A Travellerspoint blog

Flight to Nairobi

A great flight as far as I was concerned...I slept like a baby for six hours and that really went a long way in making up for the first flight. Schipol airport in Amsterdam is another great airport and even has the convenience of the train station downstairs...I will take advantage of that on my return trip. wi fi is only free for 30 minutes and I wish they would amend that to free all the time...darn capitalists. Had good seat mates as one was a man, a native Nairobian who lives in Dallas and he was taking his kids back to Nairobi to meet their relatives.

Nairobi has a nice climate and it was a comfortable 19 degrees when I arrived...I noticed as we were flying that the outside temp was minus 56 and I thought that was similar to back home lol. my driver Benson was waiting for me when I got my luggage and we had a nice drive to the Safari Club hotel that is to be my home for the next three days. nice room but the wi fi works a lot better in the morning than at night. woke up about 5am to rain on my small balcony but it stopped soon after and looks like a good day here weather wise.

People here seem to dress their best all the time when out in public, like they are going to church. I wish there was more of that in Canada, not me of course I would still be casual, I mean everybody else. People are friendly here, when you get on an elevator with someone you usually have a conversation rather than quietly looking at your feet which seems to be the custom at home.

I had a nice breakfast, the buffets here always have baked beans on the menu and I love those...gets a guy going for the day...in a rootin tootin kind of way. I Have ordered box lunches for Benson and myself and we are soon to be off to the Agano school in the Dandora slum...should be an interesting day.


Posted by cnmcgeehan 21:50 Comments (1)

Travel day

Never my favourite day

Growing up in Edmonton means that I generally dislike Calgary, I'm sure the reverse is true for Calgarians. There is one thing in Calgary that I do admire and that is the airport...one of the best in the world in my mind. It doesn't matter what time of day you are in the airport they have these volunteers in Stetsons and red vests and they actually look for people who need directions...and they all know their stuff. I really love that. the airport is clean, spacious and bright and they have free wi fi and even provide outlets to plug your device into...great stuff.

Every time I get on a plane I am reminded of a cartoon depicting a Cattle roundup and one cow says to the other " I wish they would stop treating us like airline passengers". pretty much enough said about that. I'm sitting in Amsterdam at the moment glad that half my flight time is over, glad that I have a window seat to Nairobi and wondering why every time I get an aisle seat the biggest three or four passengers in my section need to visit the bathroom three or four times in the one hour I'm trying to sleep. Talk about things that go bump in the night...sheesh.

Posted by cnmcgeehan 23:49 Comments (3)

Return To Kenya: Another Working Adventure

Last time I visited Kenya I wrote a blog and received overwhelming feedback...from insomniacs and people with sleeping disorders. Apparently many folks found their sleep improved dramatically after reading the blog and one fellow told me he didn't even get through one paragraph before he fell into the best sleep he had in weeks. So, as a public service I'm doing another blog on this visit.

My flight times are really favourable. I leave Calgary Tuesday afternoon about 3 PM and fly 8.5 hours to Amsterdam, I only have a two hour layover and then 10.5 hours to Nairobi. Total travelling time is just over 20 hours which is nice for a trip of this length. Airline fares and how they are determined is a great mystery to me and I've learned to just keep going back to my favourite booking sites time and again and I usually can save myself some money...about $500 for this trip...it seems if you are flexible with your travel days there are substantial differences in price. I wish they sold cars and trucks like this.

There are 11 of us travelling together...journalists and business people...on a Monitoring and Evaluation trip for A Better World Canada. ABW has been doing humanitarian work in Kenya and other countries for over twenty years. I feel privileged to be included in this group that will visit projects throughout Kenya. The main group arrives on Friday night but I am going to Nairobi two days early as I have a special project for those days...more on that in a later post.

It snowed over two feet on the weekend here and is going down to minus 17 tonight...I can't wait to get going. Another post tomorrow.

Sleep well.

Posted by cnmcgeehan 10:09 Archived in Kenya Comments (2)

Bad Roads, More Clinics, Unruly Crowds

overcast 20 °C

At this time of the year it rains often in this area . . . in fact almost every afternoon at 3PM. On one occasion we asked our driver if today we would see rain and his answer as he looked up at the sky was ‘yes, the clouds are very pregnant’.

Today was a carbon copy of Tuesday. We left early so we could see as many patients as possible. We have a different driver today who somehow knew of a short cut . . . we avoided much of the worst part of the road, cut thirty minutes off the drive time and arrived at the clinic before 9am. Don’t know why we didn’t do this yesterday . . . but at least we were able to take that same route out again followed by everyone else.

There were not too many people here when we started so we thought it might be an easier day . . . but boy were we wrong. They started coming about 10am and the throng grew as the day went on.
Lineups for the doctors, eye clinic, and dentist.

Inside the Eye Clinic

We had to leave by 3:30pm because of the threatening rain and the dangers of driving in the dark so about 1pm the security people determined the number of patients that could be treated and asked the rest to leave. We did not want anyone standing in line for an extra two hours and then be told they would not see a doctor.

