Archive for the ‘Tyler in Kenya’ Category


Tyler: Winding Down

April 17, 2009

So my time here in Kenya is dwindling. I can’t believe I’ll be home in about 2.5 weeks! It feels like I just got here and really haven’t experienced all that I should have. But the good news is that mother is coming in a week! Her and I will be traveling around Kenya for a week. I plan on taking her to Maasai Mara on a safari so she can see what everyone who comes to Africa wants to see: the animals. I also want her to see Kibera, Nairobi, Mombasa, Fort Jesus in Mombasa, Msambweni, and Lamu if there’s time. We have like 8 days to do all of this, which is pushing it, so one or two of the places might be bumped.

Much has been the same at the hospital since my last update. I have gotten to assist more in surgeries, mostly C. sections. Some of the surgeries, i.e. total abdominal hysterectomy, are a little too advanced for me to assist in. No worries though because I get to do more than most people with my amount of training. Next week is my last week at the hospital, and it’ll be sad to leave them. One of the doctors today said I look like I belong there. He meant that I looked like a regular and that I pretty much have the hang of things in the theatre. But, it does just feel right being in the hospital. The people there have been so nice and accepting that it doesn’t feel normal. It definitely is a different world here. And the fact that I’ve made really good friends with some of the doctors and they’ve been such good teachers will make saying goodbye not fun. It’s not every day you get to see an amputation or stick your hand inside an abdomen…

This past weekend, myself and four other friends from the program went to Lamu, which is on the North Shore. It was Easter weekend, so we got to stay there for 4 days. Lamu town is quite packed. There are no streets or cars. There are only 4 foot wide alleys that are occupied by a large amount of donkeys. In Lamu, the primary mode of transportation is by donkey. I got to ride one but the donkey was so short that my feet were only inches above the ground! I bet I looked like such a fool! After seeing the sights of the town and just relaxing on the hotel balcony, we headed down the island to Shela beach. There we paid about $6.50 for a 2 bed hotel room that had a balcony overlooking the ocean and beach!! Not bad, eh? The next two days were spent on the beach so we could get our tans on and play. We made friends with the hotel’s dog. We wanted to give her a name, and after much deliberation we settled with Bonnie (only later to find out her real name is Leila). Bonnie followed us all day and played and swam with us at the beach. My friend Eric and I built a massive sand castle that included a hexagonal protective wall with towers at each intersecting point, walkways, a moat, a bridge to cross the moat, and a gigantic center castle. As you can imagine, this sand castle was extravagant! It was named Bonnieburg, after Bonnie. haha It was fun to be little kids for a day. The ocean was amazing as ever and swimming was a blast. It was hard to leave Lamu and head back to our internships, but we had to get on the 7 AM bus Monday morning. Luckily it was really hot and smelled like fish. I found out when we got to Malindi that the whole compartment underneath the bus was filled with fish!! Jerks… On top of all of that, the bus ran out of gas 20 minutes away from Mombasa!! If you ever want to go to Lamu, don’t take the TSS bus line!


Tyler: Update from Msambweni District Hospital

April 7, 2009

Not much new has been happening here as of late. Just been going to the hospital every day and working on papers and relaxing on weekends. I got decently sun burned this week. I was outside for less than an hour!! Didn’t take long, I guess. Next weekend, I’ll be heading to Lamu (see previous entry). It’s Easter weekend then, so they get four days off in Kenya. Friday, Saturday, Sunday, Monday. That will be a nice little break. I hear that they offer donkey rides around the whole town, making anticipation higher.

Theatre is my favorite part of the hospital. It gets repetitive with some of the procedures, such as prostatectomy, hysterectomy, C. sections, and herniorrhaphy. C. sections are fun though because I get to receive the baby after is removed from the uterus and cut its cord, clean it, and show it to the mama. There are quite a few orthopedic cases too (fractures – pin and plate insertions). Those are really interesting to watch. I took some videos of them, so when I get home some of you can view them! I even got to assist in one procedure, meaning I scrubbed in and wore everything the surgeon does. I was with the head surgeon, so that was a little intimidating, but it was only like 20 minutes anyway.

