Brittany Ammerman, a junior on the Wisconsin women's hockey team, is taking part in a one-month trip to Kenya, where she will work with a women's health education program called Health by Motorbike. Over the next month, she will send updates to UWBadgers.com about the once-in-a-lifetime experience. Make sure to check back often to follow her progress!
Sorry it has been a few days since my last post! We have been quite busy in Lunga Lunga!
On Tuesday, we took a motorbike ride to the woodcarvers just across the border towards Tanzania. These men have incredible talent! They stay in their straw mud huts 24/7 carving decorations out of wood. They make everything from little wooden zebras and elephants, to 36-inch tall giraffes, to salad bowls and tongs. You can see every single detail within the carving as well. I cannot wait to show everyone what I bought!
On Wednesday we took a two-hour motorbike ride out to the Maasai. The Maasai are a very traditional Kenyan tribe who continue to isolate themselves and refuse to integrate into the village life. They wear blue, red and purple robes with big jewelry and ear piercings that they make themselves. The Maasai do not speak Swahili, but speak their own language. We were at the Maasai for almost five hours and could not interact with them by talking, because we did not know the language. However, we were able to communicate with smiles, laughter and games. I bought a soccer ball in Mombasa which I brought with me to the Maasai. We played soccer with the kids for hours, gave them candy and sang songs.
While with the Maasai, Dr. Mwangi and the rest of us were able to see 100 patients, most of which had upper respiratory infections, skin diseases and infections, and UTI’s. Around 4 p.m., the Maasai cooked for us. Our late lunch consisted of goat and rice, which you ate with your hands. It was very interesting, to say the least. The Maasai women then presented us with jewelry that they made by hand for each of us. It was a great deal that the Maasai loved us and welcomed us “mzungus” (westerners), into their home and land.
On Friday night we stayed at the homes of the women we are teaching. Although we ate dinner at our camp before leaving for our homestays, the women still insisted upon cooking a feast for us. Tasha and I stayed together at grandmother Dorcas’ house just down the road from Lunga Lunga. She cooked us fish, chicken, potatoes, rice, and chipati. It was amazing!
The grandchildren performed a number of songs and dances for us also. Grandma Dorcas then gave us each a conga skirt as a gift and a thank you for visiting Kenya. She asked us to be her Rafiki and to write from America. Grandma Dorcas kept saying to us “Nikumbuke in America”, which means “Remember me in America”. We may go back and stay another night this week because we loved it so much!
Yesterday, we traveled to Diani Beach to swim in the Indian Ocean. We took the 14 women we are teaching with us to the beach. It was their first time in the ocean and at the beach! There were so many smiles and so much laughter the entire day! We stayed in the water for hours and had an absolute blast.
One of the women said to me, “I am so happy. Today is for me. Not for my husband. Not for my children. Not for my family. Today is for me. Thank you so much”. It truly blessed my heart! To be able to participate in this journey has been amazing and to be able to make so many people smile has been such an amazing feeling and experience.
Yesterday we had a break in the teaching, educating and sharing of knowledge amongst the women. Our group from Wisconsin took a trip to Wasini Island where we were given a tour of the caves in which slaves were kept in before being shipped to Mombasa during the African Slave Trade. We then toured Wasini Island, which is an island off the coast of Kenya that is inhabited by people, but has no running water, electricity, or farming. We were also able to get American food for lunch at a restaurant in one of the beach towns near Wasini Island. That food was much needed after two weeks of rice, beans, and cabbage at every meal!
We began teaching the women on Thursday. It seems to be going well. On Thursday we taught anatomy, on Friday we taught pregnancy and maternal health, and today (Monday) Tracey and I taught nutrition.
It went extremely well- all the women loved how interactive our nutrition lesson was. After the morning session, the women thanked Tracey and I for being such great teachers and told us multiple times how much they learned from us. They seem very excited to bring the information they have learned about nutrition back to their communities and villages. I think they are most enthusiastic about our lesson because it pertains to something they do every single day, multiple times a day -- cooking.
We are so thrilled that our teaching is going well and we are able to educate these women and also learn from them as we teach!
This last week will be very busy and a bit stressful with all the teaching we must get done, but it is truly amazing to be able to share knowledge with these women and know that we are making a difference. It is hard to write every detail in these posts because so much has happened! But I hope I am able to share a taste of what we are doing here in Kenya and am able to briefly touch on all the activities and experiences we are encountering.
Until next time,
Hakuna Matata Rafikis!