Kwaheri (Goodbye)

"Would you prefer the happiness of scratching a mosquito bite over the happiness of not having a mosquito bite in the first place?"

-Sogyal Rinpoche (From "The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying") 

So the end has come. Eight short weeks seemingly flew by as I immersed myself in this beautiful culture with its rich history, kind people, and welcoming environment. I have grown as an individual, mentally, emotionally, spiritually, and unfortunately a little physically (as evidenced by my expanded waistline). With experience under my belt, I now have no doubt that my future as a physician will always have some kind of role in international medicine.

As my final assignment, Astrid asked for a reflection piece, and so I wrote a rap (see below). It works best with RATATAT's "Loud Pipes" which is how I performed it at the fireside chat. I'm a fool for putting it up but the video is available here.

Now I head to the coast, specifically to the small village of Shanzu, to work with a charity I am a co-founder of (Community Light Programme). I will spend two more weeks there before heading back to America, and school a couple days later.

I will miss this place.

Thanks for reading and joining me on my adventures. Kwaheri for now!

Karibu Kenya

Let me tell you about a girl by the name of Tirajeh, curly topped chick eats everything with Saracha

My rhymes be flowin' though I ain't Jay-Z, I took a path in life that's nowhere near easy

Studyin' on the daily cuz a doc I want to be, with some help from flashcards barely passed anatomy

Plan's to work with women and delivery, kinda like Astrid, she the queen bee

So I fly over seas to the land of Obama, where e'rbody says mzuri sana

Knock, knock, hodie, hodie

Feelin' fresh and new, hear a sweet response of, "Jambo! Karibu!"

First surprise right off the plane is the chillly temperature which is insane

But it be okay that the ground is high cuz it let the Kenyan runners touch the sky

Next surprise is my gangsta's paradise, a one room attic that got me hypnotized

Livin' in the hostel is a rite of its own, gotta take cold showers and don't you dare moan!

Working on them thighs with the squattie pottie, burnin' off the fat from eating chapatti

Place to place comes ma ori-en-tation, seein' all the hard work and dedication

Spendin' half a day working the land, at the AMPATH farm I lend a hand

Buy a couple things at Imani, learn the word for hope, Tumaini

Round a few times as I walk the walk, present a few things at Sally test talk

Spend half a day with THE Joe Mamlin, I find myself in awe and sometimes ramblin'

It be cool to see what started with two and many years later a really big crew

Now comes the part that ain't always funny, gonna give it straight, no coatin' in honey

There's been a few things that really pained me, like couple babies dyin' while workers drank tea

I try to understand and not just criticize, culturally conscious, I open up my eyes

But sometimes it hurts when there ain't no care and all you get from doc is an empty blank stare

Lack of empathy, man it drives me crazy! Is it really that or they bein' lazy?

STOP! HATARI

Rhymes got me outta breath, dry mouth from flowin, feelin' like death

Time to drift away from sadness in my rhyme, freshen up and smile like it be Tusker time

Tell you 'bout anotha thing I did whilst here was teach med students 'bout patient centered care

Loved the experience of hearing their thoughts, on Americans, the West, and times they got lost

Final bit to cover is my work at the Port, looking through data that we tryin' to sort

Five hour drive with a rockin' team, Justus, Monica, & Kelsey, you guys a dream!

Evaluating the chamas, a type of group care, helpin' mamas in places where help can be rare

So that's my story in eight short weeks, you got it here first an' not from Wiki Leaks

I'll take my exit it's time I see, I'll leave you in style, Kwaheri!

 

 

Posted at 06:31

Class Time!

"We are cups, constantly and quietly being filled. The trick is, knowing how to tip ourselves over and let the beautiful stuff out." -Ray Bradbury

Bryce and I took a course this past year titled "Patient-Doctor Communications"; a standard class that taught us how to create healthy patient relationships. During our stay in Eldoret we had the privilege of teaching an abbreviated version of the course to the bright fifth year Kenyan medical students bound for the West. They are heading to either the US, Canada, Egypt, or Sweden for a two month rotation. With help from the sixth year medical students who had gone abroad the previous year we co-taught through videos, skits, small group discussions, all with a serving of chai and cookies (thanks Sarah Ellen!). Topics such as patient-centered care, breaking bad news, and sexuality, were just a few of the areas we delved into. We ended the course with a nyama choma (barbeque) party at Members that was full of laughs and merriment.