On Monday and Tuesday, I’m in the wards and we go around and check up on the patients and refer them if necessary to the proper senior medical officers. If we’re lucky, we’ll draw blood, send things to the lab, put in IVs, or stitch a wound to spice up the day. The outpatient clinic (Thursday) is more of the same in that we do check ups of patients who had been previously discharged from the hospital. Basically, these days are filler until its Wednesday or Friday. Every experience here has been great though and really educational because of my supervisors’ tutelage. They’re always explaining things and showing me how to do procedures. I really couldn’t ask for more!

Internet is sketchy here, so no luck with the photos. You might have to wait until I get home to see more…


Tyler: Msambweni District Hospital

March 21, 2009

I am now on Kenya’s coastline. I am very close to the Tanzanian border in a town called Msambweni (m-sam-BWAY-nee). It’s a cute little town with barely the essentials. My house has power, running water, a TV, and toilets (they don’t flush; you have to rinse the bowl with a little bucket of water). I am living a whopping 2 minute walk away from the Indian Ocean. It’s like looking at a post card when I walk to the beach. There are palm trees and then sand and then blue water stretching to the horizon. Mrembo sana (very beautiful). I’ve gone swimming in it a couple times and the water is so warm that it isn’t refreshing. It is like going in warm bath water. I can’t wait to scuba dive here. Still working on that though…

I started working at Msambweni District Hospital on Tuesday the 17th. It’s hard to describe the differences that there are between the medical facilities here and back in the States. In the men’s ward, the patients are all in the same room in beds with less than white sheets. For the most part of the day in that ward, we just went around and checked on patient management and progression. Basically, we just talked for 30 seconds and wrote on their records, which are $0.50 notebooks, “continue management.” 

On weekends, I plan to do a little traveling, but not as much as when I was in Nairobi. I don’t know why, but I feel that the need is not there and I would just prefer to sit here on the beach. I want to go to Lamu, which is another coastal city north of Mombasa. It is an old city built hundreds of years ago and is supposedly one of the most beautiful places of Kenya. Other than that, I really want to scuba dive a lot. I’m working on arranging that today, so my fingers are crossed.


Tyler: Q & A

March 3, 2009

Today, I had a Q & A session with the kids at Nazarene Primary. Here were some of their questions. Enjoy.

  • Do you see Obama every day?
  • Are their witch doctors in America?
  • Do you pay to go to college?
  • How many hours away is America?
  • Can you take us to America?
  • How many Kenyan shillings equal $1?
  • Do you eat ugali?
  • How many kinds of tea to you drink?
  • Do people write on computers or in notebooks?
  • What is the capital of America?
  • How do I stay in America?
  • How do you measure temperature in America? (How do you say “Fahrenheit?”)
  • How much does it cost to come to Kenya?
  • How long have you been in Kenya?
  • Are the classrooms in America like the ones in Kibera?
  • What kind of meat do you eat in America?
  • How do you build houses if snow covers the ground?
  • Do teachers cane bad students in America?
  • Can you drive to America from here?

That’s all I can remember for now, but it’s fun to see what these kids think about America!


Tyler: A different kind of homework

February 28, 2009

So, I feel like I submit more homework to this blog than to school here, but whatever. These papers are basically journal/blog entries (two birds, one stone). This is an assignment I wrote for my Country Analysis class:

Last week, three of us were walking away from the MSID office and encountered a situation that none of us were prepared for at the time. As we were walking and enjoying the warm, beautiful day, my friend Anna saw a man begin to move his body violently. He soon fell to the ground and continued to twitch. He proceeded to foam from the mouth and was unresponsive when we rushed over to him. We feared the worst.

Although he was still alive, we were scared for his life. An ambulance could be called, but by seeing how poor he is, they would not allow him a ride because he would not be able to pay the bill. So, I put him on his side and made sure his airway was unobstructed, as instructed by my EMT friend. A random lady was the first one there and checked the man’s pockets for any form of identification to alert someone of his situation. Luckily, in one of the front pockets was a prescription for an epilepsy preventative drug. After he came to in about 30 minutes, he began to explain to us that he just went to the doctor for his check up and prescription refill. Since he could not afford the refill, he went home empty-handed.

The man said without the drugs he could have as many as two seizures every day, but usually one. He said that the pills cost around Ksh1700 ($20). On top of that, he had malaria and was not taking medication for it. This man needed help. But even though he needed financial assistance, we did not know if we should give him any money. It was the most difficult ethical question I had to answer since arriving in Kenya. We didn’t know if he would go give the money to someone else, if he was faking it, or was going to buy food with it, rather than the medication. It was obvious the man needed help, yet we continued to struggle to make a decision.

