kwa heri! (goodbye)

Rachel and I finally came back to SF yesterday! I thought I’d have time on the flight to collect my reflections on the trip, but unfortunately we  both contracted the common cold from the babies and children who were sneezing on us in clinic, so I spent the trip trying to sleep it off. Here are some links to highlights of the trip:

Zanzibar beaches, Maasai Mara park, Lions, baby lions (and more baby lions), elephants and baby elephants, Nairobi, Kisumu’s ambassadors, and reflections on religion in Kenya are just a few of the posts we got the most feedback from.


And, as promised, I finally uploaded the videos!

-first, the battle of hyenas and mother giraffe over a baby giraffe’s body:




-a family of lions hanging out:


the cubs clearly out to bother daddy:


-and elephants jousting:



Finally, because we had been sleeping for several days in a bat-infested apartment (before we sealed off the holes that lead into the bat-cave/attic), we technically were at risk from bat bites and potential rabies exposure. See, bats usually bite when you are sleeping, and their bite is the size of a pin-prick, so you usually can’t see it. Being somewhat knowledgable public health folk, we realized that the risk of actually being bitten by a rabid bat was insanely low, probably one in a million or less. However, we also didn’t want to be the idiot doctors/future public health professionals who actually got rabies and lived forevermore as case-reports in medical journals. So today we got rabies post-exposure prophylaxis, which consisted of the rabies vaccine (magenta liquid below, injected into the arm), and human rabies immune globulin, which came in a much larger volume and therefore had to be divided in half and injected into each butt cheek. Suffice to say, it hurts to sit now.

Good times! Thanks for reading! More adventures and new blogs to follow!



Published in: on June 1, 2011 at 8:33 am  Leave a Comment  

technology in Kenya

first, please check out Rachel’s really thoughtful posts below!

As our trip draws to a close, I will share a couple quick stories and thoughts I wrote a while ago that I thought were interesting:

DVD’s- only pirated copies are available, for about $1-2 each. Someone left a DVD labeled “Fast and Furious 4” in our apartment, and when we popped it in, we were instead treated to X-men: origins. However, this was not a ripped internet stream, or even someone with a camcorder in a movie theater. This was some sort of pre-production copy of the movie, where half the special effects were incomplete! For example, whenever someone falls or does a stunt, their suspension wires are clearly visible. Even more distracting, when a character is being digitally animated they de-pixelate  into a ‘liquid terminator’-like silver blob. Where does this copy come from???? It must be WAAAAY harder to get a pre-production copy of a movie than the real thing. Someone must have an explanation for this.

Our second foray into local DVD’s was when Rachel picked out Liam Neeson’s recent movie Unknown. The movie started kinda slow, and 30 minutes in we realized we hadn’t seen Liam Neeson yet. That’s because even though the cover pictured Liam Neeson and the title Unknown, the DVD was a recording of a 2006 crime/mystery movie also called Unknown. The movie wasn’t bad, if you find yourself stuck in the same situation.

At least the guy who sold Rachel the Unknown DVD threw in a pretty good copy of Tropic Thunder.

Cell phones- everyone has one (in fact 5 billion of the 7 billion people in the world have access to cell phones). In Kenya phones are surprisingly cheap to own and use. A brand new Nokia phone only costs $25 (no termination fees or contracts!), text messages are 1 cent each, and calls are a penny per minute. Your tuk-tuk, motorcycle, and even bicycle taxi drivers are talking or texting while they drive you around. We even bought a wireless modem, nicknamed a “dongle” for only $25 and data plans were comparable to the U.S. Safaricom is the dominant cell phone provider here, and they had full service even while we were surrounded by zebras and giraffes in the Maasai Mara. Yes, we could have live blogged our safari! As a contrast, have you ever tried using a cell phone in Yosemite or Yellowstone? Last I checked they don’t work.

Anyways, the reason that gets me excited is I believe mobile phones, particularly smartphones (iphones, blackberries, android, etc), have huge potential to help us monitor our health and health behaviors. I can give an hour lecture on this if you let me, but I’ll summarize and say that within a few years, it will be possible for your phone to be a little angel (or devil) on your shoulder, letting you know all the information you want or don’t want to know to help you make health and other decisions. ‘don’t wait for the elevator, take the stairs and you’ll burn an extra 10 calories!’… ‘those oreos you’re looking at have 1843719 grams of sugar, check out those ripe bananas on sale!’ Whether we choose to listen to this feedback remains to be seen. This type of technology is quickly scalable to developing countries like Kenya, where it is already surprisingly common to see people clicking away on iphones, blackberries, and other data-enabled phones.

Published in: on May 27, 2011 at 6:00 pm  Comments (1)  

nearing the end…

Its hard to believe our time in Kenya is almost through! There has been a drought of posts as of late, as safaricom service has been pretty shaky for over a week now.

Soon I will recap our hilights of the trip. there were a few more pictures that were uploaded but not yet posted, but deserve to be seen! First I want to show just a few photos of the FACES clinic where we have been working.

The clinic stops abruptly at 10am every day for chapoti and tea break.

and a quick photo of the neighborhood.


Published in: on May 25, 2011 at 4:54 pm  Leave a Comment  

by the pool

Kiboko Bay resort, Kisumu (which will let you use the pool for 200ksh, or about $2.50 per day). Great food, worth visiting if you’re here!


Published in: on May 21, 2011 at 7:50 am  Comments (1)  

around Kisumu

Here are just a few of the pictures we’ve been taking around Kisumu.

sunsets are great, but unfortunately with all the mosquitos around sunsets more often look like this:

a lady cooks up some chapati for us

“would you eat those if I gave you antibiotics at the same time”

the bench where people newly diagnosed with HIV are taught about the disease.

