Saturday we left Gary and Mary’s compound. Gary had his Maasai employees sing us a traditional Maasai song. You can watch part of it by clicking on this link: Maasai Song. After leaving the compound, we stopped back at Endonyo Narasha to treat a few people from the surrounding community.
At this point, we were starting our safari portion of the trip, in the Masai Mara National Reserve. But first, we had to stop at a small village to pick up a spare tire for our van. You don’t want to get stuck with a flat in the middle of an animal reserve! While we waited for the tire, I met a Kenyan named “Black Fire,” who sold various types of vehicle and generator fuel. He taught me to say the date and time in Maasai.
Once our tire was loaded up, we headed for Siana Springs, a tented resort just outside of the reserve. Each dwelling area there is a large tent spread over a wooden frame built into a concrete foundation. Each tent even included a toilet, shower, and electricity! The entrance consisted of a normal tent zipper, and we were told to tie the zipper shut to keep out monkeys, who had learned how to unzipper the doors.
We were able to get a discount for our stay at the resort by treating their workers, so after lunch we held open consultations for the resort staff. Then we spent the rest of the day enjoying the pool and exploring the beautiful grounds (and wildlife!) of the resort. That night we held devotions in the open-walled bar.
On Friday the medical team rode back to the dispensary in Olkinyiei to work with the nurses there a second time. Gary had other plans for me, however. He had a couple of computer problems that he wanted me to look at. I was able to set up his new hard drive that had him stumped, so it was exciting for me to have my own particular expertise utilized (they don’t often find computer technicians out in the bush!)
I also had the opportunity to listen to Gary help some of the Maasai preachers prepare a sermon for the coming Sunday. Gary did a mini-sermon himself, pointing out what he felt was important about the Bible passage, and the Maasai listened and took notes. Gary encouraged them to make their sermon their own; to relate the Biblical stories to the experiences of their people and of themselves.
I also spent a lot of time talking with Gary and Mary that day. It was interesting how easily I felt like I had something in common with this family, since they were the only other white people we had seen in a while. But I quickly learned that we had many differences as well, as we discussed not only their mission work, but also their experiences in Ireland.
At the end of the day, I went with Gary to retrieve our team from the dispensary. There were a number of Maasai there who wanted a ride home, so we crammed all these guests in Gary’s Land Rover along with our entire team. As we drove through the barren savannah, the Maasai suddenly shouted for Gary to stop. This was their stop, we learned, though there was nothing we could see that differentiated this spot of land from all the land behind and in front of us.
Thursday March 5th marked our arrival in true bush country. We spent hours driving across the plains, following trails in the dirt that were barely visible. Our first stop was a site in Endonyo Narasha – a shell of a clinic that was built almost a decade ago, but is still awaiting utilities, supplies and staff. The surrounding area was practically deserted, but we were told that it’s a thriving community at certain times of the month, and during certain seasons. We met with the local chief, and we got a brief tour of the facility. We assessed the work that remained to be done at the site, then continued on our way to our primary destination.
Olkinyiei is a sparsely populated area far from any major towns or cities. The people are fortunate, then, that they have a functioning clinic in their midst. The clinic in Olkinyiei is a small building with several visiting rooms lining a central hallway. The nurses that work there receive drugs and other supplies from the government, as well as from our mission efforts. There are two Irish missionaries that live in the area, Gary and Mary Reid, who have helped to maintain the clinic. Gary recently installed a solar power system that provides electricity for the lights, equipment, and cell phone charging (many people from the community come to the clinic to charge their phones). The facility has a gas-powered refrigerator, but they are hoping to replace it with an electric fridge (gas for the current fridge is expensive).
When we arrived in Olkinyiei, the medical people worked with the clinic staff to provide support and training, where useful. Since the facility is maintained so well, the less medically-inclined of us had nothing to do, so we decided to pay an early visit to the missionary compound.
Acacia Grove Mission is a compound that Gary and Mary have built, with the help of the Maasai in the community. They help spread the gospel of Christ by planting churches in the surrounding area, helping with the clinic, and doing whatever they can to aid the people. After a welcome tea break, Gary put us to work building a laboratory bench to be used in the clinic. Gary was skeptical of my construction abilities after learning that I program cell phone games for a living, but I like to think that I was able to redeem myself. “Measure twice and cut once,” my dad always used to say!
The following day, March 4th, we went to a school in Narok to treat the ill from the surrounding area. On the way to the site, we first stopped at Reverend John’s church. Women from the church’s Women’s Guild had food and tea prepared for us there, and we were given a tour of the grounds. We were also met by a few government nurses, who were helping us treat that day.
Once everyone was assembled, we were escorted by members of the church to the school. There was a huge amount of patients waiting for us, all scattered around the school grounds. I worked with several other non-medical types outside,?taking patients’ name, age, weight, symptoms, and blood pressure. Amanda and our nurses set up a number of treatment stations inside the largest classroom, and our pharmacy and lab were set up in other rooms. We were missing a piece needed for the lab’s generator, so Amos was unable to perform most of the tests until the afternoon, when someone brought us what we needed.
