Tuesday, March 3, 2009

A day in the life...

WOAH! Today!!!

12:22am I finally go to bed after working - planned the agenda for a BIG meeting scheduled with Dr. Bongo - the Ministry of Health representative for the district. He is coming to our facility - Nyametaburo Health Center - probably hasn't been there since it opened 15 yrs ago. 

6:30am I wake up to my watch alarm and want to continue sleeping.

6:48am text message wakes up - Nelly says - the man with the nets is in Migori! 

On Feb. 18th Nelly and I placed an order for 1000 Insecticide Treated Nets for the people in Nyametaburo and Nyangiti! We are planning to sell them for 40 shillings (we bought them at 270 shillings - 75 shillings = $1 US). We will host a meeting next week with the Nuru Health Reps to teach them some things about what we are asking them to do - take nets to sell to their Nuru group members and families, and then sell to the community. We are subsidizing the price greatly! But we are so thankful to have the opportunity to do this because we can PROTECT people from the malaria causing bite. 

6:49am I message Nelly back telling her I will meet the truck in Isebania and come with them to the facility.

6:50am I kick it into HIGH GEAR! I am so so sleepy, but going a million miles a minute. I have to meet the truck in Isebania because they do not know the way to the facility - and we don't want to have to rent another truck. So, I am changing clothes, fixing my hair, telling Jake good morning and I'm leaving soon - the nets are here, I'm printing 8 copies of the agenda for today's BIG meeting, I'm making some tea, and asking Jake to make me a piece of peanut butter toast. 

I had to pack so many things - my computer, all my notes for meetings that day - with Dr. Bongo et al. and also with Nelly afterwards. I take EVERYTHING to the field with me - including the computer My bag is super heavy. 

7:10am I pack my toothbrush and toothpaste, grab my rain jacket, book bag, tea in my REI travel mug (thanks Britt), holding my pb toast in my teeth, and  Jake and I start walking the hilly goat path to Isebania.

7:25am Jake and I arrive at the Boda Boda station where we see the vehicle (van) packed with nets, and some gentlemen standing together with the bodas. I ask for Mr. Kamau, and this man starts shaking hads with me and greeting me in all these KiKurian greetings. I ask if he is Mr. Kamau, and he says yes, I ask again, yes, ask another way, and yes. Uh...ok. He seems strange. Jake is there, I introduce him, and Jake's saying...uh, are you sure that that's the guy. It totally wasn't. It was some rando. (rando = random person) This guy in a suit who was standing 1 inch away for that whole time, comes over and starts talking to us. This is the very nice Mr. Kamau, net supplier. 

7:30am I find Abraham at the Boda Station, and ask him to take me and lead the van to Nyametaburo. We go down the dirt roads and the view in incredible that early in the morning. The dew is still on the ground, and there was a lingering layer of fog in the valley. I cringed every time the van picked up speed behind us, and the boda struggled along the way. 

HILARIOUS (to me) - so I'm picturing my friends in their morning commute - Starbucks in the car drink holder, bag in the front seat, cell phone to their ear....it's pretty much the same for me this am.... Huge back pack on my back, one hand holding my REI travel mug, one hand calling the Doctor to ask him to send someone to open the gate so we can unload the nets, while I'm trying to wave to children, greet people walking on the roads, occasionally reaching back to steady myself on the Boda as we go over large "speed bumps" along the dirt road ;) I laughed with myself at how much I love that this is my morning commute. 

7:50am Arrive at the Health Center - Gate is locked. Walk with Mr. Kamau and his collegue, Nelly and I to a local Hotel where we just sit and talk about his company, nets, our partnership in the future, etc. The Hotel has an open door at the front, with a netted fabric covering the opening (the usual here) and the back door is open - occasionally we see a dog running thru, and there's a cat under the table. The mama is making Chapati (friend bread/dough in a tortilla kinda way - but WAY better). People are milling around in the "town square" and Counselor France comes to tell us the person with the key has arrived.

8:15am 6 people line up in assembly line form and we unload the matatu of 1000 white 5x6 conical insecticide treated nets!!!!!! YEAH!!!! We sign the receipts of the nets, and of the 50% left for payment for the nets. We take some pics. Say goodbye, and the van leaves to go back to Nairobi.

