Saturday, March 31, 2012

Volunteering Update...

My main premise on coming to Kenya was to volunteer and help in as many ways as I could, and to hopefully broaden my social work skills. I thought I might give you all an update of where I'm at with that :)

I'm still volunteering at Lea Toto, and it has been good. Not always perfect, but good. My day to day activities can usually include:

-Filing Social Work and Medical Forms
-Going on home visits in Kibera, to check and see how our clients are doing (this includes assessing any new needs of the client, any new events going on, checking on their drug adherence, and seeing how their health and schooling is progressing)
-Going to the bank, the school outfitters store, the shoe store, and to various schools to pay school fees and check on quotations for school uniforms
-Visiting any clients who may be in respite, or the hospital
-Filling out per visit forms and writing down everything I've done with the clients
-Handing out vouchers for school uniforms and shoes, sometimes assisting with World Food Program food distribution
-Going to some sort of training (sometimes in Swahili, but still--a good way to broaden my skills and connect with clients)
-Helping out in the pharmacy, packaging Septrin (inhibits growth of viruses in the body--I believe), sometimes administering prescriptions
-Taking tea and bread(if you don't, its considered blasphemy)and sneaking some to sweet little kids

These are some of the things I love love love doing! My favorite thing is to connect with clients, and see when we've made a positive difference for them. Yesterday, I had a woman with a young girl thank me on behalf of the program for the food aid she had recieved, because the family had been going hungry lately. It is good to see a positive change happen for someone.

I heard from a friend that people come to Africa with this fiery compassion and just want to do everything possible--but that after around 3 months, you get a sort of compassion fatigue. It is such a buzz word in the social work field, but I can see what is meant by that statement. For instance, while I should be shocked at what I see in Kibera every day, I have grown used to it. I don't flinch at having to long jump over streams of garbage and sewage, and my first time here I cried when I found out some of the children were HIV+ --but not anymore. Since I see these things daily, they become less of a shock to me. I'm choosing to see this as kind of a blessing though--that because of this level headedness, I may be able to connect with people and help facilitate some manageable change here, no matter how great or small.

I have encountered more struggles this time in Kenya though, both work and non work related. Included are.....

-Feeling as if I cannot connect with my clients and coworkers properly. My manager asked me about this and was very honest in saying that it is likely because I am white and foreign, with the language barrier being significant. Sometimes clients feel nervous to encounter me, and you can't exactly have water cooler talk with your coworkers when they are speaking a language you don't fully understand. My way forward with this is to convey kindness and compassion in any way and to everyone I can, in addition to broadening my language skills.

-Lack of a support network. Man, do I ever appreciate having coffee after work with Michelle, Ann, Angel, and Mauricio last time I was here. It was an excellent way to unwind after encountering whatever in the day. It has been more difficult this time around because I come home straight after work to an empty house (Emmanuel gets home late) and because I have 1 foreign friend to connect with. My goal for this one is to try to meet some more people, either foreign or Kenyan.

-The heat. I'm pretty sure all the mabatis (tin roofs) in Kibera just suck all the heat to that one little area. I lose most of my body weight in sweat daily. Gross, I know. I'm going to invest in some tank tops, shorts, and sandals from Ngara market to help this. Also to be supplemented by ridiculous water intake, sunscreen,and hiding in the shade when possible.

-The thought that I'm not doing enough here. There are days in which the most satisfying part is seeing all the dirt wash off of me and knowing that I am now a clean person (Gross--again--I know.). Sometimes it seems that filing odds and ends and sitting at a desk isn't the best I can be doing, that more assistance could be done if I were down in the deepest part of Kibera, problem solving with clients or something. I know that filing helps, but sometimes I get kind of grumpy that my social work skills aren't exactly being ameliorated that way. I've heard social work is 20% field work/80% paperwork, which is both daunting and comforting. Way forward with this is to do a variety of things at the program and try to stay inspired.

