Monday Mongoose, Monitor Lizard and Python eating monkey…
Today, it feels as if there is an oppressive weight that hangs over me. that I can not seem to drudge through. We keep looking to the updates on the hostage/terror attack in Nairobi,- thankful that we are far away, heartbroken at the thought of what scenes of violence must have been experienced and witnessed by so many. Not knowing how to return to Nairobi and feel “normal” so to speak. have never felt to be a ‘target’ before, and this vulnerability is a rather unsettling feeling. On top of the difficulties in Nairobi, the Turkana started raiding Longerin, stealing cattle, and wounding 2 boys with gunshot wounds. We hear the Samburu have avenged these shootings, firing and shooting 3 Turkana, and reclaiming the stolen animals. A mama was taken to the clinic last night, where her baby died. The mama had come two times to see me, and I treated as best as I could without testing and amidst a significant language barrier, treating for Malaria, fever, dehydration and finally sepsis, urging her to go to the clinic. It sounds as if the baby was fed animal fat which at four months of age, brought harm to the baby…. so sad. I can not imagine the loss of a child in such a way.
Working through these feelings of anxiety, sadness and loss, I open the Psalms to continue our homeschool effort to memorize Psalm 23. Our verse for this week was “Yea though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death I will fear no evil for you are with me…” God’s presence provides the comfort we need amidst all these things, He does not allow us to avoid suffering or pain, but He endures it with us, beside us. There is such comfort in that wonder.
At chai time, Jay entered a supply shed, only for their to be a screech and a flying mongoose, racing away from the scene of the crime. I am not sure who was chasing who,- but the mongoose was the size of a racoon! It got away,- I think I will name it Jasper,-animals with names seem so much less intimidating.
This afternoon,- the kids started shouting that there was a monitor lizard in the bathroom. Sure enough a 3 foot monitor was hiding under the bathroom cupboard. Likely looking for a cool place to lay some eggs. This almost tops the monkey eating python that is on top of one of the large acacia trees by the luga (river bed) that we heard about at chai time today. Jay eagerly noted that he would pay 1000 shilling (8$) for the snake skin from such a big snake…wondering how he thinks I will ever let that skin into the house is another matter!
After chai (our usual break station break at 1000 am) we hear a plane touching down. Our oven has been delivered! Very thankful for this, as for the last many months our old oven leaked gas which was a hazard to both our health and finances! Already thinking of baked bread!
Not to be turned away, an old man persists on sitting on the steps. I have made a deal with this friendly old man,- to buy his wares only every other Friday when it is the day of the market. (In the past he would sit the stairs on quite the consistent schedule!) So, in my resolve to focus on homeschool at least until noon, and NOT be pulled away in 15 directions,- I (feeling quite guilty) ignore the bright red shuka, the smiling face and the white shins of this man. (I am told people believe his shins have turned white because he is so old). I am not sure he minded the delay as much as I felt badly for it. After homeschool let out,- I come out and greet him. He is holding a warm piece of meat wrapped in plastic. An offering for me who helped his wife and new baby yesterday.
Tuesday – They will know we are Christians by our Duct-Tape…
Tuesday brings a busy day for us all. Homeschool starts while trying to organize Jay for his trip to Baragoi 2 hours away to pick up fuel and take patients to the government hospital/clinic.
I waded through the morning with skirt clutching toddler and homeschool routine. The afternoon brought the weekly medical clinic. I saw about 30 patients. Jay still away at Baragoi, Loki kindly watches older three while Jesse plays “nurse” delivering the package of medications to patients hoping for a sweet vitamin C tablet every so often in reward. I am certain he will never get a cold at the megadoses he is taking. I seem to have become known as the treater of STI’s. Moranis coming by handfuls now to request the medicine. Little lectures on contacts and fidelity, and even asked one morani about whether he would consider coming to church. The wazee of the station mulling around the clinic as it ends,- they seem interested in Mzee Daudi’s duct-tape treatment for plantar warts. Feet all around revealing they also want the same treatment. Daudi famed, “Last week during the animal raid, I was able to run and chase the Turhkana without any pain!” For an instant I pictured that in a TV advertising campaign. So, now with the famed healing of Daudi’s planters with all but a little ointment and duct tape, I venture to duct-tape the feet of the other wazee and church elders, joking with the men of the verse that notes “They will know we are Christians by our Love”. In this case, they will know you are Christians by the duct tape.
After finishing the clinic around 5:30, I go with Mzee Andrea to a mynyatta where there is a mama too sick to come. We treat for mastitis and high fever. It is beautiful in the cool of the early evening with the sun dancing off the acacia now with fluffy yellow buds giving the illusion that these thorny trees might feel like yellow velvet.
