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Our first month in Kenya

We landed in Nairobi on April 7th very late at night and spent the weekend shopping for household items.  A family from the team in Chogoria, the Brotherton’s, came down to Nairobi and helped us get around and find stuff that we would need once we got to Chogoria.  This was an amazing help, and we are so grateful for all they have done for us over the last month.

Once we were on the way to Chogoria, everything seemed to happen really fast.  The drive from Nairobi to Chogoria is about 4 ½ hours, and it was really uneventful, which is best when you are traveling with a toddler.  We spent the next week settling into our new home.

Sophia wanted her puppy on her back, proof of her quick adjustment back to life in Africa.

We are staying in a ground floor flat (1st floor apartment) in one of the two apartment buildings.  The flat is a perfect size for our family of three.  It has a kitchen, bathroom (with shower), living room/dining room combo and three bedrooms.  Our building was built a while ago, but has kept it’s form well.  Just like anything that is over 40 years old, it needs some updates, but we are blessed to have great plumbing and electrical.

Our water supply is pretty standard in this area.  It comes from a nearby river and the recent rains make it very brown.  Anything from creek water brown to coffee fountain brown.  We use a water filter to purify it so it is safe to drink.

Swahili classes started on April 19th with one of our two teachers, Carol. She is a nurse by training as well as a language instructor. Teaching Swahili is a side job for her since she is also teaching at the nursing college at the hospital.  None the less, her schedule allows her to teach us for 3-4 hours a day, Monday through Friday.We split our time between Carol and Millicent, our other language teacher.  Millicent is a retired community nurse in the area and is still extremely active in the Chogoria community.

Vocabulary review with Carol.

Learning Swahili is hard! We both learned Spanish during high school in a very traditional curriclum.  The curriculum we are using to learn Swahili (AKA Kiswahili) is a modified GPA (growing participator approach).  This method of language learning is different from anything we have ever experienced.  Instead of learning grammar and rules from the beginning, the first 12 lessons are listening to vocabulary that is presented in pictures and props. Ideally, you are not supposed to talk at all. This was really frustrating for the two of us who need to see the word written out in order to process and reproduce it.

Millicent teaching us how to say the time in Swahili.

Now, we are in the speaking and listening phase, and it means we understand more than we can actually express verbally.  Image a two-year-old when they are trying to tell you something, but they don’t know the word and end up screaming. Essentially, that is how it feels when we try to talk, but without the screaming (mostly).

While learning Swahili, we are also getting an amazing education in Kenyan culture, Kenyan medical culture, and Chogoria culture.  Though we spent the last 2 years in Malawi, it is not Kenya.  This might seem obvious to some, but it is amazing how different two countries in generally the same part of the continent can be so different.  Since both of our teachers having nursing backgrounds, it has been easy to ask them questions about saying things in certain medical context and how to expect a person to explain certain medical complaints.

Millicent has given us a history lesson about PCEA Chogoria Hospital. She was a community health nurse at the hospital for a long time.  Community health is a passion for both of us, and we are excited to explore opportunities to help the hospital revitalize its community health department and outreach in the area surrounding the hospital and Chogoria.

We believe community health programs are one of the best mechanisms for empowering people in their healthcare, preventing illness, and hospitalizations. We also share a passion for the prevention of childhood illnesses through education and access to basic health care resources.  Mixing of our two specialties (pediatrics and family medicine) has been essential to our ability and willingness to see mothers and babies as 1 unit during pregnancy and after delivery.  Healthier moms mean healthier babies. Providing good care to mom during pregnancy and delivery helps establish a trusting relationship that will increase her chance of bringing her child back when they are ill.

Lydia, Doris, & Sophia.

Where is Sophia while we learn Swahili for 4 hours a day?  She is at home with her nanny, Doris, and our housekeeper, Lydia.  These two women are wonderful blessings in the life of our family.  They are both mothers with families of their own.  Some think this is a disadvantage because they are more likely to miss work due to family obligations, but we see it as an essential qualification for taking care of our daughter.

Another change in our day is “tea time,” which is generally at 10:30 every morning and consists of tea and biscuits. Tea is an art form in Kenya and they are very serious about how it is prepared. A 2:1 ratio of tea to milk with or without sugar.  Biscuits are cookies, but not in the American chocolate chip cookie sense.  Instead, think one-half of a vanilla sandwich cookie without the yummy cream center.  Jenny has come to love Kenyan tea, especially with fresh whole milk and sugar. Jared is still holding strong to his coffee!

The church on the complex is on the left and a girls boarding school is on the right. If you take a path on the left, it will take you to the hospital. There is a road to the right that will take you to the housing complex where we live.

We have been attending church near the hospital; there is an English service in the morning before the Swahili service. Our Swahili is not up for that one yet.  A few of our neighbors also attend church there, and it is good to see Sophia interact with the other children that live here.

Tip of Mt. Kenya from our running route. Not covered in snow at the moment.

We have finally figured out a running route and schedule for now.  Yesterday we went for a 4 mile run up…up…up! Luckily the second half is all downhill.  Half-way through, you can see amazing views of tea fields and even the tip of Mt. Kenya.

Beautiful panoramic of a tea field in a valley on our run. Mt. Kenya is a small dot in along the tree line.

We miss our family and friends in the US.  It has been a hard, but quick 4 weeks here in Kenya.  As usual, Sophia has adjusted much faster than both of us.  We Facetime and Skype as much as possible with friends and family.  We also have family photos on the fridge that we use to quiz her on who everyone is.  She is doing really well, and we hope she is able to remember everyone when we come back near the holiday this year.

We are getting antsy to get back into clinical work but are also really committed to learning Swahili and being able to communicate with our patients directly. Until then, we are praying all the time for God’s wisdom and grace as we learn a new way of living here in Chogoria.

We are so thankful for everyone’s emotional, spiritual, and financial support back home.  God is using you all to make our service here possible.  Continue to keep us in your prayers.  We are always seeking new partnerships in our ministry.  If you would like to begin supporting us financially as we serve in Kenya then, visit our PARTNER WITH US page to learn more.  Enjoy the extra pictures below!

Blessings,

Jared, Jenny, & Sophia

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