Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Celebrity Spotting!?!

Breaking news in Eldoret ... rumor had it that Wayne Rooney, Manchester United Forward and international super star soccer player, was in town and seen running through the streets.

Later in the day a couple of us were walking through town and a few of the street boys sitting on a nearby hill shouted out "Look ... it's Wayne Rooney!!!!" as they pointed at me and cheered?! So apparently I'm a celebrity and didn't even know it.  I'm not sure how much I look like Rooney ... but I'll let you decide ?!?!?!?!

Sunday Funday

Great Sunday in Eldoret.  I went to sleep quite early on Saturday given the exhausting couple days of travel we had and got up early for my first Kenyan Catholic mass.   Much to my surprise, the service was almost entirely in English besides the singing.  The singing in Swahili was quite beautiful and all in attendance would clap or wave to the beat depending on the song … it was clear that the two Americans obviously had no rhythm … but we tried our best.  Besides a few small differences in the prayers and the fact that you brought your money during the offeratory hymn to the front of the church and deposited it into a locked box, most of the mass was much the same as we would have in the US.  After mass, we headed back to the IU house to join a group of medical students for breakfast.  We’ve met some fantastic IU medical students who are also staying at the IU house and working at AMPATH that have been very helpful in trying to get us acclimated to the city and culture. 
Following breakfast, our new friends asked us to join them on a trip to Niburi for the day, which is a “resort-like” area about 25 minutes outside of the city.  We had the chance to cool off in a pool and relax in loungers under the sun with a cold beer (I say we, but you all know my complexion and know very well that I retreated to the shade of one of the huts).  After cooling off we had lunch and played a few card games to pass the afternoon.  This certainly is not the type of experience that we had expected on our second day in Eldoret … but a great way to relax after a long trip. 
After arriving back at the IU house, I joined my new friend, Beth, for my first run at altitude.  Let me know tell you … I now clearly understand how the male and female Boston marathon winners this year were both from Eldoret.  I thought for sure my lungs were going to explode … at least I had a medical student with me just in case!  After a group dinner at the IU house I’ve decided to call it an early night as tomorrow is my first day at AMPATH.  Kwa heri. 
P.S.  Picture are soon to come.  As I start to feel more comfortable with the area and we take our weekend adventures you can expect to see lots of pics!

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Arrival in Eldoret

6am never seemed so early!  Got up and cleaned up this morning early to make time for breakfast before our journey to Eldoret.  Our driver arrived at 7am and we made our way to the airport.  The city of Nairobi is MUCH different during the day.  There were thousands of people walking the streets and the city was bussling.  As we reached the outskirts of the city we were able to see just how large and sprawling Nairobi is as it stretched as far as the eye could see.  We also were able to see the poverty that is prevalent throughout the outter city limits, which was very difficult to see as there were thousands of people huddled in the slums ... which triggered many emotions and left us quiet the rest of the way to the airport. 

Upon arriving at the airport we checked in and were able to catch an early flight to Eldoret.  The country side from the view of the window seat was beautiful.  Rolling hills, forests and farms as far as the eye could see.  We were met by our driver at the airport and headed for the AMPATH IU House ... our home for the next 10 weeks.  The compound is in a nicer part of town and we immediately felt welcome as the guards and staff are all extremely friendly and hospitable.  We checked into our room (which I will post pics of later) and met with one of our primary contacts, Benjamin, for a quick orientation.  We then headed into the city with Benjamin and bought Kenyan Shillings and cell phone minutes to get us started.  Rather than make our new friend drive us back to the facility we decided to walk around and to gain our bearings and figure out the path home.  The city was alive with shops/vendors and people running their weekend errands.  20 minutes later we arrived home and settled into our room.

After a brief rest we headed back to the main house to grab some lunch.  Everyone we meet has been very friendly and helpful, including our new Swahili tutor.  We met Wycliffe at the house and within a half hour we began our first lesson!  It's a beautiful language and I hope to have some basics down before I depart. 

I am off to enjoy the beautiful 75F clear skied sunny weather we have today.  Kwa herini(goodbye/bless you everyone)!

