Thursday, July 1, 2010

Canada Day and Barefoot Running FAIL

Happy Canada Day! It’s my first Canada Day in a country other than Canada and it’s a little bit strange not to be racing today. We brought enough decorations to deck out the apartment in streamers and balloons and paper flags and to cover ourselves in Canada tattoos. My professor is currently cooking up a storm for our party tonight in which we are inviting the sisters from the hospital where we are staying. In an attempt to be Canadian, we are cooking potato wedges, Sheppard’s pie, chocolate chip cookies, mango salsa and some Kenyan sukuma wiki (fried kale). The hospital where we are living is a very religious place built and funded by Italians so all the nurses are nuns. Apparently they are awesome though so we should be able to continue with the red and white theme with several glasses of red and white wine.

My barefoot running project was temporarily a major fail. After two 6-8 km walks in flip flops and a treadmill run barefoot in the same 2 days, I am now nursing golf ball sized blisters on the bottom of my feet. So I grumpily put my sneakers back on today to be able to walk around the Meru hospital without walking funny. The blisters are much less fluidy today than they were last night so the golf ball sized lump of pus-y blister is now only about the size of a marble. We have the next 3 days off so I can recover and start running again by Saturday. I think it was the flip flop walks that that gave me the blisters and not the barefoot treadmill run because the roads are not really roads, they’re like walking through ankle deep super fine sand. I probably would have been better off walking barefoot!

This morning we headed to the Meru District Hospital to meet with the Nutritionist there. Unfortunately she had double booked because she got called into a last minute meeting with the district someone or other. We met with the district medical officer instead and then a dietetic intern took us into the children’s ward to see the cases of severe malnutrition that were currently being treated in the hospital. The medical officer asked us not to take pictures, which was totally fine by us. Apparently a group of Scottish people had come previously, taken lots of pictures and then published them and made the hospital look horrible. He emphasized that Kenya is a poor country and that although the hospital isn’t exactly state of the art but they were doing the best they cook with the resources they have.

The children’s ward was absolutely heart breaking. It smelt horribly like urine despite the scrubbing that the nurses were doing of the hallways and tables. Half the room was filled with mothers and their babies slash small children, and the other half was filled with orphaned babies. I felt like a monster standing there, listening to the doctor and the dietetic intern explain how they treat the different deficiency diseases, while the mothers starred at us wondering why we were there. Although apparently the mothers had been warned that we were coming as nutritionists to learn, I couldn’t help but feel like these mothers were sitting there feeling as though we were judging them. Our professor then asked us to pull out our notebooks to take notes, which made me actually want to cry. The thought of standing in front of these people writing notes about their malnourished children was mortifying and felt incredibly inappropriate. I realize that there are students all over the world in hospitals taking notes and learning from other peoples diseases and illnesses but I couldn’t help but feel like we were being insensitive and should not have even been in the ward at all. The orphaned side of the room was even worse in terms of the severity of the malnourished children. There was a baby who was so severely energy malnourished that he was literally skin and bones. Other babies were so protein deficient that they had edema so bad they looked about 20 pounds over weight. It’s hard to be in the hospital seeing these kids and not actually working within the hospital to help any of them.

After the depressing hospital trip, we went into Meru on the hunt for a reliable taxi man. Jennifer, who is the head of the Muchui Women’s Group (who we are working with quite closely on crop diversification and giving family nutrition and infant nutrition seminars to) had a lead on someone she felt was trust worthy but he was asking way to much. Our current driver Steve also had a lead on someone else who we eventually convinced to drive us around to all the different schools and women’s groups at a reasonable price. His name is George and he will be our taxi driver for the rest of the trip. Everytime we met a new potential taxi driver, our professor talked to him, Steve talked to him in Swahili and Jennifer talked to him to make sure they would take good care of us and to negotiate a price. Meanwhile, Christina and I were being introduced to them and it felt as though we were basically being put on display and being sold to the lowest bidder. In the end though we now how a reliable taxu driver who will be safe to travel with and who can take us to all of our presentations and meeting and to the grocery store. It will be nice to have some freedom and be able to leave the hospital compound whenever we want.

I’ve been keeping up with everyone’s blogs in an attempt to keep up with what’s going on in the world back in Canada but I’m doing a horrible job keeping in touch with everyone and replying to emails and such. So I apologize in advance. I’m blaming the sketch internet connection.

This week sometime we are going to talk to Henry the planner extraordinaire to plan a trip to either Samburu Hills or Lake Nakuru for another safari and to arrange our climb of Mt Kenya during our last week here in September. The professors leave tomorrow so we will be able to settle into a real routine starting next week which will be awesome. It helps that Prof Jen will no longer be cooking 5 course meals for us every night so I can eat normally and exercise regularly too! I have to start training for climbing Mt Kenya!

(A Few Hours Later...)
I am currently sitting with a bunch of nuns drinking wine and twirling the ends of kikoy into fabulous spirals by rolling them along our legs. I never thought I would spend Canada Day in Kenya drinking with a bunch of nuns. Good Times.

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