Days in Nairobi

The last few days in Nairobi were nice because since we didn’t have a lot planned, I was able to make time to talk to some professors we had met earlier in the trip. I met with Cyprian Nyamwamu and Geoffery Njeru. Cyprian is a political scientist, human rights and governance advisor and consultant who currently works as the executive director of the National Convention Assembly and among other things, he sits on the board of the Center for Multiparty Democracy in Nairobi, where we met. He helped me a lot with my part of the group project, especially coming up with the factors that will determine whether or not violence breaks out again in 2012. Geoffery Njeru is a lecturer and researcher at the Institute for Development Studies at the University of Nairobi who I met with in his office at the university and who helped me a lot with my individual project with more details about resource allocation and marginalization.

I had great talks with both guys and got to have lunch with Njeru and some of his co-workers. He gave me an awesome book he wrote a chapter for about the last elections that is really informative and helpful for my project. Cyprian is really an impressive guy. He is probably the most articulate, well-spoken and intelligent person I have ever met and I really hope that I can work with him in the future.

Aside from my meetings with those two men, Shannon and I played volleyball and soccer with the staff of our hotel on the last day we were there. It was really funny. We had a captain for soccer who blew his whistle repeatedly and made us do ridiculous stretches like walk up and down the field with our arms out squeezing our hands repeatedly…… It was hilarious. Both the soccer game and volleyball game were completely disorganized but it was fun to run around and have fun with all the people who had given us such a nice place to stay in Nairobi.

On Sunday night we had a delicious dinner at the Nairobi Club, a very exclusive country club that we only got into because of Wamai’s friend. Aliazar took off for the airport that night and flew to Ethiopia. He was the first one to go and we all knew it was now almost time for us all to leave.

When we got to the airport the next night, it was sad saying goodbye to Charles, Ben, Carlo, and Helen. Charles and Ben had become my boys and I know that I will miss them. Helen was like a Mom to us and it was sad parting ways with Carlo just because she had been a friend to all of us while we were there.

Now that I am home sitting in a recliner about to have Chicken Parm’ for dinner I can look back and say that it was certainly an unforgettable trip. I got to experience and witness the nature, cultures, languages, people, nightlife, food, poverty, wealth, and tradition of Kenya in such a unique fashion with Dr. Wamai. I know I am a slightly different person because of it I know I will always remember my first trip to Kenya. Off to Chile next!

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Last Days in Nairobi

Mombasa Raha!

When we finally got to Mombasa it felt like we were starting a vacation. We got to our hotel and it was nicer than any other place we stayed by far. It had air conditioning, clean rooms, beautiful showers, unbelievable breakfast ,key cards to get in your room and a pool equipped with a slide. We visited Fort Jesus and the Old town which was really beautiful. It looked like an old European city you’d see in a movie. It was right on the water, so while we were walking around we could often see the ocean in the distance.

Our first day on the beach was awesome. I  had been longing for the beach for a while so to go swimming in the warm Indian Ocean water was great. We stayed in until the tide got so high that there was barely ay beach left at all playing jackpot with a soccer ball and enjoying the water and the idea that we were actually in the Indian Ocean. That night I discovered Il Covo, an Italian restaurant with Sushi. IT WAS INCREDIBLE! it would be a great restaurant in the US too, it wasn’t just good for Kenya. Russ and I abused the menu, ordering almost half of it over 3 nights and 1 lunch and sharing it all. Pasta, sushi, pizza, steak, lasagna, banana crepes covered in caramel for desert, I felt like I was in heaven. The girls came up with the idea to take Wamai, Helen, Charles, Ben, and Carlo out to eat there as a thank you on our second to last night there and it was great. Jen made a great toast to the 5 of them saying thank you and then Ali D gave them all cards that we had signed for them. It was a great night but it was a sad reminder that it was all coming to an end soon and that we had to leave Mombasa.

The free time we had in Mombassa was very foreign to all of us and we definitely took advantage of it. I was at the beach or in the pool for all of my free time while the sun was still out. We played jackpot in the pool together for hours and soccer on the beach until we got so hot that we had to go for a swim. It was a blast. Wamai took us all out snorkeling on our last day there and it was so cool! I saw a bunch of really cool, colorful fish and some really exotic stuff like big black sea urchins, coral, and a few very different starfish. One was bright blue all over and another was black with red kind of prickers sticking out of it. It felt amazing to be swimming with these fish all around me in the Indian Ocean!

