Saturday, March 19, 2011

Home for 4 days, then back to Kenya

Pretty girl; served me my lunch.  I asked her how long it took to do her cute hairdo.  I know guys don't ask those kinds of questions but I'm a foreigner and old enough to be her grandfather.  "Half an hour," she says laughing, "'cause it's extensions in back."  Extensions!??  This girl lives in a rustic village in Kenya and she does extensions?  Girls and their hair; gotta be a genetic thing.  Guys will probably never understand.

Arrived home on Sunday, unpacked everything into the washing machine, then at work on Monday, got a call mid-day asking if I'd be willing to go back to Kenya.  Of course.  :)  My heart is willing; my backside is tired of airplanes, though.

Airplane, airport, airplane, airport, airplane, airport...

Back in Kenya for less than 12 hours; I went across the street to have a coke at the bar; "Mr. Brian, Mr. Brian, I heard you had returned!"
Greeted by perhaps a dozen of the local beggars whom I had befriended my first time here, I gave away my day's per diem before lunch.   :)    Walter, the polio/wheelchair fellow I was so taken with last week, heard I was back and hand-peddled his way down the street to greet me.  Sweet fellow whom I'll always be glad to see.

Health care is free at the hospital now, my friend tells me, but there's only one doctor and you sit in chairs and wait your turn.  You can wait all day to see the doctor, moving up one place every half hour or so.  Then you have to pay for your medicine.  It's not a lot, maybe, but when you don't have anything, it's hard. It's a tough economy for most with getting food taking priority. 
Kenya is home to one of the world’s harshest HIV and AIDS epidemics. An estimated 1.5 million people are living with HIV; around 1.2 million children have been orphaned by AIDS; and in 2009 80,000 people died from AIDS related illnesses.1     That's a fair chunk of every town, village, and tribe.

Kenya’s HIV prevalence peaked during 2000 and, according to the latest figures, has dramatically reduced to around 6.3 percent.2 This decline is thought to be partially due to an increase in education and awareness, and high death rates.3    In other words, people dying of AIDS removes them from the count of folks affected; it brings the numbers down when they die.

Many people in Kenya are still not being reached with HIV prevention and treatment services. Only 1 in 3 children needing treatment are receiving it.4 This demonstrates Kenya still has a long way to go in providing universal access to HIV treatment, prevention and care.

ALL of my friends have family members who've succumbed. Every village has AIDS orphans.  Every village has lost a teacher, a fisherman, a farmer, a beggar to the disease.

Cholera persists in Kenya as well.  Drought, contaminated water, and poor sanitation keep it going.  It's easily treated, but many don't have health care services they can get to, so Kenyans continue to die from the disease.

Rain has begun, sort of.  It rained in Nairobi yesterday; not much yet in Mombasa.  They're waiting impatiently; gardens depend on the rainy season.  So do the wild animals.  Folks point at the clouds and say, "It's time, it's time."

After a cloudy day, tonight's sky is cloudless for the moment.  This photo was taken from the balcony at my luxury hotel just a few hundred meters from my friends and their mud-walled huts.

On the way to lunch, monkey business in a small flowering tree. One of the mothers actually charged me, fussing noisily.  I apparently had neglected to ask her permission before photographing her children.  Good manners, and all.

Big-eyed monkey babies aren't sure of my intentions.  I've interrupted their play, obviously.