Before I tell you about my training day, I’d like to give you a partial snap shot of Nairobi and the people I see every day.
Every morning I walk by a ceremonial mask worn by adolescent males before circumcision. (Ouch!)
Everyone asks the morning question, “How was your night?” Jambo means “hello.” Sante means thank you. A response to any thank you is “welcome.”
At breakfast, at least three different servers approach me to see if I need anything and if I am waiting for someone (because of the other table settings). They always want to remove the other settings and I always tell them that they should just leave them. A woman walks around with tiny glasses of beet/ carrot juice. I haven’t tried it, but two days ago I watched a women accept a glass with great joy. I may have to find out what it tastes like.
There is a fresh rose bud in a vase in the bathroom and on a small table in the room that also holds a bowl of fresh fruit. I am tipping the housekeeper 100 KS (I had asked reception if I should tip and how much). Yesterday, when I came back from shopping with heavy bags of soda and water, I tipped the bellman 200 KS for his trouble. I haven’t had any need to use KS for anything else (I just used my credit card at the market).
There are small billboard ads on every lamp post, touting everything from cell phones to diapers to bank loans to “truelove for your bum: velvex toilet tissue!” The roads have very deep gutters (probably 3+ feet) for the heavy rains.
Apparently, the brilliant scarlet, yellow, orange and pink flowers on the trees, the shrubs and the ground are just spring flowers. Everything else, including blue and purple flowering jacaranda trees, will blossom in the summer!
People carry huge boxes on their backs. There are black, East Indian, and some white faces. Many of the women have medium to tiny braids in their hair- a number of the younger women color their braids with henna (so their hair is orange). I saw a sweet little girl with rainbow braids!
People hawk vegetables and fruits from makeshift roadside stands, including cooked corn on the cob wrapped in leaves and sugarcane that the person hacks off with a huge knife.
There are neighborhoods with beautiful homes, there are apartment buildings that look rundown, and there are also broken down huts. Places that you think must certainly be dumps turn out to be tiny strip malls made up of ramshackle huts.
I’ve seen signs for different embassies and we have driven by a gargantuan Chinese embassy compound, as well as the immaculately groomed and landscaped State office grounds.
There are Citi Hopper buses crammed to overflowing with people. This is a huge city with an enormous number of people. Every place we went was so crowded that cars waited in line to get past the guards at the gates. To drop me off in the morning, James has to write his name and I don’t know what else into paper log while another guard checks the car.
I haven’t seen a lot of birds, but I saw what looked like almost prehistoric cranes flying overhead and later on a rooftop. (see photo). At Nakuru, I’ll see lots of flamingoes, which is what it is known for.
Just watching out of windows in the training room (windows that open to the air and is at least 5 feet wide), I can see people walk by in native clothing, American clothing, Muslim dress, even women completely covered by black veils. I’ve seen a sign for Red Cross and Red Crescent.
Thanks to medicines and chugging more bitter lemon soda, my voice came partially back.
It took us less than 10 minutes to get from the hotel to the training site, which was amazing.
What was less amazing was the fact that there was no power. I walked up the stairs to the first floor in the dark. (Power goes on and off all the time- even in the hotel).
My morning prep is always the same. I turn on the plug, put two adapters into the extension strip, tape my lcd connector to the lcd cable (otherwise it falls off), turn on my lap top, turn on my iPod player and music, then organize the Koosh balls, etc. on the tables.
I collect the name tents (regular paper folded in thirds) and place them on a table so that people don’t go sit where they usually sit (it only works sometimes). I get the candy out of my collapsible cold pack and put it out. Then I wait.
Since I got to the training site at 8, this meant that I had plenty of time to write some notes for yesterday’s and today’s emails to you.
To my surprise, three people were seated in class by 8:45. Over the next 20 minutes, 5 more came in. Paul Ogloo, an older gentleman from a huge hospital who is very wise and perceptive, was one of them. He had told me he would have to be somewhere else- but apparently he convinced his management that his time would be better spent in our class.
Two came in at 10. And one came in for the last hour! When you give a pre-test on content that will be covered in the class, having people float in means that you need to stop to give them time to complete the pre-test (only 8-10 questions). And they all want to take it, even the woman who came in for the last hour. I told her it probably wasn’t worth it, but she wanted to take it anyway!
We had no power for the first 2 hours, so we did a lot with flip charts! Today, we were developing administrative, fiscal and clinical standards. I wanted to break up my 12 participants into three groups. I tried using number of children in the family. WOW was that a losing proposition. No one was an only child, the East Indian man was the only one who had three siblings. I was going to have to separate them by multiples of 10, 20, 30 in the family! I gave up and separated them instead by using the last digit of one of their telephone numbers.
They did a great job with each in turn, writing their group’s standards on a flip chart. Then everyone walked around to read what was written and note which standards were missing from their own organizations. Their next task was to identify current barriers to having those standards and what action steps they would need to take. Payments and collections, procurement and inventory management, medication management- the lack of standards was appalling and they all realized that.
During a break, I asked Washingtone about a beaded bracelet he wore- to see if it was simple adornment or had meaning. He told me that they were the colors of the Kenyan flag and he wore it to show that he loved Kenya. Moses also sports a very wide beaded bracelet as well as a beaded belt.
The newly purchased candy I put out in the morning was all gone by 10 am. I decided that, rather than constantly replenishing the candy bowls, I would partially refill them at 11:30. At the end of the class, nothing was left.
The class ends at 1 and then I close everything up and pack my laptop, evaluations, folders, iPod, camera, iPod player and adapters in time for James to pick me up at 1:30.
Today, he wasn’t in the parking lot, so I decided to save him the hassle of logging into the parking area. I went outside the gate to wait for him. I waited and I waited. The guards came over to see if they could call a taxi for me, but I told them I had a ride.
I tried to look to see if I had any message on my phone, but I didn’t have my phone. It turned out that it was in James’ car.
Finally after waiting 30 minutes, I went back up to the training room to have Austin call Mbogo to get Jame’s number. It turned out that the President was moving, so James had been stuck in traffic, but he expected to be there to pick me up in 5 to 10 minutes.
Twenty minutes later, the guard insisted that he should call me a taxi and I told him if my ride wasn’t there in 5 minutes, I would appreciate it if he would do it for me. (You see how kind and caring people are). James showed up in the nick of time, very apologetic. Apparently, when the President moves, he rides the wrong way down the road, which forces all traffic to be in the other lane going in opposite directions. Understandably, no one can move.
There was a lot of traffic to get back to the hotel, so it took about another 30-40 minutes.
By the time I get to the hotel every day, I need to jump in the shower. They provide a great bathrobe and all the amenities. Today, I had a lot of dust and dirt to wash off from standing next to the road.
I’m going to end this letter by telling you that I am feeling better.