First week at the hospital

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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.

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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.

IMG_0466I 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.

Day 3: Naivasha

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Well, not all days can be as simple and carefree as petting elephants and feeding Ed the giraffe. Not that today was bad, just feeling a wide range of feelings. The jet lag has funny ways of catching up with you. I went running this morning, which I love, but it has been a few weeks since my last run and we were at quite an elevation in Nairobi compared to Seattle at nearly 6000 ft. The run was hilly and I was still tired from sleeping less than usual.  I loved seeing a new part of the city, passing tons of Kenyans on their way to work. We dodged cars and rocks and potholes and saw the arboretum which was dense with foliage and thick with fog. What seemed cool in the morning was actually a touch humid and each time we stopped running – we could see the steam pulsing off of us.

I was tired after that run (and famished) devouring a huge breakfast before our three hour ride to Naivasha. It was a lovely drive. I particularly liked watching the landscape. what started urban with markets and buildings and thousands of people and cars, slowly faded into dense tress with peppered with buildings until eventually it became trees and low lying bush.  The trees faded after time and became bush and drier, dusty earth. We passed little towns packed with trucks and people, the road to Masaai Mara or the Kenyan side of the Serengeti. We came around a curve are there was the Great Rift Valley a breathless expanse just below the cliff that we perched upon.

Everything was so new and enticing. I want to see it all and explore it and better understand the touch and feel of the land.  By the time I got to Naivasha I had exhausted myself and felt overwhelmed at finally arriving at my destination. The reality is always a little bit harder than the wishful dreaming of driving through a place.  I spent the afternoon in a fog, shaky from travel, lack of caffeine and running and most likely still a fair bit jet lagged.

I am so happy to be here. I feel grateful to my family for helping me achieve this dream and supporting me entirely. It’s such a rollercoaster of fatigue. One minute you are laughing and then next you feel foggy and hungry or exhausted. I miss my family. Seeing their faces tonight was so sweet, but made me wish they could be here to see this all and take it all in with me. I was speaking with our driver Bernard today, who is a kind and lovely soul and he was commenting on the same – that i need to bring my family here. Someday I told him. Someday.

XO.

Day 2: Nairobi

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IMG_0367Today was a day for tourism. We were all in heaven when we were able to pet orphaned baby elephants (!!!) and feed the giraffes – you could even put the little pellet between your teeth and have the giraffe, Ed, eat it from your teeth. Super gross and definitely very strange, but it is favorite activity to be kissed by a giraffe (so we definitely egged people on to do it!). I did not want to miss out on such an unusual experience – it felt something akin to slimy sandpaper. We ate a leisurely lunch, delicious samaki (fish) for me, and spent the day getting to know each other. It was a great way to explore Nairobi and get a sense of the landscape and the culture.

My favorite part by far was the visit to the bead factory. Kazuri beads is this hidden gem. They make their own clay, a beautiful mocha brown that is pressed and formed into both their clay for beads and bricks to be used during the firing process. They predominantly make beads, brightly colored in unique shapes and sizes. Their products are shipped all over the world. One of the coolest parts was that they employee over 300 women, mostly single mothers, offering them free medical care.

 

After a very long summer of school, work and clinical I felt a lot of my stress just seeping out of me with each experience. Going to grad school gives you feeling similar to PTSD, where you are constantly under the gun, completing checklists and always trying to catch up. There’s really none of that feeling here, I have very few responsibilities compared to my life at home. They day was warm and breezy in the morning and around 5pm it became a torrential downpour, pounding on the roof and soaking us through. It felt good to this desert girl’s ears to hear the rain and know that the dust would be a little more settled and the green would be allowed to drink heartily.

Thanks for reading.
XO

ps. I’ll post some photos when I am able, but my wifi connection isn’t strong enough today to comply with my efforts.

Day 1: Dubai and Nairobi

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I’m jet lagged and overwhelmed. We spent the night in Dubai. It was in the 90’s-100F with 30% humidity, wet and oppressive. We had only a few hours to explore Dubai so we wandered the Dubai mall, observing the expats and locals – hoards of families with small kids were in the mall since it was Saturday night and a main attraction.  I enjoyed admiring the sea of women in burkas and men in crips white flowing robes.