When we got back to the beach, we went to Il Covo for lunch and I had a delicious burger that reminded me of home. After lunch Jonothan and I got 1 hour massages by the beach for about $4.50 US. I barely had any money left but I figured that was a deal I couldn’t pass up.

The next day we woke up bright and early, I ate my last wonderful breakfast at Kahama hotel in Mombasa, and we got on the bus to go back to Nairobi.

Mombasa Raha!

Tsavo National Park Safari

It felt like we were coming home when we pulled into the Comfort Suites Hotel in Nairobi, where we stayed for the first two weeks of the trip. It had hot showers (as long as the electricity stayed on), functioning toilets, and most luxurious of all…. internet. It was great. We stayed there for one night and then travelled to Tsavo the next day for our safari and overnight there. We got to Tsavo at around three or four and went on our safari from five to six. It was cool but not amazing, we got to see buffalo, elephants and deer but they were very sparse. The next morning we woke up early and got to the park just as the gates were opening at 6:30. This safari was incredible. We saw probably 30 elephants, 15 or 20 giraffes, countless gazelles and zebras, a dozen ostriches, and three lions. We saw a male ostrich do a crazy dance to try to attract a female ostrich to mate with him. He bent his neck and swayed right to left back and forth for about ten minutes and the girl was not having any of it. She did not want to mate with him at all and I felt awful for the guy. He tried so hard! We also saw a giraffe that had been attacked and killed by something, a pack of lions presumably. It’s belly was open and completely hollowed out. We knew it must have happened recently because we drove past the same spot the evening before and it wasn’t there. It was such a rare and amazing thing for us to see. I was surprised that there weren’t any hyenas or vultures preying on the remnants of the giraffe, it was completely alone, laying in the musty air by the side of the dirt road.

After being in the park for a few hours our safari was near its end but we went down one path to see if we could find a lion. All of the sudden Ben, at the front of the bus said, “Stop!… I have seen the lion.” When he said it my initial reaction was to jump up and look out the window, but after I realized it wasn’t there I laughed at Ben’s reaction. You had to be there but it was so funny the way he said it. Anyways, there were supposedly three lions and they all had gone behind a bush to try to sleep. A few other vans were parked in front of the bush so we knew they must have seen the lions too. We waited for about 40 or so minutes staring at a bush and after nothing emerged we drove a little further to see what we could find. Nothing new really and on our way back we stopped again at the bush, the same vans still waiting to see the lions. We sat there for about fifteen minutes and then a pack five or six elephants started walking right towards the bush. We were all so excited and waiting to see what would happen! Would the elephants scare the lions away? Would the lions attack one of the elephants? Would the elephants pass and nothing happen? The elephants kept walking directly at the bush and when they got to it, three lions dispersed from the bush and ran about 40 feet away in front of another bush, where they laid in the grass, surprisingly well blended in. It was so cool to actually see a lion but they were much smaller than I had imagined. It was three females so I would’ve liked to see how big a male is.

The elephants continued walking right in front of our bus and one stopped and started galloping slowly towards the bus. Our bus driver didn’t hesitate to put the bus in reverse and back up as quickly as he could. After he did that the elephants walked away. We left the park with a bunch of awesome photos and videos and the rare experience of going on a safari in Kenya!

 

Tsavo National Park Safari

Male Circumcision for HIV prevention, Dr. Bob Bailey

On Thursday June 2nd we went to visit Dr. Bob Bailey at his clinic in Kisumu. He is the world’s top researcher on male circumcision for HIV prevention and as we learned he has done some incredible research and community work. He conducted random testing to see whether or not male circumcision affected HIV prevalence rates or not. What he found in this research was so profound that he had to stop mid-project and turn the research into a community intervention. If he hadn’t it would’ve been unethical because the information he gathered made it clear that circumcision played such a huge role in whether or not men contracted HIV. I don’t remember the exact numbers but I know that since the community intervention started Dr. Bailey’s clinic has performed hundreds of thousands of circumcisions and therefore prevented countless cases of HIV. I think I remember him saying that his research proved that circumcision decreases the chance of contracting HIV seven-fold. It was really incredible to be around somebody who conducted such life-changing research.

After our visit at his clinic, we went down the street to another clinic and we actually got to see a circumcision procedure. We went in groups of five and all got to witness a procedure. For a procedure like this in a clinic, they use local anesthesia but all I could think about while watching the procedure was how many people get circumcised without anesthesia throughout the country. It looked so painful and I actually had to leave the room because I was feeling nauseous.