8:30am I literally am jumping around in a circle laughing and slapping hands with Nelly. I'm serious. WE HAVE NETS!!!! It was such chaos to get them, and now there are here. Nelly and I sit down and discuss our upcoming meeting with Dr. Bongo et al. This is a VERY impt. meeting and we need to get a lot of questions asked and answered. We decide that we can't really focus, and need to go take chai and chapati before our meeting ;)

9am we go back to the same mama's hotel. And now have some time to sit and it's just us...for 1 minute. I hear something, some crying, and it's coming from the back door area (opens up to rental apt/rooms). There's a small open compound there. I hear the cries, and perk up, and all of a sudden, the dog we saw earlier goes tearing thru the hotel towards the cries. I IMMEDIATELY GET SO EXCITED!!! "Nelly, are their puppies??? Can you ask her if there are puppies??" THERE ARE!!!!!

She takes us to the pups - 5 puppies. 4 black, 1 tanish black. 1 week old (is what she said, but I think a little more) Eyes aren't open yet - one little runt by itself so of course I held it and then snuggled it with the brothers and sisters. and one crying in the corner so snuggled that one and put it with the others too. The pups mom was fine with me holding the pups ... I asked ;) HIGHLIGHT OF MY DAY!!!! I love puppies sooooooo much! For real, this was the highlight!

Nelly and I get back in the hotel, and people start rolling in. 2 guys, 1 guy, 3 guys, one lady, etc. Every plastic chair is filled, 3 guys are sitting on rolled up sheet metal for roofing. Everyone has the same order - Chai and Chapati. I remember this mama, and ask Nelly if she is the one with the son who came in for the Quinine drip and stayed all day at the facility. It was. 

9:30am Back at the Health Center - Nelly and I discuss with Dr. Sangara our Agenda for the meeting. Warning him that I will be keeping everyone on track, and I know this is the MOH, but I will be getting to these Agenda items, not his if he intends on trying to commandeer the meeting.

9:50 Nelly and I sit in the mosquito net room ;) making sure we have all our ducks in a row for the meeting. All the papers we need. All the questions we need to ask. After that Nelly and I pack our things and read the Devotional for that day - my "Jesus Calling" book - so good! recommend it! Anyway - the First line is "I love you for who you are not what you do." perfect right! All these things going on, and God isn't doling out his love as a result of what we do - just loving us because we're his. ;) Nelly prayed for us, for our meeting, and it was beautiful! She's amazing!!!! I felt READY! and after a morning like this.... that's pretty unbelievable....

To be Continued....


Thursday, February 26, 2009

Do you ever have a theme song for your day?

Today, as I was leaving the field after a day of Hygiene and Cleanliness of the Compound training, I started singing this Ben Harper song, and realized there was something deeper going on inside. These were my thoughts…

I am blessed to be a witness….

Truly… why am I the one to be blessed to witness this. Every scene is a story….

The silhouette of a young girl carrying an empty bucket – a picture I want to take, but instead ask God to help me memorize it’s beauty…

The old muzai that leaning so far backwards to wave to me that he almost fell over…

The children balancing loads on their heads, removing their hands that were helping steady the load to wave to me…

The little girl sitting and drawing in the dirt, looks up with smiles and waves as I ride by…

The family all outside cooking and enjoying the last of the daylight, and calling out to me as I leave until tomorrow…

The children who are screaming to me across shambas so I will wave back….

The mamas carrying the daily wash on their heads, and greeting me warmly as I ride by…

The two boys who are jumping and yelling and waving wildly at the sight of me – they were sitting in a shallow puddle bathing…

The man carrying a tree down the goat path I walk home on, who is willing to let me pass first…

The boys bathing at the spring down in the valley about 100 meters from our home…

The amazing smell as I turned a corner on the path…

My neighbor who lovingly greets me as I return home from the day – he rushes to open the gate for me so I do not have to exert the effort…

The literally – HUNDREDS of faces I see everyday that smile at me as if I’ve done something other than just BE.

I wish I could paint the picture for you.

Only by the grace of God go I...go I. 

I am blessed, I am blessed. I am blessed, I am blessed. I am blessed, I am blessed. I am blessed to be a witness….

Thursday, January 22, 2009

I love my job!!!

(I've been gone for a while....but WELCOME BACK to my amazing adventure.)

 I can not tell you how many times in the past 2 weeks I have said that! I do, I love it…even when I’m sitting at my desk, staring out the open door, and staring to cry because I think I can’t do it, God never fails to show up big and reaffirm to me that YES, indeed it was I that was called and he has every bit of faith in me. He reaffirms that he knows the way, and all I need to do is keep walking; he will show me the way.

