Swan Song

HELLO EVERYONE! It’s a pleasure to be reporting to you from the good old US of A. Since my Africa adventure has come to a close, this will be my last post on this blog. Well, that said, I suppose we should dive into it.

We left the MDC at about 9:00 Friday morning to begin the almost 6 hour trip back to Nairobi. This was really quite uneventful other than the poor nature of the road from the clinic to Narok (about 2.5 hours of the total road trip). Again, these roads are just really bumpy, and generally will shake your brains out of your head. I’m not going to lie—–I was glad I had on a sports bra. I had intended to take Dramamine before the trip since I did so before going to the clinic and had no issues, but I totally forgot to do so this time. I don’t usually get car sick, but by the time we got to Narok, I was ready to be off the bumpy road. At Narok it was finally time to say goodbye to William and Eunice. William, without knowing what Lucy had said, told me “Next time you come, I hope you have boyfriend.” Eunice just started laughing, which confused William, so we explained to him that Lucy told him I couldn’t come back unless I had a kid. He said “Oh, I’d be ok with just boyfriend. That’d be good.” I again just laughed, and said “Eunice, what’s your request?” At first she said “I have no request. Just come as you are.” Awww, Eunice, you’re now my favorite! Then she said “Well, maybe you should have 4 kids when you come back”. Eunice, you just dropped way down on the list as I can guarantee there will not be 4. Anyway, it was all in good fun, and we had a great goodbye. Now time to go to Nairobi!

Harrison is the one who drove me from Narok to Nairobi. It was a fairly quite and uneventful drive other than having a few traffic slow downs as we came up out of the Rift Valley. There’s TONS of truck traffic, and they can only go like 5 mph on the grade of the “mountain”, so that did take forever. We get to Nairobi shortly before 3, and Harrison asked if he should take me to the airport. Well, since I have 2 suitcases and a backpack, I really have no where else I want to lug these things around in this heat, so yes, to the airport. I get to the airport, and get ready…as this is quite the experience.

First, there’s like zero signage. So the plan of avoiding walking around with my luggage has already failed. I finally find where I’m supposed to go into the airport at, and there’s literally a security screening at the entrydoor. Metal detector, conveyor belt, the works screening. I have no boarding pass or anything yet, so the guy asks to see my flight confirmation. I show it to him and he goes “Its too early.” I said “Yes, I know I’m really early but I have no where else to go.” He accepts this answer, and lets me in. Ok, get all my bags and stuff through security (with my shoes on…we didnt have to take our shoes off here), and go up to the desk to the agent. She asks where I was going, and when I said NYC, she said “It’s too early”. At this point, I’m just assuming that’s they’re way of saying “You know your flight doesn’t leave until 11 right?”. Welllllll, not quite. I can’t even check in for this flight until 6:00. It’s 3:15. Ok then. I have to sit in the waiting area until 6:00. There is no access to food or drink—-I’ve had nothing but breakfast and feel like I’m about to die of thirst. But, I tell myself there are worse things and I can survive another 3 hours.

3 hours goes by (in case you were wondering….I’m still sweat soaked as this airport is not air conditioned), so I go back up to the counter to the same woman I spoke with earlier. She goes “Oh, you need to go to that line over there and they’ll get you at counter 3 or 4”. Alllllriight. First…why is there NO SIGNAGE. Second….why did you not tell me this the first time I spoke with you?!?! Sigh. Try not to get frustrate. Focus on the bottle of water waiting for you on the other side. Ok, so I stand in this like about 30 minutes before they finally start checking people in. We’re going to play a game through this process called “How many times do they check my passport and boarding pass.” After checking in, I have to go through passport control, so that is obviously time #1 that they check my “credentials” as we’ll call them. From there, it’s the 2nd security check. This time we did have to take our shoes off, but thankfully the only thing I had to take out of the bag was my tablet. All my other electronics could stay in the bag. There were two different people at this process that checked my credentials, so here’s time #2 and #3. I gather up all my stuff, and IMMEDIATELY search for water. I find a place to buy a bottle of water…where they check my credentials for a 4th time. Kid you not, before I could pay, I had to show my passport and boarding pass. I JUST WANT WATER! So, finally having achieved getting water, I down this bottle in about 2.7 seconds. In front of the store clerk. I think he may have been a bit concerned. But, I did not care, and was now a bit better since I was no longer dying of thirst. Alright, off to explore the airport.

There are like 8 gates, one shop (that I bought the water at) which really only had duty free alcohol, and 3 restaurants. Hmmm….ok….it’s 7:pm at this point…..4 more hours. I eat at the Hardee’s and have a burger that is not full of bones or gristly meat. Hallelujah. It’s likely going to be a shock to my system and make me ill, but it would have been worth it (It didn’t make me ill thankfully, and I was surprised). Also, interesting note, the manager of this Hardee’s was dressed in a 3 piece suit. Not exactly what I’m used to for fast food managers, but he was doing an excellent job and was sharply dressed. Good for him. I did not have to show my credentials here, but I believe this was an accident as there was a sign saying I would have to show them. But I was glad I didn’t.

Alright, even though our flight didn’t leave until 11:00, the boarding time was listed at 8:00. I did not adhere to that. I was not sitting on a plane for 3 extra hours. Not when it’s a 15 hour flight. They crazy. So, I did find a bathroom to change clothes, and killed some more time in the food court area. About 10:00 I headed to the gate. Alas…..security check #3. First stop, show the employee your boarding pass and passport (this makes check #5 for those of you playing along). Next stop, the conveyor belt and x-ray machine. The man in front of me literally had 3 laptops, his watch, his belt, his camera, his shoes, his jacket, and TWO bags. He took FOREVER to get his stuff loaded to go through the machine. Sheesh. Ok, now my turn—the only thing that had to come out of the bag was the tablet and I had to take off my shoes. I go through the x-ray scanner for the 2nd time today—-for those of you worried about dental x-rays, I assure you I just got more radiation in these 2 scans than I’ve had in a lifetime of dental x-rays. Now it’s time to pick up my stuff……except that for every laptop/tablet, they are taking a bandaid sized something and swiping it all over the device, case, etc. Multiple times. After I guess they decide it’s clear, they print off a little sticker and then stick it on your device. Alright, finally good to go. I start to proceed to the waiting area as the gate isn’t actually open yet, and I hear “MA’AM WE NEED YOUR PASS”. I’m like looking around trying to figure out who they’re talking to. It’s me. There’s someone at the end of the security screening conveyor belt checking passports and boarding passes! NOT 10 FEET FROM THE OTHER PERSON CHECKING THEM. Why, on God’s green earth, IS THIS NECESSARY?!?! I did not change identities in the last 10 feet. If I did, I wouldn’t use the name Shanetha. For the love of Pete. Ok, so credential check #6 complete, now time to board. Except we’re not boarding yet. It’s now 10:30. We’re in this incredibly tiny gate area where there is ZERO room between the rows of seats. I literally had to climb over people to get to an empty seat. Glad I didn’t get here at 8. At 10:45 we actually start boarding the plane. Praise goodness. Ok, they do one more credential check as you’re getting on the plane. Bringing our total to 7. 7 times they checked my boarding pass and passport.

