Ethiopia: Learning to be flexible

On our final day in Gondar, we had the opportunity to meet with the president of the University of Gondar, Dr Desalegne Mengesha, pictured below between Kyle and Terry. This meeting was an excellent ending to our Gondar experience. And, although we were sad to leave Gondar, we were excited to experience Addis.

thumb_IMG_2739_1024We have noticed several differences in business practices in Ethiopia. One of the largest differences is the fluidity and flexibility of the schedule. We’ve learned that “beginning a meeting at 9:00 AM,” actually means “beginning a meeting anytime between 9:00 AM and 10:00 AM,” and sometimes later. This ambiguity has definitely been an adjustment for our team of both FTMBAs and WPMBAs who are used to a detailed daily schedule.

Throughout the week in Addis, we visited the Addis Ababa University (AAU) Hospital, the Food Medicine Health Administration and Control Authority (FMHACA) of Ethiopia and Ethiopian Pharmaceuticals Manufacturing Company (EPHARM).

In the picture below, we are on our way to visit the AAU Hospital in a Land Cruiser, which the university has graciously provided as our transportation for the week. (The traffic in Addis has been insane- very little signage, unclear right-of-way laws, and a few newly-implemented, but largely ignored, traffic lights. Cars in Ethiopia also share the road with large trucks carrying shipping containers, bajajs (AKA rickshaws), bikes, horses, cattle, goats, sheep, and copious pedestrians.)

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Throughout the past two weeks of tours, the team has developed a thorough understanding of the healthcare supply chain here in Ethiopia. We have visited two hospitals, two pharmacies, one pharmaceutical manufacturer, and Ethiopia’s governing regulatory authority for healthcare. (Pictured below are Kelly and Arghya “scrubbing in” to surgery during one of our visits.)

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One of the largest opportunities for improvement that has been identified and discussed during each of our visits is healthcare waste management. FMHACA has created a directive that details best practices for disposing of solid and liquid healthcare waste, but there are currently no hospitals or companies in Ethiopia that have the ability to adhere to these standards. One of the main reasons for this lack of compliance is the large expense associated with adhering to the directive. As a result, many of the hospitals and companies dispose of waste into local municipal landfills, local rivers, and in piles outside of the facilities. (Pictured below is a photo of a landfill that we observed outside of the city center of Addis Ababa.)

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Looking into the week ahead, we are excited to visit a few more local companies and complete our final report for OneHealth!

Adapting in Tanzania’s Business Environment

Initially, we planned on writing our second business blog about our first meeting with our colleagues at the University of Dodoma. There’s plenty to say about the differing style including: how and when to introduce yourself (Swahili has a structure of greetings based on familiarity, respect and seniority) and the concept of time. Since that meeting, we’ve come to recognize more evident and frequent differences in the business setting – let’s call it “operating in a less structured environment”.

Two notable differences we’ve encountered so far: structure and cell phone usage.

Our colleagues provided a day-by-day schedule for our time here in Dodoma. Like all schedules, we knew this would change, but hoped it would include most of our meetings and remain mostly accurate for the duration of our stay. During our time here in the capital, some changes were communicated in a manner we’re quite used to – i.e. tomorrow’s visit will include village X rather than Y. Other changes were communicated with gaps in information, such as: “We’re meeting with an NGO tomorrow morning. See you at 8 a.m.” This message, despite our follow up, included no information about the name of the organization or what they do. And the final category, the most trying from a Western point of view, is the unannounced meeting. In this scenario, the car stops at a government building, and we’re given a two minute heads up that we’re meeting with the municipal water director for Dodoma.

The unnamed NGO, Maji Na Maendeleo Dodoma.

The unnamed NGO, Maji Na Maendeleo Dodoma.

These occurrences are, at times, very difficult for a Westerner, especially for those of us who need high structure. Going into two meetings blind and totally ignorant of the organizations’ efforts can be nightmarish. The peak of unpreparedness, we had to ask the terrible question, “So, what do you do here?” With notification, we would have created an in-depth set of questions to gather as much information as possible and facilitate a lively discussion. We were compelled to improvise and think on our feet in order to conduct these meetings. They’ve been challenging meetings and great tests of quick thinking. We’re still acclimating to this style of business to try and better mimic our Tanzanian colleagues.

One of our trusty, noble steeds - the Rav4.

One of our trusty, noble steeds – the Rav4.

