Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Rift Valley Camping

On Saturday I headed to Iten with a friend named Joey. Iten sits  at over 7,000ft in elevation, and  is 1 hour north of Eldoret. Iten claims to be the Home of Champions due to its production of many Olympic mentalists and marathon winner. Its also situated on the edge of the rift valley also making it home to amazing views.



On the way to Iten our taxi took us to Kreuger Farms to see the family of giraffes who reside here. We then hiked up the Sergoit hill to the top where there was an amazing view of the surrounding farms. We were then dropped at my friends farm to eat lunch and help with some farming. After lunch and tea we all got into a truck and drove over to Lelin Campsite for dinner.


At Lelin we enjoyed a wonderful dinner overlooking the Rift Valley. The dinner included a cooked rabbit which one of my friends ran over the day before, chicken, cabbage, rice and chapati. After a long night of eating, drinking, laughing and being afraid of the spiders crawling around the wood hut that we were eating in, Joey and I headed to our already set up tent for some sleep. The tent was 750KSH ($7.50) a person.



The next morning we woke up had a breakfast of hard boiled eggs, bread and chai we headed off on a hike up the Rift Valley. We were guided to the trail head by a campsite attendant which required traversing local farms and saying hi to many children who ran towards us as we hiked.



The hike was steep at many parts, most of it was exposed to the sun until we reached the top, so make sure to wear plenty of sunscreen. As you hike up the hill you pass by a waterfall where people are swimming in the water and cooling off. As you climb higher you begin to see and hear monkeys in the trees around you. The trail begins to thin out and at some moments the trail will fork or even disappear. You push through bush to follow the trail hoping that spiders and other bugs don't fall on you.



We hiked up to where we saw a hut and some guys who were cutting wood, to the right we saw a rocky outcrop. We headed once again through the brush for the rocks. Once we arrived we were astounded by the view. A group of local children were playing with machetes on the rocky outcropping. We made friends quickly and ended up sharing chips (fries) and soda with them at the campsite.

We then called out taxi to head back to Eldoret. The taxi there and back was 5000KSH ($50) which is a bit excessive for this trip. Hopefully we get some better rates next time.



Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Ready, Set, Action for the Pocket Square Project

Today I was on set of the new promotional film for the Pocket Square Project. The Pocket Square Project is a fashion meets philanthropy group. They support HIV positive youth support groups in Kenya. These support groups provide a safe place for HIV positive youth to share their stories, hear from other HIV positive individuals and learn about how to overcome challenges.

HIV positive children face many unique challenges while growing up. Some of these challenges include adherence to medications and sickness that comes with not taking medication regularly. The issues of disclosure is a huge barrier for children who don't yet know their status. Many parents and caregivers keep their status a secret due to social stigma and these children grow up not knowing they have HIV. The Pocket Square Project has created a space for kids to talk about these challenges and take each one in a positive way. 

Today I was helping on the promotional film for the Pocket Square Project.  We interviews a couple young adults who had benefited from the support groups as well as some counselors and peer group coordinators. I enjoyed hearing the stories and was reminded why I am here in Kenya. I am excited to help out more with the Pocket Square Project.

Thanks to our filmmaker Thomas Lewis who had dedicated his time to this project. Visit his site to hear his stories and watch his films at untitledevent.wordpress.com and watch his previous films about kids living with HIV vimeo.com/album/2505522


Sunday, July 5, 2015

Learning about Tumaini - Street Kids Program

Today I visited Tumaini Drop-in Center for street kids in Eldoret. I spent the day playing soccer and cooking food for the kids. Of course I arrived back home covered in dirt and soaking wet.

Tumaini in Swahili means hope. The Tumaini center gives refuge to the street kids of Eldoret. It empowers street youth, offers vocational training, feed them, gives them a roof over their head and gives them an alternative to living on the streets. You can visit their website at: tumainicenter.org

Today I accompanied two girls who live near me to the center down dirt roads to the Tumaini Drop-in Center. Upon arriving I quickly was swallowed into a soccer tournament. Of course no one was keeping score, but I am pretty sure I was the worst player. The kids ran smiling up and down the field most barefoot others wearing flip-flops and beat-up sneakers.


The Photographers
While catching my breath on the sidelines I let two of the kids, probably aspiring photographers, use my iphone camera. They took some interesting photos and videos of the soccer tournament.