After much deliberation, I told my friends that we would really regret not trying to help him. Even if he did buy food with the money, Ksh1700 would be enough for a month’s worth of food. But, if he did buy the medication like we hoped, he would be seizure free for over 3 months. If he could go 3 months without a seizure, what a great thing we would have done for him! We potentially could have saved his life. Knowing that, I am glad we did what we did and do not regret it one bit.


Tyler: Kibera, Kibera

February 16, 2009

Today, 8 of us made our way to Nazarene Primary School, located in Kibera. I cannot say for sure whether I was more excited or dreading my first trip to Kibera. With the stigma of being “Africa’s largest slum area,” it can be quite intimidating. On the other hand, I came here to really get my hands dirty and stick myself into precarious situations in hope of gaining both insight and personal strength.

This is on our way to the school. Notice the troughs and garbage.

Feelings in check, we hopped on a matatu by Prestige (mall area), paid our 10 shillings and stepped into a far cry from poor. The first thing I noticed was the stench. It was like wet, rotting garbage. The next thing that hit your senses was the sight, which was wet, rotting garbage. The entire ground seemed to be made out of a packed mixture of muck, plastic bags, old shoes and your standard, run-of-the-mill garbage. Sanitation is not in Kibera’s dictionary. Within this foul mixture of soil are drainage troughs that carry the disease-laden water down the slopes of Kibera. This water was brownish-grey and carried stray garbage with it on its melancholic journey downward. In addition to the soil troughs funneling this effluent down hill, people were digging in it with their bare hands and kids were playing in it with sticks. They had no restraint when it came to coming in contact with with the grungiest water I have ever seen. However, this did not concern the children of Nazarene Primary School, an affiliate of Nazarene University.

When we stooped through the tiny door and made our way into the ramshackle schoolyard, kids’ faces ignited with smiles. They ran up to us, took our hands, asked not for money, but, “How are you, sir?” It did not matter if you were talking to them; they would clench your hand so tightly and became your shadow until you had to leave their presence. When you did engage a child and say the magic word (“hi”), they would look around at their peers and smile with a smugness that said, “He said hi to ME!” If talking with them was such a joy ride, imagine taking their pictures. When I whipped out my outdated camera, they would all say, “Piga Picha,” and I would oblige. When I showed them the “picha” I took of them, it was like Christmas came early. It was so amusing to watch them gaze at their own image. I’d have to admit that I was just as amused.

These kids are ensuring good flow of the troughs during "cleaning time."

Me with the children in one of their classrooms, which are separated by huge canvas tarps.

The whole reason we went down there was to organize times that we, MSID volunteers, are able to make our way there and assist the teachers with the over-packed classrooms that are giving them the skills that might get them out of the slums one day. At this school, Christian Religion Education (CRE), math, science, social studies, English, and Kiswahili are taught. I will be teaching CRE 7 (7th grade level) and math 7. They are simplifying algebraic expressions, so I think I will be able to handle the material. I may like it enough to do it for 4 days a week, but I had better not over-commit myself if time becomes a hot commodity here in the upcoming weeks. I don’t know though…I mean, every class that I went into today, I was met with applause and shouts of joy. One class asked if they could sing me a song! I could not even begin to tell you why they were so happy. My only guess was that they were honored that I, a mzungu (white person), would be coming to Kibera to teach them. Not trying to sound ethnocentric, but that’s what it seems like. It would be sad if that were true, because those kids should be proud to have the teachers that they already have there. Those teachers are volunteers, which makes it so endearing to see them, addressed mister and madam by the students, come in daily and not think twice about it. Doesn’t make us look as great as we were made out to be today. I mean, we are only going to be there for three more weeks, then off to our internships. I can only hope that help finds these kids. They possess the courage, strength and attitude that should amount to something great. And yet, Kibera…


Tyler: Fun Differences

February 10, 2009

In Kenya:

