Sunday, February 27, 2011

living with monkeys...

We have been hearing reports of snow in Seattle! And temperatures that sound painful...And it is late February! Yesterday was Alison's bd. When she was born there were daffodils blooming...Apparently not this year!?

Here in Kenya we are hot and it is very dry! The monkeys get more aggressive when it is dry, or so we have been told. A few weeks ago I was working at the kitchen counter with the door open and a tail appeared over the edge of the counter! I thought it was a dog...I don't think monkey on first sight of a tail! When I walked around the counter to tell the "dog" to get out...there was a decent size monkey staring back at me. We had a moment of stand off, and then it sauntered off..I am sure it was going for the fruit container visible from the doorway.

Yesterday I made chocolate chip cookies. We were all sitting in the living room while the cookies were still on the counter cooling. All of a sudden the spatula "fell off" the counter and we looked up to see a monkey bolting for the door with a cookie in it's hand!

I guess we will have to keep the door shut if we don't want to be sharing our food supply for awhile.

The baboons seem more around as well. Last week I was running along the same trail I always use. As I ran by a big barrel garbage can a baboon lifted himself out of it! Yikes! A bit disturbing. Male baboons are very large and not always so friendly. I think he was surprised to see me too...

Monday, February 14, 2011

TIA, this is Africa

Erika discovered that TIA refers to This is Africa...

Sunday, February 13, 2011

and one more from warren

Lately I have been helping to staff the school infirmary at Rift Valley Academy. This is the school that John, my 11th grader is attending this year. There are around 500 students at the school and most of them board. This past 6 weeks brought an outbreak of the flu, and as many as 50 kids were staying overnight in the infirmary with fevers, cough, congestion, muscle aches, etc. I would go and check on the kids, screening them for other possible illnesses. Something I hadn’t clued into was that a certain number of the students went home to their families over Christmas Break and were in Malaria endemic areas without using any Malaria Prophylaxis. One such child who looked every bit like the flu, except she wasn’t getting better as quickly as most other students, tested positive on a peripheral blood smear for Malaria. She was started on Malaria drugs but over the course of 2 to 3 days she descended into full blown Cerebral Malaria: unconscious, posturing, Glasgow coma score around 3, in our ICU. The miracle was that over another 4 to 5 days she came back out of the coma and was able to go back to her classes. To be sure, all the other kids were tested for Malaria.

Friday marked the 8th and final chemotherapy treatment for a woman I have been treating for Hodgkin’s Lymphoma since October. By “treating” I mean, I have literally been the person mixing and administering all of the medications. She came into our clinic with a swollen neck gland and after sending a small piece for pathology was started on a 4 drug protocol for treatment. She now goes off to the National Hospital in Nairobi for radiation therapy and has a great prognosis for cure. I didn’t plan on doing Oncology but you never know what the next week brings.

more wild rides...

Today we piki piki’d into the Rift Valley. John carried Erika and Warren carried me. And John showed us the way. (Yesterday we hiked up Kijabe “Hill”…top about 9000 ft and RT hike more than 5 hours. Our pedometers told us we had walked 13 miles when we got back…and our bodies felt like it!)

Our piki ride took us down from our home, through the hell hole that is Mai-Maihu...a truck stop town that fits all the images you have ever seen related to the spread of HIV in Africa...and then we headed out into the valley. John wanted to take us to a Maasai town he likes.Getting there involved riding on road track that was up to a foot thick with dust...a bit like riding a motor bike in deep and light snow on a rutted path...LOTS of it! We took a few tumbles. You can imagine how dirty we became! We passed a family of zebra, including a new one, and lots of Maasai children waving and calling out “hello, how are you?”. We drove through a beautiful acacia forest, had to ask some Maasai goat herders to direct us, and saw a small church service happening under an acacia tree…something that seems much more meaningful to me after my conversations with my Maasai friend Samuel, who speaks clearly about the sense of liberation he feels on account of his relatively new Christian faith.

When we finally arrived in Awaso (spelling?) it was a quiet Sunday afternoon. As an aside, I have heard people describe the nastiness of plastic bags in the ocean…how they congregate and swirl around and make an ugly scene on the sea. Here in Awaso we found something similar. Every bush, fence wire, branch...plastic bags stuck after being blown there by the wind...a garbage dump of plastic over acres of land. Horrible. The market John loves was like a ghost town, but we stopped in at the little “hotel”, the word for restaurant in most of rural Kenya, and had a coke and a mandazi, a sort of fried bread or donut. The TV was blaring away with an English speaking person telling about British rugby and then a rundown on the picks for best new shows/movies?! So weird. Most of the people watching don’t really speak English...and what do rugby, movies and advertising mean to them as they see it come across the screen?? Apparently the TV gadget itself is interesting enough?

By the time we got home we had one broken side mirror, a broken tail light, a few bumps and bruises, a lost tire worked its way out of John’s backpack due to all the juggling and jarring. I had a chat with the neighbor before coming in the house. When I looked in the mirror I realized that my face was covered in dirt as if I had used it for makeup! She had given no indication that I looked so ridiculous??

Yes Mark Kranwinkle...we lived to see another adventure!;)
Erika wrote about the rafting at

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

rafting the nile!

at the fig tree...

Africa at 6 months….

So here we are...half way through our African adventure. As is often the case...once you dive into something you only learn more about how much you will never understand or know! And that is surely the case here. We see people come and go and can imagine what they will tell their friends and family and we realize that our short glimpses hold so much that is inaccurate, partial, misunderstood…And we realize that this will also be the case with us…A year is a long time, but it is really a very short time. Cultural differences, language, relationships, restructuring of needs...these all take much, much longer if they can happen at all.

Our days are full of appreciation and pleasurable encounters. Many are also full of frustrations and complications. It is not easy to problem solve here. So something like finding a key to a locked room can be an impossible task, or things are breaking as fast as we can fix them… only to break again the next day, or there are constant needs coming to the door...And what is the best way to handle that?

Nonetheless...the sun continues to shine every day. The sky is amazing all the time. The acacia trees remain one of the most beautiful things I have ever had the privilege of seeing on a regular basis. We are warmly greeted by many acquaintances and what can now be called friends. Baboons are hanging out watching us when we run. And we enjoy ridiculous quantities of fresh fruits and veggies!

Erika already has a fan club of 9th and 10th grade girls. She is coaching them in soccer. They love having a young, enthusiastic and fun coach. It is really fun for her as well. She and I taught a class together last week. And on Monday Erika started to follow Warren at the hospital.

Warren and I helped John’s school get through a flu outbreak. At one point there were 70 sick kids...with about 50 of them in the infirmary! Unfortunately the flu symptoms masked the early signs of a bad case of malaria and a case of schistosomiasis! Kids get crazy stuff here when visiting their parents over holiday! Thankfully most everyone seems to be recovering now.

John took the SAT...same day, same time as he would have taken it at home...but 11 hours ahead. Nice to be done long before your friends get started! He has been helping Erika prepare for a real Piki ride...Soon they will be chasing giraffe together!