I met the resident dogs, one of them named Malaria and played on the monkey bars and swings. I was also shown a snake by some of the boys (they thought I was going to be scared). Don't worry readers it was a small garden snake.

After the in-prompt-to soccer game we grilled hot dogs and hamburgers and fried up some chips (french fries). We gathered in the dining room sans-electricity. The kids sat quietly waiting for food, many of them wanting to help serve. We chowed down on the food in the dwindling light, using our cellphones to find misplaced condiments and children.

The kids thanked us immensely, giving us hugs, fist pumps and handshakes. As they retired to their bunks we drove back along the dirt road to our home. I plan to return next week for another game of soccer. Maybe I will be better after a year of playing with these kids.

You can visit the website to learn more and donate to this awesome cause: tumainicenter.org

Waiting patiently for food


Hey Mzungu!

As I start my second week of living in Eldoret, Kenya I reflect over the last week. I have learned many things about the culture in Eldoret but its just the tip of the iceberg. I have learned new traditions of eating and drinking as well as many new Swahili words. One of the first words I learned was Mzungu.

Why did I learn this word first? Mainly because that is what I am referred to as I walk around the streets of Eldoret. Mzungu means white skinned person. I compare it to the work gringo used in Latin countries, but it is much different. Mzungu is not a derogatory term but merely a way to get your attention. Often foreigners will use it to refer to themselves. "The other Mzungu's could not come for lunch." or while bargaining "Is that the Mzungu price?"


As I have wandered the streets of Eldoret I am becoming more familiar with getting around by foot. I am still getting used to the cars coming from opposite directions. The weather has been fantastic, its rainy season, but has not rained much in the last couple of days. Kenyans consider this time winter. During the day it ranges from 65-75F (20-25C) which for me feels like perfect t-shirt weather. Around me the locals are wearing puffy snow jackets and scarves.

The markets are busy on Saturdays where large crowds squeeze through narrow passages between wooden shacks piled with second hand cloths and hanging fruits. As you walk through hands reach out and grab you attempting to direct you into their shop. Others shout at you "Mzungu Mzungu welcome please come!" If you find something you like you begin to bargain until you reach a price that you would pay. I always have a set price in my head before beginning to bargain, I start lower than that price, so when we reach a common price its closer to what I was willing to pay.

Besides the street life I have also learned much about the night life. Its common for people my age to spend Friday and Saturday dancing at one of the many clubs in Eldoret. I have been to 4 one one, Spree and Signature. These nightclubs mix local African beats with popular American hip-hop and Latin dance music. Men are very forward and the whole night you constantly spend running away from men attempting to sneak up behind you. Many are relentless chasing you halfway around the club despite your efforts to shoo them away.

Dress code for these clubs are liberal. Many women wear short skirts and crop tops but with the touchy crowd most Mzungu's opt for long pants and nice blouses. Even with conservative dressing you will still be chased around.

I am excited to learn more Kenyan culture and learn more Swahili. I have finished my first week in Kenya and I have 51 more weeks to learn. Make sure to follow my adventures in Kenya. 

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Fast Simple Amsterdam Layover




On my way to Kenya I stopped in Amsterdam. My layover was 12 hours long and I was determined to make the most out of it. I have never been to Europe so you can imagine how excited I was, I was also really tired after a 10 hour flight.

I left the airport and hopped on the local train to Central Station. This costs 9.5 Euros round trip and takes about 20 mins. After leaving central terminal I looked around for a canal cruise company, I found many just outside central station. I chose Lovers Tour Company which was the cheapest I found at 19 euros for a hop-on-hop-off boat tour. 

I walked to the boarding dock and started off on the canal cruise. They have headphones and a recorded audio tour as you float down the canals in 19 different languages. You can hop-off and on at various locations. The next boat is only 15 minutes away. 


I walked the narrow streets, eating and drinking anywhere I felt. I had traditional croquettes along the canals. 

Unfortunately during the day the Red-light District is dead and the Ann Frank House has a huge line. I hope to go again to experience the night life of Amsterdam. It was a long and exhausting day walking the streets of Amsterdam. I was exhausted as I boarded the plane to Nairobi. 


Welcome to Kenya

As I am writitng this blog I am siting in my new home for the next year without any power. Its been the second time since I arrived in Eldoret that the power has gone off, the first time was the minute I walked into the house. 