The mall was filled with shops from Cartier and Hermes to Pottery Barn Kids – very overwhelming and a little bit sad to be honest. I had a moment where I was overwhelmed by the fact that we could purchase McDonalds and froyo to the Middle East. But whom am I kidding –they brought stuff to us too. Its globalization at its finest or ugliest. Beauty in the eyes of the beholder.

We walked to the Burj Khalifa the tallest building in the world –so tall that you have to lay on the ground to see it. I don’t understand it – why are things simply cool because they are tall? Is it s a representation of MEN (not men, but Man) themselves? We watched a water fountain display and if you stood back and looked almost every single person had their phone up taking a photo or video – it was a sea of raise technology arms staring at a water fountain. We were jet lagged, full, and aching for sleep. Islam our driver came for us and we rode back to the hotel to fall into fitful sleep that was neither deep nor enduring.

Which brings me to today – even more tired. Carla, my girlfriend who lives in Dubai, came and delivered me a coffee in the form of a card and money and chatted for a minute. So fun to see an old face in Dubai. She was lithe and tan and looked amazing as usual.

Once I landed in Kenya it was so familiar and foreign. Flat, dusty landscape punctuated by trees. It was balmy and cool with Diesel fuel wafting around. Walking off the airplane to the tarmac we piled through customs and visa check points – surprisingly easy. I stood in a line for a Kenyan sim card for way too long (welcome to Kenya) only to have it not work on my phone, while drips of sweat rolled down my butt cheek to my calf. We left the airport with my crying – the exhaustion and frustration bubbling up. If our driver noticed my crying he was polite enough to ignore it.  First cry: done.

We made it to the guest house where we will stay here in Nairobi for the next two days.  WE got settled in our rooms that are cozy and have showers and bathrooms, luxuries I had not expected. Dinner out at was delicious at at american style restaurant where we ate burgers and beers on a patio, breezy and slightly cool. All in all, the last 36 hours of travel has been typical – tiring and overwhelming but I feel extremely grateful to be here. Hopeful for new experiences (and a lot of sleep).

XO,

Katherine

little great things

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IMG_0640 2 This was an accidental picture that I took on the ferris wheel today, and I love that it has captured a real and happy smile for me (and an awesome cowl made by my friend!). I’ve been really annoyed with the kids lately and it’s not any one particular thing, but a little bit of this and a little bit of that. It’s part me and part them. It’s so tough to be a parent, in all its relentlessness despite the gajillion rewards of it. Sometimes you just want a break, or to not be asked for a snack for the millionth time or to take a shower without being interrupted. Or sometimes I just wish I was alone and didn’t have kids.

I’m solo parenting this weekend which is great and much easier now that the kids are older. Andy is taking a much needed guys trip, which works out for me as I do love a little alone time. As a way to make the weekend fun, we planned a surprise trip to the Great Ferris Wheel because we’ve never been and the kids have been dying to ride it. It was a beautiful amazing day of weather — crystal clear skies, not too cold and not a weekend — all prerequisites for me to even set foot near it.

It was magic too. To see their excitement and hear their chatter as they got a little more scared with each climb. It’s a beautiful, breathtaking view of the sound and olympics. Afterward we went out to dinner and topped it off with ice cream. It was a perfect evening where we laughed and joked and nobody whined to play with a phone.

IMG_0638 IMG_0639Bedtime rolled around and Owen couldn’t find his little puppy that one that went with us on all our adventures. We retraced our steps and figured it had to be at the restaurant or the ice cream shop.  Normally I would be grumpy and say no to going to look for it, but when I speculated that maybe he left it on the ferris wheel, his tears were just too much for me. So at 10pm we put our jackets on over our jammies and retraced our steps.

“This is the biggest mystery ever,” he said in his high voice.

“Really, the biggest? I gotta get you some detective novels,” I told him.

“Mom, next time I’m gonna teleport myself back so I can see where I left my puppy.”

As were were driving back home I told Owen, “Well, case closed. We found your puppy. He must have wanted extra ice cream.”

“What’s case closed mom?” he asked.

“It means we solved the mystery. We figured out the clues,” I told him.

“Oh! Just like Princess Labelmaker in Origami Yoda!” he said.

Ya, exactly like that.

So cheers from our house to yours. Here’s to good days and bad days, stuffed puppies who just needed a teensy bit more ice cream and always, always having the option to teleport.