Less of a frustration and more of a surprise, we’ve had multiple internal discussions about cell phone usage here in Tanzania. Throughout our village visits and official meetings, we have been interrupted by the screeching ring of a cell phone and the person conducting the meeting and speaking at that very moment, will stop the meeting to take the call. It’s almost been difficult to get through a meeting without multiple ringing phones or the out-in-the-open texting of a meeting participant. It has served as good practice in redirecting our conversations to better capture their attention. Not to say that this is the case with each visit. We know cell phones are now ubiquitous and provide an ever-present distraction – just look around class during lecture. It’s just been surprising to see the distinct nature of the cell phone first, meeting second approach.

From Masai Mara to Uber

It’s fortunate (and perhaps a bit selfish) that I elected to write the cultural blog post this week. I’ll report on our African safari experience – certainly the highlight of my trip so far, and I think my group members would agree.

I admit that when I learned I was traveling to Africa for GAP, some of my first thoughts ran to animals and safari.  After all, it’s not every day that you’re in the heart of Africa, just hours away from some of the most beautiful creatures, in some of the most pristine environments, on the planet.  We agreed early that we would go on a safari, so we booked a three-day excursion to the Masai Mara in southeastern Kenya on the border of Tanzania.  Masai Mara is one of the most popular game reserves in the country, for reasons that quickly became evident — it did not disappoint.  

Simply getting to the park was an adventure in itself.  The paved road ended part-way there, so the last two-three hours of the ride were over rocky, bumpy dirt roads.  It truly felt as though we were well off the beaten path entering the wilderness.  After arriving at our camp, we immediately set out on a two hour evening tour of the park, and right away were greeted by gazelle, water buffalo, zebra, giraffes, and elephants.  It was simply amazing that, minutes after entering the game reserve, we were able to see so many animals.  However, the best part of the night was watching a pride of lions hunt and take down a water buffalo.  The action was straight out of the National Geographic channel!  Lions jumping on a buffalo, buffaloes ramming lions off the other’s back, the methodical way the lions separated the marked buffalo from the group…simply incredible.  We reflected on how lucky we were to witness this hunt, as we could probably go back ten times and not have the same opportunity.

On Saturday, we spent all day out in the rolling, tree-dotted savannahs of the Masai Mara, even crossing the Tanzanian border into the Serengeti for a time.  We saw everything – including most of the Big 5 (elephant, lion, leopard, water buffalo, and rhino).  Much of this is thanks to our driver Isaac, who was perhaps the best, most experienced guide in the park.  It was amazing how quickly he found the animals, and we were often the first vehicle to spot a rare animal.  As they say, a picture is worth a thousand words, so rather than writing further descriptions, I’ll let some of our photos do the talking:

Elephants in the Masai Mara savannah

Elephants in the Masai Mara savannah

 

Our driver Isaac spotted this cheetah before anyone else, so we got a great view

Our driver Isaac spotted this cheetah before anyone else, so we got a great view

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We saw many more lions, but this one got the closest...almost uncomfortably so, as it eyed the open top of our vehicle!

We saw many more lions, but this one got the closest…almost uncomfortably so, as it eyed the open top of our vehicle!

I hope these photos give some sense of the experience – but mere pictures do not do it justice.  A true African safari is the experience of a lifetime, and I would suggest adding it to your bucket list.  I hope to return one day and spend even more time exploring the wild landscapes of the African bush.

Shifting gears a bit, I want to take a few moments to contrast the remoteness of the Masai Mara with modern life in Nairobi.  Most of our days have been spent at the PFC house working on our project, but in the evening we have been venturing out to some great local restaurants, sampling the local fare.  We have relied on Uber to get around, and are very thankful we can count on Uber here for both safety and convenience.  The price is right as well, since most of our rides have been about 300 shillings, or 3USD. 

Tonight we leave for Zanzibar for a weekend excursion. We have booked a comfortable place and have scheduled a day out on the water.  We’re looking forward to relaxing in a beautiful tropical environment.  Stay tuned- next week I’m sure we’ll have many more stories and pictures to share! 

The Land of the Masai

Mention East African culture or the dominate language of Swahili to a Westerner and you might just stir up images of brightly clad Masai people with gauged (stretched lob piercings) ears, elaborate jewelry and lethal spears. Ironically enough, the Masai have their own language, yet four warriors grace the cover of my own Swahili phrasebook. Go figure! Anyway, we’ve all seen the scene on TV or in the pages of National Geographic. For many tourists, the Masai village visit is an integral part of a safari. For $80 you can see a “spontaneous” traditional dance and take your picture with the warriors!

