Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Waterfalls, Animals, and Tea Farms

Aberdare National Park

My first weekend in Kenya was absolutely spectacular!!! A group of ten of us took a camping trip to the Aberdare National Park. Mind you, I have never been camping before in my life so it was many new experiences packed into a couple of days. Kenya is such a beautiful country and has so many beautiful places, I cannot even begin to do it justice with pictures, much less words. As soon as you enter the park there are literally wild animals everywhere! If you are an outdoors person even in the slightest, you have to visit Kenya's national parks, its unreal how gorgeous they are!

During the day we hiked to several of the waterfalls in the national park. I have no words for them...majestic is as close as I can come to describing them! I almost don't want to post pictures because they don't do it justice one bit, but I will anyway because they come much closer than words!

The second day we stayed at a campsite outside of the park that was among the farmland in Kenya. Mostly, there were tea farms where we were staying. It was incredibly beautiful and peaceful. I envy the people who live in such a tranquil part of the world.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Penda Health

Now that I know what I'm actually doing in Kenya, I can tell you! I'm working at a company called Penda Health. Penda means love, and yes, it's a company! We are not a free clinic and actually make profit from 90% of our patients/customers. As someone who has never had an interest in business, marketing, or anything of the sort, it's been really amazing to get be part of a start up company.

It may seem odd for our clinic to be for-profit especially in a country like Kenya, but its actually brilliant! There are several reasons for it, the most important one is sustainability. Free things are just not sustainable, and the key to good healthcare is that it's available. The amazing thing is that healthcare makes for incredible business (as people in the US already know!), and if you have a good product or service people will pay for it. So the key to our model is that we offer the best medical service in all of Kenya (that's my job!), and unlike any other place in Kenya, we are friendly to our patients! A second reason for our model is that we think if our business is a success, others will want to copy our model, and soon there will be quality, friendly healthcare all over Kenya!!! Seems idealistic right? In February we saw 720 paying patients at our clinic!!! Obviously, there are many people in Kenya who are too poor to pay for our services despite them being very affordable. But most people can and will, as long as they think our service is worth it!

The only real problem with our clinic is that none of the founders have any sort of medical background (the woman in charge of our medical program is married to a freshly graduated doctor, if that counts), so our medical quality has been very slow to develop and improve. Basically, I have my work cut out, so much, that 4 months is seeming way too short! That may seem like a big problem, but the founders of Penda are truly incredible human beings who can make anything be at least good! Plus, medical care in Kenya is so terrible that it doesn't take much to offer a better option.

Perhaps the best part of Penda is that the people are all amazing and truly dedicated to great work! They've all been so welcoming and kind, I seriously feel like I could stay here forever! They've already found me a few dozen Kenyan husbands! Being single in Kenya means everyone gets to tease you, all the time!

I really wish you all could come visit! Its really amazing! I'm already sad about the day I have to leave!

Like us on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/PendaHealth

Read our blog: http://pendahealth.wordpress.com/our-blog/

Follow us on Twitter: https://www.twitter.com/PendaHealth/

Sunday, February 17, 2013


The Kenyan presidential elections are in a couple of weeks and I thought since Kenya has been so welcoming I would use a blog post to inform people about Kenyan politics. This is the first presidential election since a new constitution has been written, and although the constitution is good and fair, the government in Kenya is incredibly corrupt. So corrupt that one of the candidates with a good chance of winning is being asked to present to the international criminal court for crimes against humanity after being charged with motivating and funding violence that took place after the last presidential elections in 2007. At the same time you can certainly see a crossroads in Kenyan politics where there is no established political parties and the country can go in virtually any direction within the next couple of months! Although his victory is unlikely, there is a candidate who can really bring change to Kenya, the general hope is that next election he will stand a better chance. It is a delicate time however, after the last election there was post-election violence across the country, violence that is fueled by most of the candidates! But despite all the tension, it was very inspirational to have this message from our president promoting peace! I love how even though the political climate in America makes it difficult for him to change things at home, he finds a way to be inspirational and change minds (and even lives) across the globe! Thank you for making us look good! (Plus, his Swahili is pretty good!)

