End of first leg

•May 3, 2009 • 2 Comments
Juliet's house

Juliet's house- Teresa, Juliet, me, Racheal, Harriette

I really like Juliet’s house! Besides the fact that she has a TV, and hence attracts unwanted visitors like Sammy and Dan on Man U match days, she also has a very funky wall colour. She even made her own curtains!

And that’s Daktari Racheal, my boss. She says the funniest things some of which you’ve already read about. During our surg rotation, we were always trying to escape during lunchtime to go for the .. ahem.. ‘metabolic’ conference. Yes we get free lunch Mon- Thurs. John L, the free lunches in NZ PALE like a haemoglobin of 2.0 in comparison to the ones we get in Kijabe. I also brought her to Cure one Friday for free lunch there. hahaha! I’m a very bad influence.

Jeremy's house and dodgy Dr Ochieng

Jeremy's house and dodgy Dr Ochieng

The next night we wanted to crash one of the girls’ houses again but they were all asleep. We were thinking of heading back when we chanced upon a looming figure in the form of Dan (Dr Ochieng). So we crashed Jeremy and Sammy’s house instead. This is more typical of an intern’s house. And yes this picture looks very dodgy but Dr Ochieng insists there is a gap. I don’t think his fiancee would ever chance upon this blog.

Maasai Market at Village Centre

Maasai Market at Village Centre

On my last day, we went to Maasai Market. Basically it’s a huge pasar malam selling quintessential Kenyan souvenirs. This is where I wished my sis were around cos she’s a bargain machine.  But anyway I went with the three other Asian girls and yeah, I don’t think we were scammed too much.

Having stinged and saved for 2 months, I went crazy and bought quite a few useless things which you will find out when I get back. Haha.You might even be the lucky possessor of one of those useless things.

Asian Invasion - Me, Jesslyn, Harriette, Teresa

Asian Invasion - Me, Jesslyn, Harriette, Teresa

So that’s Jesslyn from Houston and the two hongkies. I think the way people bargain reflects on their personalities. For e.g. I have no qualms telling someone I don’t like their things and are they trying to cheat me of my money? I also do things like laugh when they quote me ridiculous prices and say ‘Are you serious? You’re wasting my time’. While Jesslyn tells everyone their wares are beautiful but no, she’s not interested in buying. After a while, I tried to be more graceful with my words.You see, you learn something everyday, even on your last day bargaining.

Teresa is the sort who can easily befriend anyone although she does have foot-in-mouth disease. She’s also very generous and bought many things in bulk. There’s never a dull moment with Teresa around. Just ask her what’s her opinion of marrying a black guy, will ya? haha!! Harriette is also really nice and ‘fragile and delicate’ according to Dan, unlike me and Teresa, and so without even asking, Philip our driver helped her bargain.


cracks in the tin (wo)man..

•May 1, 2009 • 5 Comments

I’ve been asked several times (or, severally, as the Kenyans would say) if I am sad or glad to go.

I’ve been ambivalent. I feel nothing, I want to say.

Now as I’m doing the online check-in, it hits me (I’m always a bit slow on the uptake but you already know it) that tomorrow, I won’t be noseying around the corridors of Kijabe Hospital, nor will I be laughing till I cry with the interns, the krchns, the COs, and the Duplex people…

Emotionally stunted as I am, I’m belatedly feeling sad. Dull, achy, heart pain 😦

Or maybe it’s just angina.

P.S. Completely off topic, I just realized I’ve always subconsciously preferred to sit on the aisle seat on the RIGHT side of the plane so I can rest my precious left hand.

it’s been almost two months..

•April 28, 2009 • 28 Comments

and my hair is long!

fringe cut

hairdressing in the front yard

more on culture shock:
rachel: ‘you mean you wash your hair EVERYDAY?’
me: ‘uh.. yeah.. well, sometimes once every two days.’
rachel: ‘but how do you dry your hair?’
me: ‘uh… naturally?? i guess some people use hairdryers.’

today at the OR, Obadiah our patient asked me to pray for him. he was involved in a road traffic accident, broke his tibia and perforated his bowel. we were going to remove more pus from his abdomen.