-The bank of Kayla. My Dad always used to joke that I saw him as the bank of Dad. Growing up, I needed food, shelter, field trip money, whatever. Because Dad is Dad (And Dad I am grateful for--thanks, Dad.)Here, there is a stereotype that white=rich. People see my fair skin and ask me to buy them things. In fairness, Canadians do on average make more that Kenyans. But if you know me, you know that I am pretty careful with my money and dislike being taken advantage of (who doesn't?). So sometimes I struggle to figure out who to help with what I have. When I'm downtown usually I'll buy a loaf of bread and give some to people I come across who are begging. Constantly I am asked for school fees, to buy lunch, or 'Mzungu, buy me a sweet!'. I can't help everyone, but I can help some people. My idea for this is to just use my better judgement--know what I am truly able to give, assess who is truly in need and who may be targeting me based on my appearance, and to generally give at my discretion. I think it is everyone's job to look out for others, but also to look out for themselves.

-Dirt. Gross comment #3: Haven't had a proper bath or shower since I got here. I bathe out of a bucket with about 12 litres of water, and just pour it all over myself and lather until I'm acceptably clean. The first thing I will do when I get back to Canada is take a long, hot shower. Then grab Tim Hortons (Steeped Tea, double double), grab my besties, and go watch some Timbits hockey (I highly recommend it--its adorable.)

So yes, life here in Kenya is not always perfect. There are days I feel I haven't done enough or days I feel down. But the good always seems to outweigh the bad, and paying school fees for a young girl, holding a new baby, and seeing a child eat after going without always warms my heart. Getting down and dirty is well worth it. It is part of what makes Kenya so lovely, and what makes me want to spend my time here.

"Go now to make a difference in this perilous and broken world.
May you all hold each human life in the same regard as your own.
May you bring serenity and peace to the lives of others.
May God's Loving Spirit go with you and guide you this day and always.

- Convocation Benediction Given by The Rev. Brian Yealland,
Queen's University, 30 October 2003.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Dear Aga Khan University Hospital,

You are a business, not a hospital. And your customer service sucks.

Attempt #1: Sent with a letter marked 'URGENT' from your sister clinic downtown (to whom I paid a handsome consultation fee which was to be extended to my hospital use) to see a ear specialist since I am going deaf. Ear specialist decided to take the day off. Rescheduled by nurse for ear clinic.

Attempt #2: Come for the ear clinic. Find out it has been cancelled by the doctor. Reschedule appointment.

Attempt #3: Since I didn't see the specialist after I had gone to the clinic, they wanted me to re pay the consultation fee. Not my fault, your doctor went home early, then cancelled the clinic. I will not re pay, my pride is too big and my bank account too small.

I'm better going off to KNH, where the nurses are striking. Even if they aren't showing up for work they are at least doing something productive/more than you are and I bet the service is better too.

I'll be back only to insult you in sign language, since I am still going deaf.

That is all.


Kayla Woodruff.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

My Week, In Point Form.

-My volunteer social work placement at Lea Toto is going well. I asked my boss to give me some criticism so I could make more constructive use of my time, and she said be flexible--so now not only do I do the social work stuff, but also pharmacy stuff too and trips to town/wherever to get quotes for things clients need, etc.

-That also being said, the social worker I shadow thinks I do already make myself flexible, which is nice to hear. I walked all the way to Lea Toto to Soweto Primary (by myself!). It took a while. Then when I got there they offered me a job teaching. Ha! And also got to do some other social worker stuff on my own, which was great.

-I took a picture of myself intending to post it so that my family and friends could see a recent photo of me. Then I decided It looked ridiculous, since I was making the 'I don't know what face to make' face in it. I'll try harder this week...

-After typing this whole post I realized I wouldn't be that motivated. Here is what I look like after 3 months in Kenya, flaws and all. I decided to allow myself to black and white this (I always think it looks nicer...even if I am making this face.)

-I got my hair cut. I realized that the heat here + hair half way down my back was just not ok anymore. It is shoulder length now and is subsequently healthier and easier to manage. (The hairdresser triple checked to make sure I was sure I wanted it done--haha.)

-In relation to the last point, I got my hair cut by a woman from Texas in this suburb of Nairobi known for having a large expatriate was both wonderful and strange to be around people of my culture. Pro: Similar senses of humour, being able to connect with someone from home. Nice smelling products on my hair. Cons: Culture shock. Seeing people pay huge amounts for temporary things like nail painting and having their hair curled. Myself paying foreigner prices for foreigner services. (Since so many foreigners here make a hefty paycheque, you can't exactly find a cheap haircut here.) But it had to be done.

-I lost my hearing in my right ear. Panicked a little at first, but then I just went to the clinic, and they referred me the hospital to see some sort of ear specialist. Now, after a couple days of drops, I am still without a functioning right ear.