Return home to make supper. Waiting for news from Jay. Road trip days are always unnerving for the kids and I. We are always waiting for a text message saying that Jay is on his way but all is well.
He arrives home around 8:30pm, almost 12 hours after leaving. In the retelling of the story, I am told that he picked up Monica and Nathan (Jonah’s little brother who also has TB and required testing), the Mzee Lmpirias who was sick with throat cancer and his son, Amin the health worker and another patient needing TB testing, along with a police reservist who required a lift. Nearly 1 1/2 into the 2 hour trip to Baragoi, Mzee Lmpirias dies, giving rise to a bit of confusion as to what to do with his body. Jay continues on to Baragoi, drops off the patients at the government hospital. He discovers that there is no phone reception in Baragoi, it is down, which is critical when you are paying for your fuel through the phone. So no access to money and no fuel left in the car he is in a bit of a bind. A kind shop lady loans him roughly 40$ to purchase enough fuel to take Mzee’s body and the son back to South Horr (1 1/2 away). He still is needing to return to Baragoi to pick up the other patients once they are finished with the hospital assessment. All in all,- he returns after a long day. The sick children assessed given tylenol, an antibiotic and told to go to the larger hospital for further treatment. Sometimes the effort combined with futility is draining.
Wednesday…. thankful for a relatively calm day….
Jay able to hook up stove, he is off teaching in the morning, as am I with homeschool. Jesse making a break for the front door every few minutes, requiring a chase down. Patients at the door first thing, about 6 secondary school girls, shy with faces covered and smiles which indicated to me their condition was mild and perhaps just a chance to avoid classes…. they seemed overtly annoyed when I asked if they would return in the afternoon if truly sick, as I had class to attend of my own in the mornings. Another mama in the groupI treated with medicine as she had been bitten by a snake the week previous and was still suffering with pain and infection.
Jesse down for a nap, walk across the yard to attend the Mama’s meeting in the afternoon under the shade of the chai (tea) tree. There are often a few mama’s who also come for medicines after the meeting. So a few more patients before the end of the day…
Take the kids for a walk on the airstrip and meet up with a gaggle of Samburu children. I am not sure what the right term is for the sight. They are shy,- coming out of either side of the strip from their camouflaged places of hiding, only little flashes of bright pink or green shukka’s giving evidence to their quiet onlooking. Eventually they merge from the periphery and gain some confidence given they are a group of 15 children who desperately want to see Lucy the dog catch the ball, yet every time we get close they skirt away like starlings in fall. I walk closer slowly and give a Samburu greeting, which seems to coax smiles and laughter. I take a picture and show them, where they point and talk excitedly critiquing how everyone looks on the frame. I am tired, but these children ease the day. Nathan, Luke and Lily interested but still quite shy on being the feature of attention stick to their activity of throwing dirt clogs against trees.
Skype call to AIM Canada to look at Samburu Outreach Project ends the evening.
Thursday brings a chance to use the new stove! So excited to not have to turn the regulator on and off the tank every time I need to use the stove or oven, or smell gas leaking in the house. I make a raisin bread for the morning always mesmerized a bit by the view out our back window looking up to the mountain. The misty morning clouds hang low and seem to evaporate with the sun as it reaches it’s place in the sky. Jesse calling for the dog to come, “Yucee” (Lucy).
Working on a few emails, details regarding patients and other communications. I am one of 2 registration coordinators for the country wide (Kenya/Tanzania) AIM conference in November, so trying to coordinate intake while figuring out google documents, while teaching homsechool and entertaining Jesse, who is a bit too keen to help Mama Monica wash the floors. We have a bit of piece meal homeschool today due to some deadlines. Jay able to help the kids with some math,- always good for them to have a new ‘teacher’ now and then. Chai bell and kids are dismissed. Jesse running for his cup, “CHAI, CHAI” as if he will self destruct in the next few moments if his cup is not filled. Kids run into a very large baboon while playing outside, luckily they stayed away, and it took little mind of them. Five patients waiting treatment after chai, and my favourite old man wondering about arranging a ride in our car.
Rushed lunch of tuna salad as I leave to visit in the Mynyatta. We visit Serechoi which is a village which has known sorrow in the last week. The baby that died, the old man that died and the mama that ‘adopted’ the orphan baby only to have it taken away by the wazee who did not approve all live in this village. So we venture in Loki’s car with mamas filling up the back, bringing some cups of sugar and tea, filling jeri cans of water in a gesture of helpfulness and care. (We don’t truly realize how hard it must be to not have a source of water near by and have to haul drums of water kilometres away.