I arrived in Kenya on Thursday morning from Amsterdam. I spent the day at the airport waiting to board my next flight. In the mean time I bought a Safaricom sim card. It was 250 KES ($2.70) for the card and 2000 KES ($21) for data and talk that should last me a couple months (as long as I am not instagraming constantly). Once arriving in Eldoret after 3 days of flying I was exhaused, but when does that stop me. 

After leaving my bags in my dark room without power we headed off to Mama Mias a local favorite among the Indiana University research team. I met the team in Kenya that I will be woking with for the next year. After a couple Pilsner beers from Kenya I headed home to sleep.



The next day I was taken on a tour of the Eldoret AMPATH Clinic and Moi University Teaching and Referal Hospital by the research director Micheal. I will be working out of these two placd most of the time and will be traveling to more rural clinics around the area. Micheal and I ate lunch at the hopital cafeteria called Cool Stream where I feasted on a mountain of bean stew, rice, chipati and cabbage for 100 KES ($1) under a small thatched roof bugalo sourrounded by tall grass and small farms. 

After a satisfying lunch we headed to a small research presentation with the kenyan research assistants that I will be working with the following year. That evening we were celebrating Micheals going away so we all met up at Mama Mias for pizza, beer and drining games wich required paticipants to name countries with the same begining letter. 



We then headed out to a local club named "4 one one" where we dance our hearts out to Afrian beats.  We ate a 4am snack at the kenyan equivalent of KFC. Today I woke up headed out to buy fabric for our Pocket Square Project that helps fund support groups for children with HIV/AIDS. (thepocketsquareproject.org) 

I then headed to the market to buy some food for the next couple of days. I went to Nakumatt that is kinda like Walmart because it sells everything from furniture to produce. 

After going to the market I went over to the hospital with Micheal to visit one of our HIV kids who is really sick in the hospital. Micheal brought her some food and I gave her a small cow keychain I brought from America. She was very weak and tired and waiting for dialysis due to HIV kidney injury. She has been on the waitlist for dialysis for over a week and tonight she is finally getting the chance to have dialysis. Next step Micheal says is to find her a kidney and money for a transplant. After I gave her a short back rub and talked to her mother I walked home thinking about her as I walked down the muddy dirt roads back to my small house without power. 


This next year will be full of stories like hers. I hope that you continue reading and I hope that the stories I bring you will help inspire people to give back to their community and volunteer to make the world a beter place. 

Monday, April 20, 2015

Capital City Washington DC

I had the opportunity to drive down to DC over the beautiful weekend and spend two days wandering around. I decided a week prior that I needed to visit DC once more. There is so much to do in DC. With free entry into all Smithonian museums, beautiful architecture and sprawling parks, you can spend days exploring. 


I drove down from Philly on Saturday morning taking back roads to avoid tolls and parked at Landover Hills Metro station, which parking is free on weekends and took the train into DC. The metro in DC is one of the easiest to use. With clear maps and not too many different lines and routes it's easy to figure your way around the city. I took the metro to Federal Triangle to get to the national mall and monument, Smithonian stop also works. I walked along the epansive park from congress all the way to the Lincon statue. It was a beautiful sunny day. 


Along the way I stumbled upon the Global Citizens Earth Day Festival. Could not have been a more perfect day to visit. Not only did I enjoy bands like Train, Fall Out Boy and NoDoubt, I also got to hear speeches from leaders around the world talk about important issues of poverty and pollution globally. Tents were set up to show off new innovations to decrease pollution and end world hunger. Entry to the festival was absolutely free. 



Empowered and exhasted I headed to Burgers Taps and Shakes near George Washington University. I enjoyed a falafel burger and a cookies and cream shake and headed back to my car for some sleep. 



One of my goals recently was to try out car sleeping, boy was it hard. I slept in a Walmart parking lot because I heard it was good to car sleep, because people are around. I laid out my camp mat and covers and tried to fall asleep. First it was too hot so I cracked the windows, then I got nervous that security would see me and arrest me so I put shades over the windows, next I got nervous that someone would break into my car to i rechecked the locks and turned off the smart car feature. Finally at around 4am I was finally able to fall asleep. I woke up at 7am to realize that no one had arrested me nor had anyone broken in. I was still alive!


