KENYA: Frogs, flying roaches, & termites, oh my!

Current Tunes: None…unless you count the sweet sound of winged termites pounding against my windows.

First things first- shout out to my boy Benadryl! It took about six days but I think I finally got rid of my jet-lag.

Michelle

Now let’s catch y’all up to speed. Last Thursday I flew into Eldoret via a small commuter plane and was greeted by Michelle and William Kiprop, the missionaries I am interning with and the founders of the NGO, Hope Matters International. This couple continues to amaze me and I am so grateful to be an honorary Kiprop family member for the next few weeks. Our first stop was a hotel cafe, as the wifi can be spotty in the village and Michelle needed to catch up on some serious admin work.  It’s been two years since I last volunteered with HMI or have seen Michelle so it was here that she and I played a little catch up. I expressed to her how grateful I was that they welcomed me on such short notice (did I mention I solidified my decision to come end of February?!) and I admit that I think I needed Africa more than it needed me. I could not wait to have a to-do list that involved nothing about deciding future plans or moving.  Overall my soul is just eager to practice intentional serving and could probably use a little reboot by disconnecting from own self-revolving bubble and reconnect to purposefully pursuing the simplicity of His calling- to love God and to love others. Alright, tangent complete and back to Kenya.

Our second stop at the local Nakumatt, basically a Kenyan Super Walmart, was a good reminder that I had definitely left American soil. I had forgotten that it’s entirely normal to have soldiers with rifles and metal detectors stationed at the entrance of major shopping areas in Kenya. Unfortunately, this country has a history of terrorist attacks at these types of locations and I was redirected to have my bag checked and be screened after I mistakenly tried to enter through the exit door. In addition, certain grocery staples are limited here and Michelle griped that they have yet to stock fresh butter for several weeks now.  I gasped as I saw a jar of peanut butter priced at 1,350 Kenyan shillings (roughly $13.50 USD) but also did a little happy dance knowing my Trader Joe’s jar had made it safely through customs (my PB addiction has made nut butter an important part of Miriam Bourdain’s travel essentials…) And if these weren’t reminders enough that I had hit foreign territory, the traffic here will shake anyone up. Rules are mere suggestions as cars, matatus (large public transport vans), and packed piki pikis (motorbikes) zip in and out of traffic all while pedestrians walk through the madness without fear. But the crowds grew less dense and the streets became more bumpy as we left downtown Eldoret and began passing through the local suburbs outside the city until we finally reached Kipkarren Village. Kipkarren is not only William’s hometown but the main community that Hope Matters serves.

Little Ryan and I on Easter Sunday

As we pulled up to the Kiprop home, Ryan, Michelle and William’s adorable five year old son, was running around the front yard with their four dogs. I noticed some new additions as three half built buildings surrounded by laborers stood to the right of their home and I learned these would soon be housing for a new wave of volunteer groups for the organization. Just below the construction would be my home for the next three weeks. I’ve already grown to love this little cottage and it is actually larger than most of my apartments I’ve had while travel nursing.

Michelle warned me that as rain season approaches it is not uncommon for the electricity and water to go out…and of course as unloaded my bags we found this to be the case. Welcome to rural Africa! Since my arrival, the electric power seems to disappear intermittently, leaving and coming back as it pleases. Fortunately the house is equipped with a bucket of water for washing and pre-charged lights and flashlight and after years of tent camping with my dad, this doesn’t phase me. The critters on the other hand have been throwing me for a loop. I’ve already encountered flying cockroaches several inches long, giant moths flying into my mosquito net, a frog in my toothbrush cup, hoards of winged termites brought on by the rain, and the geckos in my bedroom are now my new household pets. My morning wake up call is often a rooster, cow, or the neighboring kid (that goat sure has a way with words ;]). But I can manage these as long as the malaria infested mosquitos stay away! Which reminds me, time to go pop one of my anti-malarial pills.

The next few days were spent in the clinic just down the muddy dirt road from the Kiprops’ (think Disneyland’s Indiana Jones ride x 5) and I threw myself into learning the flow of the clinic, becoming familiar with the foreign supplies available, and getting acquainted with the staff.  It feels good to work without feeling like I’m at work…does that even make sense? I guess what I mean to say is it feels good to put on those scrubs, to work long hours, yet not feel drained. And just feel appreciated. But I am still weirded out that I am often called daktari, or doctor in Swahili. I’ve even corrected them insisting I’m a muuguzi, or nurse, but when you’re an American in scrubs that is generally the first assumption.  Although, I’d be lying if this experience hasn’t been causing my original plans to be a Nurse Practitioner to resurface. I tucked those dreams away two years ago when the thought of going back to school mixed with the lust for adventure through travel nursing overtook me.  Plus I questioned if I would excel in a higher role of authority and if I desired a position with more liability. But working with the clinical officers, the Kenyan equivalents to a Physician’s Assistant, at the clinic and watching Michelle, a Family Nurse Practitioner, work with these suffering people has got me thinking about what that could look like for me.  Over these last few days I have been so intrigued by the diagnosing process and am revisiting articles/books to review certain disease processes and it’s actually been, dare I say it…FUN. Watch out, nerd alert. Let me remind you, I mostly excelled at three things growing up: finishing up my (second) dinner without parental request, growing eyebrows, and school. So maybe it’s time to revisit this NP plan. Or least make a final decision about graduate school in general.

 But that can wait, because right now I’m going to keep enjoying the simple routine schedule, the weirdly calming torrential downpours, the books I’m actually plowing through for a change, and the cleansing restriction of spotty wifi. The clinic is where I sometimes can post a Snap I’ve previously saved to my story or an Insta if the hotspot pulls through for a second…in fact I’m hoping this post makes it up!

Cheers and keep on wishin’,

Miriam

 

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