Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Michelle's Moving On

Michelle has moved. Not this Michelle, baby Michelle! She is now a precious six-month-old happy and healthy baby girl. For a while she has been at a point where she no longer needs the one-on-one care she has been getting in the Tumaini na Afia center. Her family is not in a position where they feel they are able to provide the care she needs; but at the same time they want to be able to have a relationship with her. So they were opposed to the idea of adoption. Our team was able to locate a Children's Home where Michelle was accepted. (The ELI Children's Home in Kipkaren is full so she could not stay in our community.) Last week she moved to her new home in Kakamega. When she is older and her family are able to care for her they will bring her home.

The pictures are of William and my last visit with Michelle. I will miss her dearly. I stopped in to spend time with her every day on my way to the clinic. I wasn't able to go along with her on her journey to her new home. Her caregiver Victoria told me that Michelle went very willingly to a mzungu (white) man at the home. He was surprised that she wasn't afraid of him. Victoria explained that Michelle is used to me so the white skin doesn't scare her.

I will miss her but at the same time I'm happy that she has a more permanent living situation and is no longer living in a transitional state.

What is amazing is that just a few days before Michelle left two more children came to us in need of Victoria's wonderful touch. I'll try to get pictures and their story up sometime soon. In the meantime please join me in saying a prayer for Michelle as she adjusts to her new home.

Tuesday, April 07, 2009


Warning: This post contains graphic content that may not be appropriate for all readers.

I’m in Nairobi for a quick trip to interview for my Kenyan nursing license. I came down on the shuttle yesterday. The shuttle is an eleven-passenger van called a matatu that drives back and forth between major cities. I’ll have to remember to make it a topic for a future blog. So what is the point? The point is that my driver yesterday was really fast. I arrived in Nairobi just after lunchtime with no plans for the rest of the day.

I remembered that on Mondays the local movie theater has a super special where you get a free hot dog, soda and popcorn with your movie ticket. So I hopped on a city bus and headed to the movie theater.

“Marley and Me” was playing in half an hour. I had wanted to see the movie while in the States but just didn’t get the chance. There is a big bookstore adjacent to the theater so I decided to browse. If you have ever been to a bookstore with me you will know that this can be dangerous!

There was a big display advertising a new book entitled “Kenya Burning”. It looked like a coffee table book and I immediately noted that it focused on the post-election-violence in Kenya last year.

I picked up a copy off the stack and was immediately transported to the events of early 2008. I was reminded that I lived through those days in Kenya; that they wrote something on my soul that can never be erased. I also realized that this was not the kind of book one would want to pick up from a friend’s coffee table.

The book was intense to say the least. It was intense and extremely graphic but I couldn’t put it down. I kept flipping through page after page of graphic violence and tragedy. Never in my life have I seen such graphic photographs.

During the clashes I saw homes burn. I watched vehicles burn. I saw neighbor turn against neighbor. I heard gunshots. I spoke with a friend who cried while talking about the way her family was chased from their home. I spoke with another friend whose cousin was hacked to death then burned. At one point I was in a vehicle which was surrounded by men with machetes and lead pipes. I drove past the tent-camps of displaced people. But I did not personally see anyone killed. I knew the body count was high but I didn’t see it with my own eyes. This book pulled back that veil.

I almost walked up to the counter to buy it then changed my mind. I feel like it is a part of Kenya’s history that should not be forgotten. If we want to protect history from repeating itself we cannot forget what happened. But at the same time this is not how I want the world to see Kenya. Kenya is a beautiful country with amazing people. Now mind you I didn’t read the whole book but on my twice-over I did not see pictures of people risking their own lives to stop the violence or to reach out to other tribes with opposing views. Yet I know those people existed. Do I want to have this reminder of those tragic times? But at the same time do I want those people who lost their lives to be forgotten?

While still pondering these thoughts I headed up to watch the movie. I have to say that I really really enjoyed it. I have always been a dog lover and Marley brought back many wonderful memories of my companion Boots. At the end of the movie I wiped away a tear or two. It is pretty rare for me to cry in a movie but there is something about losing a special pet…

The theater was more crowded than I’ve ever seen it. (As in there were probably 20 people!) It must have something to do with the fact that this is Spring break. As I was getting choked up I looked around the theater to the other viewers. Not only were they not crying like me, but some of them looked confused. Why so much drama over a dog? And then the pictures in the book came back to me. And then I had a feeling of horror over the fact that I had just shed a tear over a fictitious dog when people sitting with me could very well have lost loved ones last year.

There is so much in this life that I will never understand. I’m still torn about the thought of possibly buying the book on my next trip to Nairobi. I ran into a friend at the Nursing Council this morning and she asked me if I had seen the book. She told me “Michelle I think you should get it. You lived through it.” Whether or not I buy the book in the future, those weeks and months will forever live in my heart.