31 January 2011

Kenya: Our visit with Grandma Sarah...on the Equator

Today, we try a different format - Mom goes first:

I know we just blogged yday but it was before our amazing afternoon and I just had to write more.  Josh, our host/driver picked us up about 1 and we headed NW to the equator which is only recognized by a metal marker on the side of the road. It's up in the mtns so a little cooler but not by much.  Afterwards, we asked if we might visit President Obama's Grandma, Sarah Obama, who we understood entertained visitors and we heard was relatively nearby.  After several calls, it was determined that Grandma was home (she's often away doing ambassador-type work) so we headed out and 1.5 hours later, after several stops for directions, we found ourselves outside her compound. There was a Kenyan policeman at the gate and he pointed to a visiting schedule which was M-Sat. with no hrs on Sun.  Josh did a great job of convincing the guard that we'd come all this way and soon a young lady came walking down to greet us.  The guard looked at our passport copies, we signed a guest log (the 2 people who had last visited were from Iceland!) and then we were all led to a shady clearing under some big trees where Grandma was seated visiting with a couple of men from the village.  The men soon left and we had a PRIVATE audience with her. There were many chairs around and she told us through our interpreter that she has many visitors--up to 200 in a day.  She loved talking and shared with us many stories for about 30 minutes.  What a gracious hostess and so welcoming on her day off for which we were most grateful. I expressed my admiration for the President and she was pleased. She'd last seen him when she attended the inauguration.  She ended our conversation asking for prayers for him.  I'm still floating from this awesome experience despite the long, hot drive on many dirt roads.  It was well worth it!

Last night we had dinner at a new Indian restaurant which was quite good and we tried another Indian restaurant for lunch today. We've gotten a little adventurous with our food choices!

This morning began in a wonderful way!  Dr. Allibhoy's wife, Nuni, invited me to a pranic healing meditation group with about 7 other women.  It began and ended with a series of exercises.  The meditation itself was led by a CD with an American teacher, John Coe (not sure I'm spelling this right) with beginning prayers and positive thoughts from Nuni and ending prayers by her as well. I found it very moving and energizing.  Many thanks to Nuni for inviting me to this.  I now feel calm and ready for whatever is next.

Just before lunch, I picked up my tailored outfits, made from fabric purchased at the market.  I can't wait to show them off at home!

Much love to you all. Know that I miss you very much and can't wait to show you all my pictures and tell you many more stories.


Our truck is still impounded with the police.  Josh has his driver's license back, but he needs to produce the log book of repairs done...to get the truck back...to get it repaired up to par...to pass inspection...to get an inspection sticker so we can finally have our own vehicle again.

No worries.  That couldn't prevent what has thus far been Mom's favorite day in Africa.
Josh managed to rent a smooth-riding four-door sedan to take us to the Equator yesterday afternoon.  The one-hour trip ended with us pulling off on the side of the road.  "We're here!"  Mom was expecting a colorful Tourist Welcome Center, or at least a giant "You're at the Equator" sign, but the modest metal globe-shaped sign with "Equator" painted brightly on the side (under the acknowledgment of the Lions' Club sponsorship) was all that was there.  We stood in both the Northern and Southern hemispheres at the same time, snapped some photos, and decided to head on.

Josh called Philip, who called another friend, who called someone else to confirm She was home.  Standing in the checkout line at the Nakumatt last week we'd heard a woman from Minnesota blab about meeting "Grandma Sarah," and after asking around, we heard she received visitors - frequently numbering over 200 per day.  She indeed was home, so we headed further out.  We found our turn-off, asked for directions, went down a dirt road, asked for more directions, turned, and asked again.  Everyone knew where to point us, and as Josh always assures us, we found our way.

We arrived to find the place fenced in, with an iron gate at the end of the dirt driveway.  The sign said visitors Monday - Saturday only, but after some smooth talking, Josh convinced the one guard to let us disturb her day of rest.  We signed in the log book under a couple from Iceland from the previous day and walked up the dirt path.  We found Grandma Obama sitting with two other gentlemen under a giant tree to shade the circle of about 20 wooden chairs.  The two men left, and Mom, Josh, and I were the only three in her company.  She spoke only Luo/Kiswahili so Josh translated well.  She described how "our President" came from a "bad" background and pointed to the graves (and headstones) of President Obama's father and grandfather about 30 yards to our left outside the circle of chairs.  She joked about her trip to the Inauguration and the giant size of our country.  She described some of her projects, including smart farming and sponsoring about 20 orphans through secondary school.  On the way out, Mom had to / asked to / was honored to use her restroom, before the two-hour ride home.  Ha!

Mom was beaming the entire way home.  What a day.

This morning's rounds with Dr. Allibhoy proceeded as usual.  He's a busy man, taking care of complex tropical medicine cases, patiently describing diagnoses and prognoses to families in multiple languages.  He is assisted by some of the in-house "residents," but his status as an Attending leaves him with much of the work and definitely the responsibility.  Today's interesting cases included 1) a patient with acute renal failure, likely from HIV and not the malaria as originally thought, 2) an intra-cranial hemorrhage in a young woman with left-sided hemiparesis who will need to be transferred to Nairobi for MRI technology and neurosurgical consultation and 3) miliary TB.  The x-ray on the latter isn't something to be learned in "real life" back in the U.S. - it's only in textbooks.  She's on four-drug therapy, clinically stable.

The uprisings and political demonstrations north of us look to be spreading.  First Tunisia, now Egypt, Algeria, and Yemen.  Our local paper today states Egypt blocked Facebook and Twitter, because of their use in spreading the word organizing protests and the crazy ideas of democracy.  But the proxy servers circumvented these blocks.  So they just decided to cut out the entire internet.  Egypt cut off from the rest of the world - unimaginable.  Al Jazeera confirmed a lot of this, saying roughly 90% of people are without internet service now - including schools, hospitals, and banks.  The media company is also having its radio and TV broadcasts blocked at the moment.  A "mega protest" is apparently planned for tomorrow in Cairo.

Libya is apparently next.  And maybe even Syria.  In light of this news, my chances for planned R&R in Morocco next week are starting to look slim.  We're paying close attention to the reports, so we shall see...

Asante sana.

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