The fight overall was uneventful. I had some medication that helped me get about 6 hours of sleep, so that was pretty good. I once again didn’t have anyone next to me as the person in the middle seat moved to an open seat once the plane doors were closed. The rest of the flight was spent watching movies. We get to JFK in NYC pretty much on time to snowy/foggy conditions. How they landed the plane is beyond me as I couldn’t even see runway lights out of the window. But they did, so props to them. Next up was clearing US customs. This was the part I was most worried about as I’d heard how much of a nightmare it can be at JFK. It took less than 2 mintues. Not even sure the first guy looked at my passport. Second guy briefly looked, said “Welcome back”, and sent me on. Ok then. Glad that went smoothly. I guess they figured since the people in Kenya checked it 7 times, they didn’t really need to look at it. Got my bags picked up, and then headed to find the American Airlines terminal to check in for my next flight. I finally figure out that I need to go to terminal 8, so I ride the airtram from terminal 4 to terminal 8, and find the AA check in kiosk. Alright, all checked in, and bags tagged, just need to drop them off. I have to say, the lady taking the bags was one of the most unpleasant people I’ve encountered in an airport. And I’ve been in a lot of airports with unpleasant people. She was literally yelling at people. For reasons unknown. No one was out of line, everyone had their documents ready, bags were already tagged. She was just…ugh. Alright, moving on to security. Where we find people even more unpleasant than bag check lady. I get it….it’s early, your job is not that exciting, it’s tedious, and yeah, people don’t listen. But every single one of them was horrible. I’m now back in the states where anything with an on/off switch has to come out of your bag (really? We somehow don’t have advanced enough equipment to scan this stuff in a bag? And why electronics? They tried to smuggle out dinosaur DNA in a Barbasol can in Jurassic Park. Just sayin’). Now, I have a tablet, my cell phone, chargers, my MP3 player, my camera, and my loupes with a LiON battery. ALL of this must be in a bin UNCOVERED. I have 4 bins. So, I’m standing there, and the TSA guy pushing the buckets looks at my loupes box and says “IS that a drone?” “No, sir, it’s my dental loupes which are magnified glasses for doing dentistry. It has a headlight with a battery”. He apparently thinks this is a BS answer and says “Ma’am I need you to open the case.” Alright, no problem—-I open the case. He looks at them for a good minute. Then he says “If I’d known it was that large of a battery, I’d have told you to put it in a separate container.”. This battery is the size of a pager. I didn’t even respond. I just looked at him, and then got in line to be full body scanned for the 3rd time in like 26 hours. So, after all that mess, I am now in the terminal at JFK ready for flight #2……in 4 hours.

I clearly immediately found a Dr. Pepper and some breakfast. Then actually used the rest of the time prior to trip from NYC to DFW to write most of this blog post. It comes time to board the plane….but there is no plane. Yeah, our plane was about 30 minutes late getting to JFK, so we were about an hour behind schedule. It’s fine…whats 32 hours in an airport/on an airplane instead of just 31. And of course, once we start boarding, one of life’s greatest mysteries occurs. Why, when there are set boarding groups, does EVERYONE immediately jump up and create a huge mass right in front of the boarding line? Why? This creates an impossible crowd to navigate and creates confusion as to whether or not you’re actually in the current boarding group. Just stay seated until they call your group. This is not rocket science. But alas, that would be too easy. So, after a giant fiasco of boarding and running late, we finally get in the air. The flight was actually quite turbulent, but I still managed to sleep some. We get into DFW, and of course everyone on the plane starts complaining about how they need off RIGHT NOW to catch a connecting flight. I get it, it’s worrisome, frustrating, and a hassle. But complaining loudly to everyone will not make the process faster. Nor will getting RIGHT UP ON the person in front of you. So, to avoid that, I just stayed put until all the “HURRY HURRY HURRY” people got off the plane. It then took another 40 minutes to get my luggage. Which ended up being fine as Mom and Dad got caught up in traffic due to an accident and weren’t quite to the airport yet. I, enjoyed the 40 degree weather while waiting. It was nice to see them, and we enjoyed good conversation on the way home along with a stop at Jason’s Deli to get me a much desired turkey sandwich. Oh, and another Dr. Pepper. We finally made it home about 7:45 ish (approx 4:45 am Kenya time). Unpacking will be waiting until tomorrow. My dogs were extremely excited to see me….once they figured out I was home! It was good to see them too.

Ok, so that concludes the narrative part of this entry. I’m going to close with some reflective type thoughts. I’ll try to keep them concise as I know this is already a long entry.

First, this trip was bucket list item for me. I have been wanting to do a volunteer trip to this clinic since I first learned about it in 2014. It only took a little over 4 years for it to happen, but I made it happen. I’m incredibly grateful to my parents who have so graciously kept my dogs over this last month, and who honestly never uttered one word of doubt or discouragement from the moment I said “I want to go to Africa” back almost 1 year ago. I’m sure that’s not the easiest thing to allow your child to do, but I am grateful for my parents who have alwasy been supportive of my goals and dreams. So thanks to you two, because I could never have done this without you. To everyone else who has a bucket list….you can make it happen. It took me a solid year of planning, mostly financially, to be able to do this, but, I WANTED to do this, and therefore made it happen. You can too….don’t wait until it’s too late.

Second, this trip has involved many things that make me proud. I’m proud that I just traveled to a foreign country on a separate continent, halfway around the world….BY MYSELF. I know there are many people who wouldn’t even think of doing that, so I am extremely proud of myself for doing it. I knew I could, as those of you who know me know I’m incredibly independent and do things by myself all the time, but this was obviously on a whole other level. And I as nervous about it, as anyone would be. But again, I am proud I did not let my anxiety keep me from it. I am proud to have experienced a culture so very different from the one that I am used to. New food, new people, new experiences. Most of them out of my comfort zone for sure. It may not seem like it, but I am very much a creature of habit, and stepping out of my comfort zone is not something I’m keen on doing. So, I’m proud of myself for realizing the value of the opportunities this experience provided me, and not letting that comfort zone control me. I’m proud of seeing 200+ patients over 19 days. I did way more dentistry in this month than I even thought possible, and I’m proud I stuck with it despite the heat and difficult extractions (and lets not talk about the root canals). I’m proud of myself for not having a SINGLE sunburn the entire time I was there (this is the true accomplishment really). Again, I’m proud of myself for just the whole venture, and it’s something I can talk about with great joy.

Third, if you’ve never seen a developing/third world country, you need to. Everyone needs to. Because there is no other way to describe it besides humbling. I have clean water anytime I want it. I have kitchen appliances that allow me to cook without traveling for miles to collect firewood. I have electricity to power those appliances. I have access to any medical, dental, vision, health care I could possibly need. I have more than 3 outfits of clothing. I have more than 1 pair of shoes. I have food everyday, and I can have a variety of food anytime I want it. I have a washing machine and a dryer. I don’t have to do manual labor in excruciating heat. I have a car that allows me to get places. I don’t have to sleep on the ground. I don’t have to walk through miles of manure everyday from all the livestock around. I don’t have to worry about dangerous wild animals. I have everything I NEED, and way more that I don’t. I have a very blessed life, and there’s nothing like a trip to a third world country to REALLY burn that in your brain.

Fourth, it’s going to be hard to make this point without sounding like it’s about me. But it’s not. It’s been great being able to use my skills to give back to a community who so desperately needs it. I hope that some of my dental friends consider volunteering at this clinic, as they truly do depend on great volunteers. I am so glad I could provide care to help alleviate the pain of of lots of Maasai people. And while culturally they don’t really say thanks, it was still awesome to know they’re better off than they were when they came in. I didn’t do it for the recognition, and I don’t talk about it for the recognition. I’d do it again in secret if that were possible.

