Homeschool and home-made hair cuts….
One day, when the kids are all grown sharing together with one another about their childhood traumas, it is inevitable that homeschool and home-made haircuts will top the list. Thankfully the kids at this stage are not so observant of the obvious defaults of their mother, who despite best intentions cuts everyone’s hair as if there had been a tupperware bowl atop. I did manage to cut everyone’s hair today (well, except for Jesse, on Jay’s pleading that he needs to keep his Canadian hockey mullet for a few months yet).
We started homeschool last week and I am simply thankful that we got through our first few days. Opening books, writing our names inside (which is more of a tradition, given each child is in a class of one) and talking about class rules and jobs, which include cat litter, Jesse cleanup, and giving “the battery report” (how many lights are flashing on our solar battery system). The kids were excited about their new pencils, desk spaces and our big “chapter book” reading contest. We will move with more momentum this week, God willing.
Last week Jay has reported to school on his teaching days, only to be one of the few who have shown up for the first week of class of Term 3. Today he reported only to find that the girls ‘take exams’ after break. Hopefully by next week things will get underway for semester 3 to begin.
The Main Dish….
We had a great time in Longerin last Saturday,- and as much as we expected uncontrolled chaos with patients clambering inside the clinic door, our strategy of posting Jay as a triage nurse/ guard seemed to work well (given that no one could understand what he was saying), and he even managed to get the mama’s to line up in an orderly fashion waiting for their turn to be seen. We were able to see/treat about 30 patients in the 2 1/2 hour window that we had. Afterwards we were invited to Namagie’s mynyatta,- the father of baby Esther. A great feast was arranged for us, including goat stew, roast goat and BBQ goat. This was our first Samburu meal and we felt quite humbled being guests of honour at Namagie’s home. The kids did well to manage the newness of the occasion, sitting in the sand under the expanse of a stick and dung structure, sharing bowls and trying the fare in front of us. (We are very happy our children are carnivores!) Baby Esther is doing well we are happy to report. We will be helping the family organize a “harambee” which is a way of bringing the community together to contribute to a cause. I am not sure what this will look like, but I am anticipating more goat dishes.
Polio, Pregnancy and Pressing Needs…..
In the last few days both Jay and I have felt an exhaustion of energy and effort. It is part and parcel of living in the bush, of living in a place with many needs. Although it can be stressful at times, it is also part of what we enjoy. The realization that everyday presents opportunities to reach out and care for others.
One of the characteristics of everyday life here is the difficulty of ever seeing something to completion. Interruptions are commonplace and tasks are often started (like our plumbing repairs) which may only take an hour of continuous attention to fix, now spans weeks of 5 minute stipends. Who would have thought I would long for the ‘calm days’ of working in mental health. Here it often feels like a crazy, frenetic emergency room shift, except with baby on hip while baking bread. Yet the interruptions can lead to as Loki S. puts it, “sense of humour failure”, and so I realize that unless I am filled with His love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, goodness, self-control I am simply going to run out of energy and sanity. Thankfully God’s strength is made perfect in my weakness, and in that regard, God has a lot of material to work with.
Saturday we loaded up the LandRover to go to the mynyatta of mama Monica to see her son Jonas. He has been unwell for many months and we were told that he had stopped eating. He is a boy who is 10 years old, with curly brown hair and bright sad eyes. To look at him, he appears that he may only be 6 year old. Carrying him in a blanket to the car, he barely weighed more that 15kg. Last year he was healthy, now he is paralyzed from the waist down, his leg muscles are wasted and he has a large hump on his back which makes sitting up difficult. We laid him down on a mattress in the car and took him the 10km to the Clinic in South Horr, The clinic nurses also questioned the two diagnoses that I had in mind,- extra pulmonary TB or polio. Either way, there was not much the clinic would be able to do. We were given a number of “plumpy nut” nutritional supplements to help Jonas gain weight. But I am at a loss of what to do for him. I have emailed Dr. Halestrap (a (fabulous 🙂 AIM doctor at Kijabe) and he leans towards the TB diagnosis, Potts disease ( google this and up will come pictures of the hunchback of Notre Dame) a disease whereTB attacks the spine. There is a hope with MRI and surgery that Jonas may recover some,- may even be able to walk again. For now, he needs to gain weight to have the strength to sit up to prevent complications like pneumonia and pressure ulcers. And we are praying that a way could be found to get him the help he needs. Questions tumble inside my head should I send him to a government hospital (where there is a very viable fear in Samburu that one goes to the government hospitals to never return). Do I fly him to the mission hospital where may be hard to communicate due to a language barrier and would lead to debt of the family? So hard to know in these situations. Without the ability to move, Jonas will likely not survive another year. We are moved to help, praying for the wisdom to know how. I have been pondering what it must be like for a little boy to have to lie on food relief sack atop a piece of mattress every day, watching the other kids come and go, waiting for someone to come and feed him and help him with ‘the necessary’, perhaps bring him news. Does he think about tomorrow? I re-read the account of Jesus healing the paralytic, truly how much joy must be present when life such as that which has known little but suffering is restored?
On Friday there was a small baby brought to the station, from the story it seems that this baby was born in ‘shame’ (perhaps abuse or incest) and was to be discarded. The Samburu who brought the baby asked if the missionaries would take the baby. Please pray for us and the Swanepoels that we would have wisdom to know what to do. Please pray that no harm comes to the baby. For now, we have agreed that we will help, we have asked the family to give us some time to consider what we can do. In speaking with the church elders, we are hoping that we can find a Samburu in the church who perhaps would take the baby.