-Ran out of water today. Finally cracked and am paying someone to do my laundry so that I don't become a dirty person this week. I solved my previous dilemma of what to pay this person by paying more than what she might normally get from others, for less laundry. I worked it out and it will be a pretty solid wage for the time it will take, etc. This had been weighing heavily on my mind.

-Have been trying to broaden my horizons and learn more about the particular group of people I work with. Did you know that HIV isn't contracted via kissing and is not airborne? Also, it dies outside of its host body rather quickly--so sharing a waterbottle or shaking hands really won't be that harmful in regards to HIV transmission. It should also be noted that you do not get sick or die specifically because of the HIV virus infection--the virus attacks your immune system, so you die of things like pneumonia, TB, or other opportunistic infections because your body is lacking the antibodies to fight them off. That being said, if you properly adhere to anti-retrovirals (the drugs you take for HIV) you can live a long and happy life provided you have proper nutrition and care. HIV does not have to be the death sentence that society has made it out to be.

-An HIV test can give you results in under 15 minutes and doesn't have to require blood being drawn, just the prick of a finger. Its easy, and looks almost similar to a pregnancy test strip. I've heard a place in the West End of Vancouver can do this for you, and there is likely a place in Victoria that offers the same services. Check out Island Sexual Health.

-Made my best investment yet in a plug in that repels mosquitoes. I have yet to be bitten this week.

-I really am loving Kenya and feel at home here, and my future goals are divided. Do I want to live in Vancouver, working in the Downtown East Side, or do I want to live in Nairobi, working for an NGO or at a place like the UN? Hmm.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Saturday Musings

The man in the beige shirt is our caretaker. In this photo, he had gotten drunk and proceeded to play with the children in our complex for an teaching them military drills and karate exercises. It was so silly, but the kids had fun and were following him around. Everyone came out of their houses when they heard him yelling and marching around. It was funny.

My last Coke (Sort of). I've decided to stop drinking soda. I'm starting with Coke then cutting out the rest. It just isn't healthy. I might have one if I go to a party. But its just not healthy. I want to treat myself and my body right. Maji it is.

Also, (and I do not have a photo of this, but I will get one eventually) I drive by this 'toilet' everytime I go to town. On the side, it says 'Vankuva toilet, 3='. Its just a toilet you pay 3 cents to use. Yesterday someone laughed at it and I asked why, and they said because it is called Vankuva toilet. Oh, good lord. They mean 'Vancouver' toilet. Vankuva is exactly how a swahili speaker would spell it I think. I was heartbroken when I came to the realisation that my lovely birthplace had been reduced to a hole in the ground you pay to do your business in.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Maple Leaf Love


Yesterday I went to party near Yaya and was so glad to have found some Canadian girl time! I met May (from the UK, but lived in Toronto) and Glennys from Ottawa! Seriously, how good it was to have some Canadian friends. Now I do love my Kenyan friends so, so much--but it is also nice to sit and talk about how lovely Canada is, how it is adjusting to being an expat in a new place, or our interests--which were pretty similar. We could all relate. Everyone I met had these amazing areas of work and study advocacy, street children programs, human rights law, Kenyan political science. I'm pretty sure I'd talk about that stuff all day if my friends back home would tolerate it, ha! So it was nice.

I also rediscovered something about myself. I like to drink tea. Probably more than the average person. To supplement this idea, I also don't like drinking. So therefore, I last night I drank tea while others drank Tusker. This makes the game 'Never have I ever' slightly more awkward. Ha, but really--to the point: I used to feel kind of ashamed for being the non-drinker (I sometimes get : 'Is it a religion thing?')But really it isn't. I just don't like to. I've decided to embrace it. So here is the truth. I love my friends. I love my time with friends, and I love meeting new friends. I do not like drinking, and by extension, usually don't like parties either (It's why Andy Samberg and I fell out after he made 'Hot Rod'...). I will always vote for Saturday night tea on the couch instead of get drunk Saturday night/not be able to function Sunday. I'm embracing that fact. That is me.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

I'm Legal.

And by that, I mean I am legal to be in Kenya for another 3 months. I renewed my visa and it went more smoothly than I expected! Plus, I had to apply for an 'Alien' card since I'll be here for a while. Ha, it is almost as offensive as it sounds.