Fifth, HUGE HUGE HUGE thanks to all of you who have prayed, sent words of encouragement, commented on posts, expressed enthusiasm, and just supported me in whatever way you did. Doing something like this was made 10x easier by knowing I had a MASSIVE support group back home. I am truly honored, blessed, and so so grateful for all of you. This adventure has been just as much yours as it has been mine. Words will never been enough to express my gratitude.

This was what most people would consider a once in a lifetime opportunity, and I would agree. I am so glad I did it, and I know it’s an experience that will be with me the rest of my life. I also hope to maybe be able to do it again in the future, if God’s willing. First though I should probably focus on becoming employed and eventually moving out of my parent’s house…..

In closing:

I will not miss rice everyday. I will not miss sweating profusely while trying to work (or really just sweating profusely constantly). I will not miss food being drenched in oil. I will not miss the horrible roads. I will not miss hand washing my laundry. I will not miss having to really focus on where my drinking water is coming from and whether or not my food has been adequately prepared. I will not miss having absurd amounts of food given to me at each meal. I will not miss the difficulties in communicating due to language barriers. I will not miss being 9 hours away from family and friends.

I will miss going on safari (I could do that everyday I’m convinced). I will miss the laid back pace of the day. I will miss having hours to read everyday. I will miss sitting on the porch and listening to the animals. I will miss being able to do dentistry without having to worry about the financial side of things. I will miss having an adventure story to share everyday. I will miss having access to so many new cultural experiences. Mostly thought, I will REALLY miss the people. They have been the best part of this entire adventure.

And even though I will miss the people in Africa, I am so very excited and grateful to be home. I hope to be able to share stories in person with as many of you as possible. Thank you again for joining me in the endeavor! I am officially back in Durant…..and in desperate need of a shower. And my toothbrush.

For the last time, Kwaheri and Olisseri!

Here is what one looks like after 32 hours of travel…with approx 2 more to go at this point.
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LAST DAY!!!!

Jambo/Supa on this my LAST day at the Maasai Dental Clinic! I had a pretty good last day, and I cannot believe that the month is already over.

I saw 16 total patients today: 12 extractions, 1 root canal referral (to come back on Monday when the next two docs are here), 1 filling, 2 cleanings, 1 non-compliant kiddo, and 1 consult. We didn’t seem to have anything too crazy today, and we actually had one patient who was extremely interested in learning how to take better care of his teeth! Those are always good as you don’t feel like you’re talking to a brick wall—-he had lots of good questions, and was genuinely interested in what we were telling him. Thankfully his teeth were in pretty good shape, and all he needed was to have his lower third molars extracted so that they didn’t lead to problems with his second molars from the angulation they have erupted. Our root canal was one I probably could have done, but it was just Eunice and I as William was helping the electrician that was here, and we had a stack full of patients waiting (probably 7-8 of the total 16), so I didn’t really feel like it was feasible to get the root canal done today. I’m pretty slow at them and with only one assistant, it’s almost impossible. So overall the numbers for the week look like this: 54 total patients: 44 extractions, 4 fillings, 1 root canal, 6 cleanings, and 7 consults/miscellaneous. Not quite as busy as last week, but still a pretty good load for a 4 day week.

My final stats for my entire month here are:
Total Patients: 269
Extractions: 224
Fillings: 38
Cleanings: 15
Root canals: 5
Misc/Consults: 39 (jaw fractures, whitening, crowding, partial dentures, etc)

I forgot to mention yesterday that Eunice showed me what the locals use for a toothbrush. Well, she started off with “Have you seen the Maasai toothbrush?” to which I had to say no as I had not. She then said “Ohhhhh well it would be a crime if you go home without having brushed your teeth with a Maasai toothbrush”. Hahaha, ok then, let’s not commit any crimes. What they use is essentially a branch of the Osokonoi tree. They snap off a branch, peel the bark back from one end, bite the end of it until it”s softer and “bristled” out, then they brush their teeth. It was indeed interesting, but I can now see why so many of them have bombed out back teeth as it’s almost impossible to get this thing angled correctly to adequately brush your molars. Also, this branch has a very peppery-spicy flavor to it. Like my mouth was on fire for a good hour after using it. Eunice did warn me about that aspect before I tried it, but I had no idea it would be that intense and that long-lasting. She said the locals also boil the root of the tree and use it as medicine for various things. She said the boiled root broth will stop a toothache. Interesting. So, I can now say I brushed my teeth in Kenya with a traditional Maasai toothbrush.

Another thing that was apparently going to be a crime if I went home without doing this was consuming ogali. This is apparently Kenya’s staple dish. It’s what makes the runners fast……so they say. I’m pretty sure it did nothing for my overall speed. And Eunice said 80% of the households eat this for dinner every night. Me not having had it came about when Eunice said she was ready for lunch. I had said “Yeah, probably because you haven’t eaten anything since lunch yesterday”. She kind of laughed, but then said she had a cousin over to her house last night so she cooked ugali. She asked if I’d had any and I told her no. She then called William over and told him I hadn’t eaten any. He said “WHAAAATTTTTT? Ok, I cook for you tonight.” I said ok, but better call the camp and let them know I won’t be there for dinner. So at about 7:30 I venture over to the teaching center where William is cooking. So, ugali is basically corn flour and water. Yep, that’s it. You boil the water, add the corn flour, stir until it’s a paste, and then let it cool about 5-7 minutes. Then you essentially have a very dense “cake” of ugali. William also made a kale/tomato/beef “stew” (he calls it a stew but other than vegetable fat, there’s no liquid/sauce component). He sits me down and says “Ok, here’s what you do. You take a slice of ugali, pinch a piece off, roll it up, then mush it with the stew and eat it.” I did not eat it quite in that manner—I used a spoon as I discovered that the ugali really sticks to your fingers and then makes it difficult to do anything. I can’t say it was a 5 star meal, but it was very Kenyan/African, so it once again added to the experience. The kale was picked fresh from Dennis’ garden. They do not grow tomatoes in his garden, but even they were alright. The beef was just like most meat I’ve had—very tough/chewy, and not really trimmed/cut in any specific way. Their livestock just aren’t as well maintained as ours are back home and I think that really has something to do with the quality of the meat. But regardless, it was very nice of William to make sure I experience ugali before going home. John joined us, but had apparently already eaten his ugali at Siana Springs, so he just had some of my left over potato chips.

Lunch was actually ndengu and rice—-I feel like this is another Kenyan staple, so I guess you can say I left Kenya having consumed two of their common dishes as my “last” meals. I’m probably not going to eat rice again until 2020. Actually, you know, I don’t make New Year’s Resolutions, but I think I will make that my 2019 resolution—no more rice.

After clinic, I went over to Siana Springs camp to give Mary Ann (who has been serving me all month) a tip, leave another tip for the rest of the staff, pay my drink/water bill, and say goodbye to everyone. It was kind of bittersweet to say goodbye to all of them as they have really been wonderful people and I’ve enjoyed getting to know them. After the goodbyes there, I came back to the clinic to try to finalize what packing I could do. I then spent the rest of the time before dinner out on the porch for one last evening relaxation. After dinner, I showered and shaved my legs for the last time in that impossible shower. The reason it’s impossible to shave ones legs is because the shower is 2.5 feet x 2.5 feet, and the shower head extends out from the wall to spray dead center of that space. And it’s a WIDE shower head, so unless you’re Christina Ricci skinny (which I clearly am not), there’s no way you can get out of the water spray to keep from just washing the shaving cream off immediately after application. Sigh. Anyway, after I showered I thought “Hmm, I actually think I’ll want to shower in the morning as it’ll be like 32 hours before I’ll get to shower again.” Oh well, double showering never hurt…especially when you’re constantly sweating.

