Hakuna Matata

Our finals days 

Thank you Africa

I have been so busy enjoying my last week in Kenya.  A week ago, we went to church and learned new songs and dances.  Shortly after, we came back to KBC to finish writing up our research.  Once the papers were all turned in, over 100 people came to our site to listen to our findings.  My topic was on water.  The river crisis we researched was the most sensitive subject in the room – people from many towns and WRMA officials were arguing back and forth.  While our research may not make a direct impact, to know people are listening and care is so rewarding; it also opened up a room for communication between government officials and local people.  The rest of the week we spent time together, from swimming at the lodge to walking in Kimana to bonfires. 

To think tonight is my last night in Africa is so upsetting.  We are currently preparing for a goat roast as our last African feast.  I have loved my time in Africa, and I know I wouldn’t be able to leave tomorrow if I weren’t going to be coming back in the future.  The people here are some of the most amazing human beings I have ever encountered in my whole life. I have formed some of the fondest memories and closest friendships here.  I cant exactly put into words what Africa is to me.  The best I can do is to tell anyone that asks to come and spend time here.  Africa’s beauty is indescribable.

I am scared for what I am going to face returning home.  I know the reverse culture shock is going to be miserable and there will be times I cannot explain my emotions or understand why I will be a little different from my friends.   But I also know, I am now apart of a small family that shares one thing in common.  Africa.  

To the land, the people, the culture, Kili, and the wildlife I have learned to love – thank you for sharing with me the secrets to your beauty.  Thank you for making even feel like the most welcomed mzungu.  Thank you for making me feel at home.  This isn’t goodbye but rather baadai.  I know I will be seeing you again.  

Turkey Day

Yesterday we celebrated Thanksgiving in Africa ! It was sooo good — I would like to take some credit as head chef (thank ya very much!) We tried to make it as traditional as possible.. we even had two turkeys! Did i mention we had to kill them ourselves?? Yep.. it was quite the experience but overall a great day.  It made being away from home on my favorite holiday a little less sad.

Today we finished up our interview part of Directed research.  One of the guys I interviewed asked for my hand in marriage.. he offered 80 cows for me! And let me tell ya, it was pretty tempting, I obviously had a hard time saying no.  I mean who wouldnt want 80 cows!? I am sure my dad could find some way to use them.  As we were leaving the field, two more men were asking my guide if I was available — apparently it is hard to “get a mzungu”  Oh well .. better luck next time gentlemen.  Maybe the next guy to offer 100 cows for me will win my heart.

I hope everyone had a great thanksgiving .. two weeks until I leave!

After 3 months in Africa, I finally experienced food poisoning. yuck. awful.  Now I am just lying in bed, reflecting over the past few days of Directed Research.  We finally finished up in the field yesterday, collecting tons of data! It was hard work, but I cannot believe it is over! I almost stepped on a black mamba in the field yesterday! too.  And it wasn’t even a baby… I jumped up so high and sprinted out of there as quickly as I could!

 I only have 18 more days here, which is crazy to me.  Time has been flying by in kenya.. tomorrow is thanksgiving and I know I will be missing my family.  However, there are two beautiful, plump turkeys here that I ordered.  I will be preparing a feast for everyone, thank you mom for passing on your wonderful cooking skills! While I wont be celebrating with my family at home, I have 31 other family members here to celebrate turkey day with.  

18 short days.. and many more memories to go.  I hate the idea of leaving Africa so soon, I am already figuring out ways to come back.  Get ready for me Europe, I will see you shortly.  As for everyone else, I hope you have a wonderful Thanksgiving!  

