Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Welcome to Kenya

So the first day was a blur.  We unpacked and went to the kitchen and made plain pasta.  Later on, I met a few doctors doing their last rotations in Kenya.  Got to talking with them and they invited me out to Naiberi.  To be honest, it didn’t matter what Naiberi was, I was going to go just to see a bit of Eldoret outside of the IU Housing bubble.  Naiberi turns out to be a resort about 30 mins out of town off of a dirt road.  We took a taxi van out there, Cha Cha (our driver) is a really nice guy and helped us negotiate pricing with the guards at Naiberi (everywhere you go has guards).  Nice clean pool, great sunny afternoon and got a chance to talk with the different people working in the program.  Mostly doctors or nurses but a few outsiders including a French guy who works for Pfizer and is on a 6 month sabbatical observing pharmaceuticals in developing nations and a woman who has worked with orphaned children in Zimbabwe, Ghana, Burkina Faso, Botswana and now Kenya.  Anyway, the pool was great, food was descent, beers were somewhat cold (roughing it, I know).  The entire day cost about $15 USD.  Came back and had dinner with everyone.  Nice day to get acclimated to Kenya. 
Laying down to go to sleep was a different story, the dogs in the neighborhood like to sleep all day long, seriously I thought a few were dead when they didn’t move at all for 4 hours.  But when night rolls around, they looooovvve to bark.  Thankfully, I have a front row seat to their performance as my window faces the street and guard station.  So I am dragging from the +7 hour time change, listening to dogs bark all night and then have to deal with a rooster that thinks 4am is sunrise.  Thankfully I was already awoken by what seemed like the opening music to Angry Birds so the 4am rooster alarm wasn’t terrible.  I was pretty tired but dragged myself out of bed at 630am to eat and get ready for my first day working at AMPATH.  Pretty standard day, lots of introductions and program overviews.  

The highlight was going to the Imani Workshops (I told you all to read that book).  Basically it’s a crafts workshop that employs HIV/AIDS+ patients while they are in treatment at Moi Hospital (IU’s Kenyan partner hospital) and one of the businesses I will be working with to improve operations.  The employees made some really impressive jewelry, (I’ll take orders before I leave) and I got to sit and talk with a few workers while helping make some of the beads.  I was expecting some tough conversations along the way, but not right off the bat.  After talking about the USA and Obama, by the way they LOVE Obama.  One guy was telling me how he was distantly related to Obama’s cousin’s friend.  I heard another say he heard Obama was going to run for president of Kenya when he was done in the US.  Anyway, after pleasantries and telling them how happy everyone in America is with Obama (I didn’t want to break their hearts or get into politics in a limited vocabulary setting) one of the men asked me if I knew what AIDS was.  “Of course”, I told him we have the same number of HIV/AIDS+ people in the US as there are in Kenya (slight exaggeration 1.3M to 1.5M but grossly exaggerated as % of population).  His response, “Then why do rich Americans let Africans die when there is medicine that can save us?”  Whoa...

Talk about a loaded question.  This guy is receiving the BEST treatment possible in sub-Saharan Africa, actually getting the same drug cocktail (Antiretroviral..see Magic Johnson) as what is given for thousands $$$ per month in the US and his drugs are actually being paid for by “rich Americans” (PEPFAR and private donations).  I went the diplomatic route and explained that Americans suffer from disease too and do not have full access to any drug they want either.  He eventually expressed how happy he was that he was being treated at AMPATH but that question right off the bat was a tough one to answer.  I am sure I looked like a fool or at least stumbled through my explanation.  And I am sure that won’t be the last time I am asked a difficult question.  Practice makes perfect I guess. No major cultural gaffs to report.  Just give it a few days.  I am taking Swahili lessons while I am here so it’s only a matter of time before I say something stupid.

Check back in a few days, I'll have some updates as I get into my role here.  

1 comment:

  1. Oh get over your issue with dogs....