Today was my FAVORITE DAY! Maybe ever! I went with Nelly to do home visits. I have a set of questions. I often deviate from them depending on what enters the conversations at the homes I visit. Today was especially great, we had 2 home visits. Let me tell you  some highlights about them.

This morning I visited Sabasi (a chairman of one of our Nuru groups) and he spent over an hour answering our questions – He was interested when we asked about Family Planning, so Nelly explained it to him. We were walking away from his home, where 9 people live: he, his wife, their 2 children, his mother, and 4 of his siblings (his mother’s oldest is him at 24 yrs, and youngest is 4yrs). As we were walking away, he said we had entered into his father’s land. I said, “You don’t have to answer this, but I want to ask why doesn’t your father live with your mother.” He laughed and told me that his father has 8 wives. Until recently they all lived on one compound (think different houses but one plot of land – LOTS of sharing space and other things) but about 3 months ago, his mom built a compound (theirs has 2 houses: one is the mother's and one is Sabasi’s). 

I asked if he has noticed a difference in his family’s health since they moved, and he emphatically said YES. Not as much diarrhea or malaria. We talked more about his dad, and he said he has 65 children. I asked him if with that many siblings, he had a chance to go to school, he said only to Form 1 (9th grade) – I asked why, he said he came home one day and his dad had found for him a wife to marry. He was 15! And he didn’t want to get married! So he left Kenya, and crossed the boarder to TZ – found work in a hotel, worked there for 2 years, then was transferred to Dar es Salaam, and worked there for 2 years. He then got married, and returned to his home place – now he and his dad are friends and he says “and if he gets mad – I am old now, so it doesn’t matter.” He told me he will only have 1 wife, and he only wants 3 children because he wants to send them to school. He recognizes the link between number of children, and education level reached.  I asked what he wanted to be when he was younger and he said “A Kenyan Policeman, but I did not get to finish school.” WOW! I was so humbled to see this 24 year old so mature and wise in how to raise his family differently than his father had raised him. A joy to meet him.


The afternoon held a meeting with the Health Reps, which sadly - due to a miscommunication- only one person attended, but I was happy to see him because I had just mentioned to Nelly about him being someone to look at for leadership in our Health Program. ;) We met and then departed. He to his home, and Nelly and I to discover another home to visit. We literally just roll up on someone’s shamba (farm land), find their home entrance say “Hodi” (can I enter) and go in and ask if we can ask questions. It’s fabulous!


So, there were 2 mommas – I thought I’ll kill 2 birds with one stone – 2 home visits asking each of them the questions. This turned out to be a little difficult as the 2nd lady was not very vocal. What happened as we sat and talked was incredible! Not only did other momma’s come in, with their kids, but the kids from that compound came in. I am not kidding when I tell you at one point there were 20 kids in there with us. A slanted dirt floor room with 3 chairs, a small bench, and some kind of farming tool that a lady sat on. These people were not in a Nuru group – and our afternoon was FULL of teaching. We asked questions, but as issues arose Nelly stepped in and taught. It was AWESOME! She had an opportunity to talk about  Respiratory Tract Infections and Malaria (causes and prevention), Bed net treatment and care, Child Immunizations, Boiling water before use, Birth Spacing and Family Planning, Diarrhea and ORS. Visiting a clinic when sick - treating the cause not the symptoms. And on, and on....So many things! I was so proud of her.

And towards the end is when about 25 people were in the room, and I piped up to say – “this is an announcement for EVERYONE ….” At which all the kids got excited cause everything else had been towards the mommas. And I explained that hand washing is the number one thing to do to prevent disease. I explained why, because diseases are passed from hand to hand (and I shook the momma’s hand) from hand to mouth (pointing to a kid with hands in his mouth) from hand to table (and I touched the kids hands on the table in front of me) and I told them when they should wash their hands with soap and water. I encouraged them just to try it and see if their families got healthier. 

I LOVED IT!!!!!!!!!!!!! Soooooooo much! I love my job! I can’t believe I get to do this, and teach this! I love it so much!

The momma who’s house we were at asked if I would wait so she could milk a cow and make me chai. ;) I had to get going, but what hospitality. I departed from the house after asking EVERYONE in the room to freeze and taking pictures of every nook and crany where they were standing or sitting. I wanted to be able to remember this day always!