Rachel took these last two shots of a sculpture and some restaurant arrangements.

Published in: on May 20, 2011 at 2:46 pm  Leave a Comment  

jackal enjoys lunch

any guesses about what he ate?

Published in: on May 18, 2011 at 6:00 am  Comments (2)  

flying in east africa

A special dedication to Howie-

I (Ray) generally enjoy flying, and at one point in my life I wanted to be a pilot. The same could not be said for Rachel, who does love to travel, but would prefer if it didn’t involve rocketing 30,000 feet in the air in a wobbly metal can full of explosive jet fuel. To her credit, this has never stopped her from going anywhere in the world!

Our first flight out of SFO was on a pretty nice plane…

oh wait, that was Air Force One. I believe Obama was visiting Facebook, where he probably asked “want to bet how many likes I’ll get if I kill Bin Laden?”. The result was all our flights were delayed about 20 min for extra security steps.

our first leg was a much more conventional KLM 777 direct to Amsterdam.  Even though it’s a grueling 12 hour flight, they get points for their frequent and above average food, and solid personal entertainment system.

Once in Amsterdam, we only had about 2 hours to connect to our flight to Nairobi, not even enough time to acquire euros and purchase a Heineken.

After another 6 hour flight, we arrived in Nairobi, Kenya. We only stayed for about 10 hours before we hopped on another flight to Zanzibar, Tanzania! We booked this airline called Precision Air before we left. I’ll admit we were a bit skeptical of booking a regional East African airline (my experience mostly being with regional Asian airlines, which are either great or very sketchy…. I’m thinking of you Asia Spirit!), but the plane turned out to be a pretty new-looking ATR-72. I was very distracted by the tasty organic yogurt with granola they served on a 40 minute flight!

Our preferred mode of transport.

After our awesome time in Zanzibar (see past posts for pics), we flewback to Nairobi for a day, then we were off to the Maasai Mara for Safari! Our Safari company booked the tickets as part of the deal, so we went to the regional airport to check in to Air Kenya. When we asked what kind of plane we’ll be taking, they said it depends on how many people are flying that day. Apparently they book tickets and assign their fleet of small prop planes later.

When we collected our boarding passes, the Air Kenya employee said “you will be the fourth stop today”. Fourth stop you say? No, we’re flying to the park, not taking a bus. Oh, this is a plane? Oh so we stop at 4 different dirt air strips in the park, each 7 minutes apart. Do we land or do we parachute out? Eleven seater? Sweet. Why does Rachel look so green…

The best part was when we were the last passengers on the twin otter (see above), and the pilot was clearly letting the 23 year old co-pilot practice taking off and landing. I suppose it’s similar to what we do when we let medical students and interns stick large needles in people in the hospital… “watch one, do one, teach one”

Well, the view when flying 2000 feet above the Maasai Mara is breath-taking. I tried taking a few shots but they didn’t do it justice. We buzzed a few elephants and giraffes! After our 4th landing, we were greeted by this amazing 20 year old Land Rover that was tough as nails, but desperately in need of a new clutch.

After 3 days of watching animals and bouncing around the park in the Land Rover, we were sitting on the dirt runway again. I remember watching the guards chase zebras off the runway, awaiting our twin otter to take us back to Nairobi, when this relatively huge 50-seat Dash-7 drops in.

After a very quick and smooth ride, and another couple days in Nairobi, we were off once again, this time Kisumu, our current base. The plane was a small Kenya Airways Embraer, and the flight was most memorable for the slick maneuvering the pilot did to avoid the usual afternoon thunderclouds that roll through this part of Kenya. A choppy but well-flown flight by the pilot.

Thankfully, the only flights left are the ones that will take us home in 2 weeks! More posts on daily life in Kenya soon.


Published in: on May 17, 2011 at 6:00 am  Comments (2)  

the ambassadors

As Rachel mentioned in a previous post, there’s a group of kids who live in our apartment building we call “the ambassadors”, because whenever we walk through the gate, they will suddenly stop all shrieking, running, and other horseplay, walk up to us, and with a straight face, shake our hands in turn and say “hello, how are you”. When Rachel brought the camera out to take some pics of the building, the ambassadors insisted on being the stars of the show.

Published in: on May 16, 2011 at 7:09 am  Comments (3)  

zebras, wildebeest, gazelle’s…

the “cud chewers” or grass grazers are plentiful in the Maasai Mara, to the point that you wonder if it’s overcrowded… literally these animals are everywhere you look. And when they see you, they’ll either stare, or turn their rear in your direction.

kinda rude, i know


Published in: on May 15, 2011 at 6:00 am  Comments (1)  

hyenas vs baby giraffe (R-rated)

Warning: these pics are not for the faint of heart.

We spotted a couple hyenas in the distance and followed them to this: a mother giraffe standing over the mutilated body of her young.

Over the next hour, we watched a back and forth standoff between a dozen hyenas and the mother giraffe, who was out to either protect her dead baby’s body or extract revenge on the hyenas. She would chase them around and around, but in the end the hyenas won, and in a melee of barking, yelping, and bone crunching, they dismembered the body within 10 minutes.

I’ll post the videos I took of the drama upon my return home. If you’re feeling sad and disturbed like we were, just look at the cute pictures of baby elephants and baby lions I posted last week!


Published in: on May 14, 2011 at 11:49 am  Comments (1)