Sunday, June 3, 2012

First home visits for Nutrition Team 2012

An incredible week once again. Kim and the nurses arrived (Christine and Melanie), so now we have all the students together, which is great. A fantastic group! Sunday is very quiet, and we are all enjoying reading, cooking and doing laundry. A good catch up day for everyone. My feet (Jen’s) are cracked and stained red from walking on the dirt roads. I bought a volcanic rock at the Nakumatt to scrub my feet, which works pretty well. I am being a wimp with the cold shower, so I am doing the ‘bathing in the Nile River’ routine. Boil water, pour into a plastic basin and add some cold from my shower tap. Then dunk head in the basin, swirl, and try and wet the bird’s nest. The water is always brown when I pull my head out. Nice hair product, that dust- keeps the hair from blowing around.Fergie helped make pancakes and we enjoyed them with bananas and the last mango we had. Delish. Here’s a recap of the past week’s work by the nutrition students: What a day Tuesday was! We started off by piling into a taxi to go to Mikinduri (Ruuju); the students, Jennifer, and the translator. We got to the school and thought we were going to be meeting with the champs but there was a miscommunication, it is very common here as they don’t always understand our English. We set out to do our home visits as this was the next thing we had planned to do that day. It was very different and there was no way really to prepare for it. For the first visit, we all had a different set of questions we would be asking the woman. We did a 24-hour recall, food security questionnaire and then asked a few questions about her shamba (kitchen garden). The next farm we went to was a little different. This woman was extremely poor and would sometimes go days without eating. It sure makes us think about all the stuff we complain about. After seeing this we can’t believe that we’ve ever said ‘we’re starving’ while waiting for lunch or dinner to be made. These people are actually starving. We take sooo much for granted at home and don’t realize it until we see people in this situation. After visiting the two previous farms, we met with one last woman. Although she too had very little to offer and was obviously quite poor, she cut up a (very ripe...almost compostable) pawpaw (papaya) using a machete. Before offering it, she did something which we've encountered a few times since- she warmed some water, and came to us with a bowl to wash our hands. Such a lovely tradition- again, they are so kind! We all had trouble stomaching the pawpaw but managed to eat at least one piece.
The next day, we visited 2 Muchui women, whom are both considered to be wealthy. They had tiled floors, clean homes and one even had a laptop (with a camera to take a picture of us students). One of the women and her beautiful daughter had prepared Kenyan tea for us (delicious- black tea made with 2 cups water, 3 cups milk and sugar) and Kenyan pancakes (similar to ours, only they are cookie-sized). She was so kind to prepare these for us. Again and again we think...we are JUST students- why are they going out of their way to feed us, thank us, etc when we are asking them to reflect on some very difficult aspects of their lives? It still boggles our minds. Perhaps we North Americans have just sunk to such lows that we no longer realize what true hospitality is and how to be welcoming!
We then headed back to the residence, where we were told that there was a pig being slaughtered so we decided to check it out. We walked around back and saw them scraping the hair off the pig and noticed a cow’s head sitting there along with the stomach and intestines of the cow. They told us they had just slaughtered a cow today too and they offered us the opportunity to help butcher it. So off we went to go help the Sisters cut up this freshly slaughtered cow. Never thought we’d be doing this! We also got to milk a cow – a first for all of us. One of the Novices invited us up to the convent to have a cup of tea since we were helping them. When we got up there the table was set so nicely and they had cookies too. It was so nice to talk to Esther as she is closer to our age. It really is nice getting to know some of the Kenyans especially since we are here for 3 months. They told us they will show us a lot this summer. I think the next project may be chopping wood. They do everything around here - it truly is amazing. Overall, it was great day and we saw so much that we had never seen before. We sure have a different perspective on things now. Our over-consumption, our wealth, and our values are so different from here in Kenya.
Thursday was the first day that we felt completely exhausted. The sun was so incredibly hot it was unreal (but as we are on the equator we probably shouldn’t be too surprised) and the dust and dirt of a day of walking through the Kenyan countryside had us beat. It took two rounds of soap and water to see our feet again. We spent the morning at a local primary school and helped one woman cook uji (maize porridge) and githiri (maize, bean, and kales stew) for 175 children over open fires (which we will ultimately conduct a nutritional analysis on). For many of the children this is the only food they get in a day and you would be surprised at how much they can throw back. Then in the afternoon we went to the annual agricultural fair. It happened to be the day that all of the schools from the area were there and we may well have been the top attraction. We were told that for many of the children we would be the first white people that they had ever seen. It was pretty funny. Lots of pictures, staring, skin and hair touching.
Friday we attended our first CME (continuing medical education) presentation at the hospital – Jennifer and Colleen presented on the work done to date, and the plans for this upcoming year. We also had the opportunity to meet the dietitian that the hospital has recently hired! We are very excited to work with her in the coming weeks. Colleen left for Canada and we will miss her a lot. The nurses arrived in the afternoon and we went to the convent for dinner with the Sisters- always a fun affair :)
Saturday saw a hike up through Mt. Kenya National Park and now we are taking a day to recover. Back at it tomorrow – stay tuned until next time. Fergie, Janet, Sam (and Jennifer)

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