Note: I don't live anywhere near where there is likely to be violence if the results of the election were to erupt in violence. I am safe, promise!

Friday, February 15, 2013

Jina langu ni Elisa

I arrived safely in Nairobi early on Monday, February 4th. The town I will be living in is called Kitengela. It's small, but there are many factories so most people have jobs and live relatively well (relative to what the expectation of people living in Africa is). People are extremely kind and warm!

For the most part I'm adjusting very well! Although many things are very different, I'm really embracing the differences! Kitengela reminds a lot of Mexico, that might be making the transition easier. My only criticism of Kitengela is that it is extremely dusty, even more so than New Mexico!

The food is great! Mostly beans, rice and lentils. Most places have chapati which is essentially a tortilla equivalent. Partly because of chapati, you pretty much eat everything with your hands. It's certainly not a place for germaphos! On my first night we ordered food to share. Imagine 3 to 5 people using their hands to eat rice, beef stew, and vegetables out of he same plate! It's a strange phenomenon, but for whatever strange reason I kinda like it!

We have tea every morning between 10 and 10:30! Tea time is my new favorite thing in the world! I may have to adjust my life to make it a permanent part of my life!

I live in an apartment with the 4 other Americans who work for our company. They are all amazing people! If you could imagine the ideal group of strangers that you can suddenly start living with without knowing them and it be perfectly ok, even a good thing, that's the scenario. I know it seems unlikely, or even impossible but they are very easy to live with!

Our apartment is nice, the living room is my bedroom. Don't worry I have a curtain for privacy! We don't have a fridge or a stove (well we have something that works as a single stove top, the green thing in the pictures), but I guess I'm not particularly attached to those things because it actually took me a few days to realize that. Buying food is so cheap, you literally get a huge plate of food for less than a dollar! I've also been living off mangos on many days! Best mangos in the world!!!

My life is good :)


Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Turkish Delight!

Istanbul was an amazing first city abroad! I had a very long layover there, fortunately, Turkish Airlines gives you a free day tour! Even the food is free! English was very common among people and everyone was very excited to speak Spanish with me when I told them I was Mexican! Plus, apparently the entire world watches novelas allowing for instant bonding moments! In general, Turkish people were incredibly welcoming!

The mosques were extraordinary! I've never seen anything like them before. There are many of them and all are of equal magnitude as far as drama and size are concerned.

There is a massive cistern from the Roman Empire that I got to walk through. There is so much history in this city, I wish I could speak about it intellectually, but I can't. Again, I find myself regretting what a poor student of history I was!

My favorite part about Istanbul was a museum called the Hagia Sophia. It was originally built as a cathedral by the Roman Empire, then converted to a mosque by the Ottoman Empire. However, because its against Islamic tradition to destroy any religious items, non of the mosaics from the cathedral were destroyed, they were only covered up and Islamic scriptures were put up. Now that it's a museum they've uncovered some of the Christian mosaics, and today Islam and Christianity co-exist inside this beautiful building in a way that they don't and can't anywhere else in the world. I found it pretty inspirational!

Istanbul also has a beautiful collection of stray cats that love attention! Yes, I touched all of them! No, it's probably not safe to do so!

Lastly, I went to the spice market and fell in love with a Turkish boy! He lavished me with gifts...mostly candy!


P.S. I have no idea how to blog, including something as simple as embedding the pictures within the text. Sorry.

P.S.S. I may or may not have unintentionally fabricated or altered what may seem like facts about Istanbul's history, you should go there yourself! Seriously, Turkish Airlines not only gives you a free tour, they also continuously provide beer and wine on your flight, there's no reason not to go.

3rd P.S. Raquel, I am not as good as you at this endless supply of P.S.