‘sister please pray for me,’ he pleaded.
‘yeah ok…’ (long pause) he was looking at me expectantly.
‘you mean now?’
‘yes please’. dear Obadiah and his irresistable pleading eyes.
me (one last attempt to escape praying aloud): ‘in english?’ (as if i can pray in kiswahili)
‘it’s ok,’ he said.

so he held my hand while i shut my eyes and prayed. and when i said amen, i was surprised to hear a chorus of amens. omollo the anaesthetist, rachel, and joyce and josiah the scrub nurses had also shut their eyes and prayed with me. wow!

so people have been trying to get me to stay in kenya.

chitte and joyce: ‘we need to find her a man so she’ll stay!’
me: ‘hahaha, no thanks, my parents will kill you.’

james: ‘you should stay, i’ll give you a piece of land.’
me: ‘can i have a cow too?’

dr bird: ‘you should stay longer, i hear there’s swine flu in nz.’
me: ‘hahaha..good thing i’m going canada first.’

macton (pronounced mark-tone) is like the shamboo of kenya. he told me all about the elections, tribe wars, the other african nations.. things that i could read about but am too lazy to.

kikuyus are greedy and want money, luols are loud and aggressive and learned and play football, luhyahs are big and fat and eat a lot and play rugby, maasai are uneducated and primitive and only care about their cows, and this other tribe i forget can ‘run like hell’ and win marathons.

he did piss me off though.

‘i’m gonna form a rock band’ he said.
‘but then you’ll need to have the leather jacket, crazy hair and spikey wrist bands’ i said.
‘yeah it’s ok. i’m going to get a big wig. like yours.’

but for the grace of God i did not push him down a cliff.

The Boy from Bondo

•April 24, 2009 • 8 Comments

So I was noseying in AIC Cure in the afternoon because Dr Bird’s Thursday list is only a half day list. I wandered into the only case left- debridement of L femur. Hardly sounds interesting, but there’s not much to do in Kijabe and it was only 3pm.

‘Oh this boy has chronic osteomyelitis, and he’s an orphan’, Baraka said when I asked him what the case was about. For the second time in three days, I had one of those two plus two equals four moments. ‘Oh! Is he from Bondo?’

So it turns out I’d bumped into the boy from Bondo with ?osteosarcoma. ‘Hello!’ I said. He smiled. He recognized me.

I was relieved to hear that he probably only has a chronic bone infection, rather than cancer. (Although chronic osteomyelitis in itself is not easy to get rid of.)

As I was reading his file, I saw one of those ‘Spiritual History’ forms which AIC CURE has. “B did not know the saving grace of God, but now he knows and has accepted Jesus Christ to be his Lord and Saviour.”

Wow. Hallelujah.

I’m always in shock when I hear that people have become Christians. I should stop being shocked. It really is a good deal if you think about it.

Doctor in the House

•April 22, 2009 • 4 Comments

my housemate harriet has been having epigastric pain and pain on swallowing for the past four days. last night she was in so much pain that she started shaking uncontrollably.

i’d had my thoughts about it. could be reflux, could be a tummy bug.. etc.

when she started doubling over in pain yesterday, teresa and i became very alarmed.

‘did you eat anything different from teresa?’ i asked. ‘no, i just ate (insert whatever food).’ ‘could it be malaria?’ i asked. ‘no i take my doxycycline every night before i go to bed.’

bingo! this triggered my memory of david sia’s ordeal with doxycycline and oesophagitis. which i am sure is what she had.

we went to Casualty anyway because teresa was very worried. it’s funny. jesslyn, the american born chinese medical student was on call last night so Casualty briefly became the Chinatown of Kijabe.

she agreed with my diagnosis, prescribed some pain meds and omeprazole for us and prayed for harriet.

p.s. david, your suffering taught me something! hahaha

p.p.s i got back my evaluation from dr achieng. she actually said i was a ‘very good student who takes initiative and has good team work’. HAHAHA. phew. i was so scared cos she has very high standards. bwana asifiwe!


•April 20, 2009 • 14 Comments

“Therefore there is now no condemnation in Christ Jesus” -Romans 8:1

Condemnation = remnant of guilt, according to George. I must confess, I’d been feeling very down of late, esp when not busy. I looked at the state of my heart and despaired. Why do I not love the Lord my God? Why do I think of the cross, and not be moved? Why am I so ungrateful?

I despaired of my worthless self I didn’t even want to go to the evangelistic outreach. I didn’t even feel like evangelizing anymore. ‘Look at you, you don’t even know the true meaning of God’s love, or love God, and you want to spread the gospel to others?!’ I came up with excuses. I wanted to go for the goat party, I can’t speak kiswahili anyway etc etc. But when I decided I wouldn’t go, I did not have any peace. So I went.

Saturday morning, I lay awake at 4.30am in the darkness. That’s the day after the puking. I felt the Lord say he would show me his love that day. However I passed the day uneventfully seeing patients, berating myself for not being as kind or smart or godly as Dr Meissner. ‘You don’t really love the patients, you’re just proud, wanting glory for yourself and not doing it for God’s glory.’ sigh.

