Habari (Hello) from Rural Kenya

Day 2, Arrival in Kenya

I fell asleep within a half hour after getting here after lunch.

Our two year old crawled into his bed at 5 pm. Our six year old crawled into her bed at 6. My husband fell asleep after me, and is still sleeping at 6:30 the next morning.

It is quiet.

The rain has stopped.

There is no traffic.

Black night with a chorus of birdsong and chirping crickets.

I couldn’t stop thinking the night before we flew our final leg here — so when Jim discovered me still awake at 1, anticipating a 4:30 wake, he gave me Ativan.

Indeed, I fell asleep. I woke sometime during the drive to Kapsowar (so I woke after we drove to Nairobi airport, after the flight from Nairobi to El Doret, and after the six week grocery purchase at the Nakumatt (a miniature WalMart-like shop for Africans).

We ate pre-packed cereal bars as we left too early to eat breakfast, then zoomed to the Nairobi Airport 90 minutes pre-flight, and showed up before the Jetlink staff arrived.

We were told to put our own things through the conveyor belt for security. There was an air of casual indifference, versus the frantic alertness in North America. We could have arrived seven minutes early and been happily waved through — this retelling comes from Jim, because though I was there, I was in a non-awake state.

A young surgeon, Cecelia, came to pick us up at the airport with the Kapsowar Hospital ambulance. With the assistance of the driver, David, we drove up the Rift Valley for a few hours.

Cecelia, David, and I in front, and Jim and the kids crammed in back with six pieces of luggage, six back packs and two weeks of groceries.

Happy Mother’s Day to me! I went grocery shopping, en masse. I spent almost 50,000 (shillings that is).

Amusing to see 613.50 as a price on the frozen fish. Might be good fish, or might be a different currency.  I couldn’t find butter, coconut oil, peanut oil, or rice wine vinegar. No maple syrup (we aren’t in Canada any more), no almond milk (also a foreign concept), no lemon juice (it’s called lemons). No flaxmeal (they didn’t know what I was talking about) and no Campbell’s mushroom soup (which somehow I thought was as ubiquitous as McDonalds). But there were loads of prepared foods in the fourth largest city in Kenya, including extra high fructose corn syrup in their mayo.

The girls needed the washrooms before we left El Doret, so we went to the public toilet, paid 20 shillings a person for no toilet seats, no toilet paper, and no hand towels.

On our way home we saw scrawny cows, dogs, roaming goats and sheep tethered to posts in the ground. Jim asked Zach to count cows while we drove: one, two, three, four, five…EXHAUSTED!

A motorcycle managed to bump through the holey pools of mud ahead of us, with three men riding. We passed through a forest and got a glimpse of a monkey swinging. Oodles of people walked by the roadside, some heads perked up when they saw us, waving or smiling, some just stared. The forest policeman wagged his finger at me; he thought I was photographing him. I wasn’t, just had my camera hanging out the window to videotape this memorable moment.

Day 3, A Home in Kapsowar

We didn’t have electricity for the first few hours of arrival. So we stuffed the freezer with frozen chicken, fish and ground beef and hoped it would flick on soon. It still hasn’t.

Hannah had a cold bath–we learned later that we need to turn on the water heater each morning and turn it off each night.

We don’t wash our produce or drink from the tap, we boil first, or let it sit in the sun for eight hours.  Every time we turn on the tap, we have to think what we’re using it for, consuming or washing. We’ve already thrown out three toothbrushes.

Our house helper, Agnes, handwashed our laundry this morning. She was married the same year as Jim and I, has a twelve year old and twin eight year olds. She walks a whole hour to get here. She took us for a walk into town, where I bought two dozen eggs for 450 shillings (six dollars) and three less-than-dollar store quality toothbrushes.

I’ve been taught how to light the propane stove and oven. A big poof each time makes me jump back.

Madelyn mixed up a loaf of bread this morning. When we were ready for the oven, I realized the one thing that I really, really like about my home: appliances. And though I’ve long missed my Kitchen Aid fridge, I am now missing my ordinary sized fridge.

The malarone gives me a terrible headache, and overall feeling of unwellness…at least it’s not the full meal deal of Malaria. I am trying to convince Jim that I didn’t get mosquito bitten in Nairobi, so I don’t need it anymore.

Now that we’re in Kapsowar, Jim has other medical concerns too. He donned his white medical coat (the first time I remember seeing him in one). He will be assigned the men’s ward next week, and will be eagerly reading his tropical medicine book after dinner tonight. He might say this is like a mini-residency, as there are many new things to learn.

There are many things different here…as you may have heard.

What I failed to hear through the many stories is how beautiful the people are. Each one greets the children, with a handshake and a smile. There’s a sweetness, a humility, a kindness about them. Our kids are all playing in the open field with a few of the local kids as I write, so I think I’m going to head outside and see what this part of the world is like through the eyes of a child.

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One thought on “Habari (Hello) from Rural Kenya

  1. Wow! I am transported from the US to Kenya with your words. I can only imagine travelling with my husband and children, not finding what I would consider necessities or having to boil my water before each use. Thank you so much for sharing your journey with me! 🙂

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