Monday, January 10, 2011

Hinda's Blog Post From Kisumu

January 10, 2011
Hello Everyone,

I wanted to write a few lines about my last week in Kenya. Thought you might be interested in my views of things since the last time I was here in 2009.
First, let me say that KMET is doing great, the building is wonderful. Peter and Monica have done an outstanding job of getting it built, moved into and humming like a well oiled machine (maybe a Kenyan well oiled machine). The clinic space is large and welcoming with exam rooms, the Schnurman Pharmacy, which by the well is well stocked and has a pharmacist, the clinic has a nice reception area and still using the charts and data program I initiated in 2009. Last Friday, Peter and I went to town and bought a refrigerator with some of the money I brought with us from donors in the USA. They can now get immunizations from the Ministry of Health to give to the children of the community they innoculate the children at no cost. The incidence of polio and chicken pox, unfortunately, is on the rise so immunizations are extremely important.
Of course, even though the building has been open for less than a year, it is already too small so plans for a new building are in the works. With some money from AJWS the start of that building will be done by constructing a mill where KMET will mill the nutra flour they make to give to children and others, which they also sell to other organizations, like C.A.R.E. The space the mill is currently in is less than adequate and production can be stepped up if they have a larger space.
Monica and the staff welcomed me back and I started working immediately. It was nice to have people so happy to see me. Nothing has changed with how polite and friendly people genuinely are.
The flight, as you know was long and boring, in the air for about 18 hours with a few hours at the airport in Amsterdam, then arriving in Nairobi at night and staying in a hotel for a few hours and then back to the airport for a flight to Kisumu made for a long two days. However, when I arrived in Kisumu, Peter and the family we are staying with were there to meet me with big smiles and lots of hugs. We headed for their home and everyone was doing as much as they could to make me comfortable. They were all worried, including Peter, about how I would react to the accommodations. A small room in their compound with a nice new bed and linens, a couple of plastic chairs and a fan is ours. A squat flush toilet, but they had a seat built for me which I used the first couple of days but am now used to squatting. I am not sure I would want to do this forever but for a couple of weeks at a time I am fine. A bigger problem is that the water and electric go off almost every day and it seems to happen when we want to shower or we are trying to cook dinner or watching TV. Roselyne the wife in this family works very hard to keep the home going well. She gets up early in the morning to make breakfast and start her daily chores. She does everything by hand and from scratch, so everything takes a lot longer and is harder to accomplish. And of course, she is the last one to go to bed, as well. The life of women in Africa is hard and if they can keep from contracting HIV-AIDS they will remain healthy enough to work all day and into the night. Things are changing for women but it takes a long time so unless you have patience this is not the place to come;
Peter has been helping Roselyn with various household tasks and does a lot of dishwashing and assistant cooking activities. He says he will continue when he comes home, so we will see. Festus, the husband, works hard and long hours at a radio station and is also working on his degree at night so he is often away from early morning until midnight. There are two small children, an 8 year old boy, named Kennedy and an adorable 2 year old named Agnes who calls Peter , sweetheart. She repeats the last word of everything anyone says and is learning English well. I think she understands everything. As with other 2 year olds, she is the boss and everyone tries to please Agnes.
So I arrived on Sunday and Tuesday was our 50th anniversary. We started off the morning with my sitting in a chair, Peter tripping and knocking my glasses off and they broke in half. For the last 10 years, I have taken an extra pair of glasses with me on all of our trips, never had any use for them so this time, guess what? No extra glasses. We spent the next several hours trying to either get the glasses fixed, which turned out to be impossible or find frames that my lenses would fit in. Having new ones made was out of the question, since it takes at least two weeks and by then we will be in Morocco. Plus which, I could not imagine not being able to see for that long. We finally located a frame that would work, and of course it was the most expensive frame in the whole city and the place we found it must have been jumping up and down with happiness, since no one else in Kisumu would ever buy such an expensive designer frame. As far as I was concerned, I didn’t care how much they cost, as long as I could see. We then went to work for the rest of the afternoon, planning on going out to dinner that evening to celebrate. However, by the time we got home, with the stress of the day looking for an eyeglass solution and the heat (probably in the high 90’s) we both decided that we could not go out so we stayed at home and had a quiet dinner. We will do our celebrating in Morocco.
This past weekend we met the young girl who we have decided to help with school. Her name is Marrion. She is 10 years old, extremely bright, very sweet and delightful to be with. We took her to buy text books and sport shoes and of course since her little 8 year old sister was with us we bought shoes for her, as well. As you know from Peter’s blogs their mother recently passed away from HIV-AIDS. Their father is also positive and an alcoholic, so they live with their maternal grandmother, who is also positive but on ARV’s and has been ok for some time. Without help for school, she could become a child of the street, abused, pregnant and probably HIV positive, if we can help her stay in school, hopefully she will be able to survive and develop some skills to keep her going. Thanks to those of you who are also helping, I am sure you will not be sorry.
After buying the books and shoes, we took all the kids to a really nice swimming pool at a nice hotel. They had a wonderful time, just being kids. Of course since Marrion and her sister Sharyne did not have bathing suits on the way we had to buy those. It was worth it to see them having so much fun, laughing and happy as kids should be. There is definitely too much stress and heartache for everyone here, especially the children.
On Sunday, a young woman can to our house and did manicures and pedicures for Peter, Roselyne and I. It is hot here and no one moves too quickly so it took most of the day, the cost for three manicures and pedicures was about $21 which is less than I pay of just one in the USA, and the results were just as good.
So that ended, my first week here in Kisumu. Saturday we will go to Nairobi and then leave for Morocco, with a 24 hour stop in Istanbul. I can’t wait. You will hear from us again soon.