We’re going to leave at 8:45 am in the morning to begin the trek back home. I’ve said all my goodbyes except to Eunice and William as they are both taking me to Narok to meet Harrison. I said goodbye to John tonight after dinner and even though our communication only consists of tuonane kesho/lala salam/supa/let’s go, I’m going to miss trying to have a conversation with him. He tried to convince me tonight that the painting of a lion in the teaching center was actually a buffalo, but I said “I may not be from Africa, but I know that’s a lion” (all of this translated through William. The goodbyes have been hard, which I take to be a sign that I’ve had a good time. Otherwise, it’s wouldn’t be that difficult.

I plan to do one more blog post once I get back home (Saturday night—actual CST!) to kind of reflect/summarize my month long adventure, as well as provide any pertinent travel details (hopefully no disaster/nightmare stories—I’m hoping for smooth flying, quick customs/security clearance, and no annoying seat neighbors). So please do come back one more time, and be sure to keep an eye out for videos and photos on Facebook (again, if we’re not FB friends and you want to see these things, shoot me a friend request!).

For the last time in Kenya: Asante sana and lala salamo!

This is John and I. Yes, that’s the painting he tried to convince me was a buffalo. Not a lion.
This. Is ugali. Tasletless, colorless, but apparently the food of the Kenyan gods.
Mary Ann from Siana Springs and I yelling “Goodbye!”

Women Do Everything

Supa/Jambo/Karibu (Welcome)! Hope everyone’s had a good week so far—-you’re on the downhill slide now! I had a pretty decent day today. We weren’t crazy busy, and we saw 12 patients today. 12 extractions, and 1 cleaning. Yep, it was another incredibly rotted, mushy, “now we have to dig, dig, dig” kind of day in terms of extractions. Again, for the love of your dentist, if you’re going to let your teeth rot, please don’t let them rot down below the gums and bone before you go get it addressed. I assure you, the procedure will be a lot more pleasant and easy if you give your dentist something to grab onto.

A couple of generalizations that I have noted in my month here. 1) Every acts like they’ve never sat in a chair before. Now I don’t necessarily mean a dental chair, I just mean a chair. You generally sit with your back against the back of the chair. Almost everyone comes in, gets in the dental chair, but sits at the very end of it (like where your feet go). This inevitably leads Eunice/Grace/William to tell them to scoot back. So they do…..but then they slouch WAAAAAYYYY down….to where their head is almost where you’re butt is supposed to be. This happens at least 85% of the time. I’m just like “Act like it’s a normal chair, but your feet are going to be elevated”. And they have regular chairs, so I know they know how to sit in those. 2) These patients apparently speak no languages. I mean, I don’t speak Maasai or Swahili, but I can tell when Grace/William/Eunice have asked a question. I can also tell when they’ve asked it multiple times. I will usually have the assistant ask what the patient’s symptoms are. This is generally followed by silence from the patient. “Does it hurt all the time?” Silence. “Does it hurt at night?” Silence. “Do you know where you are?” Silence. The assistants almost have to beat the answers out of them. Mind boggling. Another question that seems to get LOTS of silence and a blank stare from the vast majority of people is “Do you feel numb on the X side?”. This question must be asked a minimum of 3 times before a response is given. Personally, there are not many answer choices here: Yes, no, sort of, I don’t know (and quite frankly, I don’t know is not really a valid answer). It’s not like we’re asking what you think the meaning of life is. The best analogy I can come up with is if you were working in a food service establishment and asked a customer what they would like to order, and they just stared at you. That’s what it’s like. 3) Once the procedure is done, there is no goodbye, no thanks, no nothing. It’s pop out of the chair and run out the door. While this took some getting used to, it’s apparently a cultural thing. It’s my job to take care of them, so why should they thank me or give a goodbye. Occasionally someone will say thanks, but for the most part, we can barely get them to stay in the chair long enough to give post-operative instructions.

I bring these up because #1 and #2 were a MAJOR issue with our very first patient today. He wouldn’t sit in the chair properly, kept trying to move around while I was trying to do an exam, wouldn’t answer any of Eunice’s questions…..and this was an adult. Probably at least as old as me. I could tell Eunice was getting frustrated. I thought “Oh man, this is not a good start to the day”. And it of course was a partially impacted wisdom tooth that I had to cut, and split, and dig, and push, etc to get out of his mouth. After we were done, I said “Eunice, are you ok? You seemed a little annoyed.” She kind of chuckled and said “No, I’m good now.” Then fast forward a couple of hours and I have another patient who would not stop grabbing me while trying to administer local anesthesia. Both Eunice and William tried to talk to her. After about the 7th time she grabbed me and shoved my hand, I said “You need to tell her she has one more chance. She grabs me again, and she leaves. I’m not putting myself at risk for her causing me to stab myself, and I am also not going to put her at risk.” FYI, grabbing your dentist while they’ve got a needle in your mouth/near your face, is a really good way to get a needle somewhere it doesn’t need to be (i.e. your throat, your tongue, your cheek, your nose, your eye if you’re REALLY forceful with your grab and you thrash your head). Just don’t do it. If it’s going to freak you out…..tell your dentist BEFORE THEY GET ANYWHERE NEAR THE SYRINGE. I don’t really know what William told this patient, but try #8 was successful.

So, a few frustrations, but overall not a bad day. I did find out that they do have a couple of hospitals nearby, so most of the women do have access to a hospital to give birth. This has been a question I’ve had almost all month, so glad I finally got that answered. I also want to know what they do with their dead as I have seen ZERO cemetaries nor crematoriums (or even anything close to something that could be used for a cremation), but that’s an odd question to ask, so I’ll likely not get that answered. Yes, I’m weird. I know. It’s fine.

Toward the end of the afternoon, I was outside with Eunice and Dennis just enjoying the shade and breeze. William came out and said something about harvesting some stuff from the garden, so we all went into the garden. Eunice and I pretty much watched while William and Dennis picked some peppers and herbs. They have a compost pile, and William seems surprised I knew what that was. I don’t know if that’s because other people haven’t known what it was or if they don’t think Americans use compost. Just kind of funny how many things are the same even halfway around the world. OH and speaking of things similar in both places, Eunice also told me that they frequently hear from women that the babies sucked the calcium out of their teeth!! I about choked when she said “Oh yeah, we hear that all the time.” She did find it odd that I have patients back home who have asked to have all their teeth pulled simply because they don’t want to brush them. “That makes no sense. It’s not hard” was her response. Correct Eunice. She asked “Do you do that?” to which I said “Absolutely not. I don’t pull teeth for that reason.” I will say, I have not seen anyone in my entire month here who has needed all their teeth pulled. Maybe 4-5 teeth total, but none who would need all teeth extracted and a denture. Which is kind of strange as I would see this daily back home. Weird since the USA is supposed to be the more developed nation…….Anyway, I digress.

