It’s been 2 weeks without proper wifi so I have some back-blogging to do.
Here’s post 2 of 4 of my Kenya travels:
Date: June 20, 2015
Current location: Kipkaren, Kenya
Current tunes: None. Raindrops and a rushing river :]
I’m on day five in Kenya and I just feel at peace. More than I did at home. More than I did in Greece. Something about simple living is just good for the soul. Especially for a girl like me who has a mind that goes a mile a minute, overanalyzing decisions, contemplating what is next. But here I don’t have many options. And I find that so refreshing. Right now I am sitting propped up on a ledge under a gazebo right outside my cottage. The river to my right is brown and muddy as can be, but the rushing water and chirping birds drown out my thoughts. My only other companion at the moment is the cow to my left that’s grazing on some shrubs. She doesn’t know it but I’ve named her Chai since chai tea is like the nectar of the gods here and makes an appearance at most meals.
It’s even a little bit odd how rested I feel here because it is nothing like home (and is different than how I travel too). From the food, to my schedule, to my resources, it’s just all different. I’m on day four without having access to family, friends, or the internet and being unplugged is sobering. My diet is all warped here. I’m consuming little to no meat, dairy, or veggies. Kenya seems to have a starch based diet, a lot of rice, potatoes, and beans. Oh and the ever present sautéed chard, spinach, or kale as a side. I enjoy the flavors even if it’s not always a balanced meal. Everything runs at a slower pace which is not at all my style. Usually I’m the energizer bunny that literally goes until my body shuts down. But with Kenyan time, everything kind just happens when it wants. Also, between my luggage from the US getting lost and the dress code in the village, I practically have four or five items of my own that can be worn in public. And while I don’t mind having a minuscule wardrobe and my luggage still floating somewhere in Timbuktu, wearing a long skirt at all times is not my favorite nor ideal for some one as clumsy as me. I totally am on board with respecting cultural norms but let’s be real, sweaty thighs and playing with kiddos in a skirt is frustrating. I guess the only other thing I miss is my morning run. Which is pretty ironic because Kenya is supposedly one of the running capitols of the world. Michelle said it was safe if I wanted to give it a go, but I just haven’t worked up the courage (or energy to get up early enough) to face these bumpy village dirt roads by myself. Maybe tomorrow.
I didn’t really expand much on Nairobi but I’ll say this much, for being Kenyan’s capital and one of it’s largest cities, I was really surprised with how underdeveloped it felt. Many of the roadways are horrendous and it seems that the traffic laws are mere suggestions. I have experienced crazy traffic in many parts of Asia, but this is another level with public busses playing leapfrog and creating their own lanes to bypass traffic. We went to the store about three miles from our accommodation and it took 1.5 hours to get home during rush hour. Yes that’s 1 mile/30 minutes! And I thought Southern California traffic was bad. The law enforcement is dodgy as well and because so many people don’t obey the traffic laws, they just have checkpoints where they pick and choose who to push charges against. Michelle was explaining this all to me as we sat in traffic and told me a story about how she had to pay 100 USD on the spot to get out of going to jail for going four miles over the speed limit. And that was WITH her baby in the car. She tried to call their bluff and said, “I have a baby, you can’t take me to jail.” The policeman’s reply? “The baby can go to jail with you.” And…she paid up.
Another thing that took me by surprise was the mall we visited to pick up some supplies before leaving Nairobi. We went to what Michelle called the “ritzy” mall yet it was pretty small with limited options and even had a smaller version of a Walmart equivalent, called Nakumatt, inside. Before entering, all visitors must go through a security checkpoint and I felt as if I was visiting a public high school in Compton…except the security guards here had rifles slung around their necks. I guess Kenya has about one to two major terrorist attacks a year with shopping malls often being major targets. For the first time in my life I was not excited to do some shopping.
