19 January 2009

HI HOOOOOOOOOOO! (just imagine a dwarf singing it)

And it is off to working I now go.  Today was my first day at the St. Julie's Center and I did a whole lot of watching and nothing.  The center "opens" at 8:30, so being my punctual self on his first day of work, I was there 10 minutes early.  The gate was locked.  I waited in the shade and a man came on a motorcycle.  He jumped off and introduced himself as Tom.  Tom had the key to the gate, but not the center.  As we waited for the person with the key to show up he showed my his motorcycle.  Within 2 minutes of talking he not only offered to teach me how to ride it, but also said that once I have learned that I can use it at my leisure.  I have never been on a motorcycle in my life, and I do not plan on starting on the pothole-filled roads of Kenya.  Although, I would think it to be fun to learn how to drive one as long as it is done on a field and I have a helmet.

The person with the key to the center showed up, and we entered and I stood and waited patiently until nine.  During this time I met some of the staff and shook hands with a few of the waiting families.  Sister Judi and Sue came via car and then a "tour" of the facilities began.  I say "tour" because the entire center is no bigger than my classroom that I taught in last year.  In this space there is a therapy room with two tables, an office, an storage space for therapy games, and a main room for people to wait ant the children to have their play therapy.  This is basically how the center works.  A mother (sometimes father) and child arrive and wait inside to see the therapists.  During this time, the child does play therapy with whichever set of toys has been assigned to him or her.  For example, a child who needs work with fine motor skills will have Legos.  The therapists (there are two) call in the families and treat the children.  After our tour, we participated in play therapy.  I worked with a new child who had sight and cognitive problems.  We played with a cylinder that had bells in it and then played catch.  After that, Sue and I were invited into the therapy room.  We watched as the two therapists worked with children with cerebral palsy.  Using glycerine as a warming solution and lubricant, the therapists worked the children's limbs to help achieve a full range of motion.  During this time, they explained exactly what they were doing and why.  Many of the children we saw had CP.  Sadly, one boy came who had suffered a very severe accident a year ago where he was burned on his left side.  The hospital did such a poor job that his left arm is unable to have a complete range of motion, his hand is completely set upwards (imagine pulling your hand back at your wrist as far as possible), and his fingers are curled under.  Neglect by the doctors caused all of these problems so take place.  At the center, the therapist worked on the boy's hand and shoulders to help regain the range of motion for each.  He is supposed  to go to surgery to fix the two problems that have been hard to overcome due to severe scarring (to be as sensitive as possible, the burns are so bad that there are parts on his elbow that are white.  Clearly he suffered third degree burns in some places).

In between, Sister Lucy gave us some Swahili lessons.  After watching the therapy, we were invited to have some tea and bread.  We sat and spoke to Sister Joy as we happily ate and drank.  When we finished it was 1pm and all the children had been seen.  Joy said, "We can go now," and the day of work was over.  I left with a feeling of disappointment.  Not because it was not a good day, but because I do not see what they need me to do at the center.  The therapy is done by professionals, the play therapy is done with the parents and supervised by Neto, all that is left is the paperwork.  While there is certainly much to be done in terms of paperwork, as Sue put it, "There is enough work for one person to do as a part-time job."  Unfortunately, there are two of us.  I am sure they will find things for us to do while at the center, but I am concerned.  I do not need to jump into some world saving job, but I would like to be able to help at the center.  Presently, it does not appear that I can even do that.  It is my hope that tomorrow I can write that I was an idiot and jumped too quickly to a conclusion (as I often d0).  One thing to look forward to is the fact that we will be able to join Joy when she does her home visits.  She travels most days to the homes of the families to see what is going on at home and how that environment could be contributing to the problems of the child (or helping).

In the afternoon I began the very lengthy process of making dinner.  After soaking the beans in water overnight, I had to boil them for roughly three hours (maybe longer, I did not keep track).  While I waited, Sue helped me cut up the potatoes, tomatoes, carrots and onions.  I then cooked the carrots and potatoes, drained them and added everything together.   I added a bit of water, chili powder and taco mix.  All in all, it turned out to be a pretty decent vegetarian chili stew.  To go with it, I made my first venture into Kenyan cuisine and made some Ugalli (boil water and add maize flour).  Dinner was quite filling, and left us with more than enough for a few more days.  However, the entire process of cooking dinner easily took 5 hours. 

Simple living ain't so easy.  We are in constant need of water, and cooking really starts from scratch.  There are no canned or prepared foods here.  I say this only to illustrate the reality for the majority of the world.  What will come off as bitching and moaning is just my attempt to illuminate the fact that I had never realized how much I took for granted very simple things.  For example, I can go to the grocery store at home and buy beans, vegetables, and spices.  Mix all together, add water from the sink and cook.  Food and water dominate my existence, and I can now see how it is very hard for someone to just go out and get a job.  If there was more than two of us, we would need a person to take care of these chores.  In fact, the sisters in Nairobi have to do this.  One sister had the main responsibility of washing and cooking for the group.  That was full time work.  She did a lot more than just that, and also worked outside of the house.  But, I want to show how it can be hard for people to find work if there is no time in the day.  I also do not want to preach, but be thankful.  Be thankful that water is so easily accessible.  Please, do not waste your money on bottled water when the tap is just fine.  It takes a full day for me to prepare 5L of drinkable water.  Tap water is so cheap and easy that it is silly to use anything else.

While cooking, the four of us gathered here and we were joined by a group of Sisters and people from the town to teach us a bit about culture.  It was very helpful to hear from people who not only lived here but represented the tribe of the area.  One thing that I have come to learn is that the people here are very very slow (polepole as they say which means slowly slowly).  Conversations drag on with lots of awkward silences.  This seems to be accepted an normal.  You enjoy each others company and the conversation will progress in a natural manner.  Moments that would always lead to an end at home linger like the hot air that will not go away.  It is finally broken by someone speaking, but like that constant heat, it comes back with a vengeance at the moment you think you have defeated it.

It also rained, finally, for awhile today.  This is great because we are in desperate need of rain.  It also provided water for the rain tank that is gathered from water off of our roof.  This will give us more washing water.  It is too early for the rainy season, but we can only hope that more rain will come like today.