By Ashley Kroyer (veterinary student intern)
On Friday, Lee and I learned from our “Kenyan mom” Beatrice (how many mothers is that now?) that babies are given names according to the characteristics of their grandparent. Remmy, for example, has the name Mugambi, “someone who makes good judgements”, after his grandfather. After some discussion on our characters, Remmy and our other friend, Mwenda, christened each of us with Kenyan names on Saturday.
So what have they named me? Well, Remmy explained that he notices on farms that farmers smile with me and “become so very jovial”. My Kimeru name is Kendi, “someone who makes people happy” or “is loved by many”. Boni came home Sunday night and played at guessing our names, and he gave me “Kendi” as well. I feel honored, happy, and blessed. Once again, we are being wholly embraced into Meru and its culture – including a visit to Remmy’s parents’ farm.
I have a very real coffee addiction. Imagine my glee to visit a coffee plantation at Remmy’s family home!
Another Kenyan culture pleasure is being treated with yogurt and ugali (or chapati, for me). This time it is by our friend, Julius (Jennifer Murogocho’s brother), at his dairy bar! He tells me, “I love two things very much: cows and dogs”. The milk for our yogurt came from his own cows on Tosha (“enough”) Farm.
Julius’ dairy bar (left to right: Madi, Hannah, Remmy, Lee, Julius, Ashley)
Our week in Mombasa went well, despite the weather being less than vacation-y for much of the time. Our first day, we were caught in a downpour on the beach. Our third day, we waited out another downpour in a sandal shop during our walking tour of Old Mombasa. Our last night, I video-chatted with mom from the hostel during more rain and two brief power outages.
But, such is life. The mini-break from internship duties was still very worthwhile, and I did manage to sunburn (not that it takes much…). And feed a tortoise – a real highlight.
I suffer an overwhelming need to feed everything. Think a tortoise can’t run? Trust me, just tempt ’em with some banana and mango.
We returned “home” on a Sunday, and back to our work with Naari dairy farmers. Part of me was very reluctant leaving the sunshine on the coast, and for good reason. If anyone is able to follow my Facebook posts, you’ll see the kind of July weather we have back here on Mount Kenya in Naari – St. John’s (NL) has a run for it’s money as “fog city”, lemme tell ya. And I know, I know… I am on an adventure in Kenya and shouldn’t complain about the weather (although isn’t that Canadian to complain about weather?), but it’s a bit of a bummer hearing that at home there’s sun and 25+ temperatures – weather that I live for. It’s a bit of a challenge for the morale some days.
But, with that said, we’re able to laugh about it sometimes, too! On Tuesday, we treated ourselves to the closest version of traditional s’mores that we could manage with marshmallows from Mombasa, chocolate, and – our obsession – Ginger Nut cookies (like ginger snaps, but sooo much better). Remmy tried his first s’more and we had a few moments of rioting laughter when melted marshmallow was almost dropped on top of Lee’s head as he was kneeling below Remmy to tend the fire. The next funny weather-related story comes from our clothes – which came off the clothesline on Friday after 2 days on the line… everything still too damp to fold. We sometimes have to hang it up inside the house to finish drying. Figuring I’d distract my mind for a while, I knelt on the floor and ironed all of my shirts, pants, even my pajamas (can you imagine!) to help make them dry! I felt a little ridiculous and had a good solid chuckle at myself.
Keeping the mood light and learning to not let ourselves grumble over things beyond our control is helping to power us through these next couple weeks until the sun (fingers crossed) finds us again in August.
Okay, end rant #623 about the weather.
A farmer’s homestead in Naari, Meru County, Kenya. When the sun does shine, this whole place bursts with color.
In other news, there are two new lambs born to the flock here at the house! I am way excited to see them. We’re keeping a close eye on these ones, and the girls have named the first “Marshmallow”. (What’s with these nutritionists naming the lambs after food!?? Haha! Kidding, kidding! I approve.) The second is a cute ashy brown, and we’ve settled on “Mudpie” to stick with the “M-foods” theme.
Ruth and Lillian at the dairy and Remmy, George, and Boni at home continue to help me with learning Kimeru (the local “mother tongue” spoken in Meru County) and Swahili. Recently, I graduated from simple vocab to some phrases, with my new favorites being:
“Bwite bwega” (Kimeru) – “go well”, said to us by the ladies when we leave Naari Dairy to begin work for the day;
“Tuonane baadaye” and “tuonane kesho” (Swahili) – “see you later” and “see you tomorrow”.
Back on farms, the internship is paying off as I hoped it would – my palpation skills are indeed improving! I’d guess I have a chance to do maybe 5 or so a week. Six weeks ago, when Dr Vanleeuwen was with us and I was doing my very first palpations, the best my hands could do was to identify the cervix – the rest I could only describe as “soft and squishy”. Six weeks ago, I wasn’t entirely convinced I’d ever be able to distinguish “uterus-squish” from “bladder-squish” from “rectal wall-squish”. In the back of my mind I’d be thinking that large animal vets just had some inherent, magical ability to “know” what was what, and that I did not have that ability… Listening to instructions of “follow up the cervix and find the bifurcation (split) of the uterine horns” led to the most disappointing feeling while I blindly grabbed around inside for nothing.
But with time, I found ovaries and celebrated. Before Mombasa, I made another breakthrough, and celebrated some more: identifying the bifurcation of the uterine horns! I reached in, feeling very opposite to Remmy’s optimistic “yes, you can find it!”, and there it was… it felt so obvious it was as if flipping a light switch, and to be entirely honest, I had to make some effort to hold back hysterical relief and some watery eyes. The heavy disappointment I had been feeling (unjustly, I know…) evaporated. And this past week, I did it again! I followed the entire tract along both uterine horns, found both ovaries, then let them go and even did it a second, third, and fourth time! It’s hard to express just how thankful I am to be heading to third year with these skills!
“THE TEAM!” Attending some cases with Benard on a sunny day (we do see it sometimes), learning about common ailments of cows in Naari and how to treat them.
(Pictured left to right: Ben, Ashley, Lee, Remmy)
Finally, when our days were beginning to feel somewhat repetitive again, life spiced things up a bit. On Beatrice (our mother)’s farm, we began by literally wrestling half a dozen pigs to the ground to give some injections to treat mites. I’m not exaggerating, we wrestled them! I imagine it was quite an entertaining sight! In school, they taught us to use a board or a snare to restrain pigs… having neither of these handy to us on the farm, I tried to use my legs in place of the board. No luck. We tried make-shifting a snare from rope. Failed again. Finally, we reverted to desperately grabbing limbs and tripping the pigs to pin them down on their sides. It wasn’t done with much finesse, but pinning them down on their sides helped them to calm down once they felt more secure, and made it possible to give the medicine The worst part was the noise – it seems pigs will scream bloody murder if you so much as back them into a corner. It was deafening!
What did it all teach me? I will not, no way and no how, be practicing swine medicine. Ever.
The generosity of the people is heartwarming! Leaving this farm, I spotted an orange tree and mentioned I love oranges. Samuel and his son, Kimathi, sent us home with a bag full!
(Pictured left to right: Lee, Kimathi, Ashley, Remmy, Samuel)
And I suppose that’s all part of the experience. Most days, going to new farms every day, we really don’t know what we could be walking into! With only one more month in Kenya, there’s still plenty of time for more adventure (and perhaps another bruise or three…)
Sending lots of love to Canada