Monday, August 18, 2008

7/25/08 cont'd

We loaded into our vans and drove twenty minutes to Sister Freda’s. Steve Rutenbar entertained us with a story of Dean R, Steve’s friend and right hand man on these trips, who is not with us this year. Dean is in charge of the chicken coop project, a source of pride and income for part time pastors who are given one. Although this story took place in Oaxaca Mexico it could just as easily been here. A Oaxacan minister told Dean that he had a confession. He was not using the chicken coop as originally intended. He had moved his family into the coop and his chickens into his house because the coop had a cement floor and stable roof and his home had neither.

Sister Freda is now telling our group about her work, which has been eloquently told by Darlene Sala in her book Heart of Compassion Hands of Care (available at web site She describes the crops they grow to help fund the clinic, the school she has that educates and feeds eighty plus children daily, many of them orphans, and her dream of nursing school on her campus to give young Kenyan women a stable and independent career to free them from the dowry system that condemns many women to a lifetime of servitude and abuse. She mentions that she has a patient for me to see after lunch – a fifty year old woman with new onset of seizures.
We then divide into two groups one led by Richard Robinson, Sister Freda’s husband, to tour the school and crops and the other, led by Sister Freda, to begin in the clinic. At the school the children perform math drills for us and then are dismissed for lunch of ungali, a starchy cake made from corn or maize, and sukuma wiki, a delicious spinach like staple of the Kenyan diet. Then we meet Jacqueline. Her nickname is “Dot” and all the women fall in love with her, a diminutive 3 year old who weighed 10 lbs when she was found in a ditch unconscious. She had been at Sister Freda for a little over a month and has gained 5 lbs. The whole compound has adopted her and Cherry wanted to bring her home but Sister Freda knows that Dot is in the right place in Kenya.

Then we toured the shamba or farm. Richard grows corn, tomatoes, papaya, plantains, pineapple, pumpkins, and coffee. In 2007 he harvested about thirty 60kg (~ 130 pounds) bags of coffee beans worth about $200 each and hopes to bag forty this year. He has cows, chickens, turkeys and some big ole pigs partitioned separately from vegetation so that worms and parasites are not spread.
After our own lunch of beans, potatoes, plantains, pineapple, peas, carrots, and soda we saw two patients in the clinic. I would not see the lady with seizures until tomorrow as her doctor from Kitale had arranged to see her. So we saw Mary, a fourteen year old girl with worm infestation and malnutrition due to family neglect. Sister Freda hoped to keep her at the clinic as long as possible. And then we were introduced to Boaz, a seventeen year old brain injured boy, either from malaria or as Sister Freda related an overdose of malaria medicine as an infant.

After a busy day we were happy to reach our home in Kitale even if it was in a driving rainstorm. The Kitale Club is an old British Country Club with lodging and a nine hole golf course. We rested for an hour and then gathered in the meeting hall. During dinner we learned that the truck containing our luggage that was being driven to Kitale from Nairobi had overturned between Eldoret and Kitale and the fate of the driver and our luggage was unknown. After a prayer and a tense forty five minutes we learned that the driver was unharmed and had called Stonic, our tour director and point man in Kenya. Stonic had called the Nairobi police who dispatched officers to the site to protect our belongings. Even though there is a seven PM curfew, the Kenyan countryside at night is not a safe place. So we went to bed not knowing if our belongings were safe or not.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Nathan Stinson took us to the airport shortly after 2 PM for a 5:20 flight to London. We waited for Terry Hodges, our dentist, and MEDS for Africa board member, so we could check one of our seven tubs on his ticket. We still had to pay $ 572 for four tubs as extra baggage. But we checked them and were unsure how to seal them. The porter and ticket agent suggested we seal them but said TSA would open them. So we split the difference and used four of the six ties. Later found out TSA X-ray’s them.

After a nice 8 hour flight in American Airlines to London and a nine hour flight to Nairobi, we were met by Steve Rutenbar and his daughter Caroline, a recent college graduate from BIOLA. They helped us through customs ($50 apiece for a visa) and helped us retrieve our tubs. Then on to the Anglican Guest House (AGH) for our modest accommodations.

