Thursday, January 17, 2019


I am settling in. I sense I am turning the corner regarding my sleep/wake cycle, with another successful unbroken 6 hours of sleep. Sleep is the tonic for anything that ails.

It is summer here in Nairobi. The sky is cloudless. The medicinal Kassod tree, and the Cordia Africana (flowering) tree reach towards the still, azure sky. The brutal heat from the sun is broken by a pleasant breeze, affording enjoyable walks in the early morning or the late afternoon.

I have quieted the alarm bells in my head, warning me of the various and heinous possibilities that would negatively effect me being in a foreign land, far away from modern "necessities." What I have discovered is that my ignorance, sprinkled with a dash of elitism and Western sensibility of suspicion, unfairly and unfortunately skewed my perspective of places like Africa in a negative direction. It is clear that my mind created a story of Africa as primitive, tribal, and unruly. But Nairobi is a bustling city, the capital of Kenya, with high rise buildings and sprawling parks, as well as the slums and homeless people.

The Servants of the Sick Training Center is where I am living and taking classes. Didactic classes are the first 2 weeks, while the last 8 weeks are half day class, half day clinical. We choose our settings, either a certain floor in the city's general hospital, or the hospital for the mentally ill and addicted patient. I chose the burn unit at the general hospital because it is where I will have the opportunity to work with children. I feel comfortable being enmeshed in the world of a burn unit since I was used to working with burns as a physical therapist. It takes a certain type of stomach, and I am hoping I still have it. I have been almost guaranteed that I will be prepared to work with these patients without breaking myself wide open due to despair.

I am glad I have a more vegetarian palate than a carnivorous one, because our meals are mainly a starch along with boiled vegetables and vegetable stews. If there is meat, it is at dinner, and it is a small pot of a few chicken wings and a couple of drumsticks for the whole table. When I compare the spread to what our plates look like at home, I understand why we have such an obesity crisis!

The staple of the Kenyan diet is Ugali, a dish made by adding cornmeal to boiling water and stirring it until it becomes a white block of grainy dough. It is referred to as "Kenyan bread," cut in to large hunks and placed on your plate. It is eaten either with a fork, or used like a roll of cooked dough to scoop up the saucy vegetables. Since greens are in season and grown on the premisses, we have some sort of boiled greens every lunch and dinner. My favorite stew is Irio, a mashed pea and potato mixture that can be poured over Ugali or white rice. For lunch today we had githeri, which is boiled beans and corn with a small amount of carrots. Dinner was a repeat, with the addition of tilapia cooked in a stew of greens and tomatoes. The presentation of the tilapia was a new one for me. It is the head portion and the tail portion of the fish— bones, eyeballs and  scales, sans the guts. I usually do not shy away from trying new foods. However, when I looked into the pot, it reminded me of the bucket my dad used to throw the skin, head, tail, bone and guts in to after a day of fishing at the lake.Debating whether or not to have any, Tom placed a piece of the tail on my plate, as I was holding up the buffet line. I would not have accepted the head portion, with its dry eye socket and an opulent white bead that one time served as a functioning eyeball.

I love the clean and simple food. They do not have deserts, unless it is a piece of fruit. However, due to the expense, it is rare to have and the piece of fruit is often shared. They eat no where the amount we do, and everything is fresh even the chicken is fresh, chosen from one that is free roaming around the yard, the market, or in more rural areas, the house. Food not grown or raised is purchased from growers in the open market place. There is no Kroger or Publix to hop in the car and go to. At first I thought I would miss an occasional glass of wine, but I like the clean feeling I am experiencing.

Going to keep this post light.

I fall asleep tonight feeling grateful, loved and encouraged. I pray your world is happy and peaceful and that you feel loved.


1 comment:

  1. Hello Mary!

    I am thoroughly enjoying your stories and insights! I have never been to Kenya, but I compare it to some feelings and observations that I had when I traveled to Thailand, Bali and China - although those were not an immersion by any means. The food comments also apply to living in Japan.

    I’m glad you are settling in, taking it all in and giving of yourself to those around you - they are fortunate to have you. This will change your life in many ways as you know. It is an effort and an eye opener whenever we leave our country of plenty to see how others live.


    PS Check your Vandy email. : )


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