Luckily for us, we visited the Masai under a different context. The village leaders of Akaria invited us to their village to see their current water infrastructure and learn more about the delicate relationship the Masai have with their native land and their desperate reliance on water. Long story short, large-scale tilling and agriculture eliminate the lifeblood of the Masai livestock, namely, hearty pasture grasses. The village is intermixed with acres and acres of corn – some planted by city dwellers who “hijacked” the land for farming purposes.

A young Masai boy watches over his cattle.

A young Masai boy watches over his livestock.

To begin, we took tea (along with a wide variety of samosas, fried breads, rice cakes and cassava chips) with our host multiple times before getting started. We couldn’t put down a teacup without immediately being offered more! Their generosity was amazing. With the proper protocol followed, it was time to begin. I kid you not – we sat through a PowerPoint presentation about pastoralism. We did not see that coming.

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Masai woman gathering water from 100 year old well – all the more dangerous without the help of our driver.

With more knowledge, full stomachs and satiated thirst, we took a tour of the village, taking in a rain capture system (initially built by Italian immigrants in the early 1900s), the village school and new community center, as well as the village’s last three water tanks. The village seemed to be doing relatively well – in large part, we think, because of our host’s efforts. He seemed to be spearheading each and every project we saw. Repeatedly, though, he stressed the importance of water and the dire situations the village has faced and will face again. A few miles away from the village, there’s a local dam that services part of the area. Our host told us that the villagers have learned, from experience, to up and move within six hours if the dam dries out – or potentially face death from dehydration. So tenuous is the region’s water supply that mere hours can change everything. To more vividly illustrate this struggle, our host told us about an instance in which a delivery tanker full of water (ordered during a particularly bad drought) overwhelmed the water tank, destroying the structure and sending precious liters of water onto the dusty ground. The villagers took to grabbing handfuls of the newly created mud and sucking what moisture they could from it. The tanker driver was so moved by the scene he broke company regulation and returned with another load.

The GWI team with a few of our Masai hosts.

The GWI team with a few of our Masai hosts.

In the end, we thanked them graciously for their time and hospitality. We wanted to help and thought of a few quick fix ideas, but it hardly seems like enough. Our project is long-term and will require much, much more than three weeks of research to effectively roll out. Dry season is descending upon Tanzania, and these very villages we continue to visit will face tough times. It’s amazing that after millennia of living in the same climate, the Masai are still faced with a new environment year after year. Nothing is guaranteed except that they will continue to endure.

Doing business at the tip of your thumbs

Mind if I get your contact information so that we can keep in touch?” Xiaoran asked one of the contacts at the end of our meeting.

Absolutely.” The head of the investment department replied, while taking out her phone, “Swipe me.

Swipe me? What does that mean? I quietly chuckled, picturing how a non-native Chinese may think of this conversion, if it were to happen in English.

Our contact was talking about WeChat. By “swiping”, or scanning a QR code her phone generated, we added her to our contact list. Even self-redeemed as a semi-proficient WeChat user, I was still shocked for two reasons:

  1. a WeChat QR code has almost replaced business cards in less formal meetings (instead of learning the proper business card handling techniques, we should be learning the navigation of this app);
  2. WeChat is now the unofficial, but most widely used communication method, for businesses, in addition to its personal uses.

Imagine a combination of WhatsApp, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Skype, and PayPal – that’s WeChat. Next, imagine sharing all these accounts (in combination) to a person you either have never met or have just met for business purposes. Now, conduct a networking conversation with this person via text messages, emojis, and occasionally audio messages. That’s one of the characteristics of Chinese style business conversation.

Modern Chinese business style can be summarized in these two words: Intimate and Instant.

It’s intimate – no matter how good you are with finding information on Google, you still wouldn’t get into that person’s WeChat account. In other words, getting that WeChat info is crucial to building a modern business relationship. Because of our team “insider (Xiaoran), we managed to get in touch with a number of strategically crucial companies, ranging from Suning, the electronic devices retailer giant in China, to various third party operation companies who showed interest in setting up meetings with the client directly after we return.
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It’s instant –  I haven’t found anyone else this dedicated to work almost 24/7. In my personal experience, it took me 90 minutes to go around three level of contacts (friend of friend of friend) to reach the person who can potentially help us, and six hours later, when I got off the train ride from Nanjing to Beijing, I walked away with a notebook full of the information I was looking for.

In addition to being an interpersonal communication application, WeChat also doubles as a marketing tool. Multiple contacts suggested that we consider WeChat as a promotion/marketing/research tool.

Now I wonder: is it the Chinese business style that created WeChat? Or is it WeChat that created the new Chinese business style?

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Nehao China!