 

Book List 3/100: Best Reads of 2014

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IMG_0571Happy Tuesday! This New Yorker pretty much sums up how I feel about books. I want to pile them all up around me, stand on them, and then start making out. Or something to that effect.  Here’s something I’m proud of: despite starting grad school this year I actually managed to read a little bit. Take that grad school! When I was looking back at the books I did read this year, I was surprised that my list was fairly short. You may be rolling your eyes at me, but I love reading.

Then I remembered why I hadn’t read that many books! This was the year of loooong books. Is this the new thing for authors, to just keep writing longer and longer till we wonder if it will ever end?! Let’s hope 2015 isn’t all about that. I was curious how many pages were represented and I came up with a whopping total of 3,096.

So, if you are interested in reading roughly 3,000 pages — this list is for you.  Some of them read much quicker than others, I will give them that. Anthony Doerr’s book was brilliant and felt so fast that I never wanted it to end. The Bone Clocks just made me dizzy and confused, but David Mitchell is so amazing that you don’t really care how confused you are. Also, if you like to laugh or have parents or work in healthcare or are just human, please read Roz Chast’s graphic novel. You will thank me.

1. All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

2. Can’t We Talk about Something More Pleasant? by Roz Chast

3. The Bone Clocks by David Mitchell

4. The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt

5. The Signature of All Things by Elizabeth Gilbert

6. Motherless Brooklyn by Jonathan Lethem

Everything changes

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It’s December 12th and I have just finished my first quarter as a graduate student. Whoa people. Just whoa.

Honestly, I’m not sure I thought I could do this nor did I believe I would actually follow through with the program. A year ago I was supposed to start my nurse practitioner program, but I deferred because my mother had died and I just didn’t have it in me. Two years ago I was confused, angry and overwhelmed and my marriage was on the brink of disaster.  It was in the midst of this dark time that I applied to grad school.  Truthfully though, ever since I finished nursing school I’e been wanting a new career. I tried applying to med school but it wasn’t right. My heart wasn’t entirely in it and it reflected in my process. My goals changed, I had small children and too little money. Then Andy went back to grad school and we moved a gajillion times, and it was still not the right time.

I could blame my frustration and unhappiness on so many things: moving too many times, my parents chaos, a religious upbringing or even on Andy and the kids; while they are all part of it in their own way, there is another part of the story.

It was me. I didn’t believe in myself. I didn’t have direction or hope or purpose. I didn’t believe in my ability to do anything I wanted. I would tell it to my kids, but I wasn’t living it. I have spent my whole life following rules and being good, but hadn’t cultivated a life that asked questions or explored. I didn’t put myself as first priority.

It’s amazing how time changes and perspectives shift. I’ve learned that in order to grow I have to take risks. I don’t like risks. I theoretically like change, but it’s the first step that trips me up. It’s the same with this space. I want to be here more, but I don’t have time, so I stay away entirely. Another thing I’m learning how to do is to fail. To make mistakes. There are endless possibilities for any thing I choose, but not choosing anything get me a whole lot of nothing.

I’m aware that my life is looking really good right now. I have a home that I love. My marriage is growing and evolving into something I am proud of, and I have all the things I need, plus more. These moments may end, my health could change or our car could die or something catastrophic could happen— I realize the fragile line that exists between good and bad; for that, I am thankful. I was laughing with my friend Jenene about how neither of us would ever say, “I’m so happy right now!” We just aren’t that chipper or positive. Peppy people annoy me usually.

Yet, I’m really happy right now. There I said it.

So maybe you are happy too or you are in the midst of the darkest time of you life, please know that one soul in this world gets it. I’ve been there and maybe I’ll be there again.  Who knows, but as woman we can band together and keep each other going by reminding each other where we come from and that it does matter.

 

Writing Wednesday

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Four weeks tomorrow, that’s how long I’ve been in graduate school.  I had all these hopes that I would be more balanced than other people, that I wouldn’t get sucked into all the stress of school because, I have kids. I have priorities.

For a week or two I felt pretty upbeat. I was on top of reading, enjoying the content and looking at everything with interested eyes. Then came week four.

It leveled me. I have been exhausted, overwhelmed, reduced to tears.  This is all normal I know, but I just hate feeling this way.  I’m working too much and have way too little personal time and space.  They told us that grad school is a marathon not a sprint and yet, I don’t even have time to slow down. Either I’m working or I’m reading or I’m doing something that pertains to my family.