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The part of the course that stood out to me the most was a small panel discussion led by the sixth year medical students. They answered all sorts of questions from flying for the first time, having to work on Sundays, and getting lost in really large hospitals. It is just so neat to hear what things stood out to them that I would never even think of. One student advised the others against crossing highways by foot - "the cars don't stop and they look at you like you escaped from the psych ward". Other warnings were about the large amount of salads consumed by Westerners, a lack of ugali (a maize-flour dish that is highly popular here), and the variation in the length of days (being close to the equator means Eldoret sticks to a strict schedule of daylight hours, not so much the case in say, Sweden).

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Posted at 09:31

MamaToto

"Would the world stand by if it were men who were dying just for completing their reproductive functions?"

-Asha-Rose Migiro, UN Deputy Secretary General, 2007

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Something wonderful has happened in Kenya. The Kenyan government has announced, that as of June 2013, all women will receive access to maternal healthcare for FREE.That's right, you read it correctly, F-R-E-E. 

Free deliveries! Free c-sections! Free family planning! 

Did you know that the equivalence of three jumbo jets worth of women die every day because of complications during pregnancy? My jaw hit the floor when I read that in "Half the Sky" (a beautifully written book I recommend everyone read). For this reason, and many more, this new policy is so unequivocally crucial to the vitality and progress of Kenya as an entire nation. I just hope the Kenyan government follows through with payments and supplies so health care providers are not faced with similar issues we have with medicare and medicaid. Lack of reimbursements could lead to a refusal of services leading to a terrible regression in women's health. So far the new rule has led to an influx of mamas at the clinics hopefully leading to less maternal and neonatal deaths as women utilize the help of skilled birth attendants.

Now we wait and see...

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Posted at 09:55

Motley Crew

 "If we could change ourselves, the tendencies in the world would also change. As a man changes his own nature, so does the attitude of the world change towards him. ...We need not wait to see what others do."

-Mahatma Gandhi

We global volunteers are often faced with the question of why we invest our energy and time abroad when there are so many issues that require our attention on the domestric front. It is a difficult question to answer and one that I have spent a great deal of time thinking about. My stay in Eldoret has really helped me realize that I am exactly where I'm supposed to be and doing exactly what I'm meant to be doing.

A part of volunteering abroad is of course the selfish desire to fuel the wanderlust pangs that tug at our heart strings (thanks for that Franks). I'll admit to this but I will also say that this is a very small portion of what motivates us. For me personally it is a combination of wanting to help individuals that are much less fortunate than myself and to serve as a vector for that information. When we travel abroad we don't just learn from the visual things we see but also from the people we interact with. Every second is a learning opportunity and we convey that message to our friends, families, and coworkers when we get back to our homes.

It has been an absolute pleasure meeting all the incredibly inspiring individuals that are here working in Eldoret. There are students and faculty members from Duke, Brown, University of Toronto, Indiana University, Notre Dame, Purdue, University of Colorado, Mt. Sinai, Oregon, and Utah. Each one is pursuing an amazing project, idea, or question and it both awes and humbles me to hear them speak. There are journalism students who are covering the stories of sex workers, an engineering student who is creating a sanitation system using anaerobic digesters, global health students who are designing algorithms that predict when a pregnant mother is most at risk for complications, and graduate students who have implemented a simple test to expose counterfeit drugs.

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Each one of these individuals has a story to tell and I love hearing every single one. The other night a journalism student was doing what she does best and painting for me the picture of a 31-year-old mother she had interviewed a few nights ago. The woman has already lost one eye to squamous cell carcinoma and now is slowly being blinded by the spread of the disease to her other eye. She requires medical attention but lacks the funds to pursue it. As a reporter, the student's hands were tied but what she could do was share the woman's story in the hopes that someone could help (which she ended up accomplishing). It is moments like this that reiterate why I am here in Kenya: we travel so that we can serve as the eyes and ears for those back home and abroad, sharing their intertwined messages across multiple seas. 

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Posted at 07:42

Stars, Spangles, and Ugali

"To want to be free is to be free."

-Ludwig Borne

 

My first Fourth of July as a newly inducted American and I spend it here in Kenya. What blasphemy! So I missed the fireworks but honestly, there's no place else I would rather be. Surrounded by new friends, representing various nationalities, we had a blast celebrating America and the joys of being in a world entirely different from our own. There were hamburgers and potato salad alongside bhajis and couscous. 

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Red, white, and blue streamers adorned the walls, an Obama kanga (traditional Kenyan cloth wrap) hung across the dining room wall, and flags were a plenty! The Eagles harmonized while we all stuffed our faces until our stomachs hurt. It was a wonderful night full of merriment, celebrating freedom in the most perfect way possible -- with a diverse group of individuals commited to ensuring its existence.

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Posted at 08:55

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