We reached Shanghai on 7th May for our GAP project after a long flight of around fifteen hours from Chicago. On the first night, we took a stroll in the nearby market and saw that almost all the stores, restaurants, etc. have inscriptions in Chinese. We met hardly anyone on the street or in the restaurants who could understand English. It took almost 30 minutes for us to convey to the waiter what we wanted for food (read tofu and chicken). As the days rolled by, we became more comfortable communicating in broken Chinese and sign language.

We are staying in the New Harbour Apartment hotels located quite close (just 10 minutes away by walking) to People’s square, a large public square in the Huangpu district of Shanghai.

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We took the tour of Shanghai through the Hop on-Hop off bus for 200 RMB (`$30). The bus took us to all the famous and historical places in Shanghai and also included a ferry ride in the Huangpu river and a visit to the Oriental Pearl Tower.

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The Oriental Pearl Tower is a place of touristic importance and was the tallest building in China until 2007, when it was surpassed by the Shanghai Finance Center. This tower is very similar to the Sears tower in Chicago and has 15 observatory levels, with the highest being 350m. We went to the sightseeing floor located at 263m and had a panoramic view of almost the entirety of Shanghai. There is also a revolving restaurant at 267m.

pearl tower

During our stay in Shanghai, we visited the East Nanzing street market, which is the main shopping street of Shanghai and one of the world’s busiest shopping streets. Tourists visit this place to celebrate major events such as Chinese New Year, Christmas and Easter.

nanzing strt

We visited the Yu garden – Garden of Happiness- a garden with ancient structures depicting the rich Chinese architecture and heritage, originally built in the 16th Century by the Ming dynasty and later on renovated in the 18th & 19th Centuries. The Yu garden area has a lot of eateries and restaurants where you can get a variety of sea food items such as squid, shrimp, crab, etc.

yu garden place

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Next, we visited Beijing, the capitols China, for our project work. Beijing is a city of several museums and historical places. We did not visit any of the museums because they don’t have tours in English.  We visited the Great Wall of China, which is just 2 hours by car from Beijing. I learned that the Great Wall is actually a collection of many walls built across several dynasties to protect China from invasions and attacks from the Eurasian empires. The most famous wall was built around 200 BCE by Qin Shi Huang, the first emperor of China.

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We also visited Quanjude, a Chinese restaurant established in 1864, where you get the most popular Peking roast duck. The whole roast duck comes for around 286 RMB (equivalent to $44). We ordered two roast ducks which was sufficient for 12 people (although, 3 of us were vegetarians!). After you are done eating the duck meat, they prepare a delicious soup with the duck left overs.

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Recently, I came to know that Nov. 11th is celebrated as the National Singles Day (claimed as the World’s biggest online shopping day), when people go crazy for online shopping, something similar to Black Friday in the US. China is an amazing country with great places, people, food and a blend of traditional and Western culture.

India: Into the Fray…

BEEP, BEEP, Whirrrr… HONK. The symphony of horns droned on in the hot and muggy day as our auto rickshaw flew down the street weaving in and out of the crazy traffic that ignored all of the signs and lines that tried to give it order. It was only our second day together as a team, and we had already braved several challenges in just getting the team together in the same house and getting around the city. Still, we knew were in for an even bigger test as the week at work started.

Monday morning came quickly and the team was weary eyed as we clambered into a few Toyota Innova vans to get to the airport and head to Mumbai. Although we had just landed in Bangalore a few days earlier, we were already off to our second city to visit with a few of our clients whose schedules had changed from the original plan. (Throughout the week, we heard rumblings of other planned trips, but were relatively unsure of what to expect from day to day or meeting to meeting.)

Arriving in Mumbai, we quickly went to the office and experienced our first in-person meeting in India with the Hindalco team. This first group of clients seemed quite excited to see us to, and even we knew that we had still more clients to meet, we were off to a great start. At the end of the meeting, we learned that we would be traveling to Chennai later that week. Combined with our weekend travel plans, we figured that we would be doing a large amount of flying all over the country. There is no doubt that this project is going to be quite a hectic three weeks!

Still, our team found time to enjoy the non-work hours and explore cultural norms together. That night in Mumai, our team tasted milk tea, which is a frequently enjoyed beverage in India. This is something we have continued to do nearly every place we have traveled this first week. It’s something I’m sure I’m going to miss when I return to the States… so it just might be something I keep up!