Monday, January 03, 2011


Ummm Good Tilapia


Happy Priest

Fish Seller

Fish Seller's Daughter

Learning to Crush Garlic

Cooking Ugali

Cooking Nyama

Cooking With Your Friends Can Be Fun

3 Happy Women

Blog 4 , Kisumu, Kenya

December 31, 2010 - January 2, 2011
Blog 4
Kisumu, Kenya

Happy New Year Everyone,

I am starting this just a few hours before we enter 2011, and I will welcome the New Year dancing with Roselyne, Festus, and some other friends. But this time am leaving my phone at home as well as my wallet. It was not long ago that I was pick pocketed at the same dance club.

Alex, one of my motor bike drivers’ wives just gave birth and he asked Roselyne to accompany him to the hospital to see if she was ok. It seems that a lot of men here don’t want to go to a hospital to check on their wives because they are afraid to go. This is his 3rd child and he is not aware of family planning. This brings me to tell you that there are a lot of women here who use birth control secretly. Perhaps it is not honest, but it keeps those women from being pregnant every year or so.

Here is another thing that happens that I have seen and experienced before, both here and elsewhere. In many, or at least some of the public, government run hospitals, many, and perhaps most of the patients are poor, and the staff, don’t pay a lot of attention to them. But if someone important, or seemingly so, like me perhaps, (because I am white and usually perceived as rich) comes to visit, all of a sudden the patient gets a lot of attention.

This is exactly what happened when we went to visit Alex’s wife in the maternity ward of one of the local hospitals. She had been admitted the day before and had been in labor for a long time No one was paying much attention to her before our visit, but shortly afterward, the nurses called the doctor and she was induced, and yes, you guessed it – she gave birth to a baby boy.

Unfortunately, this kind of thing happens often.. Several times I have been asked to attend meetings where I had no real role to play, except to provide a sense of importance to whoever invited me.

I cooked pancakes for the family a few days ago, and it was a big hit, and they were really good too. Thanks to Hinda for the recipe and to Roselyne who is a great pancake turner. We were all stuffed, and Kennedy, the 8 year old who I live with couldn’t stop eating them. When Hinda comes in a couple of days, I hope she will help me cook some of our favorite dishes to share with the family here.

I accompanied the family of Susan to attend a memorial for her 40 days after her burial.

Susan was a Luo, but her husband was a Kalenjin, and it is the Kalenjin custom to have a memorial service 40 days after burial, and so that is the reason for the memorial. It is also a custom to give the clothes of the person who died to other family members, and that was done also.

I got to thinking about the number 40. So 40 days after burial, and then didn’t Moses wander in the desert for 40 years, and in the story of Noah and the ark, it rained for 40 days and nights, and then in the Arabian Nights, there was the story of Ali Baba and the 40 Thieves. I’m sure that are lots of other things with 40.