There is also a Samburu lady we are trying to help. Nderesa is a Samburu woman with a very difficult story. She has no living children. In total she has carried 12 babies, many of them to the 7th or 8th month, where she delivers early and the baby does not survive. One baby received resuscitation but died just as a plane landed to take her to hospital. In her last pregnancy, Isaya and Gabriella (a church elder and his wife) took her into their home and cared for her allowing her to have complete bed rest. The baby was born at 8 months and survived. How Nderesa loved this child who she named Grace! But when Grace was around 4 months old she became sick with a chest infection. She died on Nderesa’s back on the way to the clinic. Nderesa is now 7 months pregnant again. Last week she walked an hour to come to our mama’s group. We talked with her about the pregnancy and the need to rest completely! I have a burden to do what we can to help this lady as much as possible so she can deliver safely. We had hoped that Nderesa would go to the mission hospital on Mt. Gatab (a 20 min flight) but having spoken with her, she is fearing to leave, and chooses to remain close to Kurungu. Please pray for her and the little one she carries, pray that when the time comes we will be able to know how to help.
Marooned in a Mynyatta
Stranded in a mynyatta is not exactly where I wanted to be at 600pm tonight. Over the weekend I had created a wonderful meal-plan for the week, that will help me organize myself, the freezer and pantry supplies and reduce the amount of mental trauma required to answer the question, “what’s for dinner”. I am getting better at the basics of bread, yogurt, granola, spaghetti sauce, curried dishes. How in Canada I would waltz past the tomato paste aisle, now, it is a necessary staple for existence, with at least 5% of my emotional stress stemming from how much paste I have left in the cupboard. Needless to say, that as the sky began to darken with streaks of cloud and reflected waning sunlight off the mountains, and I, along with Jesse and Andrea were sitting on a plastic lawn chair inside an animal bouma, drinking goats milk chai (after just having watched the goat being milked), I realized that my meal plan idea made it a whole one meal before meeting ruin. Jesse had a rather fun time of it all, chasing the goats, whom he calls “cows” and trying to feed them and/or “huggie” them. The Samburu children were playing with him after they get over the initial shock and horror of seeing a real ‘white child’ in the flesh. (There are some shrieks of terror for the first few seconds,- when they realize that this drooling, smiling blondie thinks that goat poo is fun to play with. That always seems to break the ice and render him as rather harmless).Earlier in the day, a mama walked 3 hours to come to the house, stating that her little daughter (5) had been badly burned. (She came as I was already engaged in dressing the burn wounds of a young toddler who had 2nd and 3rd degree burns from elbow to fingertips) I found out that the girl fell into the ashes and coal of a fire yesterday and burned both legs from feet to thigh front and back. I offered to come to her mynyatta when Jay could drive us around 4:30pm,- however the mama refused, fearing she could not afford the cost of the trip. She walked back to the mynyatta even though we assured her that there would be no charge, we simply wanted to help the girl. So, at 4:30, we all piled into the car,- Jay, the kids, Jesse on my lap and Mzee Andrea who knew the family, the mynyatta and has been my translator and helper in the medical work of late. We get to the edge of the road about 12 km up and Jay realizes that the sound the car is making is a rather unfortunate warning that we are running out of gas (we have no working gas gauge). So, he drops Andrea, Jesse and I along with our supplies to go find the mynyatta. It is about another 15 minutes of walking to find the place of the little girl. She was lying inside the hut, her older brother caring for her. We brought her out, and laid her on a piece of burlap to examine her legs. Blackened with little flesh remaining the little girl sat shaking. I can not imagine having a child in this much pain without any pain medicine to offer. How did she get through the night? She did not make a sound, although she did admit that her legs hurt terribly. I gave some ibuprofen and started to teach the brother how to care for the legs. Showing him the salve and the banana leaves that would serve as a barrier between the skin and bandage. (In burns, I am finding that using banana leaves or leaves of the muringa tree with a little salve or honey aids the healing process considerably. It is amazing that in changing a burn dressing there is no or very little discomfort for the patient). Andrea and I dress the legs while Jesse entertains at least 20 children who are finding him very entertaining. (I am afraid all of this attention is going to his head!) By the time we had finished all the bandaging, the mama had just returned from her long walk. She smiled and readily accepted the help. As we leave the mynyatta (Jesse waving bye-bye to his fan club) Jay calls Andrea (yes there is cell coverage, imagine that!) that the car has now broken down on the road 150 meters from our house,- and informing us to wait until he is able to fix the car. (A story later, which includes, refuelling the car via jerican and engaging the help of 18 Samburu children to push the car a few meters, and repairing the fuel pump wire that was disengaged) Jay returns to find that we have settled into a mynyatta drinking milky chai while watching the antics of Samburu children stripping down and washing for their evening bath around a small basin of water and a communal bar of soap. I am happy, although reflecting on my failed meal plan as the sun is fading and I realize at best I might be able to scramble a few eggs (if they are not chicken eggs) or maybe we even have to resort to popcorn and cookies which seems to be a fall back in dire situations. We travel home in the greying darkness, Jesse asleep on my lap in state of belly full of chai blissfulness, warriors filling up the back of the car, a home guard with his huge gun beside me (I checked the safety) all catching a lift and the juicy fruit junkie who came along for the ride. I am tired but happy, overflowing with hope.
A rather long post, so sorry, but it helps dialoguing about these things, I am thankful that I can rely on the many who pray for us to keep these ones and their needs in hearts and prayers. I have been comforted and encouraged by Romans 14:15
“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”