Dr. Andy Baldwin, Kenya/Facebook
I don’t remember a whole lot about getting to Africa, namely because I took so much Benadryl on the flight to Nairobi that it’s all a bit foggy. When I arrived, a guy from the guest house where I would sleep for an evening eyed my Patron Tequila duffel bag warily. The people are pretty religious. He softened a bit when I mentioned it was filled with running shoes and diapers. Whoops #1.
After a solid night’s sleep, I awoke early to catch a flight to Eldoret - a small town in Western Kenya, still carrying my massive quantity of luggage.
"Why on Earth are you checking three bags, Muzungu?" exclaimed the lady who checked me in. Muzungu is what they call white people here.
“They are full of medical supplies.” I replied.
She still charged me. At least some things are the same everywhere!
In Eldoret, I was greeted by Michelle and William Kiprop and their four-week-old son Ryan. Michelle and William were dropping off the departing medical doctor. Hailing from Boston, she pulled me to the side and said, “Good luck, you'll need it.” And then smiled, “Just kidding.”
As we drove into town to pick up supplies, I watched the chaos of the dirt roads full of chickens and sheep, with darting pedestrians and no semblance of a crosswalk. It brings a new meaning to the game of chicken - who will stop, who will swerve, who will survive? Somehow they all do. We bounced along for two hours with their four-week-old rocking in the back seat. That kid is going to be tough as nails.
When we arrived at the Health Clinic, I was greeted by an incredibly warm and grateful reception. All the nurses, midwives, and administrators dressed up in their white medical coats, chanting a song together, clapping their hands and singing. Even this little kid!
Streamers were tied across the entrance, and after making a formal greeting, this little guy handed me a pair of scissors to cut the streamers. All of this in the middle of a field of corn in rural Kenya!
The Kenyan people are highly ceremonial and make every attempt they can to welcome guests and make them feel at home. This high priority in relationships and community is what I believe has helped keep these people going in times of great crises.
After spending the day touring the health clinic and the nearby training center. What struck me the most was just how gracious and grateful everyone was. I was asked to sign a guest book everywhere I went and I recalled this from my trip to Kenya last year. Leaving a mark is very important here.
I had aspirations of going for a run, but it was very hot and humid, with mosquitoes everywhere. Of course I am still training for the double marathons (Nairobi & ING NY Marathon) so even jet lag can’t keep me away for too long, but I passed out on the bed in my hut for a while. I was awakened by the sound of the river nearby (it's quite loud) and headed to William and Michelle’s for dinner.
Over a delicious dinner of chai tea and ugale (corn mash) we talked for hours about public health issues here in their local community and in Kenya in general. It's a whole different world here - such a lack of resources and socio-medical problems, in particular in the area of women’s health.
There is a lot ahead this next month. I cannot wait to get into the clinic and do some work, teach, train, and most importantly learn.
Wondering how you can help?