Friday, October 12, 2012

Lake Magadi

I had a field trip a couple of weeks ago to a place called Lake Magadi, southwest of Nairobi and close to the Tanzanian border.

Wow. Despite the dying quality of my very-aged iPhone camera, I hope you can see how beautiful this part of Kenya is. Rough, arid and yet spectacular.

I spent the trip interviewing project staff, Maasai health workers and even a Maasai chief. It was HOT (Nairobi is not so) and sweaty and we had to pause our interviews a few times because I couldn't hear my interviewee over the bleats of a noisy group of goats! It was an eyeopening, enjoyable mid-week adventure.

Things only got strange when my colleagues took me out one night to the hot springs on the lake, turned the car headlights towards the water and then proceeded to strip down to their underwear.

I remained polite but firm, and thankfully, fully dressed.

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And as I watched all the gorgeous scenery rush by on our way home, I saw a young goat herder trip over his goats because he was too distracted playing with his mobile. Two worlds colliding, don't message and muster folks!

Thursday, October 4, 2012

my 9 to 5

I've been working for almost two months now, but have somehow failed to share a single experience from my placement here on the blog. Pole sana. I'm working for quite a large international health organisation* that most of you probably haven't heard of, but is well-known and well-respected throughout Africa.

As my colleagues and I still figure out exactly what I can and should contribute to, my weeks have been alternating between rather quiet days reading background documents until I have nothing left to read and must turn to trashy news sites online ( I'm looking at you!), through to busy, busy days of deadlines, writing and field trips. Of course, when it's busy, I'm wishing for one of those quiet days, and when there's not much to do, I'm itching to get stuck into something challenging!

But thus far, I'm really loving the work part of life in Kenya. I am helping my team document the successes, innovations and tools they've developed in various projects, so they can apply lessons learnt or models used to future projects and can encourage other agencies to make use of them as well.

For me, that involves a lot of background reading on Kenyan health policy, strategic plans and the target community/culture, developing question guides and interviewing project staff, community leaders and beneficiaries, drafting a document that captures everything I've learnt in an easy-to-read, concise format and working with various people to redraft, rewrite and polish it up into something worth sharing.

I'm getting exposure to a number of different projects and different regions, from maternal and child health services, to addressing female genital mutilation (FGM), to implementing systems to collect important health data at the community level, to projects tackling the huge shortage of health workers in the country. In addition to documentation, I'm also working on some advocacy projects and will hopefully be contributing to business development in the coming months as well.

There's so much to learn and I'm finding it all fascinating. I often get that 'Yes, this is right where I want to be' kind of feeling, which is a such good feeling to get when you hold two very broad degrees, have a wide range of interests and are still not exactly sure what you want to be when you grow up!

*I'm not naming the organisation I work with or the volunteer program I'm supported by to save myself the hassle of submitting everything through their social media policy person, but if you'd like to know more, feel free to contact me via facebook / email / twitter.

Monday, October 1, 2012

a swahili update

We've been taking two Swahili classes a week and practicing with each other and Kenyan friends when we can. I, however, I'm trying to unlearn some mistakes I made early on. I shared my embarrassment with some girlfriends back home, but decided sharing is caring and who doesn't want to hear a funny story about Laura's laments when language learning?!

So, taken straight from my email home...

"And in other news, I have the uncanny ability to turn an innocent Swahili word into something a little less polite. Our second lesson in, I mispronounced the word 'house' and instead of saying 'I like my house', I announced that 'I like my flatulence'. Our poor teacher was so embarrassed as she corrected me, and to my horror it appears my brain is permanently unable to get that word right and almost every class I've made the same mistake. 

If that's not bad enough, I also mispronounced the word 'drinking' and instead shared with the class 'I am pooing tea'. Seriously, what is wrong with me?! Asides from those two highly embarrassing mistakes, Swahili is fun to learn - easier than French and there are a lot of opportunities to practice each day."

So there we go, friends. However, you should know there are a bunch of other great Swahili words we are mastering, like pilipili hoho (capsicum) - how cool a word is that?