I saw my friends on fire for God. I was so tormented I decided I MUST ask someone who loves God what the secret to loving God more was. George was busy but Kamau was sitting by himself. ‘He looks like he loves God a lot,’ I decided. So I went to chat with him.

After beating about the bush for the longest time, I burst out, ‘How does a person love God more?’ It wasn’t long before I started telling him all my wretched thoughts. Halfway through I thought, ‘Oh no, is he going to ask me whether I’m really a born again Christian because I have so many doubts and I don’t love God?! I’m pretty sure I’m born again.’

Instead, he started telling me that I was being attacked by the spirit of condemnation, which was telling me how lousy I am, how unworthy of God I am, what a bad person I am etc. Every example of condemnation he gave I recognized as something I (or the enemy) had said to myself.

I am a child of God. I have been born again. It is no longer I that live but Christ who lives in me. I have righteousness by faith. God sees me and sees Jesus in me. I am not a sinner. Though I may sin, I am assured of forgiveness if I confess to my Father who forgives more than seven times seventy times. It may be the same mistake over and over again but His forgiveness is forever available to me if I ask it. He will not tire of forgiving me. He will never leave me nor forsake me. By his blood I am cleansed, once for all, 2000 years ago on the cross.

He also said it’s not true that I don’t love God. If I didn’t love God, I wouldn’t be going to church every week, reading the bible, reading christian books (actually I don’t know how he knows this stuff but anyway..).

Once I realized that these were all lies fabricated from the enemy, and that it wasn’t God that was condemning me, I felt very light. Like a burden lifted from me. The truth shall set you free.

And in that instance, I loved the Lord.

Bwana asifwe, my name is Charmaine, and I am a born again Christian. I love the Lord Jesus Christ.

On the journey back, George explained more about condemnation, conviction and the grace of God to me. ‘Come to me all you who are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest. ‘

Bondo – Survivor Africa

•April 20, 2009 • 16 Comments

Thanks for all the prayers, our one day crusade resulted in ~100 people making decisions for Christ, and our medical team saw 200+ people. I got it wrong – we were invited to Bondo by one of Dr Meissner’s (german paediatrician) patients’ dad who got born again while in Kijabe. This is the first time there’s a crusade in Bondo and many people heard the gospel for the first time. And responded!

On a personal note, it was a real eye-opener into rural Africa. I didn’t realize how sheltered I was in Kijabe, home of many missionaries.

My arrival in Bondo, Western Kenya, was heralded by me vomiting. Twice. Talk about motion sickness overdrive! It was an 8hr drive.

The next morning I had another rude awakening when Mameti (Lilian) and I went to collect rainwater from a storage tank with a basin. While dear pint-sized Mameti carried the basin of water on her head, she said, ‘That would be enough water for the both of us,’ I was thinking, ‘Yeah, more than enough for brushing our teeth and washing our faces’. I let her wash up first.

It wasn’t until I went back a few minutes later with my torch light that I realized what the water was for. “Daktari, don’t shine your torchlight at us!” I then realized that all the other girls were stark naked behind the house showering. No wonder they all got up at 5 am.

(In case you’re wondering, yes I did wash up but with my clothes on.)

After morning devotions we divided into the medical team and evangelistic team. The evangelists went from door to door (or rather, shamba (farm) to shamba) spreading the gospel. Us medics (only 6 out of 50!) were cooped in a room seeing patients and dispensing free meds. Most of the cases were mundane but I did see a boy with ?osteosarcoma and an HIV positive pregnant lady who’s ~1 week overdue. The boy’s come back to Kijabe with us for further investigations while the lady was referred to the district hospital asap. Baby will need ARVs within 48h of birth.

patients lining up

patients lining up

medical team - george and lilian (mameti)

medical team - george and lilian (mameti)

In the evening there was an outreach at our compound; we also watched a very cheesy kiswahili evangelistic movie with such bad acting it was actually funny.





kids with tracts

kids with tracts

Then, it started raining. Very heavily. We were stuck in the dining hall. I was cold and decided to make a dash back to the dorm. Together with two other nurses we made a dash. Only to realize, after the first leap, that we were ankle deep in muddy water. I was wearing a friggin skirt. Ignoring the grossness of the situation, I waded through the muddy water with the other two, praying frantically that I wouldn’t slip. THAT would be really bad.

Thank God I didn’t fall. And thank God I left at 10pm. My friend who stayed till midnight said the water was up to his knees.

I also learnt something very important. But that’s for the next post.