First we visited the widow of Mzee Lmpirias. I recognize the mynyatta as Jay and I have been many times to visit Monica and her boys and we had been to visit Lmpirias when he was ill. The widow, marked with age and sorrow sat inside a shelter of sticks, surrounded by children and two other women relatives. One child lied listlessly on the ground, while three others peered through the sticks from the outside with runny noses and curious eyes wondering what was to transpire. They must have factored that wazungu women are not able to sit on the ground so I was given a water drum to sit on fearful that I would dent the top especially with the weight of Jesse on my lap. He was especially interested in the goats that were sitting in the hut amongst us. Loki spoke on God’s love for the widows and the orphans and our desire to help in any way. I offered free medical services when needed partly motivated by my rapid assessment that the little child lying on the ground had to have been sick, the mama intermittently stroking her back or swatting a fly. The mama is left with 10 children, 4 of whom are grown and the remaining six still quite small. I am not sure if the family has animals, but I can only wonder how this widow will survive. We packaged our goods which consisted of bags of sugar and tea. I hope I see the kids in the clinic soon.
The second lady on our church mama’s “pole sana” (so sorry) venture, was the mama who lost her little baby. She sat rigidly, looking straight ahead avoiding eye contact. Her face hard with a grief that looked like it was too much to bear. The Mzee a young Samburu man, sat behind her, spoke his thanks for our visit where she was unable to speak. A little two year old lingered around the mama leaning on her back, wishing it seemed, to be welcomed into her arms,no t understanding where his little brother had gone. What words can you say to ease the heart? We simply noted that we longed to pray that her heart would heal in time. She accepted the gifts and disappeared back into her hut. I always fear that perhaps visiting would be seen as an intrusion, feeling half guilty and sad that I treated this baby and did not have medicine to save him despite my efforts and urging to take the baby further for treatment. I guess time only tells if these small efforts will build bridges and a sense of togetherness in the community.
The third mama is a lady who is barren. There was a few weeks back a situation where a baby arrived on the station, unwanted by the mother. She was a young girl and the father of the baby was also her sister’s husband, so there was shame with regards to this little boy. Normally in such cases the baby would have been killed, but for some reason the girl kept the baby, determined instead to give the boy away. The church elders approached a mama who has been for the last 15 years unable to bear a child. Oh the joy at the news that she was to have a son! I think of Hannah and Samuel. She was given this boy, as the families agreed, even the chief agreed. But, before long, the elders of the mynyatta of the boy, feeling perhaps insulted to not be apart of such a significant decision refused this ‘adoption’. They noted that the baby must stay with his natural mother, at least for another 6 months until they decided who could adopt the boy. Heart broken, this mama, strong in faith, stated, If God wants me to have this boy, then I will have him! Her courage is tremendous, yet I can not but think of how she must be remembering those sweet moments when she held the precious boy. We pray that the young mama will care for the baby in the mean time.
Jesse at this point, hot, sticky, dirty and insisting on chasing goats around the mynyatta while shouting “Camel”. He is, sweet boy, my entryway into lives and hearts as he greets the mama’s with a handshake and lopsided grin.
What was interesting was that all three of those we visited had watched the Jesus film that Jay had brought, hoping the Mzee (who died, LMpirias) would have a chance to watch. We were able to ask questions about ‘what did you think about the film”, doors open where they may not have been opportunity to talk about Jesus.
Exhausted, and dehydrated we arrive back home. Jay returns around 5pm….Drinks of water to all, folding laundry, making supper, writing emails. We decide, with nostalgia and just a bit of home-sickness to make “Swiss Chalet Chicken sauce and french fries. Jesse roams the house with his tupperware cap (bowl), and Luke helps cook the chicken while Nathan peeks for a snack (ravenous as always) and Lily chirps away about plans on making a 3 tier cake with special frosting and candles for her birthday next week. She has made drawings and a menu. Shall I tell her now of my utter lack of expertise when it comes to confectionary? Still haunted by memories of my own birthday cake’s with my name in melting “brown cow” syrup dripping down the edges of the cake. Now I appreciate the effort that my mother must have taken to make such a thing,- then,- I just remember being horrified that “Brown Cow” was actually considered a plausible decorative choice.
After putting the kids to bed, Jesse in a crib in our room still, listening to Jay read aloud Oliver Twist the kids, a knock on the door brings Isaya into the house with fear that a small baby in town is very sick. I give some medicine noting for the mama to bring the baby tomorrow morning if no improvement.
