I don’t really know where to start. One week ago I was sitting in my house packing and repacking all my stuff up for the final time, slightly panicked about my upcoming trip. I was worrying about the right clothes to pack and whether or not to bring my aeropress, slightly embarrassing if I can admit. That feels like a long time ago, although I do wish I had brought it. I can’t claim a total disregard for frivolities.
I’ve spent the last three days in Naivasha County Hospital touring the hospital, rounding on the patients and getting to know the nurses and doctors. Overall I can only say how impressed I am with the level of kindness and warmth from the staff. Coming from the US to a different country is bound to be interesting. I am daily impressed by how patients get better despite how sick they are. Kenyans are resilient individuals. They make do with what they have and what they have varies and can be extremely challenging.
I don’t really want to comment on the state of healthcare in Kenya, because honestly it’s complex, historical and political and I don’t feel like it is my place. What I will say is that this experience is overwhelming and exciting. It is overwhelming to try and step into a foreign world and try to understand the process, the way other individuals think and process. It is also humbling to walk in somewhere new, where your white-ness is very apparent. It is a good thing to be confronted with my inherent white privilege that I have back home. For the first time in a while I am not in the majority. I welcome this change but admit that it leaves me feeling vulnerable and visible – something I am not accustomed to feeling.
Doing any foreign study or service project always brings with it a question – do we do more harm then good? It is a valid question without a simple answer. I believe we can do some good, but only if we set aside our agendas and try to work with the community to improve what is best for them. In the past three days it is clear to me that I probably will get more out of this than they will, and that’s ok. For now I am observing, listening and trying to ask questions. I am practicing my Swahili by saying jambo and sa sa and greeting people with a smile. I hope that goes a long way.
Here are a few things I love about Kenya so far: The day start cool, heats up in the middle of the day and then rapidly cool off around 4-5pm – it’s perfect. Everything is brightly colored with hand-lettered signs and patterns everywhere. The Kenyan food is amazing with vibrant herbed lentils, rice and vegetable all wrapped up in warm chapatti bread (similar to naan). At the hospital this meal would cost you 200 shillings or about 2 bucks. Kenyans dress sharp; have the warmest smiles, soft hands and this beautiful elegant contour to their forehead. My favorite time of the day is the morning when it is cool and quiet – you can pass people walking to work, motorcycles zooming by and an occasional donkey roaming along the side of the road. It’s a beautiful chaos.
Happy weekend to all of you.