On Wednesday, January 16, we got to slow our pace a bit. We did have a meeting at the hospital, but just one, and our other assignments did not require as exhausting a level of effort as our first two days here. In the morning we met with Nurse Kamau, the man who leads the survivors group we wrote about yesterday. We wanted to know some concrete ways we could help, like perhaps partnering his group with a breast cancer survivor group at home. Nurse Kamau came to us, so we didn’t have to go in to Moi Teaching and Referral Hospital for our other meeting until after lunch.
Our last project of the day was to go visit Rivatex. This is a company which designs fabrics and makes clothing. We will be purchasing kangas from them for gifts for our donors when we do our collection event, so we went to see the fabrics and make arrangements for the purchases. Oh boy – some of you may have already figured out that this turned into a shopping excursion. A kanga is a length of fabric – I would say maybe 3 yards long, which is purchased and then used for a variety of purposes. It is made into clothing, or used like a sarong, or made into pillow cases or napkins or whatever you want. There were gorgeous fabrics, plus they had some clothing made up already. We did some damage, I can tell you – actually it was also physical damage, as the place looked like a typhoon had hit it by the time we left. Each of the six of us had purchases, and we were also satisfied that kangas would be a wonderful thank you gift for our Kenyan donors. It was a grand finale to a really nice day.
On the schedule for Thursday was one of the most important meetings of the whole week, with Dr. Kimaiyo, who is head of AMPATH. Moi is the actual hospital with whom Indiana University partners. The result of that partnership is AMPATH, which focused on primary care and HIV care, but is now branching out into other areas. Moi is a state hospital, and is restricted by state government, while AMPATH is a private consortium involving multiple institutions. IU started this program, but now several other universities have joined in, including the University of Toronto, Brown, University of Utah, and a couple others. At any rate, Dr. Kimaiyo is a delightful man with an easy smile. He started AMPATH along with Dr. Mamlin from IU – we needed his blessing for our proposed project, and we got it.
Most of us were able to return to IU House, where we are staying, for a midday break. Along the way we passed a few political rallies. Kenya is holding its national elections, which are held every five years, this March. National election time here is fast and furious, loud and sometimes violent and dangerous. Many of you may remember five years ago hearing about the violence that erupted after the last elections, when the vote for President was too close to call, and needed a runoff, but one of the declared himself the winner and swore himself in before anyone had a chance to arrange another election. Remember that? Well, this year is looking to be a doozy, as there are huge changes being implemented. Kenya is switching to a style of government quite like the United States, with governors and senators, which they have never had before. All of these new positions are being elected, and right now, today and tomorrow, are the Primaries. It’s not nearly as wild as the national elections will be, in fact many people we’ve talked to here seem to have no intention of voting today – not that they can, since the paper ballots had still not arrived at the polling places as of 4:00 this afternoon, causing some chaos. It’s still quite a rabble, with trucks driving around blaring out candidates’ names over loudspeakers, posters everywhere, and sudden gatherings of 30 or 40 people. No wonder Drs. Busakhala and Lugaria were so shocked by the quiet streets when they visited us the week before our Presidential election. We told them all the noise was on television, but they were awed at the silence in our streets. It will probably be even crazier tomorrow, since the schools are all closed to allow voting, and many won’t get to vote today since the ballots didn’t come. IU is ordering all Americans to be out of the country by February 25, and all IU programming here will be suspended until the elections are over and settled. This could be a month or two, as it is almost certain there will be more runoffs.
After lunch we walked back to the hospital. Dr. Storniolo was giving Grand Rounds at 3:00. Grand Rounds is a weekly lecture given by a faculty member of a teaching hospital. Often, there are visiting physicians or researchers who are asked, or who ask for themselves, to do Grand Rounds. It is usually open to all faculty, staff and students, and really, anyone who wants to come. At IU, Grand Rounds are not closed – any lay person could come if they wished. So Dr. Storniolo delivered her second of three major talks this week for Grand Rounds, an did an awesome job. It was attended mostly by students – we were a bit surprised by the lack of faculty, but the students were very excited about the talk and many requested the Power Point slides.