I went outside to get some air and a kid a few years older than me walked up to me and shook my hand. He introduced himself and we started talking and then I asked if I could ask him some questions for a research paper I was working on. He said of course, and went on to tell me all about his expectations for the next election and how he was affected by the violence after the last election. He said that he was from Nakuru and that he lost his brother and his mother, and all his family’s land due to the violence in ’08. He was left with his little sister and his brothers baby to take care of and has lived in an IDP camp in Kisumu, hundreds of miles from his home, since early 2008. It was an awful story to hear but it was really inspiring that despite his struggles he was still working as a volunteer at the clinic.

Male Circumcision for HIV prevention, Dr. Bob Bailey

GLUK, Lake Victoria

In the morning of Wednesday June 1st, we visited Public Health students at Great Lakes University of Kisumu. We drove to the school, walked around it for a short while and then went into a classroom where we were formally welcomed by Professor Ochieng. He told us all about his school and we asked a bunch of questions, mostly for our research projects and finally we told him about our school and our program. The students there seemed different from other university students that we met. They were full of energy and always smiling and they were eager to talk with us. Today was a national holiday so they didn;t have to be there, but they came only to welcome us. One wiry student with a patchy beard and a blue plaid shirt volunteered to go in front of the class and tell us about his school. At the end of the presentation I asked if we could have some time to talk one on one with the students and Wamai granted us a few minutes time. I asked a group of four or five students my survey questions for our group research project and talked with them about the post election violence in ’08. They told the usual stories of people losing land, family members, and businesses to ethnic violence but one of them shared something new and just as awful. He said that he saw Kikuyu government officials checking IDs in the area of the Rift Valley where he was from and if a person wasn’t Kikuyu then they were killed on the spot. It was painful to hear and to imagine. For me it was the most terrible story I had heard about the post-election crisis and it brought visuals from holocaust movies into my head.

Later that day we went to Lake Victoria and rode in two small motorboats around the side of the lake for a bout 45 minutes. We knew from Dr. Wamai that Schistosomaisis, one of the WHO’s 17 Neglected Tropical Diseases was very prevalent by the shore because of all the people who bathed and washed their clothes in the water. This disease consists of worms in the water going through your skin and getting into the blood stream. It causes urinary bleeding, I think flu-ish symptoms and kills a lot of poor people in sub-Saharan Africa who live around water and don’t have access to proper health care. With this in mind we observed hundreds of people, mostly young boys it seemed, either bathing, washing or playing in the water. They must build up immunity to Schisto’, I thought. When we came around one corner I saw what I had been hoping to see the entire boat ride….. hippos! Two of them, an adult and a baby, bobbing their head up from under the water, spraying water, and opening their mouths so wide that their jaw was pretty much in a straight line perpendicular to the surface of the lake. They were such monstrous animals. They had HUGE mouths and teeth and bit down on the air with such force that you could easily tell one bite was capable of snapping a leg in half. I got some cool video of the hippos and then on the way back we stopped so that Emily could go swimming, which turned into everybody swimming except for Yvette, Amina, Nicole, Aliazar, and myself, I was not getting worms! I was content taking pictures of people swimming and laughing at their attempts to crawl back in the boat, cough Sara Kay cough cough. It was a cool experience to see the 2nd largest lake in the world and to see hippos in real life, all capped off by me knowing that I would be Schistosomaisis free. As for the others, they kept their fingers crossed…. until we learned form the CDC that, “maybe they got only one or two worms” but they definitely got some which made me feel good about not jumping in.

GLUK, Lake Victoria

Travel to Kisii, Lwala Community Alliance, and traditional healers

On Sunday we drove all day from Nyeri to Kisii. We stopped a few places, the most notable being Thompson waterfall, the tallest in Kenya. We got really close to the bottom of it and I got awesome video and pictures of it.

Kisii was very different from Nyeri and Nairobi. Nyeri was very small, you could almost drive through it without noticing it was a city and Kisii was similar in that regard except there were literally no buildings more than two stories. There was a big outdoor market packed with people that seemed like it was the center of the city, but besides that the only attractions were little shops and a few restaurants.

When we woke up on our second day in Kisii, we drove about an hour and a half to Lwala Community Alliance. Lwala is a very rural village that didn’t have a heath center within 20km before two brothers from the village built the Lwala health center that evolved into the comprehensive community project that it is today. For such a rural area, Lwala’s facilities were more like a US hospital than anything we’ve seen.

