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.