• And so Photovoice begins….

    Posted on May 8, 2012 by in Photovoice

    I was updating my Team DJS calendar this evening and realized I haven’t blogged in awhile…. So, trying to live up the DJS motto of getting things done, here I am.

    Today was a big day for the M&E project – the outreach survey was finished today with a total of 434 people surveyed and all the data has been entered… meaning it is just chilling waiting for me to figure out how in the world to analyze it (no biggie…right?!?! EEK J). The research assistant was hired today as well – we went for this amazing volunteer who has no research experience, but he’s been at Tumaini for awhile demonstrating commitment, an excellent work ethic and (most importantly) a really kind heart that makes his teaching style really unique…. Maybe not the most logical decision, but it felt right so fingers crossed for gut feelings. This week will be training for the team (there is 4 of us – two Kenyans, an American nurse and myself) and next week we will start our recruitment… so photovoice has officially started! WOOO WOOO. There was a time I never thought this would be happening (well there were multiple moments like this but I’m focused on the time since I landed here in Eldoret) as everyone said the amendment would take too long and I was out of luck…. But karma or some other great force was on my side and ethics has been granted! Part of me is absolutely terrified… it’s one thing to talk about it, write about it, beg people for money for it – yet it’s a whole other thing implementing my very first research project (especially as I am the lead!). I wonder if this is a small scaled version of what it feels like to be a first time parent… excited about the possibilities and upcoming moments, but terrified that you are going to mess up or not be capable when it comes down to it?

    Well now for some completely unrelated photovoice talk…

    –          Medicine Sans Frontier (aka Doctors Without Borders) was randomly in this park today where Dan and I were surveying… and I got this heart skip similar is one or two aspects to when you unexpectedly see you biggest crush at the supermarket or a party. They are giving a talk on something I really don’t care that much about on Wednesday… and clearly I need to go as it’s my (work) crush. I really have to figure out some skill set that makes them want to hire me for even just one mission…. Rekindled that on my life wish list.

    –          It was a holiday here on Tuesday so a friend and I made homemade samosas from scratch. We froze half and I fried them up on Sunday… I had one today. Oh man… so good. Despite my best efforts I cannot do the dough so no one get their hopes up as I am a bit dough hopeless so might not be able to replicate this masterpiece when I get home…

    –           I also made a delicious green thai curry with pumpkin! I didn’t know I liked pumpkin that was not in a pie… but I would highly recommend it!

    –          My mom is absolutely amazing…. She worked her connections, put together a wicked presentation and gave a talk to Brampton’s Lion Club and they donated $500 towards photovoice (which will cover the entire cost of the research assistant and part of the photo development). She is also amazing as she keeps me in the loop with my family, does my taxes so I have money to pay my rent , listens to all my random ideas as they occur to me then supports me despite being internally nervous because that’s how she rolls, etc etc. Basically, if you read this and then see my mom,  give her a big hug for me as you can and I cannot (although this is not recommended if she doesn’t know you as she is likely to go all Jackie Chan mixed with Ben Johnson on you).

    –          It has hailed here 4 times in the last while… first off, who knew it could hail in Kenya? I did not. Secondly, one time it was like pre-hurricane weather (well based on what I’ve seen on the news in places like Flordia…) with insane winds, rains so heavy they caused flash floods and so much hail that there were small patches of hail on the ground for hours later. I had a “hailball” thrown at me in Kenya… who would have imagined! The rainy season has started so it basically rains every evening… but not like it does in Canada. Most days start out beautiful and sunny so you need sunscreen and a hat, but at some point after lunch it gets cloudy and cold (I bought and have worn a scarf!) before it starts raining its heart out….meaning you must also carry a sweater, the rain coat and an umbrella in addition to everything else.  Most days I can get home from work before the rain starts, but twice I have been caught sans umbrella and ended up getting so so wet (to the point I waddled like a penguin home cursing the whole universe). Another gem is that to get into town or work you have to hike through unpaved roads and/or fields so every morning is kind of like Frogger where you have to find the right path or you will end up with really muddy feet or, worse, slipping and falling into a mud puddle. This gem has taught me that most things you can get good at with practice though… my Kenyan neighbours can make it through these mud fields like champions. I get passed by so many people! As I struggle to find a suitable path, they whiz by like they are walking on paved roads – some of the women do it with these massive packages balanced on their head without hands… it’s jaw-dropping amazing to see.

