Saturday, 7 November 2009

I Really Must Start ...

... to get ready for my Kenyan trip. I leave on Wednesday, and I haven't sorted, packed or even given it any thought - I don't even know where my passport is!

I have my clothes to pack - that shouldn't take more than two minutes. I mean, just how many clothes do you need in a country where daytime temperatures hover around 25°C and at night never drop below 15°C.

I have the technical stuff to pack:
  • Laptop
  • Handycam & DVDs
  • Backup camcorder & tapes
  • Digital camera & memory cards
  • Back-up digital camera & memory card
  • Rechargeable batteries and charger
  • Tripod
  • Card reader
  • Video tapes for the kids
  • Mobile phones
Then there are the clothes that have been donated for the Twiga children. These are stored in boxes, all jumbled up. Probably the easiest way to sort them into age groups.

We have been given loads of toys and games as well. Some are obviously too big to take, even with an allowance of two bags at 23kg each.

So I have set tomorrow (oh, that's just over an hour away) to sorting all this out, finding two bags or suitcases (and my passport), and packing everything - more or less.

I still have some time available on Monday; Tuesday is a bit cluttered, and I leave on Wednesday. If I haven't got everything by then, it will be too bad!

And the Truth Is ...

"Words offer the means to meaning and, for those who will listen, the enunciation of Truth. And the Truth is, there is something terribly wrong with our country, isn't there?"

'V' from V for Vendetta.

A nice blog from 'Diary of a Geek'

Ambulance Service?

Involved as I am in the well-being of a small community in Kenya, I do a lot of reading about illness, health and prevention, and the one thing that strikes me is that there are a lot of unnecessary deaths due to illnesses such as malaria, particularly amongst children, because their immune systems are not yet fully active, and they dehydrate more quickly.

I have been told, on good authority that a child sick with malaria needs glucose to "kick-start" the body, but this is rarely available in rural areas. So, if a child is sick with malaria (and many other illnesses) a spoonful of sugar placed under the tongue is a good alternative.

But, at the end of the day, the child needs to go to hospital for treatment - as quickly as possible. And this is where the problems start. People in rural areas rarely have a vehicle, they may not even have a "proper" road to the village. So the child has to be carried to the nearest road and then it is a wait for a matatu to come along with enough space to take the child and parent. The matatu, of course, costs money.

This got me thinking. If a vehicle were available in a town where there is a hospital (Kisii springs to mind), just how much would it cost to run a free ambulance service covering the outlying areas. All it would take is a single phone call from the village to the ambulance control and it would be dispatched to pick up the sick person and transport them to hospital.

The vehicle does not need the state of the art equipment that is to be found in ambulances in the UK. I doesn't even have to be a specially-built vehicle. A minibus with a few seats removed or folded down to make room for a stretcher would be adequate. The crew would probably need basic first aid knowledge and be capable of driving in a safe manner.

Twos and blues would probably be useful, but not absolutely necessary. Other drivers would probably not take a lot of notice as many matatus are also equipped with these.

So, a basic minibus with a few seats modified, a stretcher that  can be fixed securely into the vehicle, a part-time driver, and we could have an ambulance.

The sick, particularly children would get to hospital quickly to be treated before it is too late.

There must be a hole in this idea somewhere, it is far too easy.

Oh yes! Funding. Money. Isn't it funny how the health of children comes down to money - or the lack of.

Friday, 6 November 2009

"What Is That Bad Smell?"

"David, please, what this bad smell in die house?" So asked one of my foster kids as he walked in after school.

I don't profess to be a good cook, but I like food - I love food! So, I have had to teach myself to cook the meals that I like, one of which is cassoulet, which is a dish from SW France.

Now, I don't want to bore you with the details, but suffice it to say that a lot of preparation goes into this dish, and it takes me the best part of two days to get it on the table.

I was in the outskirts of Johannesburg at the time, and decided that a cassoulet would be a good meal that would last a few days. I started preparation on Wednesday, and started to cook it as soon as I got home from work on Thursday.

But that's when disaster struck. I had not long been in South Africa and was still struggling with the lack of oxygen at 5,500 ft. So, having put all the ingredients on to simmer for an hour or so, I fell asleep.

I was rudely awakened by the smell of burning meat, not the "Oops! Dinner is a bit scorched" smell, but the "seriously burned to a cinder" smell, which is stronger and horrible.

And I had no dinner.

I opened every window and door in the house to try to dispel the smell, with little success. Hence the question on Friday afternoon,

"David, please, what this bad smell in die house?"

My Little World Has Gone Mad!

When I am not in Kenya, I am an IT consultant serving clients in a smallish village in North Hampshire, fixing things, taking viruses off, upgrading and swapping data from old PCs to new ones.

But, just recently, I have had to take up another occupation, that of twiddling thumbs. There was no work. Everything was dead. So I decided to go out to Kenya for a month, leaving on 11th November.

But since last week, my work diary has been full! I can't say that I have earned a fortune, I never have and doubt that I ever will, and I wouldn't want to, but this last few days has brought in the money.

I had been wondering where the money was going to come from for this trip. Well, it has arrived!

Today, I trotted down to the post office and ordered my Kenyan shillings. On Monday I will bank a few cheques and draw the money. My anti-malaria tablets have been ordered. All I need to do is pack!

Now I am really looking forward to this trip - I can actually afford it, as long as I am careful.

Monday, 2 November 2009

Feeding the Children

No, not the Twiga OVCs* this time. I was staying with a friend at the coast and looking after her two children, an almost-5 girl and just-7 boy.

It was lunchtime and I was rummaging through the kitchen trying to find something to stop the regular cries of "I'm hungry!"

There was little to give them as we had planned on doing some shopping that afternoon, so, what to do? Then my eyes settled on a bag of rice. "A-ha!" I thought and put some on to cook in a 50/50 mix of milk and water. I added sugar AND honey, then when it was cooked, called the chldren.

"What! Rice? By itself?" complained the boy.

"Try it," I said

The boy dipped his spoon into the rice and tasted a couple of grains. The look of surprise on his face was a picture. "Wow! Natasha, come and try this!"

In the end, I had to make a second batch as they enjoyed my take on rice pudding. It's a pity I didn't have an oven to do the job properly.

It also occurred to me that the Twiga OVCs would have been happy with a bowl of cooked, unsweetened rice. Different strokes ...

*OVC: orphaned or vulnerable child

Sunday, 1 November 2009

Daily Conversation

When I am not trotting off to Kenya, I am the 24/7 carer for my mother (87 years young).

This is the conversation that we have several times a day:

Mum: When are you going [to Kenya]?

Me: 11th November.

Mum: When are you coming back?

Me: 11th December

Mum: Do you really have to go?

What do I say? "If I don't go, I will go mad!" " I have to lead my own life!" or "I will be back before you know it."

This last is of course not true, she suffers every day I am away.

Guilt trip!