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‘’I just have no idea where to start…’’ I tell Thialda while glancing over at her computer. She answers me with a ‘nor do I’ look, while sighing. We are sitting in the local internet cafe Sisima, along with a couple of other volunteers. It’s been two weeks since my last blog, and so much has happened since, that I really don’t know where to start. We biked in Hell’s Gate, passing zebras and buffalos, hiked at Green Cratar Lake and stood eye in eye with several giraffes, saw more surgery’s, went to an orphanage and, we went clubbing! (And the music was just like home, the drinks were almost just like home, I had to struggle with my sugarlevels, just like home, I had a beep in my ear afterwards, just like home! Hell’s Gate was amazingly beautiful. The national parks around Lake Naivasha are the only ones you’re allowed to hike or bike in, as there are no lions etc. So with four other volunteers we went to Naivasha (in a matatu which had an awful fish-smell and broken windows) and from Naivasha we went to the entrance of Hell’s Gate. We hired a mountain bike (a Kenyan mountain bike I should say) and biked for about 7km to ‘the’ Gorge. The ride was very beautiful! The whole Rift Valley became the Rift Valley due to volcanic activities, making Hell’s gate brown/green/yellow coloured, with hills and very very big rocks. At the Gorge we had to have a guide, as a couple of months ago some teenagers died because it started raining and they drowned. And after a couple of minutes climbing, sliding and jumping down the Gorge (we even sometimes had to hold on on some ropes climbing up and down, or our guide told us to use him as a step), we understood why. For those of you whom remember The Lion King, the part with the wildebeest running, Mufasa dying and Simba being chased by the hyenas (the parts that make you cry… or me, most of the time), well, that’s exactly what it looks like! But then even more beautiful, and because of the volcanic activities the water that flows thru the rocks is really warm. Even hot on some places! Biking back was harder and we then understood why the ride to the Gorge had been so easy: we went slowly downhill, so going back meant going slowly uphill. But, we were given a very nice surprise as we suddenly saw about 50 buffalos and 10 zebras in front of us! It was very special to be so close to them and I suddenly felt fragile at the same time. Good thing they were busy eating. The next weekend we went back to Naivasha and then went to the Creen Crater Lake, at the back of a motorbike. So. Much. Fun. With one hand you had to hold the driver and with the other your helmet (which protected us more against the dust than against an accident as it was way too big), and we drove 5k to the entrance gate. There we started a 3h walk and only after 10min we saw our first animals. Antelopes, zebras, Pumbas, only 30 meters away! We kept on walking and after 5 more minutes we stood in front of a giraffe. Woops. He, and we, were too stunned to even be scared or to run away, so we slowly kept on walking, letting him eat. But, a giraffe is never alone, and we soon saw more, even 2 babies! Than two park rangers approach us, telling us that would be happy to make a picture and that we, of course, could get closer. So, there we were, 10 meters away from this giant beautiful creature. I was utterly amazed by the fact that he let us come that close, let alone let us stand there for about 5 minutes. We finished our walk by going steep downhill (from the edge of the crater down to the lake) and passing more giraffes and seeing and hearing birds. There was a floating restaurant, so we ate something while enjoying the beautiful view. Sometimes I still can’t believe am here and that I stood that close to a wild giraffe. We also went to an orphanage where a nurse, Everlyne, from the hospital works. She is really kind, and during our first weeks she helped us out a lot. She invited us to come, and we had no idea what to expect. When we arrived they started singing and dancing for us, performing songs and telling us about them. It broke our heart when a little boy said: ‘’I’m 12 and I want to be a doctor.’’ There we were sitting, from a rich country, volunteering in Kenya before backpacking in Asia, worrying whether we will make it thru the first selection rounds of Medical School. Our chances of becoming a doctor are so much bigger than his, that it just felt so unfair, and we could only get out: ‘’So do we.’’ Afterwards we went outside and played games. We introduced ‘Schipper mag ik overvaren?’ which became ‘Boatman can I cross the river?’ and they loved it. And so did we! We played human tag off war, ‘zakdoekje leggen’ (became ‘Where is my handkerchief?’) and some other running, jumping, dancing and fun games. The children really liked holding our hands, touching our hair (especially Thialda her blond hair!) and being lifted by us, or just sitting in our lap. Before we left we gave Everlyne money, because we had no idea what else to give and because everything she does for this little orphanage she pays by herself. And she has a family herself! That day she couldn’t bring lunch for the 15 kids, so they just didn’t have lunch. After we gave her the money, she promised the kids; next week, she’ll bring lunch and a birthday cake. All the kids started praying and singing for us and our family and friends, and that moment, we tears welled up in our eyes. These kids don’t have a mother or a father, walk 2h to go to school, sometimes don’t have food and there they were, happy dancing and singing for us. It was a very special, emotional and amazing experience that we decided to definitely come back! These last two weeks at the hospital have been pretty good. Of course we had some slow days, but now we know the drill there and the people know us, things have been better. We start around 8:15am with the rounds (and the doctors are always late), going from the children and women ward to maternity, then to the male ward and ending at psychiatry. The thing I like about these round is that every day you see patients improve, even though I sometimes have no idea what they have, the Medical Terms are hard to follow! And when asking, the conversation usually goes like this: Me: ‘’What does she have?’’ Doctor: ‘’A viral infection.’’ Me: ‘’What are you going to do?’’ Doctor: ‘’Give antibiotics’’. And then we’re off the next patient. Too bad. But what we also see (and there by hopefully learn) is how the doctors react and interact with the nurses, their colleagues and most important, their patients. When there is nothing special like a surgery, we go to OPD (the department where the GP sits and sees the patients) and here we also learn how to find out why the patient really came to the doctor and how to handle screaming and crying kids. Yesterday, when we had almost finished the rounds, we suddenly had to go to casualty (where all the emergencies come in) and had to put on cloves. Suddenly they drove one of the beds to a car that came driving up very fast, got out an unconscious man and rode him into the room. They checked his eyes and pulse, the doctors looked at each other and before we knew it, they put a blanket all over him. He died. Apparently he was dead on arrival. Wow. That was hard to see, it was our first time. But, five minutes later we were informed there was a surgery we could watch, so we went to the theatre and saw a Cleft Lip repair on a twelve year old girl. We learnt that sometimes you can’t save them all, but that you can make a little girl very happy. It was something horrible and beautiful in one hour. Today there was also a surgery where they had to get a shrew (and I swear, it looked exactly like the once dad uses to build his pigeon cages) out of someone’s bone, as they used it to heal a broken leg. Very interesting! Tomorrow is our last day at this hospital, coming Monday we’re going some place else! (And I’m very thrilled, because all the volunteers who’ve been to the new one say it’s pretty good!) I think we have learnt more at this hospital they we now know and realize, it has been quite a ride! Today during the rounds a patient was complaining that he couldn’t sleep, because there were some banging sounds. So our supervisor and one of the head doctors listened to him, nodded and suddenly asked very kind yet very dry: ‘’What have you guys been banging last night?’’
After somehow finding myself with a month off during December in blistering cold London and looking for an adventure that would be both challenging yet fulfilling at the same time, I signed up to Projects Abroad and within a week, I was mobilized to Kenya to work on a combination of projects including provision of care at the Haven of Hope orphanage in Nakuru as well as assistance in the African Savannah project at Kigio. My assigned country officer, Olivia Tanui was able to provide all the background information and support I needed in advance of my departure.
I arrived in Nairobi on Tuesday afternoon and was able to make my way through immigration with ease. I recall laughing to myself at the baggage claim where whilst I was waiting for my backpack, a local next to me was picking up this massive smoked piece of boned meat that was wrapped in cellophane delivered on the baggage rail. “Welcome to Kenya” is what I thought!
I was greeted at arrivals by Stan Ngaruiya’s big smiley “Jambo”, the dry scorching heat and yelling voices of all the locals trying to get your attention for a taxi. We caught a taxi to Nairobi centre. Within minutes of leaving the airport I shrieked in excitement as I saw a herd of zebras and giraffes roaming in the reserve alongside the highway. As we arrived in Nairobi centre, we were surrounded with the hustle and bustle of Kenyan life and we needed to wade through the traffic to get to the city centre where we could catch the “Matatus” which is a term used to describe a mini van. We grabbed a couple of cold and much needed pineapple flavoured Fanta’s and hit the road for the 3 hour journey to Nakuru. On the way we were stopped numerous times and searched by police as a safety precaution. The route to Nakuru was extremely scenic passing local farms of corn, maize and vegetables. We also passed Lake Naivasha, Lake Elementeita, Mount Longonot and Lake Nakuru. The views of the rift valley were simply amazing.
Stan dropped me off with Helen and her family, my host family during my stay in Nakuru. Two other volunteers, Dea Dalsjo from Denmark and Khadidja Benkortbi from Switzerland were also staying in the same place. They were all eagerly awaiting me for dinner which included a traditional Kenyan meal of cabbage, mince beef and “mukimo” which is a mixture of potato, corn and peas. My accommodation is great however sleeping under a mosquito net is definitely something to get used to.
Day 1 in Nakuru is “induction day” and Stan picked me up this morning and took me via “Matatus” to Nakuru town centre where I had the grand tour of Kenyatta Avenue including a good bank to change forex, recommended restaurants and cafes as well as hotels where we can use the gym and pool during our downtime. I was also easily able to get a simple phone and local Kenyan number so that I can keep in touch with the other volunteers and Projects Abroad staff. The Projects Abroad office is based in Nakuru town centre and is usually a good and easy place for all the volunteers to meet. I met Paul Wahome and Jessica Vance at the office where we went through my placement in detail and what was expected from me.
So I think I am off to a good start and looks like I will be spending the rest of Day 1 playing pool with the other volunteers before I start my first working day tomorrow. Sawa Sawa!