An Inspiration To All

We went to the Loitoiktok Market for our day off, which is about 40 minutes away from Kimana. While we were there, we had the option to go to the VCT or Voluntary counseling and testing center.  Here women who were HIV+ spoke to us and told us their stories about getting infected and the stigmas tied to them when others found out. Some were exiled from society, while others were fed like dogs and treated as if death was knocking on their door.  It was so painful to hear these stories, knowing that each woman was hurting inside.   Every single one of us broke down crying.  We admired them for telling us their stories — I have never met such beautiful, strong, inspirational women who continue to fight each and every day.  Being around them further reaffirmed why I want to be a doctor; people in Africa (especially women) face the dangers of being infected with AIDS.  They are rarely helped, or too scared to search for someone to talk to. Medicine is too expensive, and often times when one finds out, it may be too late.  If anyone ever comes to Africa, I encourage them to take the time to talk to people who are infected with HIV or Aids.  It is a scary disease — they need all the support and help they can get, and seeing a face of someone who cares is sometimes enough to keep moving forward.  I would give anything to help these women.      

For the love of science !

DR (directed research) has officially started !! For our last month in Africa, we are out in the field from 7-5 every day collecting data for our individual directed research.  I am doing my research on the impact of human encroachment on water quality and quantity in Kenya.  So far it has been a blast!  It rained almost the full day yesterday.  We were slipping and sliding everywhere, and yet I still enjoyed every moment of it.  Today, we went back out to the field to collect more data.  The weather was the complete opposite — I know look like a lobster!  I also was hoping that since the rain had diminished, my clumsiness would also decrease.  Well, I never spent so much time on my bum in my whole life.  We trekked up a mountain that was within our transect, and I spent the majority of the way down falling and skidding.  It is safe to say I will be sleeping with an ice pack tonight.  

I am so excited for more days to come.  I absolutely love my DR advisor and teacher and I know we are going to get so much information on the ecological status of the Ntoolresh river in Kenya.  Who knows, I may even return this summer to help Kiringe publish his work.. 

Yesterday we did our community service at the primary school.  We taught the children about animals in both Africa and the US than played tons of games outside.  It was so much fun – I would definitely love to go back!

Yesterday we did our community service at the primary school.  We taught the children about animals in both Africa and the US than played tons of games outside.  It was so much fun – I would definitely love to go back!

Real Women.

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I am never going to complain again when asked to do something.  I am never going to whine when something easy doesn’t go my way.  And I am especially never going to argue over the differences between men and women, because at my Maasai home stay, my strengths and weaknesses were put to the test.  The guys in my program went out with Maasai warriors into the field to herd livestock, while the women in my program went to the bomas to do the real work.  I have never been so exhausted and yet so accomplished in my life.  You see pictures of women in Africa carrying water on their heads, babies on their chests, and sticks on their backs looking free of pain.  I had no idea how much work it is to be a Maasai woman.  After five minutes of being at my home stay, I was sent out to fetch water with the mamas.  Yes, I did learn to carry water on my head, but let me tell you something.  It was super hard!  For the mile trek back, it was a constant battle with my jerrican to keep it balanced and positioned probably without breaking my neck.  The minute I stepped foot into the boma, I dropped the can onto the ground and collapsed to the ground, while the mamas sat their laughing at me for being so exhausted.  But it didn’t just end there – I was instantly sent inside the boma to begin cooking lunch for everyone.  I washed the food, cut it, cooked it, served it, than cleaned all the dishes.  Just when I thought I was about done for the day, two mamas came over to me, handed me a machete, tied a belt around my stomach, and sent me out for firewood.  This was even farther than the water and it was hotter as well.  I figured “hey this should be easier than water, no problem.”  Wrong again.  Two hours of chopping and pulling, we collected enough wood for two weeks!  My belt was used to tie it up, and once again it was placed back on my head.  Only this time, the wood was heavy and sharp, jabbing me all the way home.  The mamas were so reassuring; reminding me I could do it.  To be honest, I don’t think I could have done this labor any other day.  Yet, these women gave me the strength to push myself because one day of hard work does not compare to every day that they go out.  My home stay was amazing and truly eye opening.  The Maasai mamas are strong and real women.  They do everything – so for you boys that sat in fields grazing all day, dry walking in our shoes for once.  

Amboseli National Park, home to over 1000 elephants… and adorable little carnivores.    

Amboseli National Park, home to over 1000 elephants… and adorable little carnivores.