27 February 2015

Pokot In The Nick Of Time

On Thursday, the team (with some of Sister Freda's hospital staff and nursing students) made the two(ish)-hour drive to a village in the county of Pokot to put on a medical and vision clinic at a local school. 

The majority of the drive looked like this...crazy roads, but gorgeous landscape.

Sister Freda's van got a bit lost, so we "had to" stop at the top of this hill to get cell reception and call her. Seriously, those clouds looked like a Hollywood backdrop.

Someone mentioned that part of the drive was through a river...I thought he was exaggerating. He was not. We pulled right up (and then through) this little river.

Complete with people bathing, washing clothes and bringing their cattle to drink.

We then went around a few precarious turns and through narrow lanes...up, up, up...

As the third in the caravan, we had the best view of our welcome wagon--chasing the other two vans down the road, singing at the top of their lungs!

I jumped out of the van and took a few photos and, immediately, started dancing with them. They sang a song with a variety of lyrics like, "I love You, Jesus...You are My Savior." and "I love You Jesus...You brought us doctors." It was so sweet.

I had a huge (probably could even be described as ridiculously huge) grin on my face as they continued to sing...honestly, it was hot and they were jumping and clapping and singing for about 20 minutes straight...and they just kept going. It was amazing.

The man running this team has known me since I was in 7th grade--I grew up with his kids. He came up after the choir of girls had begun to walk the team down the hill toward their school and told me, "When I saw your face as those girls started to sing...it was obvious...you belong here." Which, honestly, is kinda what I've been feeling at various times in the last month: 'I was born for this.'


By the time the final team members (okay, fine...Sammy and I) made it down and back up the hill (so we stopped to eat a sandwich...we're the laziest) to the clinic site, the choir of girls had started their songs again. Between the songs, the colors of the dresses and wraps of the local women and babies, and the hills, trees, and clouds-- it was quite an amazing site.

Love my Sweet Freda.

The school was about five classrooms in one long row. Each room was rearranged to suit the needs of the various piece of the clinics it would contain for the day: eye exams, medical exams, pharmacy, and a break room for our team.


I was assigned to the pharmacy for the day. (I sort of asked for that placement. I told Don, the team leader, that I'm a really good counter, so I should be in with the pills.) Here are the make-shift pharmacy shelves.


I sat for the afternoon and wrote dosages on small brown envelopes and then filled each envelope with the appropriate amount of each medicine. (I was well-instructed on the numbers--I wasn't just making them up!)

They had hung a striped sheet next to me, creating a small space for injections. I couldn't help but snap a picture of the one man who found the privacy unnecessary. 

Deb is a nurse practitioner--and has the most amazing servant's heart. She sat for hours and counted pills, sorted boxes, and filled small bottles with an array of cough suppressants and liquid medicines. Everyday this week, no matter what job she's been given, she's said, "I'm just happy to serve! Wherever and whatever!" She's seriously so awesome. (She's also mentioned her desire to come back and stay for a little longer next time--Sammy and I have told her she's more than welcome!!)


The pharmacy was crowded very quickly. One-by-one, mamas and their babies came in to take several envelopes of pills or bottles of syrups for everything from malaria to anti-diarrheal. I wasn't in the room when they packed up at day's end, but I would imagine that, at the rate they were distributing the medicines, there wasn't much that went home with us.


We took shifts going for lunch. I wandered in and sat with Sammy, Don, Becky, Stonic and Denis as we ate peanut butter and jelly sandwiches (that the team had made the night before), chips, bananas and drank lots and lots of water. 

I looked over and watched Stonic cutting open an avocado with the sharp corner of a fresh seal salmon package. Then, he proceeded to eat it like an apple.


After lunch, Sammy and I both admitted that we'd had to go to the bathroom since we'd arrived (now hours earlier.) So, we walked out to check out the situation...and found this hut, which would have been fine except the netting was see-through and, two white girls wandering toward that bathroom had already begun to draw a small crowd. We decided it'd be better to walk back down toward the river/vans and find a hiding spot.


The team had given out Bibles in the Pokot language and the Book of John in Swahili. Sammy, for the entertainment of these secondary school students (and Denis) tried her best to read a few verses in Swahili. She butchered it--and the girls loved it.

Sammy also met this mama and her little boy who is four and has many of the same symptoms as another boy at Sammy's house. She held the boy and talked to the mom for several hours about options for medical care and support. Sammy has an amazing heart.


We walked down the hill and found a nice big mound to hide behind while we 'took care of business' and, quickly realized that there were about a dozen kids further down the hill watching. Lovely. Fortunately, the large group of boys heading down the hill had been slowed by another member of our group, so I wasn't as embarrassed as I could have been.

Having walked halfway down the hill already, we figured we may as well go all the way to the river. There was a fallen tree laying across one part of it, so I walked out to the middle and watched the stream for a few minutes.



Sammy immediately took off her shoes and waded in.

On our way back up the hill, I saw this beautiful old woman watching the kids in the river. I asked Sammy (who speaks great Swahili) if she'd ask if I could take a picture of this woman. (Many of the older women in villages are very sensitive about having their photos taken...it's always best to ask!)

Sammy introduced herself and the woman reached out her arm to greet us. She didn't speak Swahili--only Pokot--but had a gigantic smile on her face, so I thought I'd try the old "forward facing camera" routine and see if that would soften the ask for a picture. (I'm so sad that I didn't ask her name!)

She looked at herself in the phone and was confused at first...wait, what's happening?

Is that me?

Well, that looks like you...

I guess it's me, okay I'll smile!

When we made it back up to the clinic, I stood in the shade of a tree, drinking my water and this little boy walked up and stuck out his hand to greet me. I looked up and saw about twenty mamas sitting in shade across from me, smiling and encouraging the little boy to say hello. I leaned down and he walked right in to my arms. So tiny and so sweet.


Here are all of the mamas, with their babies, watching this unfold. (Honestly, this landscape is beautiful, right?)

Stonic can't resist a photo with a small child. And, oddly enough, this little boy leaned in to me and away from Stonic, for comfort.


Then, Stonic startled him and he burst in to tears. I did my best to console him, until his mama came over to rescue him from crazy, scary Stonic.


Little does that boy know, Stonic is really a good guy.


As I sat there, I began to realize that I was not alone. Sammy walked up and said, 'you've drawn quite a crowd.'


As we took this picture, a Pokot woman named Teresa said, "wait!" and then adorned me with these necklaces and trinkets.

Once people saw the camera--especially the front-facing camera--they walked over to have a turn. This one is one of my favorites: just sheer confusion.




To get back to the van, we had to wade through the river. It was freezing, but felt so good after a day in the heat. When I got to the other side, I went to put my sandals back on and began to lose my balance. I almost fell backward, straight in to the river, but the Pokot Pastor, Emmanuel, caught my arm in the nick of time! He saved me from a very cold ride home!


The team dropped us back at our van and we drove in to town for dinner. (You know, the same place I've been almost every day this week. They have delicious chicken nuggets!) At the end of our meal, the waitress (Elizabeth) invited us to come back to the official Grand Opening on Saturday afternoon. She gave us an invitation signed by the manager! Sammy told her I'm a singer and asked if they'd like me to sing at the event. Elizabeth (and then the other waitress, Suzie) excitedly agreed.


So, evidently, I'll be singing at a restaurant opening tomorrow afternoon. I'm sure hilarity will ensue at some point--we'll be sure to document it and share it here soon.

1 comment:

Julie Hibbard said...

Singing at the grand opening??! So great! I am sooooo happy that you are soooo happy!!! What a great travel journal you have created!