Most of the patients we saw were?older men and women, but we also saw a huge number of students (most of them from the school). The kids were excited that we were from the United States, as Barack Obama is seen as a national hero in Kenya. For lunch we were invited to the home of one of our Kenyan hosts, but it was difficult to leave the overwhelming number of patients. They were disappointed that we were leaving, even though we promised to be back quickly. We did return quickly, and managed to see all the patients that stuck around to wait for us. In total, we saw over 300 patients that day.
After treating all day, we attended a dinner that was hosted for us by both the Narok Town Council, and the Narok County Council. Many of the council members had speeches prepared for us, and several members of our team (including Jason) were asked to address the councils as well. It was great to meet so many people who were happy with our partnership, but it was a long ceremony, especially since we were all exhausted from the long treatment day.
Nairasirasa is the first Maasai dispensary we visited. The patient load was steady but light that day, so our medical personnel were able to spend a lot of time with the staff. This left me free to make myself useful where I could. I spent a lot of time talking with some elders of the dispensary’s overseeing church. These two men, Francis and Jackson, were very eager to share about their community, their church, and all of Kenya. They had recently lost their church building to a division in the church body, so they showed me the land on which they plan to build the new building.
Francis and Jackson were even more eager to learn about America. I explained to them the diversity of America’s geography, what life in Southern California is like, and how it compares to where I grew up in Pennsylvania. Francis had a lot of fun repeating the name ‘Pennsylvania.’
At one point during the treatment day, our entire group walked over to the local school to de-worm the students there. This was as simple as handing each child a single chewable tablet. This keeps them parasite-free for three months. As we were leaving, the children lined up for their lunch – the only meal many of them would receive that day.
It was interesting to watch the Maasai patients gather at the clinic. The men sat outside together in the shade. The women sat in the waiting room inside, and always had children along with them. I played a game of bottlecap soccer with one of the little boys, which turned more physical when we started sword fighting with empty water bottles. It escalated to quite a fray when the other children got involved.
That evening we went back to the hotel and had our first major devotional with our Kenyan friends. We also spent a lot of time planning for the next treatment day, which was to turn out busier than any other.
So, we are finally back from Kenya AND settled into the swing of things. Jason made a post before about the first few days of our Kenya trip. I shall continue. But first, some background info about Kenya. There are more than 30 different tribes in Kenya falling into?three main categories. The two tribes we worked with most were Kikuyu and Maasai which are from two different categories out of the three. The Kikuyu people are more westernized or more?modernized, like Americans. They mostly live in the Uplands area of Kenya in Nairobi and the surrounding area of Limuru. This is where our trip started. This area is where the Limuru Presbytery is with whom our Presbytery partners. Then, when you travel down into the Great Rift Valley, you enter Maasailand. The Maasai people are not westernized. They follow cattle and roam the countryside. The men often wear red robes and carry a “rungu”- a stick for beating animals (and wives). At age 18 all Maasai men must kill a lion in order to pass into manhood and be eligible for marriage. They practice polygamy and a Maasai man may marry up to 12 wives.
So, this is the group of people we were evangelizing to. After leaving Uplands and the comfort of cities, towns, and the more familiar culture of Kikuyu people, we traveled down into the Great Rift Valley and began there in Narok- the largest city in Maasailand. The first clinic we visited there was in a town about 8km north of Narok called Nairasirasa. This clinic is run by a nurse, Frida who joined our team and traveled with us. She is Maasai. A history update: this is the clinic that we were supposed to set up 2 years ago when I was in Kenya. However, a pastor was sent to the clinic first to survey it, and he returned having been attacked- he had been beaten by members of the community. Now, there is a clinic there up and running and we were welcomed with open arms!
Our trip to Kenya was a spectacular experience. One of the things I cherish most from this trip is the diversity of the people involved. We four Americans were joined by a number of Kenyans during our trip. Three Kenyans in particular traveled with us almost the entire time: Joseph the pharmacist, Amos the lab technician, and Frida the nurse. Each of these Kenyan friends of ours were from different tribes and backgrounds, and the diversity of our team reflected the differences we witnessed in the people and places we were introduced to along our way.
After three long flights and twenty four hours of travel, our trip started early Monday morning with a stop at an established and thriving dispensary (medical clinic). This clinic in Murengeti was so successful, in fact, that they even had a computer for their record keeping! The computer was not well utilized, and frequent power loss rendered it unreliable, but this was the only dispensary we visited that had a working computer system.
After visiting Murengeti, we spent the rest of the day working with a nurse at Uplands, another working dispensary. This is also where we picked up Amos, the lab technician. The patient load was light, so we left early and stopped at the girl’s orphanage in Limuru. This orphanage was built through the partnership of the Los Ranchos (America) and Limuru (Kenya) Presbyteries over the past few years. It’s operating now, and the girls there love to have visitors! When we arrived, swarms of girls grabbed each of us and dragged us to different areas of the school yard. They called us “Uncle” and “Auntie.” They braided Amanda’s hair, swung from my arms, and taught us all sorts of songs and dances that we didn’t understand. After a while of singing, we sat down in the grass. But the girls wanted me to swing them around again, and they started asking me, “Uncle, wake up!” I figured out that they were saying that to get me to stand up, but it was quite confusing at first!