Arrival in Kenya

May 27th @ 8:30pm: Just arrived in Nairobi! While the fight was long, I believe that my anticipation and excitement made the time fly by. Thankfully, the flight was relatively empty and I was able to spread out and relax on the 8hr flight. By far the coolest part of the trip was when we flew over the Sahara. The desert looked just like an ocean of sand that spanned as far as the eye could see (sorry no pics). Upon arriving in Nairobi it was abundantly clear that we had arrived in a different part of the world. After exchanging currency and grabbing our luggage we found our driver and headed to the hotel. Nairobi is a deceiving large city … while the city seemed very spread out and the skyline was not filled with skyscrapers we learned that the greater metropolitan area is home to nearly 10 million people. While our hotel was just a few miles from the airport, our drive took nearly 20 minutes with the traffic … which apparently takes nearly 3hrs during rush hour! As we arrived at our hotel we were met with large steel gates and armed security … it was clear that this was not the US. We were met by very friendly staff and escorted to our room. After getting settled we grabbed some dinner at the restaurant which had a menu similar to that of any restaurant in the states … probably because the hotel was mainly occupied by Americans, Europeans and Aussies. We were also introduced to our first Kenyan beers of the voyage, Tusker, which were light and refreshing after a long day of traveling. Time for some shuteye as we depart for our final destination in Eldoret at 6am!

Crossing the Pond

Bonjour!! Just arrived in France! My travel started today at 5am as I left my parent’s house in Connecticut en route to the Hartford/Springfield Airport. As always, I found myself rushing more than what was probably necessary and arrived at the check-in gate in a sweat to receive my ticket and check luggage. Upon handing my passport to the clerk I could tell by his frustration that he was perplexed by the airline & airport codes that the screen displayed. After informing him that my final destination for the day (24+ hours of travel) was Nairobi and that I would be boarding Kenya Airways for my final leg of the journey he told me that he had never, in his 15+ years of service at BDL, seen those codes. For the first time I think I realized that I will be going somewhere and doing something that very few Americans have had the chance to experience.

3hrs later I arrived in Atlanta with a 5hr layover. As I reached for my pocket to grab my phone to check emails and text messages I remembered that my phone had been packed and left behind, as it would not be necessary in Eldoret. Given that I had a cellphone in my pocket for the last 10+ years it is definitely an insecure yet liberating feeling! Having already grabbed a coffee and a bagel I sat down for the first time in over a year to read a book. I should clarify that I have ready many books over the past year but none that were not a required or suggested reading for my MBA classes. This may seem odd but I always felt that if I had time to read, that reading time would be best spent on class material and studying ( Lame … I know). My first book of the day was “Walking Together, Walking Far” which provided a history on the HIV/AIDS epidemic in Kenya as well as a biography of AMPATH, the NGO that I will be working with this summer. Given the relevance of the topic and my enthusiasm to learn more about the situation I finished the book within a few hours. This reading only helped to further fuel my excitement for the trip.

The next leg of my journey started at 3:15pm as I departed for Paris. Upon boarding the plane I was relieved to find that I was seated in an Exit row … a little extra leg room on a 9hr flight is always a good thing. We sat on the tarmac for over an hour and half, which in Atlanta makes for a sauna. Luckily, I was sitting next to a gentleman with a good sense of humor and enough stories of traveling the world to fill the time. After a meal and a glass of wine I managed a few hours of sleep before landing in Paris. After collecting my luggage I met up with my friend, classmate and now Kenya travel companion Nick. Having re-checked baggage, received tickets and passed through immigration we are both working on updating our blogs (we’ll see who finishes first!). In a few minutes we’ll be en route to Kenya!


Jambo! Welcome to “Kenya Keep Up?”! For the next 8 weeks I will be in Kenya providing business consulting. The organization that I will be working with is AMPATH, which stands for the Academic Model for the Prevention and Treatment of HIV/AIDS. More specifically, I will be providing consulting on a number of businesses that have been established to provide economic opportunity for patients and their families.

Join me as I blog about my daily experiences and adventures while in Kenya. My goal is to make the blog more photos than writing and to make a number of updates each week … but we will see what happens. I look forward to my time in Kenya!