I hear it's Thanksgiving. For me, it's just another day up in northern Kenya. Tonight we will dine on some combination of the following: cabbage, spaghetti, lentils, potatoes, tomatoes, carrots. Mmmmmthanksgiving cabbage. But what does "just another day" really mean around here? Let me walk you through a day (yesterday) in the life of a Go-Kenya fellow.
7:30. Wake up. As with every day of my life, I'd like to sleep more, but we're supposed to start the drive down to Logo Logo at 8:30. Get up. Have tea and toast. Notice that the whole-grain bread I brought up from Nairobi is almost gone. Soon I will have to resume eating white Supaloaf bread. Am sad. Someone else at the guesthouse overhears that we're going to Logo Logo and asks us to pick up his colleague who has been there for the past 3 days and needs a ride back, lest she get stuck on the top of a truck. There's no cell phone connection there, so she won't know we're coming and we won't be able to coordinate, but we tell him we'll look for her.
This is how you travel to Logo Logo (or Isiolo or Nairobi) if you don't confirm a ride.
8:30. Pack my bag with surveys, pen, paper, rain coat, cell phone (not that it matters; there's not going to be reception), water, and 2 granola bars (1 for lunch, 1 for a roadside snack if we break down or get stuck.)
9:00. Our guide is still in a clinic staff meeting.
10:00. We are told that the car reserved for us was given to someone else. They are trying to source for another one. I could have slept longer.
10:30. Decide to make use of this time by meeting with the clinic director who asks me if the database I'm creating can give summaries of TB, PMTCT, and PCR indicators. I tell him it could if that information were collected on the paper forms, but it's not. We are in a pickle. I go back to my room and resume work on the Excel data dictionary I've created. In the room, I notice that my other pair of pants is still in a ball on the floor where I threw them in a panic after squashing some sort of bug on my thigh, INSIDE my pant leg, which subsequently got a red splotch on the fabric. Either it was a red bug or very full of blood. Have since been too scared and grossed out to look and see exactly what that was.
11:00. We have a car and are leaving only 2.5 hours behind schedule. It has a rare seat-belt, for which I am very excited! We agree to give a ride home to 2 clients who spent several hours walking to the clinic this morning from villages on our way to Logo Logo. I get bumped to the middle seat and lose my seat-belt. Look around and decide that the passenger seat in front of me will suffice to grasp when the truck starts crazy bouncing. We're off!
11:15. Not quite. We have to make 3 stops for milk, snacks, and petrol.
11:30-1:30. Bouncing down the road towards Logo Logo. By now I know all the villages along this route: Hula Hula, Parkishon, Karare, Camboy, Logo Logo. Between Camboy and Logo Logo, there are fields of purple wildflowers, and then fields of white wildflowers. Before hitting any of those villages or landmarks, we stop at the police blockade where they peer into all the windows to scope for Al Shabaab. Not sure exactly how they'd recognize them if they spot them, but they seem confident that we are no threat and they let us pass. I eat both granola bars, and now I have nothing but water to tide me over if we get stuck.
2:00. Begin administering the focus group surveys. I have a group of 6 Rendille women, about half adorned with beads. Two of them are very old, and one is losing her top. Question 1: "How old are you?" Four of them don't know their age.
Shady spot where we had our focus group.
2:30. The second old lady starts to lose her top as well.
3:30. I realize that one of the women doesn't understand the language we've been using for the past hour (Samburu).
4:00. Finished. Hand out the milk and snacks, and ask if they have any questions. No one has questions.
This seems unlikely... Some crazy mzungu just spent 2 hours asking you how long it takes to gather water and whether you've ever used family planning, and you don't have any questions? The answer is still no.
4:10. Group dismissed. Our driver and guide are not ready to leave yet, so we wander around some of the houses. One has a pair of blue-jeans framing the doorway. We ask around about the lady we are supposed to bring back with us and find her napping in a day-bed. She shows us the Rendille guest-house she's been staying in since the weekend.
Logo Logo houses.
Inside the guesthouse.
Day bed for napping.
4:30. Heading back home. I subtly refuse to move from the seat-belt seat. Strapped in I don't need to worry about getting bounced out of the seat and can focus more on the scenery. We honk at everything in the road: other cars, bikes, goats, cows, people, baboons. The cars, goats, and people move out of our way, but the cows and baboons are stubborn, and we have to drive around them.
Peoples and baboons on the way home.
5:00. There's a truck stuck in the mud. Our driver and guide get out to help, but there is nothing they can do. I'm glad it's not us. We offer a lift to the people who were riding on the now defunct truck. Luckily our trunk has extra bench seating. Also luckily, assault riffles are prohibited on board.
Why you should always pack extra granola bars.
Only handguns allowed in the trunk seating.
6:30. Back home just before dark. Try to remember the last time I showered... I think it was 1 or 2 days ago. Decide I can wait until morning. Have dinner instead. I forget what it was, but probably cabbage, pasta, lentils, potatoes, or carrots.
7:30. The room smells funny... maybe it was a bad idea not to shower. Go back to working on Data Dictionary.
9:30. Tired of work, will stop for the night. Leaving the room, I notice a baby lizard scoot inside. I am charmed, but roommate is not and tells a gross story about a lizard inside her friend's pants once. I remember I still haven't examined the pants on my floor. We decide the lizard must go.
9:40. This involves a bit of shrieking. Tomorrow morning I will be asked by other guests what was going on (very un-soundproofed rooms here), and will have to admit: No, it wasn't a snake/bat/scorpion/monster... it was a baby lizard.
10:00. Brush my teeth and look in a mirror for the first time all day. The entire right side of my face is streaked with mud. Am curious how long that's been there and why no one mentioned it. Also confirms that I really should have showered.
10:30. In bed, listening to Radiolab podcast on the terminal velocity of cats; they reach terminal velocity after falling for 9 stories. I feel enlightened and am looking forward to offering up this tidbit of information at parties.
So this all gets added to my growing list of Thanksgivings spent out of the country. Happy Thanksgiving to everyone who partakes!