But now we are about an eight hour drive north of Nairobi in Kipkaren, a rural village outside of Eldoret. This is where Hope Matters International is based and where Michelle, her husband William, and their adorable three year old son Ryan live. This area is within one of the agricultural belts of Kenya and it is currently their rainy season so it’s incredibly green right now. At home it’s so dry and sandy so I’m soaking up all the green and cool weather. Fields of maize (a type of corn) and sugar cane can be found all over the village and the Kipkaren River is surrounded by trees, green shrubbery, and flowers. We are being housed in the Empowering Lives Training Center (Empowering Lives International is an NGO that Michelle used to work for before founding Hope Matters) and the river runs right past our cottage. I was expecting tents and a lot of dirt so this was a nice surprise and I absolutely love our accommodation. So lush and peaceful.
Today we finished one of the two Helping Babies Breathe courses (we teach one more course next week). If you haven’t been following the blog, Helping Babies Breathe is a neonatal resuscitation program designed to ensure that nurses and birthing attendants in limited resource environments have the skill to prevent newborn deaths related to breathing problems at the time of birth. It involves the use of basic skills and little to no equipment, yet has been proven to be very effective when performed properly. Currently, many babies that are born not breathing in Africa are often deemed stillborn and are left for dead, yet studies involving HBB have shown that this basic algorithm for resuscitating a non-breathing baby can save lives. In fact, most studies are showing a 40-50% drop in mortality rates. And that to me is astounding. While I am not a labor and delivery or postpartum care nurse, I am having a new appreciation and interest for midwifery. We asked the Kenyan students if they would be able to implement these practices in their workplace since it was different than their normal birthing techniques with troublesome babies. And while they thought they could, many said they didn’t have the equipment like suction and a ventilation bag mask (aka ambu bag). Fortunately, each participant received both of these items at the mini graduation ceremony. Honestly it was such a joy to see their faces light up when they were told they would be getting equipment and certificates. And really that’s part of the reason I wanted to help run this course. I am not just here to help save babies, but to give these Kenyan health care workers knowledge. To give them the opportunity to give back to their communities. To feel a sense of pride about their work. To feel more than.
Our next class doesn’t start until next week so over the next few days we’ll be helping out at the Hope Matters Clinic and maybe spend some time in the Empowering Lives International Children’s Home. I can’t wait to play with the little nuggets! I’ll close with some scripture that’s been on my heart lately. I was in charge of the morning devotional for my team this morning and found it really applicable, especially while serving abroad.
Acts 20:24 “But I consider my life worth nothing to me; my only aim is to finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me- the task of testifying to the good news of God’s grace.”
It was interesting how I somehow came upon this verse because after I read it, one of my teammates Kendra reminded me that this was a good friend of our’s, Whitney, life verse. Let me give you a little background on Whitney. Almost 11 summers ago, Whitney was in a traumatic jet ski accident on the Fourth of July. While I call her my friend, she was more like my fourth sister as she is seven years older than me and was my mentor at the time. She was my outside person, some one unrelated to me that I could trust and vent to. It was a devastating loss for my church family as she was a leader in our youth group and very well known in our congregation. She had such a lively spirit and always lit up a room. Needless to say, my youth group and I were totally shaken. I mean we really struggled with trying to fathom God’s intentions and plan.
Anyway, Whitney also went on a short term mission to Africa and I remember my thirteen year old self thinking, “I want to do that- I want to be like Whitney when I grow up.” Ministry was so important to her. She understood what it meant to be a disciple. To be the hands and feet of Jesus. Her servant’s heart and this verse serve as reminder that wherever we are, as Christians, our one goal is to share Jesus. That it is more important than living. And as hard as it is to understand or to accept, in Whitney’s case, God knew her death would glorify Him and bring more people to Jesus than her life. With that being said, I truly believe that I am only still alive because Jesus has more for me to do. But living with this sense of urgency amongst the distractions of life is so very difficult for me to do.
Let me tell you though, if you want to get away from life’s distractions and clear your head, spend a few weeks in a rural village in Africa with no internet or phone access. Talk about fasting. I’m having trouble even recalling what day of the week it is. And I’m okay with that.
Cheers and keep on wishin’,