I made it to Kenya safely and ridiculously easily! The flights went quickly and all left on time, which was a little annoying as I wanted to catch the end of the US-Ghana game. I suppose I really didn’t need to see us lose [side note: Steve -did you guys at Dave’s Pub blame me for that one?].
So I left the states around 11am, landed in Amsterdam around 8am and landed in Nairobi at 7:30pm. I lost a day in there, but the whole trip just felt like one seriously long day. The 4 hour waiting at the Nairobi airport for Mike to land and get his bags didn’t help either. So after picking up Stephanie at the bus stop (she’d been working in an orphanage in Busia, Uganda for the past 6 weeks) we headed to the guest house. But not before stopping off to have some Ethiopian food and a few Tusker beers and watch the last bit of the Argentina-Mexico game. We inhaled the food and the 5 of us (Rennatus, Megan, Stephanie, Mike, and I) went to the guest house and crashed finally at around 1am.
Monday we woke up around 8:30am, ate our free breakfast, and after a little backyard birding, Stephanie, Mike & I headed into the city to wander about. I’m surprised at how beautiful this city is. There are well maintained parks everywhere; the streets are clean; traffic is mild despite the massive number of cars that rarely seem to honk; pedestrians are well behaved, possibly better than Boston and NYC pedestrians…. A remarkably clean Citi Hoppa bus took us to the city for 20KSh (~25¢) and we walked around for awhile. I bought an official World Cup Ghana jersey for about $20. It’s nice having a local person haggle price for you. After shopping and errands, we grabbed a coke on a little balcony of a restaurant where they kept replaying the US-Ghana game. I believe this was just to torment me and make me sad. After cokes and ginger soda, it was off to the animal orphanage, where rescued animals go to spend the rest of their lives.
To get to the place to meet Mike’s brother (who would drive us to the animal orphanage on the outside of town), we had to hop on another bus. Unfortunately, about 30 seconds after the bus took off, we stopped. Apparently the president was on the move, and just like DC, they shut down the entire road (and a few hundred feet down side streets) for his motorcade. Sitting on that bus was pretty much the only time I’ve broken a sweat while I’ve been here. The weather here is beautiful. It’s sweatshirt weather at night, and the air is cool and the sun is hot during the day.
At the orphanage, I fell in love with one female lion, who spent a good hour laying on her back with her legs splayed open, pawing at bugs that flew over and occasionally gnawing on some grass. Amazingly cute.
After wandering around the orphanage, the guys drove us back to the guest house for a half hour . When I woke up, Casey had gotten in. After dinner at the guest house, we all headed out to the bar. Now I know why Casey and Rennatus get along so well – they’re both completely laid back and drink like fish. We spent the evening at a big open air restaurant/bar to watch the soccer match and have a handful of beers.
Seven hours later, we left the pub. Casey had genius idea to buy some cheap Kenyan whiskey so we could all have a couple of shots. Bond 007 Whiskey – think of the lowest shelf, worst whiskey you’ve ever had or smelled. now multiply that “awful” factor times about 100 and you’ll come close to just how bad this stuff was. Granted, we had a blast at the pub and chatted forever, so I consider the hangover worth the fun.
We had to hustle this morning (Tuesday) because we were changing guest houses. We packed up, and hurried over to the Kolping guest house, which reminds me of a really cool lodge. I totally like it better than the other one we were at. So around 10am we headed over to visit Kenyatta hospital to talk with the guys in charge of KAVI, the Kenyan AIDS Vaccine Institute – these are the guys in charge of the major multi-national AIDS Vaccine trials that have been carried out in the past few years. It was wonderful chatting with them, they had some great ideas and great passion about their work. If the world were in the hands of people like this, I think we’d all be okay. After all our meetings, we grabbed some lunch.
I’m a fan of the food here. All of the flavors are wonderful and you get to eat everything with your hands. I know I said I wasn’t a fan of food in India because you had to eat it with your hands, but Kenyan food isn’t liquid.
I’m slowly learning what all the foods are called. Kiswahili is not an easy language to learn on the fly, but I’m getting there. I’ve learned the basics – please, thank you, you’re welcome, yes, no, excuse me, etc – and am working on learning some more complicated and specific for the clinic, specifically “I am not a doctor. Wait one moment and I will bring him.” After lunch, Casey and Rennatus ran off to pick up a big package of medicines, and Megan, Stephanie and I wandered around to try to find an internet connection so I could write you this update. They’re currently napping on a table right now. Apparently they move faster than me (or are just less verbose).
Tonight, we’re headed back to the same pub to talk about some business. Rennatus, Casey and I are being interviewed tomorrow on the radio, and we want to formulate how we’re going to respond to things.
Tomorrow, we’re going to hop in our rented mini-busses and drive out to Kisumu, driving through the Rift Valley and the massive Tea Plantations. I’ll take lots of photos I promise! We’re hanging in Kisumu for a few nights, and then going out to Port Victoria, about 45km from Busia and the Ugandan border, to start setting up the medical camp. I’ll have internet in Kisumu and will try my hardest to give you all another one of these long rambling updates.
So I’ve got to scram. The gals are looking haggard and like they want to head back to the guest house to take a nap. I just wanted you all to know I’m already having a spectacular time! Next up: the hard work. 🙂