After clinic I did my last load of laundry. I tell you what, I never really minded laundry back home, but for those of you who loathe doing laundry, come to bush Africa for a bit where you have to hand wash everything and hang it to dry. It’s tedious, time consuming, and it makes your back hurt. Be grateful for your washer and dryer. And be grateful you’re not having to cart it in a bucket on your head 10 miles away to the river to wash it, as I’ve seen that frequently. I asked Eunice if the women did all the carrying as I have yet to see a man carry anything—not their giant 40 L containers of water, not massive bundles of firewood, not laundry, not food, not anything. For example, the last two days, Massoi’s wife and mother (who has to be probably at least 55), have come to pick up wood for framing a house. These wood pieces are at least 12 feet long, and are probably the equivalent of a 2×2. They get about 15 of them grouped together, tie a rope to either end, then set the middle of the rope on their head. The wood then hangs down behind their back. And that’s how they carry it. FOR MILES. And this is how they carry a lot of things around here. Brutal. And Eunice says the women do EVERYTHING. She said “As soon as you’re done with school, it’s expected to get married, have kids, and take care of everyone. The women cook, fetch water, do laundry, fetch firewood, go to market, take care of the kids, all of that. The men, they sit and talk.” Feminists back home could write dissertations on the societal norms and expectations here in bush Kenya. Perspective…..it’s all about perspective. My perspective is that I would not last long living in this manner. The first time I had to carry 40 Ls of water on my head, I would die. Regardless of distance carried. Glad I can just turn the tap on and have it.

After laundry, I actually started the packing process. I have most things packed which I hope will just kind of let me soak in my last night here tomorrow. It’s amazing how quickly the time has gone, and how I really will miss all these wonderful people I’ve met in this short month. Lucy again told me today I need to come back, but with a husband and child. Ohhhh Lucy. You are funny. I did ask if I just brought a child, one that wasn’t mine, if that would work. She said no. Haha.

This has been a long winded, some what rambling post, so I apologize. For lunch, I had a potato/onion/carrot/slight amount of beef conglomeration along with the standard rice. Dinner tonight was a carrot/cumcumber/onion salad, carrots, green beans, baby potatoes (14 of them to be exact…..I ate 7), tilapia fillets, and some fruit (watermelon, orange, pineapple). I can’t say that I’m going to miss the food much. That’s another thing—–appreciate access to good meat. And variety. As it doesn’t exist here.

Well, I’m about to call it a night. Hope you all have a good evening, and I look forward to seeing you tomorrow as we near the end of this journey together!

Lala salamo, and tuanone kesho!

This is me with Massoi. He has on the traditional Maasai attire.

Toor Dal on a Tuesday in……Kenya. Yeah, couldn’t work out another “T”

Jambo and hello from Africa! I am pretty much back to 100% today health wise, so that’s been good! I slept fairly well last night, so I think that really helped.

We had another moderate day at the clinic today with 13 total patients: 9 extractions, 1 filling, 3 cleanings (two of which needed add’l treatment, but they declined the other treatment today and opted for cleanings instead), 1 patient who has swelling due to poor oral hygiene, and 1 patient who needs a molar root canal. The patient who needs a molar root canal will return next week as apparently the next dentist has been here before and does molar root canals (more power to them….I’m not even going to attempt). The patient who had swelling due to poor oral hygiene seemed to have a hard time understanding that there was not anything wrong with her tooth other than poor hygiene—-we spent a long time talking about proper home care, regular visits, and flossing. After convincing her she didn’t need to have her tooth pulled, we gave her a cleaning, and again stressed better home care.

William has been assisting some this week since Grace is out on vacation. He’s actually a pretty good assistant, but I have to keep correcting him on what the correct tooth number is (your teeth all have a designated number, which is how we chart things). He often assumes if its the furthest back tooth, it’s automatically the wisdom tooth. Alot of times it is, but sometimes it’s not. He also gets tripped up if there’s a tooth missing. So everytime I say “What tooth #?” and he gives me an answer, I say “Are you sure?”. His response is “Ummm 50/50” haha In all seriousness though, he’s jumped right in when we’ve had a group of patients waiting, so that we can work more efficiently. We had a lot of younger patients today, and he seemed very intent on their ages. He kept trying to get me to guess their ages, and then he would tell me and tell me if they had kids or not. We had quite a few teenage parents today, but he said all of them were married. He seemed to think they were really young to have kids, and was shocked when they had more than one. I can’t say that I was all that shocked as it’s kind of apparent to me that the women in these societies, while a lot of them have jobs, their primary responsibility is to have children. He said they are better about not having such young brides (10-12 years old), but they do still have some as young as 14/15. I had to say “We have teenage brides and mothers back in the United States, so this isn’t surprising to me”. I think he was a little shocked that I WASN’T shocked. But since I am neither their priest nor their parent, I simply focused on addressing their dental needs. I left the young bride/mother worry for William to do.

The monkeys and baboons have really been at it today—fighting amongst themselves, fighting with each other, and just overall creating a ruckus. There’s not even anything in our trash pit today except dental gloves and masks, so I don’t know why they’re all wound up. Perhaps it’s just that kind of day for them. It also hasn’t rained today, and it didn’t look like it was going to before it got dark, so I was stuck with the warmer temps today. There wasn’t even really a breeze either, so it was a high sweat level kind of day. It’ll be a no bedding kind of night for sure.

My afternoon after clinic was once again pretty low key. I mostly did some internet research on a few things while the internet was cooperating well enough for me to do so. I also walked over to Siana Springs a little bit early for dinner so that I could walk around their camp. I hadn’t really walked around their property since I usually just go over for dinner and it is pretty much dark about the time I get over there. It’s actually a fairly large piece of property. It has something like 27 tents (if I counted them correctly) spread out over three different “branches” of the camp—bamboo, palm, and acacia. Most of the tents in each branch are fairly close to each other, so I can’t say that you’d have a lot of privacy, and if you had a neighbor who snored loudly, I’m sure you’d hear it. I couldn’t exactly look in the tents, so I couldn’t tell if they had a shower and bathroom in each—I saw no outside pipe system like the tent in the clinic area has, but they may have buried lines instead. For “camping” it seems pretty luxurious. There’s also a fairly decent looking pool. I don’t remember if I said in a previous post that they have a bar, but they do have a separate “full” bar. I’ve pretty much had nothing but water, so I cannot comment on the quality and assortment of liquor/wine/beer. Overall it appears to be a fairly nice tented camp, and the grounds are very pretty. William says they have poor management, so he’s not sure how they survive with all the other competition around, and I had kind of wondered that too since there have been very few guests while I’ve been here. It is nice to have it next to the clinic as a “perk” of volunteering here, and all the staff that I’ve encountered have been incredibly pleasant, so I hope they can find a way to survive.

Today was chapati day here at the clinic, so lunch was chapati and beans. NO RICE. It’s so far the only time I can recall that we don’t have rice. Well, that and my safari lunches. Dinner tonight was roasted pumpkin (ehhhh, I’m not much of a pumpkin person, but I gave it a go), cream of vegetable soup, rice, and toor dal. I skipped dessert. Toor dal is basically cooked, spiced beans, peas or lentils. The version I had used yellow split peas, which are actually more like lentils here. Toor dal is essentially an Indian dish from what Google has led me to believe, which would explain why it had a bit of a curry flavor. I honestly wasn’t all that hungry tonight and struggled to get through portions of each course. It’s also why I skipped dessert.

