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Halfway Point

June 21, 2010

Hi Everyone!

So I’ve reached the half way point of my trip here in Kenya. At times I can’t believe I’ve been here for a month already and other times it seems like I’ve been here much longer. My life here has really become just that, and routine has certainly been established. I wake-up drink chai, eat some white bread with butter, read and then head off to the office or to the health center. Around 5 I head back home and read some more until dinner (which isn’t until 8:30/9). It gets dark here around 7, so the better part of my evenings are spent reading by headlamp inside the bug net or helping the girls prepare dinner.

For the past two weekends, Tiff and I have been going to Kisumu, which is on the shore of Lake Victoria and is Kenya’s 3rd largest city after Nairobi and Mombasa – it’s still a pretty small city though. Those trips have been a wonderful break from my time in Ugunja. That is mainly due to the fact that in Kisumu I have electricity, hot water showers, toilets, coffee, and cold beer. To get to Kisumu we take a Matatu, which is basically a 9 person van that actually seats about 15-20. Each ride is an adventure. The first trip in we were lucky enough to have the front seats which meant we had space for our legs. However, sitting in the front has its drawbacks. For example, I was able to see how often and narrowly we missed colliding head-on with other cars. Oh and nothing on the dashboard worked, including the speedometer.

We have made it safe and sound both times. Kisumu not only provides me with some much needed amenities, but also with some delicious non-Kenyan food, such as an oreo milkshake. There’s also a movie theater which happened to be playing Sex and the City 2. I don’t think I would have enjoyed that movie as much had I seen it in the states, but it was a welcome taste of home. We’re heading back this weekend and staying at a hotel with a pool! Thank goodness because I have some wicked tan lines that need to be fixed.

Hopefully in the next few weeks my projects will take off and I’ll be able to successfully complete some of the referral and reporting tools that I’m working on. Until then, I hope everything is great back home and summer is treating everyone well.

xx
Sara

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I dry my clothes on barbed-wire fencing

June 8, 2010

Hi Everyone!

Idi nadi? That’s “how are you in Dhuluo“. I hope summer in the states or wherever you are is off to a great start. Work here at UCRC and St. Paul’s health center is taking off. Today was my first day in the field shadowing someone doing home-based care. The people here are wonderfully gracious, but I am exhausted. It is no surprise many of the people who need care aren’t receiving it simply because the walk to a sub-district hospital can be 2 hours over rough and often muddy terrain. Most of the patients that I visited today were elderly and living with chronic pain that could likely be treated if they could access the hospital or afford medication.

This is my third week here and I am still being chased by the same children with shouts of “Muzungu” and “how are you?, how are you?”. Some days it’s adorable, but it can get tiresome being pointed and stared at all the time. Happily the owners of the banana stand and the pineapple stand have begun to recognize me and only chuckle when I try to ask for my food in Luo.

The well on our compound broke last week, which meant we were fetching water from the river (about at 10min walk away). Luckily it’s fixed now, and I can bathe and do laundry at will, but it was just a reminder that family whom we are staying with are better off then many others in the community. And yes, I carried my own water from the river to the delight of the girls who live on my compound.

Well I am thoroughly enjoying my time here in Kenya, I have decided that it is in my best interest to come home at the end of July instead of at the end of August/beginning of September. I will now have a few weeks to pull myself together before classes begin as opposed to missing my first week of class. This was a difficult decision to make as I am enjoying my time here and loving the people that I work with. So, to my friends in Boston, hopefully we can squeeze in a BBQ or 2 and a Sunday brunch before we head back to school.

My roommate, Tiff, and I are heading to Kisumu this weekend where we will indulge in luxuries such as a toilet seat and a cold beer.

I want to hear from you all, so email me!

xx
Sara

Settling In in Ugunja

May 26, 2010

It’s been about a week, so I figured I should an update to you all would be a good idea. After three days of uneventful travel, with the exception of a $14 UK Marie Claire and a nosy passenger on the flight to Nairobi, I arrived in Ugunja. The center where I’ll be spending a fair bit of time is about a 30 minute walk from the family compound I’m staying at.

Upon arrival, I was told that I would be staying elsewhere for the weekend until a group of Canadians (here from the Global Youth Network) left. So for the past week I have been staying in my very own mud hut with a straw roof. To be honest, it’s taken a few days to get used to the excessive spider crickets, occasional giant cockroach, and the termites. Don’t worry it’s not as bad as it sounds – Kenya is extremely hot and my mud hut stays relatively cool and most
importantly dry during the afternoon rains.

My homestay family is exceedingly gracious and the high school children are great to chat with. Over the weekend I was thrown in with the Canadians, who were unsurprisingly welcoming, and engaged in some road work, youth workshops, a visit to an orphanage, and the chance to see Obama’s paternal grandmother (which was not as exciting as it might sound).

Today I moved over to my permanent homestay (mud hut with tin roof), where I’ll be rooming with another girl here until August. She’s a macro social work student in Calgary. Having another foreigner here makes a lot bigger of a difference then I could have thought.

I’m only a week in and am already beginning to feel more at ease. Adjusting to a completely different way of life will take time, and being away from home for this long is a challenge I’m working with daily. But as I begin to engage in the health work I’ll be doing, I can see what a great experience this is going to be.

I miss you all!

A Summer in Ugunja

May 7, 2010

Welcome to 4 people who will be reading this blog!

I leave for Kenya in 12 days! I’m going to be spending my summer living in Ugunja working with Common Hope for Health and Ugunja Community Resource Center.

While there, access to the internet is going to be limited so I figured a blog would be the best way to reach everyone at once.  So read on friends and family as I embark on a 3 day trek to reach western Kenya.

But first – social work graduation!!!