  • french fries are called chips
  • in public restrooms, the toilet paper is located outside of the stalls
  • urinal cakes are spherical
  • their time systems starts at 7 AM
  • their week begins on Saturday
  • trash is called litter
  • there are rarely traffic lights, only round-abouts
  • all cell phones are pay-as-you-go
  • many people have 2-3 cell phones
  • flashlights are called torches
  • everyone in schools wear uniforms
  • they drive on the left side of the road and on the right side of the vehicle
  • you are forced to eat until you are “FULL”
  • all the doors in my house are closed
  • the smell of smoke is everywhere
  • the taxi-vans (“matatus”) drive on the sidewalk
  • they drink chai like its water
  • broken glass or barbed wire lines the top of most fences
  • people sell food out of the back of their vehicles
  • a lot of people own street “legal” dirt bikes and you never see them without a helmet
  • internet cafes are called “cybers”
  • tea is served 3-5 times per day
  • cold water is thought to bring colds/sickness
  • people always think my feet will be cold on the floor at my home if I don’t wear flip flops
  • there are several signs that advertise Nivea cellulite lotion…
  • there is insurance protection for accidents involved with political/terrorism violence
  • cheese is hard to come by
  • a pair of cargo shorts at a department store cost close to $65 (I bought mine at a market for $5 instead)
  • the exchange rate is 79 Ksh for every $1
  • many people know around 10 different languages
  • people have tribal names and English names
  • people think that Obama is their political savior
  • police pull people over mainly to bribe the people into paying their way out of jail
  • fruit is served at every meal (mango is a staple food here)
  • glass is the container of choice for soda

Tyler: Host Family & Recent Travels

February 7, 2009

My family: George, Virgnia, grandaughter Wangu, daughter Lulu (means diamond in Kiswahili). George, or Papa, doesn’t smile in pictures, but is funny and likes to laugh at a bunch of things. Big heart. His favorite American TV show is WWE wrestling. He tries to argue with Virginia, but she always wins. Virginia, or Mama, is always there for me and I can ask anything if I am unsure of how to act in a certain situation. She takes care of me like I’m a little boy. I love it!! Lulu is Wangu’s mom and is full of spunk. She’s a lot of fun and visits frequently, which I enjoy because Wangu is the cutest girl ever!

Baboon watching the sunrise at Lake Nakuru.

Abdul-Aziz in front of a rainbow and flocks upon flocks of pelicans and storks.

Abdul-Aziz is one of the staff of our program and is an amazing guy. He is so soft-spoken and knowledgeable that it blows my mind! He and I have become good friends. He is 36, but young at heart. At a dried-up waterfall, he climbed a vine and was about 25 feet in the air. I can’t believe he did. I suggested doing it, but only as a joke. I have nothing but positive things to say about Kenyan people. They have been so helpful and supportive. There is something to be said about their generosity and kindness.

I am taking a course in Kiswahili, Country Analysis (Kenya), and International Development, with a side track in Public Health Development. The hardest is probably Kiswahili because of the rigorous pace and the volume of content covered in a single class period. I had to take a special 2 hour tutoring session after normal classes were done and I had another one today (Saturday), so hopefully I will be okay. My teacher today said I am doing “super,” so I’m not too worried. As for the rest of the weekend, we are going to one of our staff’s village to look around and also to check out spears. I am in need of a good spear.

At the top of the Great Rift Valley. So beautiful and you can see for miles.


Tyler: Welcome to Africa

January 18, 2009

I’m sitting on the plane to Nairobi as I am typing this message and am not really sure I fully know what I’m getting myself into. Am I ready for it? Maybe. The first week shouldn’t be too terrible because I’ll be with mostly Americans and there is only an orientation to the program. After that, I get a not so reassuring thrust into the lives of my host family in Nairobi. I’m not sure what to expect because they say every family can be quite different. The only hint about my host family is that my host dad is a pilot and my host mom is a business woman.

I think one of the toughest experiences is going to be walking through the villages that have nothing and seeing the people sit in misery with disease and poverty. I keep getting this image of those kids on the “just 14 cents a day” children sponsorship commercials with their big, sad eyes and thin, weak frames. It’s easy not thinking about those people when you live in America, but very soon, it will be hard to think of anything but the hardships of the people. The worst part is, it’s mostly not their fault, but it’s the fault of imperialism, globalization, and the exploitation brought about by the affluent countries of the world. That means us. This goes for many other countries that have globalized corporations with ulterior motives (basic development theory), but I won’t bore you with that.

Jeez, this first blog turned into quite the melancholy rant. Sorry, I guess. Well, I am going to have some fun while I’m there, so no worries! I am really excited to go on a safari and maybe see Mt. Kenya or Lake Victoria! YAY!! With this, I leave you for a few days because of the lacking internet availablity. Hope all is well back at home.

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