The rest of the evening was spent doing a little bit of pre-packing organization trying to make sure I’ve got all my stuff kind of in one central location at this point, and then did a bit of reading. I also reviewed the list of Oscar winners as clearly I missed it this year. Since I hadn’t really seen most of the nominated films, I have no real commentary on the matter. I did notice that this is the first year in quite some time that Disney or Pixar didn’t win best Animated Film. Kansas didn’t win the Big 12 men’s basketball title, Disney/Pixar didn’t win…..never leave the country during February is the clear take away message here. Because both of those are connected to my geographical location.

I do believe that is all I have to report for today. I’m getting sad knowing my time here is coming to a close, but I am also getting very excited to be back home with friends and family and Dr. Pepper (and considerably less rice on a daily basis). Only a few more posts left to do here on this blog! Thanks for hanging with me this long, and come check in tomorrow!

Lala salamo!

This is actually before our safari on Saturday. This is what my hair looks like when it air drys….
Here is a photos of the youth at Grace’s church. The red garb that they wear is the traditional Maasai outfit. On the adults I’ve seen wearing it, it actually wraps all the way around their body and isn’t open on the sides. But they all have these elaborate belts, necklaces, headbands, etc. They typically also have shukas over their shoulders, but I’m guessing because they were running outside, none of them had theirs on.
This is the women’s “choir”. You can see how the have shukas over their shoulders, and then thinner dresses on underneath. There seems to have been a bit of a combining of attires—most of the younger ones I have seen have some modern-day dress component along with the shukas and beaded accessories. Usually this consists of jeans/pants under the dress or a shirt (long sleeve, or sometimes even sweatshirt) over the top of the dress.

Only 25 days in….

Good evening from Kenya! Hope you all have had a bit better of a Monday than me. Well, the Monday wasn’t necessarily bad, it was the preceding night that was rough. Well, it was bound to happen, and 25 days in, I finally got sick. I was up most of the night Sunday with stomach ills, so I got very little sleep. It had to have been something I ate as I have not been febrile, and today, I’ve been mostly ok. No clue as I pretty much had nothing but fruit for dinner last night, but that seemed to have been the issue. So, with very little sleep, and my stomach still doing flips and turns, I tried to prepare myself for a busy Monday.

We ended up having a slower Monday than 2 of the last three: only 13 patients total.
The morning started off with a kid who had fallen yesterday and broken his front teeth…..one of which needed a root canal. So that was the start of this Monday. I also had one really difficult partially impacted wisdom tooth that gave me some trouble, but otherwise, everything else went about as smoothly as one could hope. I did 11 extractions, 2 fillings, the 1 root canal, 1 uncooperative kid, and one consult. The worst part was that my stomach issues would fluxuate—and mostly seemed to be brought on by getting overheaded. Which doesn’t take much here due to the immense heat. I tried to stay hydrated with water as best I could—we don’t have access to Gatorade or things like that. By lunchtime, I felt ok enough to eat a little bit of food, so I had some rice and a little bit of the spinach/onion/carrot/potato mix Dennis made. I debated back and forth all day about going to the camp for dinner, but other than the occasional “roll”, my stomach had been fine since lunch (and I was actually hungry), so I decided to go and just eat what I felt like eating. I had onion soup, a vegetable pancake (essentially a veggie crepe), rice, and a little bit of lemon cake. I tried not to eat too much in hopes that my stomach stays good.

Our afternoon was fairly slow, so around 2:30 I actually came back up to the apartment and was able to lie down for a bit, which I also think has helped me. I decided not to go to market with William today as I didn’t need to buy anything, and I just really didn’t feel like dealing with the roads with my stomach was going to be a good idea. I spent the rest of the afternoon finishing “The Devil in the White City”. It was a very interesting book, and I feel like Larson did a great job of detailing the men behind the Chicago World Fair in 1893 as well as covering the H.H. Holmes side of the fair. Finishing this book means I completed all 4 books that I intended to complete while I was here. I also have volume 1 of the Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, but that’s like a 1100 page book, so I’m not planning to finish it while I’m here.

There’s another big thunderstorm rolling in right now. William said we’re about to be to the start of rainy season, so I may see daily rain during this last week of my stay. Although I will need to do laundry Wednesday, so I’m hoping we don’t have any that night so that I can get everything packed on Thursday. These thunderstorms are nice to listen to, and I’ve noticed that none of them have had lightning. I’m pretty sure they have lightning here in Kenya, but just an interesting note that I’ve not witnessed any.

Since I didn’t get much sleep last night, my plan is to have an early night tonight. Hopefully I can get a good night’s rest tonight, and be back to 100% tomorrow. I’m probably at about 75% right now, so very vast improvement from 24 hours ago for sure. I do not want anyone to worry—it really appears to have been just a bad meal, and I’m much better at the end of the day than I was at the beginning. So sorry this entry wasn’t all that exciting, but with me feeling under the weather today, I didn’t do much extraneous interacting. I’ll try to have more for you all tomorrow.

3 more days of clinic, then the travel homeward begins! Let’s home we end the adventure on a high note!

Olisserie, and tuanone kesho!

Last Sunday and First Goodbye

Jambo and Supa from the Mara! Today is the last weekend day I will spend here at the Maasai Dental Clinic. It’s been a good last weekend for sure, but I am beginning to look forward to returning home in just a few short days. My morning started off with the monkeys chasing each other on the roof. They were quite rambunctious and quite loud. A few of them also stopped by the window sills next to the kitchen, but I know better than to leave those windows open.

I went to Grace’s church again this morning. I had asked William last night if there would be someone who could walk me to the church, and he arranged for John to walk with me. We had to walk in somewhat of a silence since John doesn’t speak English and I don’t speak Maasai, but it wasn’t an unpleasant walk as the weather was still a bit cooler. We didn’t leave for church until 9:45, and probably didn’t get there until about 10:15. The service had already started, but people continued to trickle in for the next 30 minutes or so. They were in the middle of prayer when we arrived, and just like last time, it was kind of a “prayer for all” with everyone praying their own prayers. John and I just jumped in—-this time I brought my Lutheran Book of Prayer, so I had some structured prayers to help me during this prolonged prayer time.

After prayer, one of the members named Elizabeth, got up and gave a short lesson. They had another congregation member translate during this time so Grace could sit with her husband Paul. Elizabeth’s lesson was fairly straightforward—-be kind to all, welcome guests, do what God wants you to do, and accept Jesus as your Savior. After she finished her brief lesson, she then called on “new” faces and faces who hadn’t been to church in awhile to stand and I guess explain themselves. Kind of an odd thing, but everyone basically had sound reasons for not having been, or were interested to hear the Word of God, and so they were all blessed to be in church that morning. Elizabeth then called on me to speak. Seeing as how someone has to translate for me, I didn’t say a whole lot other than I was very blessed to be there, and I thanked all of them for being so welcoming, and I looked forward to the rest of the service. This seemed to satisfy Elizabeth as I was not called upon to say more.

After this, it was time to “Praise God”—which if you don’t remember from my last Sunday service blog, means song and dance. So the chairs were cleared out, people gathered up front, and several songs were sung while people danced also. They again kind of let me do my own thing which consisted of a side step with clapping. Cardio and a church service if you want to think of it that way. After song/dance, we had another prayer time, which I once again called upon my Prayer Book to help guide me.