A little tired I again boarded the metro back to federal triangle station to explore some of the free Smithonian museums. I first visited the Air and Space museum. I watched a show in the planetarium, I walked around the exhibits and even tried out the flight simulators. I then headed over to the Museum of Natural History where I learned about weird ocean creatures, got really excited about stuffed mammals and awed over gems and rare crystals. I even turned myself into Paranthropus boisei, an early ancestor of the human species. I was thouroughly exhausted so I headed back to my car and drove back to Philly. 


Overall DC is a great place to visit especially for someone who wants to travel on the cheap. With so much stuff to do for free, everyone will find something exciting and interesting to discover. 

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Bucket List: In It for the Long Haul - Long Distance Hiking (19-25)

As I sat in my car listening to the book Wild on audio books I imagined myself walking the Pacific Crest Trail with Cheryl Strayed. Her large outlandishly heavy backpack strapped to her back. I laughed as she reminded me about my previous treks. How your feet blister with each step. The way your shoulders feel after a long day of hiking. The encounter with the black bear and rattle snake.

Trekking the Annapurna Circuit, Nepal
I have always dreamed of hiking the Pacific Crest Trail, although I have hiked some portions on backpacking trips of my youth I have never hiked the whole thing. I also have always wanted to hike alone. I have traveled alone to far off countries taking buses, booking tours, walking winding streets and even hitch-hiking. The idea of pitching a tent in the middle of nowhere, alone in the dark, weird sounds coming from all directions scares me. Even leaving the tent in the middle of the night to go pee even with a group scares me. 

Cheryl Strayed in her book Wild battles with these fears on a daily bases as she sets off alone on the PCT. She says “I knew that if I allowed fear to overtake me, my journey was doomed. Fear, to a great extent, is born of a story we tell ourselves, and so I chose to tell myself a different story from the one women are told. I decided I was safe. I was strong. I was brave. Nothing could vanquish me.” 




I have always been one to challenge my fears. What is life if you live in the safe confines of comfortable? Life is more exciting when you face your fears with bravery. So as I write this bucket-list I will remind myself that. I am strong. I am brave. Nothing can vanquish me.


19. Great Himalayan Trail - Tibet, India, Nepal, Bhutan


This 4,500 km trail rises to over 20,000ft of elevation running across the highest mountain range in the world, making it both the longest and the highest trail in the world. The Nepal section of this trail is 1,700km (1,056mile) it passes through many different terrains. 



20. Te Araroa - New Zealand 

This 3,000km (1,864 mile) trail traverses New Zealand. If your not currently a Lord of the Rings fan get ready to have your breath taken away. This takes about 100-150 days depending on how fast you hike and how long you want to take rest stops. With such beautiful views I can imagine wanting to stay at each campsite for days. 



21. Pacific Crest Trail - California, Oregon, Washington - USA

This 2,650 mile trail  (4,265 km) trail spans three states from the boarder of Mexico to the boarder of Canada. It transverses through Mohave Desert and the High Sierra's. Its elevation ranges from sea level to 13,000 ft.  only 180 out of 300 who attempt this hike finish it. This is the most west trail of the Triple Crown long distance trails of USA.


22. Via Alpina -  Slovenia, Austria, Germany, Liechtensteinm Switerland, Italy, France, and Monaco

The Red Route is the longest of the trails traversing all 8 countries and spanning 1,500 miles. This traverses the backbone of the Alps from the Adriatic Coast of Italy to Monte Carlo on the Mediterranean. Although its almost impossible to do in one shot due to weather who says you can't live in a small remote town in the Alps for a season?

23. Tran-Panama Trail - Panama

This 700 mile (1,127 km) trail traverses the length of Panama from North to South. Its much different from the other treks in that it traverses through jungle terrain. Huge spiders the size of your head, carrying your pack above your head as you wade through deep swamps, and batting away mosquitoes. 















24. Appalachian Trail -Georgia, North Carolina Tennessee, Virginia, WestVirginia,Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, Massachusettes, Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine -USA

When I moved to the East Coast for medical school, I had in my mind that I would be able to hike this 3,510 km (2,180mile) during my four years of medical school. Turns out medical school takes up too much time.  This is the west coast sibling of the USA Triple Crown long distance trails. Its is said that only 1 in 4 who attempt the AT complete the thru-hike.



25. The Continental Divide TrailMontanaIdahoWyomingColorado, and New Mexico.

This  3,100 miles (5,000 km) trail runs along the rocky mountains from Mexico to Canada. Like the PCT and the AT it is part of the Triple Crown long distance trails of the USA. As I crossed the state in with my father with our Prius I remember climbing the winding roads of the rocky mountains. It transverses some of the most beautiful US National Parks including Glacier National Park, pictured here. 