These areas may see a free clinic only once or twice a year and those told to leave were not happy at all. We were never really in danger but there was some pushing and shoving with security and the aggressive ones were the women. When things started to settle down some still tried to get in the back door which we had to padlock, they were trying to negotiate through the windows and there were a number of people just milling about and all that made us a little uneasy. Those in the group who have been on previous trips or have experience running clinics here and in other countries say this is always the case. It is just not humanly possible to see everyone, often people just accept it and go home but sometimes things don’t end well and today was one of those days. We hear complaints about long waits for medical care in Canada but at least we usually receive treatment eventually.

Posted by cnmcgeehan 14:15 Comments (0)

Kaplambloi Medical Facility

semi-overcast 20 °C

The best item on the breakfast buffet these days is beans on toast and that has become my morning staple at the Tea Tree Hotel. It’s not as bad as it sounds as I loved it when camping and it tends to hold me through the long days working at the clinic.

After breakfast we start a two hour journey to the remote location of the clinics to be held in this area. The group splits up again today . . . some to the opening of the girls dorms at Ndenai Small Home for the Physically Challenged, sponsored by Laebon Homes and the Bontje family of Red Deer. They will also conduct a medical clinic there afterwards. We carried on to the clinic we’ve been assigned to, at Kaplambloi Medical facility which is 5 km further up the road. The first hour is on good paved roads and the last hour is on one of the worst roads we have ever been on so far.
We’ve been told that if it starts raining heavily while we’re there, we need to be prepared to pack up and leave within 10 minutes or we might not get back out for days.

There are around 35 people working on the medical team including doctors, nurses, paediatrician, pharmacist, radiologist, dentist, ophthalmologist, physiotherapist, and lay people. Nellie and I will be working with the ophthalmologist, Dr Jamie Bhamra who specializes in cornea work in Calgary, and his wife Lisa, a nurse specializing in tissue repairs and wound healing.

We’re a team of six . . . Jamie, Lisa, Lane Tomalty of Red Deer who will help Lisa with gathering the patient info and conducting the initial vision tests, Lane’s father Neil who will be in charge of the door and crowd control, Nellie and I who will fit and dispense glasses as ordered by Jamie. We have brought with us from Canada around 700 pairs of donated glasses, both readers and for distance; as well as a large number of sunglasses which will go to anyone who needs or wants them.

As we arrived we saw a large crowd of people to greet us. It was a little overwhelming, to say the least.
They’re all waiting for various services and each team gets started at setting up their assigned rooms. A very important part of the whole operation is the security people who help to keep order and prevent people from jumping the queue in front of others.

After we set up we began seeing patients at about 10am and we worked straight thru to 5:30pm taking only an 8 minute break for lunch . . . such as it was. Since our days are long and the journey to and from the clinics makes it impossible to come back for lunch it has been pre-arranged that the hotels provided us with a boxed lunch. We have become accustomed to eating primarily two meals a day because these box lunches are basically inedible. We often get a juice box with no straw, half a cheese sandwich (sometimes with no cheese), half a carrot, yoghurt with no spoon and obviously unrefrigerated . . . so we try to find something else in our backpacks or go without. . . we share the boxes with the locals . . . they love them (anything for free, I think).

Many of our patients require only drops for allergies, or for dry, itchy eyes and almost all of them need sunglasses. The older they are, the more need for reading glasses just like at home. Some referrals to local doctors are need as Jamie sees a number of patients requiring cataract surgery. We’ve been told that the surgery costs about $100 here and can sometimes be paid for by grants. It seems doubtful however, that all of them will follow thru . . . they have no means of travel other than walking and no money. The sad part of our day were those who have suffered eye injuries or previous botched surgery as these are people who cannot be helped further. We treated over 200 patients the first day.

There were some very pleasant surprises. One lady in her 70’s needed help with seeing distances and when we put her new glasses on she started laughing and jumped about as high as anyone of her age could. The glasses helped her seeing many things she had not seen since she was a younger woman. She gave us a great big smile and was still laughing when she left.

We also fitted a 12 year old girl with new specs . . . we had to try several pairs before we got it right but now she will be able to see the blackboard.
The schools we’ve seen so far feature dirt floors and very small windows so there is only small amounts of natural light entering these dark and dingy rooms. Hers is no doubt the same.

In order to return to the hotel before dark we were told we should leave by 3pm. We worked later then we should have but there were so many more patients to see that we couldn’t just walk away. We finished up at 5:30 and it took us until 8pm to arrive back at the Tea Tree Hotel. The challenge with driving here is not only the unpaved roads but the large number of cows, sheep and goats that graze at the side of the road. As well, many people here walk everywhere and often when you pass them they are closer to the vehicles than safety should allow. Along the unpaved part of our drive we saw many walkers with dark clothing and no light source . . . how they find their way escapes me.

We got back to the hotel and straight into our evening meeting. Everyone has a chance to discuss their day, discuss any problems, talk about their successes and learn about tomorrow’s schedule. This was followed by the buffet surprise which at this particular hotel often forced us to eat only rice or potatoes with a few vegetables.

Posted by cnmcgeehan 14:10 Comments (1)

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