After a typical Kenyan breakfast of fruit, eggs, sausage, toast, juice, and coffee we were met by Sister Freda Robinson, who had come to Nairobi from Kitale. We traveled by van to MEDS, an organization that sells drugs at reduced prices to NGO’s (non-government organizations, i.e. nonprofits). Sister Freda purchased 147,168 Kenya shillings (Kshs) of medication, which MEDS will deliver to her clinic in Kitale for no additional charge. MEDS is in the industrial area of Nairobi and on our way we passed the Kibera slum in Nairobi, reportedly the largest slum in the world, recently overtaking South Africa’s Soweto in size, with over 1.8 million inhabitants. Hope is in short supply in many areas here.
It is rainy and cloudy in Nairobi and temperature is around fifty degrees. Surprising when you think we are so close to equator but we are also at about 6000 feet. Never did understand why it is cooler at higher elevation. You are closer to the sun!
Nairobi is the New Your City of Kenya without the sidewalks, trash pickup and restrooms. Lots of folks just take a pee behind a tree and it smells like that with lots of smog and auto emissions. Gasoline is more than $6 a gallon US dollars.
While we waited in traffic Steve told us he had just been to Mynmar and that it took him 3 days waiting in Bangkok before the authorities would let him into the country to deliver supplies. We also talked about flying to the Kakuma refugee camp after our work in Kitale and Narok are finished. We went to the Nakumatt, the Sam’s of Kenya, for a few purchase. Coming out we met Silas Yego, head of the African Inland Church of 8500 Congregations. Along with former President Moi they donated the land on which the Tumaini orphanage in Kitale now sits. We headed to Java House for Lunch, one of the few reliable places to eat. Cherry’s curry was excellent.
January 8, 2008 President Mwai Kibaki has invited ODM leader Raila Odinga for a meeting to dialogue on the stoppage of violence in the country, consolidation of peace and national reconciliation. Others invited for the meeting are John Cardinal Njue of the Catholic Church, Archbishop Benjamin Nzimbi of the Anglican Church, Bishop Silas Yego of the Africa Inland Church, Professor El Bussaidy Chairman of the Supreme Council of Kenya Muslims (SUPKEM) and Supkem's Secretary General Aden Wachu.

We had hoped to buy Sister Freda a cautery machine but the cool rainy cloudy weather and traffic (which is world class!) conspired against us and we headed back to the AGH. I borrowed Steve’s internet modem from and technical whiz that I am managed a 5 line blog and 2 emails in two and a half hours!

In the evening while Steve and Carolyn went to airport to collect the rest of our group, Cherry, Terry Hodges, and I walked to Fairview Hotel for a nice dinner with wine – Bored Doe (I’m not kidding), a South African wine from Fairview Estates. Good food and good conversation about our impending adventure.

Our send off from Nairobi started on a hectic note. We missed our wakeup call and the vans were loaded with all our new friends when we arrived with a “take away” omelet in hand. We greeted old friends Jim and Georgia Sabin and sisters Sandy Green and Becky Wilson, who have brought funds and energy to help build the “Sisters” Bridge with Harmon Parker’s Bridging the Gap Ministry. More of that later. Frank Williams is the only other Texan in the group. Rob Henslick, our optometrist, has brought his twelve year-old son this time and they joined us after they had been on a safari to a bush camp. Allison Hibbard, one of fifteen or twenty young people in the group, is an alum and plans to stay for six months after we leave. The group is much younger than the last and there are three mother-daughter combinations.
As is often the case on trips where a large group has to be herded, we arrived over two hours and a half before our flight to Kitale and sat near the tarmac writing postcards and listening to jet engines. I sense less excitement and anticipation than last time but an eagerness to get to work. Sister Freda said that a USAID funded AIDS diagnosis and treatment program has begun across the country and a unit is located in her hospital. I am interested to see what diagnostic testing is available for other disease. I brought a recent copy of the green journal (American Journal of Medicine) that contains an article about universal healthcare in the United States that says we all ready have a program that works called Medicare. Reminds me what Jimmy Smits character on the West Wing said in a campaign speech while running for President. “All we have to do is remove the “over 65” restriction on Medicare and all would be eligible. In the real world not politically viable but I still think it is what needs to be done –the lesser or least of evils. I’d like to develop a power point presentation on that subject for service clubs and another one on Kenya to present to doctors. But I digress. It’s what you do when on a long road trip, stuck in Nairobi traffic, or at Wilson Airport.
The flight to Eldoret took 40 minutes and three members of our group –Frank, Ian, and Chris deplaned because we were overweight to land at the shorter runway Kitale Airport. They will take the bus, stopping at their favorite pastry shop in Eldoret, before coming to Kitale. Although we are assured Eldoret is now safe, a church was burned to the ground with people inside it in the “Post Election” violence in February, as it is referred to here. The flight to Kitale was only fifteen minutes long and we flew over green fields of corn and maize. We were greeted by two groups of school children in maroon and green uniforms. Actually they were just there on a field trip but Cherry went over to them and asked them to sing us a song and for the next thirty minutes we were serenaded by the children, some solo and some the whole class. Then we were all introduced to a game by one of our drivers, Steve Twonga Twonga. He is called Twonga Twonga because of the game he invented that is a hit everytime it is played. Cherry just happened to have one of the balls that Randee Myers gave her to bring to Kenya. It is essential for the game.
Steve: “You take the ball (Holds the ball over his head)........ You put it here!” (He puts it ... on his head,... behind his head, ...on his knee, etc. Everybody mimics with their hands.
Steve: “Then you Twonga, Twonga!” Twonga is Kiswahili for “Kick” and everybody does a dance with or without kicking. And it is repeated until everybody is smiling.

It is impossible not to laugh when you Twonga! Twonga!