December has been a month of health. I started on a running program just to give me that release of energy and because I was getting really itchy feet and my body wanted to start running again. Got into routine until I was initiated as a Kenyan in the most welcoming of ways- with illness.
On the Friday I was hit with a case of heat stroke, which I only have myself to blame- walking for 30 minutes in the hot sun when I was already dehydrated to start with. By the Monday, I was still rather dehydrated so I decided to go to the hospital to ask for assistance in hydration. There are no doctors surgeries here, just dispensaries scattered over the district and 3 hospitals. The dispensaries are not worth the effort to go to as they are so poorly funded by the government here that they can’t do a number of tests and can’t provide you with any medication because they don’t have the stock- its best just to go straight to the hospital. I must say the system here is quite impressive and I got out much quicker with a diagnosis than I would have if I went to a hospital back home. You go register, then go to the pay station to pay to see the doctor. You then go and sit to wait for the doctor, who you tell your problems to, they write down tests they want conducted, to which you walk back to the pay station, pay for the tests. You then go to the pathology lab for the tests and sit and wait around 20 minutes and are handed the results. You then go back to the doctor, who tells you what is wrong, writes down the medication. You then go back to pay station, pay for medication and take receipt to pharmacy to collect and then you are on your way home. It is not a bad system, though my body didn’t like the walking back and forth to the pay station. I have discovered that there are four key things that are vital to enable you to jump the queue-
1. Be a mazungu- it appears that because you have a fairer skin colour, this must mean you are a weaker species.
2. Faint while standing in line at the pay station.
3. Vomit while waiting for the doctor. This is also effective in making people who are basically sitting on top of you to give you some space- no one wants to sit next to someone that is going to be sick on them.
4. Go sit in the corner for a little bit to regain strength before standing in payment line for the fourth time. I was okay at this point, just wanted to relax a little to prevent another fainting spell. A passing nurse thought I was in distress over the whole system and promptly took it upon herself to get me out and on my way home quicker.
After the excitement of my visit to the hospital, I didn’t end up getting what I went for. The doctor sits me down to sternly tell me I have malaria and then casually asks for my hand in marriage and phone number as if it’s something he does every day and is no big problem. I was a little surprised by the diagnosis as I didn’t have any obvious tell-tale signs that made me think that was the problem. It was an eventless malaria infection as malaria infections go, though unfortunately the way my body reacted to the medication was the not fun part that knocked me out of action for two weeks. Before you feel sorry, bad or sad for me, spare a thought for Es—, my 14 year old sister here. She was struck down twice with malaria in December alone and has had malaria that many times in her short life, that she can’t even tell me a ball-park number of how many times. Even though she is ill, she is still expected to complete the daily chores, which are quite strenuous. So, please spare a thought for her and how strong she is.
I was invited to attend a wedding of my good friend Em— this month. Weddings here are very spilt- some traditional African, some are Christian based and others are not legally recognised as being married as they can’t afford the registration of the marriage. The traditional weddings involve the male buying a cow, 2 sheep and goat (can’t remember if you had to get both or one of the species), and several chickens. This is to be paid to the prospective wife’s family. Then, when the wedding if blessed, there is a massive ceremony at their homestead where everyone and anyone comes and celebrates. As both Em— and C— are practicing Christians, their wedding was very much Western- in a church, in a white dress. Only difference was that there was African food, African singing during the ceremony and the entire day was very much on African time. They do theme colours here, I didn’t think to ask why that is. The theme for this wedding was black and yellow. This means that the bridesmaids all wore these colours and many guests also had outfits made in these colours, though it isn’t passé if you choose to wear other colours. As yellow doesn’t work on my pasty white complexion, I got a dress made in green and orange and must say that I love it! Unfortunately as this was the Saturday after my heat stroke, I was rather ill and spent most of the day laying under a tree. As a result of this, I can’t give you many more details apart from the tree being shady and nice to lay under and the music being very festive for the occasion.
Christmas was a great day- I was blessed with the greatest gift of all- full recovery, I felt like a human again and more importantly- my appetite was back! Many foods that are not consumed every day were prepared. Foods such as chapatti, rice, beef, chicken. I assisted with the cooking of the chapatti, and by assisting, I mean I was told to sit in the corner and watch after it was determined that I was rolling the dough in balls that were too big in size. We later found an assistance role that was well suited to me and I did so brilliantly- chapatti taste-tester.
Christmas is not as celebrated here as it is at home, though I believe that is more a monetary thing than anything- most don’t have the money to afford to buy presents. Upon talking to the family, I learnt that as Christians, they celebrate New Years more as it has more of a religious meaning behind it than Christmas does. We were to go to a bongo drum dance party, but unfortunately the rain had other plans for us. It wasn’t that bad, the rain was very much needed.
I hear a lot of people back home had been hit by crazy storms and hope no one has been affected too much. Here unfortunately has been the opposite. The rain season that just past did not bring enough rain and has affected a number of the food crops. This is quite sad as this has a flow on effect where there are food shortages and loss of income. I do hope that our Permaculture program becomes well established to assist this in the future- watch this space….
This month’s amusing tale isn’t about me I’m sorry- it is about watching the drama unfold in a language I don’t understand. There is a young man that unfortunately has some brain damage that regularly comes and visits and brings his problems with him as if the family are able to help him. On this particular day, he showed up with a bag full of corn. Not long after his arrival and giving out of the corn, a lady comes storming up with the village elders and starts yelling at him. A heated discussion ensues for quite some time before it becomes too much for me- I have to know what is going on. Asking one of my sisters, I discovered that he had stolen the corn from the lady’s crop and the lady has brought the elders in for punishment, though I never found out what the punishment was. Who needs a television, when you have stories like this to watch and share?
Kwa heri, Sam xo
The content of this post forms part of a series of email updates from our In-country Coordinator (Kenya), Sam A. Sam A is staying in the village to assist with the implementation and evaluation of Community Classrooms programs. These updates are Sam’s personal account of her experiences in Kenya. Names and other identifying information about particular people have been removed prior to posting.