Trips and falls
9 July 2012 § Leave a comment
I’ve been here for some days now (who’s counting?—not I), and it’s time for a summaryish post, since the daily sort clearly does not work for me. Or, rather, I don’t work for it.
Today has been a delicious day. We all (the Adams and Erin and Kathryne, two other friends who are here for several weeks) woke up around seven and went to the Karura Forest, a paradise in the middle of the city. Butterflies fluttered by, birds glided low and quiet over the marsh, the sun steadily made golden more twisted trees and tall grasses. I mostly listened to the chatter of the others and let my mind and heart wander, rejoicing in the tranquility of the morning and the beauty that the Lord has created. The rains have come down in abundance of late, so water gushed and made the waterfall a force to behold.
We were out there for a while, came home for twenty minutes, and then left for church. Going to the noon service is also a wonderful part about Sunday; the morning hours stretch out, bidding us revel in their fullness and wake our bodies and minds to vivid alertness by the time that church commences. The Adams have an incredible church family—incredible in that many of their friends there were friends with their eldest daughter, and since then they have attended the monthly young adult Bible studies that the Adams lead and have kept up with them well. Every single person I have met here (in Kenya in general, but specifically at church) has greeted me with a welcoming spirit, exuding a broad hospitality that never fails to light my face with a smile. Everyone we have met at church, both this week and last week, has been caught rejoicing in their hearts, and their faces and demeanours betray it.
After church, we steeped ourselves in the sun of the afternoon, warm and drowsy . . . I read some of Beryl Markham’s West with the Night, which is another of those excellent books that claims the spot that it has always had in my heart. I sunned myself, lying on the sofa by the big front window, and let the words seep into me. It reminds me of Out of Africa, one of my favourite books. (If you have never read it, stop reading this blog and go read it, and then go watch the film and see if the music makes you homesick in the true homesick sort of way.) Some stories become a part of one so much that one becomes a part of them. It’s greater than voyeurism, and it’s stronger than imagination, and it’s more serious than make-believe.
Erin, Kathryne, and I made dinner from Erin’s excellent recipe of ginger-garlic-broccoli-carrot-green bean-chicken stir-fry. I don’t even like dinner, but it was wonderful, and it felt so different with only five of us, as opposed to the eleven that we have had recently, except for last night, when it was only the three of us girls; we felt a little as though our parents were out for the night and we could play.
On Wednesday, Erin and Kathryne and Dr. Mary and I went to Kijabe, which is about an hour north of Nairobi, to explore the mission hospital there and observe and learn about Dr. Mary’s work. We observed their team meeting in the morning (the team is Dr. Mary and her four nurses), and I thought about the inevitable slap-dash quality that seems to attach itself to any work that involves Africa and the West. Perhaps that is far too general a statement; I mean that it incorporates both highly scientific and highly relationship-based work.
In the afternoon, I went out with Simon, one of the nurses, to the field, travelling by matatu (exactly like the public taxis in South Africa; two lovely photographs of those grace an earlier post) and motorcycle. A white girl crammed between two black men riding on a motorcycle in the middle of rural Kikuyu-land must have struck oddly in the eyes of those near the dirt road down which we sped, leaving swaths of dust to float in the air and settle long after we had passed. Tiny children walking home from school gazed with eyes wide and waved with good cheer. Children differ narrowly from place to place, it seems.
We visited a few community health workers and then went to a community meeting, where Simon taught a group in Kikuyu about the responsibility of men toward pregnant women. The original education sessions happened a few years ago, and now they have continued, led by the nurses, who speak Kikuyu, Swahili, and English and teach those who have heard about the health project from others.
Most of the community meetings consist of education about safe birthing practices and newborn care: encouraging giving birth at a hospital or health centre, adequate kangaroo care, which prevents hypothermia and increases transfer of immunity from mother to child, recognising danger signs in newborns, and education about immunisations. Men comprised the majority of the group that Simon taught on Wednesday, a definite improvement from a few years ago; many more men now have learned more about childbirth, which is often left unaddressed in conversation.
During the night, Dr. Mary did a transfusion for an infant transferred from another hospital whose liver was failing. On Thursday morning, I went on rounds with her, mostly in the nursery, which sounds pleasant but is where the sick, sick babies stay; only afterwards did I consider that it was my first real exposure to what actually happens in hospitals. So many of the infants weighed only a few kilograms.
The roomful of tiny people—dots, really, on large white cottony squares—with cords and IVs and other mysterious things I don’t know much about wrapped round them presented a picture not only of the state of health care throughout Kenya—that is, not enough in every sense—but also of a fallen humanity. Wounded, weak, shrunken, stunted—this is the spiritual state of humanity apart from Christ. Seeing the brokenness of the world in these tiny, helpless children opened my eyes wider and wider. I do not know how to write about this without conferring an air of repetition or sentimentality. I can only record what I saw and what thoughts it produced in my head.
On Wednesday morning, we had attended chapel a few minutes after arrival in Kijabe; the man (an American who has worked as a physician in various African countries for decades, as far as I could tell) who gave the short sermon addressed the challenge of uniting the mission of spreading the Gospel and providing compassionate health care. He argued that they cannot be separated. Christ did not separate them. Spreading the Gospel cannot serve as an imperialistic ulterior motive to healing the sick, and healing the sick cannot be an end in itself.
The two purposes, intertwined, proceed from the spontaneous moral originality that characterises love (that Oswald Chambers mentions in the devotion for a few days ago). In medical missions, it seems, this spontaneity that springs from rootedness in Christ consists of compassion for souls and for the bodies of those souls. I thought back to this as we rode home from Kijabe, but what I think is a greater understanding of the motivations for medical missions did not stop the tears.
On Friday, Erin, Kathryne, Dr. Mary’s sister’s family, and I went on a day safari to the reserve right outside of Nairobi; the wind over the arid plains with its grasses that swayed and whispered and the wide-eyed giraffes that wandered near us and the other many many animals swelled my heart in wonder again—as it has been so frequently of late.
A better description of it, however, is for another day. Right now, the three adopted daughters of the household are watching The First Grader. Lesson learned so far:
The past is always present.
Note: photographs were to accompany this post, but the zuku refuses to cooperate (zuku = internet) – also the reason why I could not post this last night: it stopped working before I had finished writing the post. In the words of my erstwhile French roommate, “Si l’internet ne marche pas, je . . . die.”
Edit: les photos sont ici!