The good/bad news (depending on how you look at it) is that after 3 months, I have to leave Kenya and come back. So I'll probably be hopping to Ethiopia or somewhere for the weekend in May. My other options include UAE and India. Ironically, it is cheaper to fly to India or the Middle East than it is to fly to Juba. Which I think is silly, but I'm sure there is a perfectly good economical explanation for this.

What I've learned from 3 months in Kenya

Sometimes I forget how crazy it is that I just up and moved to Kenya for a while. I no longer feel like a tourist. I know my way around and what the prices of things at the market should be. A small source of pride for me :)

I thought I'd just give a little reflection of what I've learned and gotten out of my life here so far...

-Nobody really keeps time. It is both frustrating and refreshing not having to stress down to the minute on every little thing.

-Kenyans can be really, really kind and helpful...or the exact opposite.

-We have it so, so good in Canada. Even if you don't think you do, you do.

-Kenya/Africa is not what you might think of it if you haven't been here. People here wear the same clothes Canadians wear for the most part. There are tons of wealthy people. And I'm pretty sure only the !Kung of the Kalahari in South Eastern Africa have clicks in their language.

-If you knew half the stuff that went on here regularly, you'd be outraged. Things fly here that would be front page news back home.

-Not that it matters to a health role model such as myself (ha.), but Coca Cola is making a huge profit from North Americans. You can get a 300ml soda here for 30 cents.

-If you've emailed me, commented on/read my blog, or skyped with me while I've been here I appreciate it so, so much. You guys are real friends and I love you for it.

-I really, really miss Kraft Dinner. I barely ate it at home, but at least there I had the option.

-I usually forget I'm foreign until a watoto (children) shout it at me. Or adults. Yes, that happens.

-Foodsafe is non-existent.

-Neither is road safety.

-You have the ability to make a difference. You don't need to make a Bill Gates sized donation or be an Angelina Jolie type of advocate. You can split a child sponsorship with a friend or volunteer once a week helping someone out in an area of your interest.

-Nobody listens to Westlife at home, but they are so popular here.

-For the down payment on a place in Victoria, you can buy a beautiful apartment here. I'm considering it.

-Some people see poverty and struggle as a reason to not believe in any religion. I'm starting to see it the opposite way. If a person in Kibera can thank God for what they've been given, I feel obliged to super extra double thankful for what I've been given.

-Tetley tea, KD Easy Mac and Purdys chocolates are almost always special occasion items. I have a cup of tea, a bowl of mac and cheese, and a hedgehog waiting for me for on my birthday.

-There are people who will treat you well in life and people you won't. If somebody isn't, stand up for yourself...if somebody is, don't let them go.

-I'm thankful to have had my family around to show me the ropes about life. This is how to do long division, this is how you get a drivers license. Not everyone has that.

-I'd rather take the matatu than drive here. There are so, so many horrible roundabouts. And horrible drivers.

-Please remind me not to haggle when I get back to Canada ('$5 for this grande latte? Ha, I'll give you 50 cents'). I'm worried that this will actually happen.

-I have yet to be robbed since I've been here (minus the case of the missing jeans from the clothesline). I feel proud.

-I really won the lottery by being born in Canada, by having my awesome family, and by having a group of friends who are so wonderful.

-I really, really love Africa.

Asante sana,


Sunday, March 11, 2012

My Week, In Photos

I found this online deal where for 400 shillings (about $5) I got 16 gourmet cupcakes. Blessing or a curse? You be the judge.

Me and my roommate Emmanuel. Caption this photo for yourself (if you dare).

Emmanuel and his girl Tatu. They will be embarrassed that I wrote this about them, but I'm doing it anyways. Their love is just so pure for each other. I imagine that is what love should be like. It makes me weepy. As you can (kind of) see, they even dress the same. True love.

Ok, this photo is embarrassing. If you know me, that is the face I make in photos when I am not quite sure what face I should be making. The house flooded.The tap was in 'on' position when we had run out of water, and it came back during the day. It ran for 10 straight hours. Emmanuel helped me clean up my room, and Tatu did the hallway/kitchen etc. They are excellent roomates.

Highrise at dusk. The view from my bedroom window.

Ok, this business is not as terrifying as it sounds (or looks--can you see the flank of meat hanging in the window without regard for foodsafe regulations? Gasp.)I get meat when here I have guests. The word 'hotel' is often used in the same way Canadians would say restaurant. Confusing for tourists.