    –          There has been a string of deaths on the street within this last week… and I’m not sure if I just come from too privileged of a life, but I just cannot understand how these mobs of people happen and how the people who participate sleep at night. Bit of background: one important fact that makes life so different here than North America is that you can get a really shitty place to live for like 5 dollars a month so most of the older street youths have houses in these slum neighbours while still being considered street people. There are other nicer houses in these neighbourhoods where people don’t live on the street, but are rather poor yet aren’t offered services like the street children & youth are. Poverty has a whole new meaning here than anything you can imagine in Canada (maybe some Aboriginal communities could compare, but I don’t have any firsthand experience so don’t feel comfortable saying that…). This mixed living arrangement combined with high levels of poverty, unemployment, stress from there being no social support or free health care and there being no treatment for additions like alcohol or gambling causes some serious problems (that is not a complete list plus I do not want to imply I understand the complexity of the average Kenyan’s life and all the different factors… I just wanted to draw a bit of an outline to give a bit of context to this story as life is really different for the average person here compared to an average Canadian)…. Okay back to the story – Three older youths/young men were killed last week and on the weekend. One guy, who I sat under a bridge with one morning for a few hours and we always had a nice short conversation when I saw him, was killed by his neighbours because he was given a good job by a charity group in the town and the other people were jealous. Two boys were burned to death outside one of the grocery stores for either stealing cell phones or a car or trying to rob someone at a bank. I heard like 5 different versions of this story, but none of them explains how you could participate in throwing gasoline on someone and throwing a match on them (Mom… as I know you are panicking after reading that so deep breath and know that I never walk anywhere at night and 96% of nights I am home before 8pm. On top of that, Eldoret is extremely safe. Street kids are also considered the scum of the community and I get an elevated position in the community solely because of my skin colour so that would never happen to me). Because those heartbreaking stories aren’t enough, I find out today that a single dad who works as solider but is a street youth (not really sure how that is possible or all the details), but he was on his way home and people came, threw him into a sac and beat the shit out of him. I don’t know anything about motive or any context, but again what in the world could you do while at work that would warrant getting throwing into a sac and having that happen to you. His three kids, all under 14, are now at home parentless while their dad is in the hospital – which he cannot afford so I’m not sure how that is going to work out. These are extreme stories… the more common sights of bruises and black eyes, knife cuts and dog bits from community members (often police) further reinforce these outliers’ core message that these individuals are not seen as human beings within society because how could one person do that to another if there is not some artificial barrier mentally put up to separate them from you? How you could hit a 10 year old in the face because they are begging or sleeping in a doorway or even if they steal an apple… I just don’t see how someone could make an us vs you argument because the other is dirty, possibly sniffing glue and/or  guardian-less… even as I write this, the same indescribable heaviness on my heart appears that (depending on my mood) makes me want to hit one of these adults so he/she can pick on someone their own size, cry, run away because the situation is just too difficult to be around or give up as the problem feels too hard to solve. Luckily the heaviness is only temporary as I was raised to be a half-full kind of person with compartmentalizing skills like a champion… that and I try to channel that Great Gatsby quote that (this is paraphrased as I’m not Reid) says you should not judge someone as  not everyone grew up the same way I did… I’ve touched the back of my neck a whole lot on this trip as I relearn again and again just how privileged and blessed my life in Canada is…

    On a lighter note (pole about that)…

    –          Tomatoes, bananas, pineapples, oranges and avocados are about 111% better on this side of the world… I just cannot get enough. They sell slices of pineapple around town and numerous banana ladies walk around and sometimes you can find orange carts where they will cut it into quarters when you buy it – only 10 cents for any of the above mentioned snack options. As a snacker, I am a happy camper in this department.

    –          They sell these fried dough triangles that they call mandazis (doughnuts) but they are about 1/8th as sweet as ours at home and approximately 300% more tasty that are also fabulous… and, at 5 cents each and my epic amounts of walking around these days, are another favourite

    –          Kenya is one the world’s biggest coffee exporters yet most places you can order coffee at only offer Nescafe instant coffee. The irony of this gets me every time…

    –          My hockey team, the Washington Capitals, has lost in the first round of the playoffs every year since my love affair with them started (they somehow manage to fall apart and play like shit when they are stellar in regular season)… yet this year they are in the second round. Murphee’s luck I swear. It is currently 3-2 for the other team. That said – go Caps go! They play tomorrow. Ry… as the person who made me fall in love, I think the least you can do is send me a little message now and again to tell me a bit about the games as I know you are watching them all (i.e. why isn’t Green playing? How is my rookie goalie doing? How is my biology-geek crush Chimera doing? Is Backstrom still The Assist King?). Help a brother out!

    Alrighty, it is bed time for me. Thanks again for reading this and participating in my adventure with me. Your support, kind words and positive vibes are really appreciated J Hope you are having a fantastic and, in at least one area of your life, a challenging May!

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