Kelly Baird, their education coordinator talked to us when we got there about what exactly the center does for the community. They work on everything from health care, to education, to sports, and water sanitation. She stressed the importance of focusing on what resources the community has versus what they don’t have and encouraging the community to be independent in improving the quality of life in Lwala. The ultimate goal was for there to be no need in the community for the LCA as soon as possible.

We went to the village school and repainted the black square on the classroom walls that functioned as the chalkboard. The students were so appreciative it was awesome. I felt like we were doing something so small but they were so happy about getting improved chalkboards that they came in and helped us paint and then bought us sodas after we finished.

The next day we had a guest lecture on herbal/traditional medicine and then visited a traditional healer. Before that day, I thought that traditional healers in Kenya may have had some legitimacy but after that day, I realized that the entire practice made no sense at all. The tell people to swallow coal to fix certain diseases, give mentally disabled people something to smell and then in the morning they will be completely healed, and for pretty much everything else they burn a pile of plants and sell the ash to people claiming that it will heal whatever they have. It was ridiculous but I am definitely glad I got to experience it firsthand.

Travel to Kisii, Lwala Community Alliance, and traditional healers

Nyeri Provincial Hospital

On Friday the 27th we had a site visit to Nyeri Provincial Hospital, a level 4 health facility that was ranked second best level 4 facility in the country to the Mombasa Provincial Hospital. When we arrived, we met with the deputy medical superintendent, JK Macharria. He told us a little about the hospital, showed us some awards they had received and went over their month-by-month budget chart that was hanging on his office wall. We grilled him with questions about his facility and his budget allocation. Some of the questions put him in a tough spot and resulted in awkward answers but that has become a common occurrence wherever we go. We ask A LOT of questions everywhere we go, Dr. Wamai included, and sometimes people don’t know the answers to questions that seem pretty answerable given their position. I had been getting a little sick of the health center visits, I learn a lot at them but I am just more interested in the politics and governance in Kenya. I know more about it, my research is on it, and I can easily formulate questions about it, where as I don’t know much about health science or health care and I have trouble thinking of good questions to ask the health professionals that we meet. Anyways, after we met  with Macharria, we split into two groups and went on a tour. we saw the entire hospital and it was much bigger than I thought. I remember walking into one wing and seeing a box with an envelope sized hole in it that said, “report corruption here.” I went over to the security desk and asked for the keys to the box but they said they didn’t have them. So, I talked the clinician who was giving us the tour and then I went back to Macharria’s office to ask about the corruption that occurred in the hospital. They said that people would pay off clinicians to skip the line to see them and that clinicians would often sell drugs out of pocket and make a profit instead of referring patients to a pharmacist. Macharria said he had to fire one clinician for selling drugs out of pocket even though they were understaffed by over 100% to begin with (When we were there, they had 8 doctors and the ideal number of doctors that they wanted was 18).

After the tour wrapped up, I went to get some lunch at one of the shops by the hospital. I got an awesome fruit salad tht had watermelon, banana, mango, avocado, and pineapple in it for 50 shillings (about 65 cents). The pineapple here is the best I’ve ever had. I’m going to miss it when I go home but I will be happy to go without it and have five guys and pasta and meatballs… Anyways, Shannon and I sat on the bench outside the fruit store eating fruit salad and I was reading the newspaper. She left and two Kenyan guys came over and sat next to me. One guy, Deye called me rafiki (which means friend) but I thought it meant baboon because of Rafiki from the Lion King and he thought that was hilarious. They were both doctors who were lecturing at the school near by. We talked about everything from soccer to politics.

We went back to the hotel and were told to change into nice clothes for a surprise that night. We all got dressed up and came downstairs where kids from NASISI met us. The surprise was that we were having dinner at another hotel with the NASISI kids, who were around our age. We had a buffet dinner of great cream of vegetable soup, chicken, goat, rice, potatoes, mixed vegetables and of course chapatti and ugali. After dinner we all watched the Champions League Final at the bar. It was really fun ‘cause half of the kids were rooting for Barcelona and half for Man U. I got n the Barcelona side and got realy into it with everybody.

Oh and it was Johnothan’s birthday dinner so after dinner, they brought out a cake for him (that Sara-Kay bought) and they poured water on him which is the traditional birthday celebration I guess. It was completely unexpected and he was soaked it was hilarious!

Nyeri Provincial Hospital