Now it was time for the various “choirs” to perform. We once again started with the younger kids, who came to the front and did a few songs with some dance as well. They were then dismissed, and the next aged kids came up front to do the same. These all looked like pre-teens, and all of them were in full Maasai dress with their beads and head bands and other accessories. I never found out if there was a special reason they were all in traditional dress today as they were the only group of children to do so. Next up were the youth, or teens, but they apparently had nothing prepared, so the ladies group went next. After all the different groups songs/dance time, it came time for the sermon.

They had visiting pastor today who came from “very far” (that was all he said), who preached instead of Grace’s husband Paul. I spent the first part of his sermon (about 15 minutes) without a translator as the girl who had been translating as tired (understandably so), so I’m not entirely sure what the opening was about. Grace then came to sit beside me so she could translate. I told her she didn’t have to translate everything as I know that is difficult to do, and she loses a lot of the message as well. The next part of his sermon was about finding peace in Christ. Essentially, once you’ve been saved by Christ, you will have a peace to help you through life. It is through God’s grace that we are saved, and obtain this peace (Ahhhh, Lutheran theology. How lovely).

The next part of his sermon was apparently condeming pool/billiards, and alcohol. I kind of felt like I was listening to Harold Hill from the Music Man, which then sparked “Ya Got Trouble” to pop into my brain. For those of you who have not been exposed to this piece of musical theater, the lyrics to this song include: “Oh ya got trouble, right here in River City. With a capital P and that rhymes with T and that stands for pool….” See? I have the same problem everytime our pastor’s wife says tradition in Sunday School back home…..Fiddler on the Roof pops in my head. Anyway, this part of the sermon was a bit hard for me to follow other than pool and alcohol are bad, and lead you away from Jesus.

The rest of his sermon was also pretty straightforward—-he used various passages to encourage people to be kind to one another, plant good “seeds”, be good servants of Christ, be respectful, and ultimately just be a good human being. He said all of this has to happen in your heart, not just in your words. Good message, for sure, and I found myself thinking back to a conversation I had once with Dr. White (one of my dental school instructors). He had asked me my opinion of Christianity, and I had answered, and so I turned the question back to him. He said “Generally I think anything that encourages people to be good to one another, and be good human beings, is a good thing. We need more of it.” For some reason, what Grace was translating from the preacher sounded a lot like that conversation with Dr. White, so that’s why it came to mind. After the sermon was over, we had another 20-30 minutes of basically announcement time. Again, those of you back home, be grateful I don’t take longer with my announcements even though I swear you all got tired of hearing from me every Sunday. Once again, it was a great Sunday service, and a great experience. (P.S. total time today was 3 1/4 hours).

Since Grace is going to be on vacation this week, today was my last day to see her. I told her thanks tremendously for all her help, and for making my month here a great one. She then asked “When do you think you’ll be back?” Haha, well, Grace, right now, I have no idea. She gave me a blessing, and told me to have a great trip home, and that she’d be praying for me. Can’t ask for any more than that.

John and I walked back to the clinic. I accidentally tripped fairly early into the walk, and just barely stumbled, but John took that to mean I needed help. He insisted on holding my hand for the majority of the walk back to the clinic. All I could think was “hope this doesn’t get back to his two wives”. We got back around 1:45 ish and William had informed me that the camp thought we were going on game drive, so they’d packed a lunch. Soooooo, I had a safari lunch again. Although this time it had even more food: Chicken leg, butter/tomato sandwich (uh, what?), two apples, hard boiled egg, chips, large chunk of pineapple, large slice of watermelon, banana, and half an orange. Once again, I ate about half of it. The rest will get eaten for dinner as I am not going to the lodge. Thank goodness I had already told them I was skipping dinner or I have no idea when I’d eat all this other food.

After lunch, I went down to get my now thrice rinsed laundry (it rained again last night in the middle of the night) off the line. The wind had picked up, and it looked like it was going to rain at some point, so I thought I needed to get it before it got soaked again. Sure enough, about 4:00, the winds started howling, and the heavens opened up. It rained for about an hour, and now it’s nice and cool. There’s another batch of dark clouds in the distance, so the rain may not be done for the day. The rest of my day has been spent reading and working puzzles and listening to some music. Pretty low key afternoon/evening, but I’m just trying to soak it up while I can, because when I get back stateside, it’s gonna be busy. The to-do list has already been started. It’s amazing how busy you can be when you’re unemployed….. (by the way, finding a job is on the to-do list for those of you who were beginning to worry).

Well, that is all I have to report on this fine Sunday. Hope you all enjoy the rest of your weekend, and I will be “seeing” you tomorrow! Olisserie!

Grace and I after church today

“The Big Five” on the last safari

Hello and Jambo everyone! Hope everyone’s weekends have started off well. Today was my final time to go on safari at the Masai Mara National Game Preserve. We had yet another awesome drive, and it was a little sad as we were exiting the gate knowing I would not be back (at least not probably for a good long while). William was once again an excellent game driver. Just to give everyone a little context, all the other safari vehicles have radios so they can communicate with each other and tell everyone where the animals are. Which is kind of a strange concept as I feel like this would never happen in America—-they’re basically helping the competition. But I guess since no game drive is ever the same and there’s never a guarantee of what you’re going to see, they all know the better the safaris are for everyone, the more the tourism industry thrives. The more tourism, the better everyone’s paychecks. So while helping the competition seems odd to me, I’m glad they do it. Anyway, radios. They all have radios, but currently our vehicle does not. William has to rely on his own vision most of the time, and then when he can stop another guide, he gets information from them. With limited resources for communication, he’s been excellent. He says he hopes to have a radio sometime by the end of the year.

We also had a couple of the Siana Springs Tented Camp employees along with us today, Christie and Nicolas. Neither one of them had been on a game drive before, so William asked if they could come along. I said absolutely, the more the merrier! Another kind of strange thing that they live/work this close to the preserve but have never been. Guess it’s like New Yorkers with the Statue of Liberty or Empire State Building. I can see where a lot of people living here can’t afford it, but for the camp workers having access to the free safari with the WHDO, I’m surprised more of them haven’t gone. It was fun to have some other people with us today, and to see Kenyans get just as excited about the animals as me.

We get to the preserve about 8:00 a.m., and shortly after entering, William sees a giraffe. “Ah, it is going to be a good day. First thing we see is giraffe.” William flags down another guide and I guess asks where is a good spot to go. This guide says something in Swahili, and William obviously gets very excited. He then starts driving like a bat out of hell. Now, up until this point, he has been an extremely cautious driver. Clearly he is excited about something. In the middle of the rush he practically yells at me “TURN ON THE CAMERA!” Haha, ok William, it’s already on, please just don’t kill us with your driving. We come around this curve and he almost rear ends another vehicle. At this point, I have a pretty good idea of what we’re flying down the road to see………..rhino. The ever elusive rhino was out today! Granted, he went into the brush very quickly after we got there, and he was a ways away, but I was able to see it. I didn’t get very good photos due to the distance, and the extremely tall grass, but I was able to see it finally! This officially completed what the locals refer to as “The Big Five”: Rhino, Elephant, Cape Buffalo, Lion, Leopard. Those are the ones everyone gets excited about apparently.

