Sunday, August 5, 2007

Bill's reflections on week 1.

August 2 2007

Elizabeth, Liam and I have now been in Kenya for a week and lot has been going on. We arrived at Kijabe (the site of the hospital Elizabeth is serving in) after a 36 hour journey. Our trip was fairly straight forward- if long- and Liam handled everything with aplomb. We unpacked and got settled in and then packed up for a weekend stay back at Nairobi (about 1.5 hours away) to stay with our good friends the Harbers. We struggled to get adjusted to the time change for the first few days (Liam kept waking up ridiculously early ready to play), but somehow the hospitality of our hosts helped ease our transition. Covering the past 7 years with our conversations took up most of our cherished time with these wonderful friends. We had several adventures, Elizabeth was able to run with them again in a nearby forest and we spent the evenings by their fire sipping port and periodically stopping to acknowledge how funny the American accent is. David and Jenny have a staff of 6 Kenyans that are paid competitively and meet every need ranging from laundry, meal cooking, tea times (at wake up, 10am, and 4pm), yard work, night guarding, horse keeping--they have 4, car washing, daily fire place cleaning and prep--there are 4 places, etc. Given that there is 50% unemployment in Kenya folks are grateful to have work at all. While in Nairobi, we visited the house of our stay from 98' to 2000. We were longing to see our landlord and his family and we weren't even sure he would still be alive. We were greeted at the gate by our good friend, James, who has continued to work for even less than peanuts for the Bharaj family. It was a sweet reunion for Elizabeth and I to see James and to exchange handshakes and hugs. To help supplement Jame's family income, we had employed his wife, Jonas, for a few days each week. We had visited their dirt-floored tin shack in a neighboring slum and witnessed how desperate their lives were. They named their daughter after Elizabeth and James was always a friendly presence around our home as he worked the garden. It was terribly bitter for us, then, to suspect James and Jonas as the ones to have taken more than $800 in the days before we moved back to Seattle. We called the police in to investigate and quickly called them off the case after James was roughed up. James steadfastly claimed his and Jonas' innocence and yet we had nobody else to suspect who could have had access to our home. Anyway, regardless of who took the money, 7 years had softened my heart about the event and I was just glad to see him again. We asked about another of the gardeners, Victor, and James said he was fired years ago for stealing from Bharaj. I didn't suspect Victor could access our house, but now my guess is he found a way. The fact that James is still working for Bharaj, actually, is his best proof of innocence seeing as whoever took that money pocketed almost two years worth of salary for James. We left behind a single malt bottle of scotch whiskey for Bharaj (what speaks love to a Siekh man whose religion supposedly foreswears alcohol) and left some money for James and Jonas.Victor, God bless him if he took the money, needed $800 much more than Elizabeth and I missed it. As we drove around Narobi with the Harbers, Elizabeth and I kept looking at each other with smiles at familiar sites ranging from the ridiculous to the beautiful. The roads seem improved and we were struck at the marked decrease in litter that used to blanket the streets and fields. The actual improvement of the country (economy, crime, corrumption, etc.) really depends on who you ask as we have gotten radically different responses every time we bring the topic up. The Harbers took us to the animal orphanage and Liam got to see, face to trunk, 10 frolicking orphaned baby elephants. Yes, baby elephants frolick. They were hilarious rolling around in the mud and dirt, wrestling, and kicking a soccer ball. After Liam got over his fear (we were separated by only a thin yellow rope...would lawyers EVER let this arrangement happen in the States?) he delighted in them. We also saw a baby rhino before heading the the Giraffe Manor where 10 giraffe will feed out of your hand. Elizabeth gamely fed one with a food nugget from her mouth. Yep, she got a fat, giraffe smooch and all on film. The next day, the Harbers took us to a private game reserve and we had a picnic lunch within site of jumping gazelles and all sorts of birds swooping in to land in our small lake. We were the only other people in the whole ranch and it stretched as far as we could see. The Harbers let me drive their four-wheeler ATV around the lake and Liam and Elizabeth joined me on seperate, slower drives. We got on mountain bikes and proceeded on a two wheel safari. Pretty surreal to be pedaling amidst a wildebeast, ostrich, zebra, a family of 12 giraffe, antelope, warthog. We were assured that there were no cats or other dangerous game. Regardless, Liam stayed in the car. :) On Sunday, we were going to attend Matthew Harbers polo match but it was cancelled. Good thing Jack's cricket match was not! If you've ever wanted to know the rules of cricket, I think I could get pretty close. We finally stopped playing with the Harbers and were driven as per usual in heart-stopping fashion (by Jacqueline, in a van given to her family by my Young Life leader, Scott Hashimoto, so that they could have an income source--long story) back to Kijabe. This week has been a great challenge for Elizabeth as she has jumped right into some incredibly difficult medical cases. Many patients die not for lack of proper care but for lack of blood supplies or access to modern equipment. She has been able to be the lead doctor on a c-section and has done so many other amazing things already. Today, she is "up country" at a remote clinic, together with one other nurse, to see patients. That scenario would scare the crap out of me even if I did know all what Elizabeth knows. She really is an excellent, and brave, doctor. Liam and I have been exploring Kijabe a bit, tracking the monkeys that jump around in the trees just outside our door and playing in the missionary preschool playground. A family has loaned us toys and the all important bat and balls. The past two mornings, Liam and I have volunteered in the surgery prep room. Our job has been to take large rolls of gauze bandaging, unroll, cut and fold into a usable size. It feels pretty insignificant, but someone has to do it. Liam has been a rock star in the hospital with friendly Kenyans trying to pry a handshake or smile from him. He has been game to supervise me and the other Kenyan folders. This is now more journal than letter to you guys, but thanks for indulging. Please pray for me. There is a skin something or other that might be staph that radiates from my left eye lid to the side of my head. Nothing too serious yet, but annoyingly itchy. Liam and I go on a brief safari this weekend at Lake Nakuru National Park. I'm pretty fired up to see him take in his first lion in the wild.

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