I drove the car that some of us traveled in to the memorial – about a 4 hour trip. All went well until it got dark on the way home and the driving was pretty stressful: bright lights in your eyes from oncoming traffic, especially trucks, narrow roads, potholes, and even pothole tolls by young men who asked for money for filling the potholes, which they weren’t successful at in any case. We made it home safely, but it was stressful as hell, and I was happy that there were no serious mishaps.

When Susan died she left 4 children including a 10 or 11 year old girl whose name is Marrion. I have put Marrion’s photo on this blog. She is extremely bright and her year end report card was all A’s and all of her teacher’s comments all contained the word excellent. Plus she is a very nice kid.

I want to help pay for her school fees so that she can continue her education. It is so important to keep girls in school here. There are real horror stories about what happens to girls her age if they don’t continue in school including early pregnancy, rape, forced marriage, and more. And here, if you help a girl, you are helping much more – the whole village for she will grow to be a good mother, wife, earn an income and support her family.

It costs about $360 a year to keep Marrion in school, including tuition, books, lunch, transport, and uniform. You can help me help Marrion. Anything you can do will be appreciated greatly.

Please join me in supporting her and insuring her future. Let us not let anything bad happen to Marrion if she is unable to continue her education. I can almost guarantee that she will end up like so many other girls her age that could not stay in school because there is no money. Thanks! This small investment will reap big rewards. Again, I can guarantee it. Thanks!!

Well, here we are in 2011. We did welcome in the New Year as planned by dancing, and had lots of fun. Got home at 3 a.m., and a little tipsy from having 1 to many drinks, but all had a good time. For New Year ’s Day breakfast, made pancakes again which was enjoyed by all.

In some parts of the world there is snow on Christmas, or at least the hope of snow. Here on Christmas day we went to a resort on Lake Victoria and went swimming in the pool there, had a nice lunch, and ended the day with an hour’s boat ride on the lake.

For the first time in my life, I developed an allergy to something. I think that is was from sardines in soy oil as far as I can figure out. Really bad hives with severe itching. I went to the hospital and am taking some kind of tablet for 5 days and it seems to be working.

On December 31, the KMET Board met, and after the meeting, Monica called me to tell me that the Board Chairman asked her to tell me how appreciative they were of my efforts at KMET. I am very proud and feel so honored.

Just before I left work for the holiday break, I was able to recruit a volunteer pharmacist to help out with the Schnurman Pharmacy, and am hopeful that shortly after I return to KMET on January 3rd, we will have procured software to take care of the pharmacy inventory. So at work, things are going quite smoothly.

I have mentioned this before. People here in Kenya, and all the rest of the places I have lived or worked in Africa are extremely friendly, and I don’t mean necessarily to me and other foreigners, but to each other. Friends are always dropping in to visit, when people meet on the street there are big slapping handshakes, and huge smiles, hugs, etc. It is very nice. I am always introduced even when it is someone that the person I am with meets their friend casually on the street. It is a good quality and I am always taken by it especially since I was born and raised in New York City which was never known for its friendliness. I lived in many place in New York where you didn’t know the people on the same floor as you. Africa is a very friendly place and it is one of the best characteristics of their culture. People always complain about African time, but perhaps it is good also – less stress, and maybe also less death by heart attacks – who knows. As Festus always reminds me, “There is no rush in Africa”. But yes, it can also be a bit frustrating for us Westerners. However when in Rome do as the Romans do, and I am getting used to it, and I have learned to be reasonably late from time to time. Having said that, I will try to be on time to pick up Hinda at the airport, (unless the plane is late because they are using African tine – hahaha).

Well, Hinda is arriving on Sunday, January 2nd and she will be here with me for 2 weeks and then we are off to Morocco to celebrate our 50th anniversary. We have been apart for too long and it will be nice to be together again. We bought a new bed for her stay here with Festus and Roselyne, although that big bed makes this small room even tinier or cozier depending on how you look at things, but it will work for us in any case.

That’s all for now folks. Our next blog will be about our Morocco trip and hope to get some good photos.

Best wishes for a good, peaceful, healthy and prosperous 2011.


January 3, 2011
P.S. Actually Hinda’s plane arrived a little bit early and when I got to the airport here in Kisumu, there she was waiting with a big smile, and hug and kiss. Last night I finally was able to sleep with my wife, and tomorrow is our 50th Anniversary!!