It is now Saturday and I can hardly remember Friday now, stands out only now as being the day that we reached the last of the baby wipes and we ran out of Koolaid. This is a terrible thing when you are hundreds of miles away from replacement wipes. No emergency Wal-Mart runs. It is pay day on the station, so the better part of mid-morning is preparing wages and waiting for people to come. Every other Friday is “Samburu Soko” (market), so there always is a stir of excitement to collect wages and spend it! Always a lot of meat to be had if one is looking,- luckily my freezer has enough cow, goat and camel to last a while! In the late afternoon we enjoy a party at the Swanepoels to mark the occasion of Caity’s 7th birthday.
Another day and another party,- Saturday arrives, bringing pancakes and milkshakes (well milk with vanilla extract mixed in). Jay is the breakfast cook on Saturday mornings. Feeling like the day stretches ahead of me. Collect the laundry off the line, bake Lily’s birthday cake, wash dishes, tidy house. Jay is in and out today, gathering stones to pave some of the front yard to prevent mudslides during the rains. It take three trip to load wheelbarrows of “Kokotto” (red small rocks) which cost about 1$ a wheelbarrow. The rocks are free, the cost is the work to collect them. Everytime he collects, there is a community dispute as to who collected which rock pile. Jay notes he is paving the drive with Kokotto and meneno (problems). Today, however the dispute over the rocks took another turn. Jay had gladly brought water to help the mynyatta,- instead of fighting over rocks, arguments erupted over who would get the water! I can only imagine how heated that discussion must have been,- when it is a 2-8km walk to find a water source!
I treated two sick children and then had news from a morani that his wife has just delivered a baby boy yesterday. He was requesting some medicine for the pain post childbirth for his wife. Sounds like a healthy delivery. I will try and visit on Tuesday. I had treated both the morani and his wife for malaria just last week, they were both quite ill.
We had visitors for lunch, Amin and Asunta, two nurses/health workers who will be opening the government Kurungu dispensary. This is such a relief to me, to know that there is going to be a clinic in close range. It will considerably cut down on the patients at the door and allow me to focus on outreach clinics and some health teaching. We discussed the needs for TB testing. And tried to figure out a way to get quite a number of people screened and tested who are at risk. The three people we sent down to Kijabe all tested positive for TB, (as we had suspected) so this necessitates that any contacts be tested. The problem with TB is that it can spread even when people are not symptomatic. We are considering hiring a bus and filling it with 40 people and sending them (5 hours away to the closest location for which to get their TB test and Xray. Without this documentation people are unable to access treatment. Yet the cost and transport is prohibitive, leaving people to go on with life and forget about testing, spreading the disease further. Right now due to recent polio cases and tetany, there is urging to vaccinate. I was given two vials of Td and Oral polio to distribute if any patients had been missed. It feels that we are fighting diseases that have long been eradicated but still exist here.
Another health challenge is the problem of FGM. A few weeks ago, Amin and Asunta had a 15 year old girl in labour for 3 days. She was unable to deliver the baby due to scarring from FGM. She was transported to hospital where the baby died, and she now is very sick due to infection post C-section. The girl was married at age 12. We long to find a way to deal with some of these social/cultural challenges. Early marriage, polygamy, “beading” where any morani can give beads to a girl and gain ‘services rendered’, leads to 10% of the girls in secondary school being pregnant and a handful of girls in primary school also carrying babies. HIV and STI’s are rampant. I have begun refusing to treat the morani unless they are willing to provide the medicine needed to treat their wives and contacts…it is my small effort to instil social responsibility with health teaching. Pray for us in this regard. We have thought of some ways to engage the community around these issues that are considerably weakening the community with loss of health and life.
While speaking with our health colleagues,- I heard a bit of interesting information about Dorena, the boy who is in hospital. Prior to his illness which forced him to quit school, Dorena was the top student in his grade eight class. I truly hope the surgery can restore his ability to walk so he can get back to school!
Well we had a lovely meal, with the small interruption of having to kill a mouse mid-way through the first course. I felt a drop from the sky land on my lap, I look up and another drop. Considering it was not raining and we were inside the houseI was a bit confused, until I looked up and saw my friend, Mr. Mouse. Thankfully ‘the drops’ didn’t land in the food,- (only on my face…mouth closed, thank goodness!). Jay came to the rescue, being a true Samburu, using a stick to deliver a deadly blow. The cat lucked out on a catered meal this afternoon.
Lily’s party ends the day. Hardly enough energy to corral 8 excited kids as they try to pin the tail on the donkey. I think all kids cheat at this game,- it seems a universal law that they all peak, pretend to be disoriented for a few seconds then recover to find the exact spot required for the pin. It was funny watching from this perspective, how far kids go to ‘convince’ you that they are not indeed cheating at all. They seemed to have lots of fun, we ate cake and then went to the airstrip to walk/run off the sugar. I was followed by a trail of Samburu children and a mama.