Yesterday, I had a moment where I was alone with my kids for 30 minutes while Andy left and I almost went crazy.  I was trying to read an article and Owen needed help and Addy wanted to play me her cello solo, and it was just too much. I resented my kids and resented everything.

Then, something magical happened Owen set the table all cute and we cooked some lamb burgers for dinner and had such a lovely evening talking about how much we love each other. Addy played us some after dinner cello, that was sweet in all its pluckiness, and Owen clapped his little hands for her. It’s rare to see them love on each other these days. It was all so normal and so perfect.

This is the real face of being a working mother/full-time student/wife/individual — there are so many sacrifices and requirements. I feel like I’m on a roller coaster. Tonight Addy was crying because she wants to go on a date with me, and she was sobbing that “we are just too busy,” and I get it. We are too busy, and I don’t know when we are going to go on that date. But I want to, I really want to.

For now, I’m hanging in there. I’m learning about health inequalities and loving every second of it. I’m playing Quiz Up, because goodness knows I need something to get me through some really long class hours. I’m eating good meals made mostly by Andy which is such a gift. I’m listening to Serial, the new podcast spinoff by Sarah Koenig – gah, I’m hooked. I’m reading The Bone Clocks and slowly being drawn in to David Mitchell’s amazing literary genius. And hopefully you will find me here each Wednesday over the next few months, checking in, rambling, boring you with grad school stuff, and just writing about life.

 

a birthday

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I’m not sure about you, but I love my birthday. I love that I get to take a full day to celebrate being alive and that I can tell the kids crap like, “You aren’t allowed to fight on my birthday,” and they sheepishly believe it (for now). It’s been weeks since it passed and I am still grateful that I took a day to smile more, to let things roll off more and do nice things for myself.

I turned 33 this year and I think it is going to be a good year. This fall I will start graduate school (yikes!), and watch my daughter turn 10 (double yikes!). Both the kids are in school and thriving, which I’m so grateful for. I have a marriage that feels like a real partnership, both messy and beautiful. I”m not totally fulfilled in life, but I am seeking more and growing more — which is enough. I don’t like when things are too perfect.  

It’s surprising to me the number of my friends that hate their birthday, that actively avoid celebrations and refuse parties and dinners out and presents. Whatever their reasons, I get it, it’s a funny thing to have focused attention and we all have different traditions and family upbringings.

My mother was so good at the celebration part, and it was the small things she did, the in between stuff.  We didn’t have any money but there was always a cake, one that was doctored from a box. There were always friends, and swim parties and lots of chips, and always, always candles to blow out. I can’t remember getting any presents, but she made me feel important, to which I value dearly.

My birthday party this year was perfect. We doctored up our back yard and strung lights and had the most magical garden dinner party with wonderful friends. Everyone brought delicious side dishes and we devoured crispy BBQ pork bahn mi sandwiches and drank lots of rose. At the end of the night, as they sang me happy birthday, I felt total contentment. Since I’m not really big on sweets and cakes, I made my own dessert, a berry cobbler, because sometimes you just have to take matters into your own hands.

 

 

Dance lessons

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For many years growing up I was an athlete. I played soccer, basketball and volleyball and even track for a blip. While I did well and enjoyed it, I found that competition drove me to be angry. After college I took up running and started doing half marathons and eventually started practicing yoga. I love to exercise, it’s as much for my body as it is for my mood. Because, let’s be honest, living in Seattle requires a healthy supplement of Vitamin D or something to balance the lack of sunshine for nine months.

But, the one thing that I have always wanted to be is: a dancer. It’s in my blood too. You see, I come from a family of kitchen dancers. It’s one of my favorite memories of growing up, putting music on and dancing in the kitchen like hooligans with my mom and siblings. At weddings I am one of the first on the dance floor and the last to leave, and have no qualms about having a dance party in my living room at any given time.

Aside from my kooky dancing and general goofiness, I really love the art of dance.  I find dance so inspiring and evocative and often am reduced to tears. The power and beauty of dance changes me when I watch it and I want more of it in my life.

The truth is, I’m a little terrified to take a dance class.  Lately though, I am realizing that moving my body is very therapeutic for me and I find a lot of inspiration and happiness from dancing.  So, I’m thinking of taking a dance class now that my back is healing and I think I’ve recruited a couple of friends, which always makes it easier.  Would you ever take one? If I pluck up the courage I’ll let you know how it goes.

Want to watch some amazing dancing? (I’m a SYTYCD junkie).


 

 

 

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