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Bucket List: Worlds Wildest Whitewater (14-18)

I have white water rafted in Chile, Costa Rica, USA and India. I have lazily floated down class I sections and have gotten my butt kicked by class VI+ rapids. I ride Witewater for the epic feeling as you looking ahead at a rolling rapid, sizable falls and dangerous holes and rocks scattered through your trajectory. The heart racing, palms sweating, body shaking, mind racing feeling. The cold wet feeling you had before from previous rapids is gone, replaced by the excitement and fear that sweeps across your body. 



Three of the most important aspects of choosing a whitewater adventure is: Callenge, Good Guide and Scenery. It's important to choose a rapid that challenges you, starting out on a class III and working your way to the top (class V). Second item to look for is a challenging guide. Guides come in all shapes and forms. Depending on your group skills the guide can make any rapid more exciting with tricks and hidden gems. I remember my two day adventure on the American River, lead by a air force guide who knew the river like the back of his hand. He would guide us to the most exciting parts of the rapid, passing us over shallow rocks, spinning our raft, catching waves, diving us into unsuspecting holes. He made class three rapids into a terrain park for a raft, challenging us at ever turn. 



The last most important characteristic when choosing a rapid is scenery. Most of the time, no matter how challenging the river, you will lazily be floating down smooth segments. This is the time to relax, sit back, and enjoy the views around you. This can be jungle, sky scraping mountain ranges, lush meadows, busting towns, dry desert, steep canyon walls, or green forests. This is a great way to travel and see a new country. This is why picking a river where you will enjoy the scenery is one of the most important reasons to pick a rafting adventure. 



These are a few of the rivers on my bucket list:

14. Colorado River - Arizona, USA
The Colorado River in Arizona carved out one of the largest canyons in the world. It's strong Rapids shaped the famous Grand Canyon. Since I was a little girl I have always wanted to raft down the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon. The steep orange/red rock towering around you as you try to stay inside the raft, makes this trip one of the most spectacular and adventurous Rapids in the world. Trips range from 6-14 days many incuding hiking in and out. This breathtaking trip is not for the poor or spontaneous, you must book at least a year in advance and pay upwards of $4,000 for longer trips. 



15. Rio Upano, Ecuador
Translated as River of Sacred Waterfalls, this challenging River dives deep into the Ecuadorian rainforest. With a rapid named Godzilla, with 15 ft waves, toppling many rafts that dare to attempt it's wrath, why not take on the challenge. 


16. Sun Kosi River, Nepal
While in Nepal, I heard many stories about the spectacular rafting trips through the Himalayas. Since returning I have dreamt about the day I can return to take on the challenge. The Sun Kosi River, translated as River of Gold, combines spectacular views of the Mount Everest Rigion and challenging whitewater. With many tours leaving from Kathmandu it's easy to book when you arrive. Most trips last between 10-14days. 


17. Middle Fork of the Salmon River, Idaho, USA
Salmon tastes good and is very health for you, but that's not the reason you raft down the Salmon River. This is one of the most challenging rivers in North America and one of the most popular whitewater destinations in the USA. The river is sandwiched between beautiful evergreen forests, towering mountains and North American wildlife. 


18. Zambezi River, Zambawe/Zambia
This is the forth largest River in Africa and boasts one of the worlds most challenging stretches of high adrenaline, class V madness. The rafting starts just below Victoria Falls. Trips range from day trips to week long expeditions, where you can enjoy riding by local African wildlife, including the most dangerous animal in the world, the hippopotamus. Dangerous Rapids and dangerous animals, sounds like my kind of adventure. 





Thursday, February 19, 2015

Live Below The Line 40 Days

It's impowering to preform self sacrifice. A couple of years ago I participated in Live Below the Line where you feed yourself on $1.50 a day, which is set as the poverty line. I was impowered by the growling in my stomach as I went to bed at night. And decided to do it again but for 40 days (lent).  

Yesterday I went to Aldi's discount food store and spent $60 on 57 items for the next 40 days. Included were pasta, tomatoe sauce, eggs, bread, ramen, beans and rice. I will document my next 40 days of living below the line. Some exciting finds was penut butter and jelly together for $1.89. I will update with some other finds soon.