After the rhino, we started driving around just seeing what we could see. We encountered a fairly large herd of elephant (it was actually two separate herds that came together), and Christie really enjoyed seeing them. I sat in the back today with the top of the vehicle up, but still didn’t get excellent photos as they were mostly walking beside us and never really stopped to get any kind of front angle shot. After the elephants, we passed MANY small clusters of Thompson’s gazelles. We also spotted some giraffe, including several adolescent ones. We then spot a safari van and what looks like a Ford Escape near a small area of brush. Generally cars near brush mean lions. Sure enough, we pull up there, and there are two male lions asleep. Well, about 15 seconds after we pull in, William quickly backs up. He explains that the Ford is actually a park ranger, and while the other vehicle had a permit to be off road, we did not, so we had to get back to the road or get fined. Made me so nervous as I don’t want him to get fined.

So we start driving again, and William said “let’s drive a bit then come back to the lion”. He wanted to wait until the ranger left so we could get close. We see a couple of white van “vultures” a little bit ahead of us, so he jets over to them. They are all kind of on one side of a ravine with a small creek. I can’t see anything at this point, but William works his magic and gets us to a new position—–down in the creek bed is the leopard! There’s one safari vehicle on the opposite side of the ravine that probably has the best view, so William again high tails it to heaven trying to find a crossing point to get to the other side. Well, he gets to the other side, and guess what……we’re offroad and the same ranger back at the lion pulls up to us but didn’t roll the window down or get out. Well, since I cannot speak Swahili, I let William handle the situation and just stayed focused on the leopard. After about 10 minutes, William decides time to leave. I asked if we got fined and he said “No, not yet”. The ranger continued to follow us for a little while, so William stopped and said “Ok, I’m going to act like I’m inspecting the vehicle, maybe they’ll go away”. Well of course as soon as he gets out of the vehicle, the ranger pulls up beside him and gets out. Words are exchanged, but nothing else, and everything looks amicable. William gets back in the car—-“I know him! And the guys in the car! We are ok. Let’s go see the lion.” Apparently knowing the game rangers can come in handy when you are taking people off road to see big cats. He apparently told the ranger we were going to off road at the lion, and the ranger gave him the ok.

So, we go back over to the lion and watch them for a bit. One of them did eventually get up, but like most of the animals when you’re trying to get their face, they turn the opposite direction. It went back underneath a bush and lay down, so it was time to move on. We started driving again, and drove through lots of small clusters of the hoofed game-Thompson’s gazelles, Graham’s gazelles, Topi, Zebra, and impala. We again see some white vans ahead, so we catch up to them. There’s a cheetah out in the open, and the other guides say it’s been acting like it was hunting! With all the hoofed game around, I was really hoping to watch this cheetah run and catch something. We hung out for probably 30 minutes, but the cheetah would just walk about 10 yards then sit for 10 minutes. William said “Ok, looks like it might be awhile before it actually gets to the herds” which made sense as they were actually quite a ways off and we knew the cheetah wasn’t going to waste energy it needed to actually make a kill. So we moved on.

We went to a small river where there were hippo. Christie said it was her first time to see a hippo! So that was pretty neat. There weren’t nearly as many people in this area as there were on my first safari, so we were actually able to hang out and watch them a bit. The river looked and smelled disgusting, but the hippo seemed to enjoy it. We get back in the truck and drive along the river a bit, finally spotting a crocodile. After the crocodile, we were just following the river again, and then just happened to luck into a large group of lion sleeping in the shade along the river bank! It was the most numerous group of them I’ve seen thus far, so that was really cool! After that, we decided to break for lunch.

Lunch was the same thing I’ve had every safari: chicken, fruit (apple, watermelon, orange), chips, boiled egg, cheese/cucumber sandwich (What? A sandwich!), and a piece of the carrot cake. Turns out, Nicolas is the one that puts the lunches together! So I thanked him for feeding me well on all my safaris. After we ate lunch, William spotted a couple of vans, so we went off in that direction. What do we find? The cheetah with an incredibly fresh kill of a Thompson’s gazelle. We probably missed the kill by no more than 5 minutes with how little had been consumed and how heavy the cheetah was breathing. Some people may not be excited about watching a cheetah consume a gazelle, but honestly, I thought it was pretty darn awesome, and was just sad we missed getting to see it in action. That would have been amazing! It chowed down pretty quickly, and by about 15 mins after we got there, it was apparent that the other vans had been radioed, as they started descending. We decided to go ahead and leave before we got boxed in.

At this point, we’re pretty much finished for the day, so we’re just driving back to the gate and seeing what we see. And we didn’t see a whole lot. Until William slams on the breaks and says “Hyena!” He had somehow managed to spot this hyena head poking out of a drainage canal underneath the road. I have no idea how he saw it, but he backed up, and drove down to where we could actually see it! This was cool too as I hadn’t seen any hyena since the first safari, and even then I didn’t get a good look at it. This time we watched it until it decided to lay down in the water and grass. Onward we go to the gate! We saw more of the hoofed game on our way out, and saw a water buck, which I had not seen yet. Basically another member of the antelope family. So, we exited the preserve, and again, it was a bit sad, but overall, I am incredibly blessed to have had such good safari experiences.

We get back to the clinic around 3:00, and I go to do laundry. At about 4:30, I watch the heavens open up and rain on my freshly clean laundry. Oh well, I’ll just say they got an extra rinse today. Then I watched the baboons and monkeys for a short while as they ran off pretty quickly after I got outside. I’m doing dinner here at the apartment tonight and tomorrow to try to finish what little food I have left before I leave next week. The rest of the evening will likely be spent reading and working some puzzles. I haven’t quite ironed out plans for tomorrow, but I’m going to see if I can go to church with Grace. If not, then I suppose I’ll just hang around the clinic and try to relax before what I anticipate to be a busy Monday.

One last note: As William went back to Julius’ last night to get the speakers loaded up, he saw a lion, not 50 yards from where Julius lives. Crazy! He took video and it’s just nuts how close these things are to people and the clinic! Well, last round of safari photos can be found below. Once I get home, I’ll have to go through all of them, and I’m sure there will be a photo album on Facebook so you can see some of the ones that didn’t make the blog cut. Hope you all enjoy! Asante sana, and tuonane kesho!

Here’s a little bit better shot of an eland. Again, they’re huge.
Quite the herd of elephant
Hi friend! I swear this is a different photo from last week even though it looks very similar.
This ones is titled: “Those Darn Kids”
OPEN WIDE!!!!
Just some impala hanging out
We actually got to see the leopard up close!
A little bit impeded, but still cool to see!
Just know that this is a rhino. Finally.
These guys are about as frustrating as the baboon. If you even get close, they turn and run giving you a photo of their backside. So I had to get the best photo I could from a ways away.
This is a female topi. The females are lighter in color than the males
Sleeping. Once again.
This one got up to stretch….and promptly turned his back
Our “secret stash” of lions!
This is the water buck. No they’re not in season.
Got this guy on our way out—-good end to the safari trip!
We found you, hyena, despite you trying to hide!
On the move, looking for food
Eyeing some Thompson’s gazelle in the distance

Just a warning: The next three photos show the cheetah with it’s kill of a Thompson’s gazelle. There’s really not that much blood, but you will see a dead gazelle…..with a cheetah eating on it.

Success. For the cheetah, no so much for the gazelle.
Cheetah has to eat. They’re really the only cat fast enough to catch the small, quick Thompson’s gazelle.
Getting loaded up on protein to replenish all the energy it just lost chasing the gazelle.