We had our first piece of junk mail, so I felt it deserved to go on the fridge. Points gained for advertising well and for free delivery. Points lost for 'super'. Maybe they meant the food is super? I'm still going to check them out. Another ad around here implicates they serve delicious continental cuisine as well (they showed a picture of a burger...). I'll keep you updated, because I know you are dying to know (Jordan Rockerbie, this is me speaking directly to you--we unite in our love of food).
Note the Canadiana reference magnets and David Odanga's business card. This man lives above me and while hanging my laundry, told me to give him a call when I am single, or find him a white wife. This is my official call to my female readers: Please, someone date this man. He 'happens' to be leaving his apartment everytime I hang my laundry with 'where is my white wife' inquiries.

I bought this bag for 60 cents (Canadian). Yesterday a young boy downtown was trying to sell it and I passed him by. When I passed again, he stopped me and I asked him what he was doing selling a single plastic bag for 60 cents. He said he had bought it for 50 cents, and was trying to make money so that he could afford to take his KCPE exam (it is the most important exam here--it dictates which public schools you can get into. I think just over a third of applicants get in--the competition is fierce.). This encounter with the boy has gotten me thinking a lot, and I'll be posting again soon about the different issues Canadian and Kenyan children face.

Other things that happened this week (which I do not have photos for):

-My roommate Irene moved to Doha, Qatar for work. I am going to miss her so much, since she was so kind in offering to show me around when I got here. We went out for dinner at a little African hoteli.

-Took Joram for his birthday dinner. Went to a place called Savanna and had a veggie burger with mushrooms and cheese. After weeks of githeri with rice, I forgot food could taste that good.

-A truck delivering beer to a shop downstairs hit our internet cable and snapped it, leaving us without internet for the week. I was reconnected today and was happy to catch up on the news and what has been going on. I am in disbelief (happy disbelief) that a little video called Kony 2012 garnered over 70 million views in 5 days. The world is good. If you haven't seen it, watch it here:

Nairobi Grenade Blast

Last night, there was a grenade attack at a bus station in Nairobi. At least 4 were killed and many others were sent to hospital.

In this photo (which I borrowed from 'The Standard' online), victims from the attack are tended to by nurses and good samaritans (more on this below) at Kenyatta National Hospital.

Although I live a great distance from North-Eastern Kenya (where Somalia borders with Kenya), and even a little ways away from where last nights attack took place, it feels strange to have something so serious happen so (relatively) close to home.

It is suspected that Al-Shabaab (or supporters of Al-Shabaab) carried out the attack.

Last year, the Kenyan government sent troops into Somalia because (in short) aid workers and tourists up north had been kidnapped by Al-Shabaab, with Dadaab refugee camp in North-Eastern Kenya being a centre of activity for many foreign aid workers and therefore being a place of heightened kidnapping risk.

Since much of Somalia is controlled by the group Al-Shabaab, they want the Kenyan troops out of their territory and have carried out some small scale attacks outside (and within) of Somalia since the entry into Somalia by the AU/Kenya

Recently, Kenya has been in the midst of a nurses strike--and this last week, all the public sector nurses on strike were sacked. In situations like this there is an especially large weight on the already strained public health system, so please keep in mind the people affected by the blast and hope with me that no more lives are lost due to these recent events.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

My Lovely Saturday Surprise!

Ok, there were a few surprises today. The first one: I have internet! A truck hit our interweb cable last weekend and snapped it. Today we are with internet! I am thankful.

But the real surprise was in my email inbox! My wonderful friend Erin sent me this photo from my goodbye tea before I left:

Lovely Ladies. (And lovely Tim, taker of this photo)

Thanks Erin! I miss you guys :)

Friday, March 2, 2012

Cherish Every Moment

Yesterday was a sad day.

On my way back from downtown Nairobi, I saw a man laying, dead, in the middle of a busy street. This was the spot where he had died, clearly after having been hit by a car.

Pray for that man and his family. Nobody wakes up in the morning expecting to die that day, and I'm sure his family is hurting so much right now.

I hope to be, everyday, the exact person that I would like to be remembered as. Today I will be cherishing each moment as I go about my day. I hope anyone reading this will too. You never really know which moment will be your last.

Much love,