After the first meeting with Hindalco, half of our team (Kyle, Alex and Gopika) went to Pune, India the next day to speak with some customers of Hindalco, while the rest of us (Ponnu, AJ and Tada) planned to meet with our main contact on Epotec™ a secondary business we intended to work with. At the last minute, the meeting was cancelled, leaving us a bit puzzled. We were to have a workshop with them the next day and still had many open questions about their business. We hadn’t had a great deal of time to interface with this group or who we were going to be speaking with the next day. Instead, we met with our team advisor and spent until the wee hours of the morning putting together a power point deck that could cover a number of topics.

In the morning, wishing for our reliable cup of joe, the three of us piled again into an Innova hoping we had the right address for where we needed to be. (We’d learned our first night that addresses don’t always work in India). Walking into the workshop, we weren’t sure what to expect. Fortunately, our planning session with our advisor and his client counterpart happened a bit later allowing them to understand exactly who we were speaking with and adjust the schedule to accommodate the audience. All in all, the meeting went well! The clients appreciated the work we had done. Although not all of our proposals were accepted, the clients expressed interest in a few areas that we will pursue,

We took a picture with the full team representing heads of the company, R&D and a significant part of their sales team.

After finishing up, we headed home to meet with the other half of our team and tell them about this workshop, as they were to enter a similar workshop the next day.

One week in… and we are already very much entered into the fray. As we into the next week, I am wondering what other schedule and meeting changes are ahead!

Logistics in India Not Always Logical

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Guest House in Bangalore

A Street in Bangalore

A Street in Bangalore

As first timers in India, some of our team members experienced very intriguing “cultural shock” with daily activities that we take for granted in the US. One such shock was the logistics of moving around.
All of us flew to Bangalore, India last weekend, but did so separately. The client kindly arranged multiple drivers to make multiple trips in order to take each one of us from the airport to the guest house where we were staying.

Dosa: Southern Indian Breakfast

Dosa: Southern Indian Breakfast

For most of the team members, this arrangement worked out fine. But for two of us, there were problems.
AJ Otey arrived in Bangalore about 1:30 in the morning. The driver was at the airport waiting, but obviously in a quite sleepy state. Several times, he dozed away and almost drove the car into a ditch. Fortunately, he found a tea stand, which still was operating that late at night/early in the morning, and with a quick cup, woke up.
But, that was not the end of AJ’s adventure. The driver had the address of the guesthouse on paper, but didn’t know the exact location. He had no means, such as GPS or smart phone, to get directions. So instead, he drove around he area, and asked whoever was available on the street for directions. Fortunately, the driver  eventually found the guesthouse after a 30-minute search.
Alex Minggang Li arrived at 4:30 in the morning. His driver overslept and didn’t show up at all. After about an hour of waiting, Alex decided to take a cab. However, none of the cab drivers at the airport recognized the address that was given by the caretaker of the guesthouse to team members. Fortunately, the client had emailed the team a brief description and the name of the district, which helped the cab driver understand the approximate location of the guest house. Yet, like the other driver, this cab driver had to drive around the neighborhood for almost an hour before finally finding the guest house.
The good thing is that all six team members arrived safely and relatively on schedule.
Later on, we found out that, even with GPS or Google Maps, a search of the guest house address yielded either a wrong location or nothing. Therefore, one can conclude that a very detailed street address will not necessarily mean that you will get to your destination without any hiccups!
In the eyes of people from the US, Indian logistics are not logical!
Many US visitors also can be amazed (or scared) by how traffic is managed in India. On the same street, one often finds pedestrians, bicycles, motorcycles, motorized tricycle cabs, cars, trucks, buses and even animals such as goats and cows all trying to get somewhere. On first observation, this traffic seems chaotic and illogical: people often don’t follow the lane lines, don’t turn on blinkers, don’t observe right of way rules, and honk all the time. But astonishingly, everything seems to work out… really well! During our stay so far, we have not seIMG_5033en even one accident on the road. Traffic moves rather smoothly, even during rush hour. Everyone knows what they are doing, and seems to be happy about it, too. Perhaps there is a logic underneath this seemingly illogical pattern of logistics. We will need to learn more and hopefully figure it out during the next two and half weeks.

A visit to Marsabit

Jambo!

This is my first blog post from Kenya. Our team landed in Nairobi in waves last Saturday and were greeted by overcast and cloudy weather. The driver who picked me up told me that the monsoon was late this year. Our accommodation is in a highly secure part of Nairobi, very close to most of the foreign embassies.

We had a meeting with our client on Sunday, where we were introduced to the Kenyan Team that has been working on this project. We went through a macro level planning of our next four days in Marsabit County, which is a twelve hour drive from Nairobi.

Early Monday morning we met with about twenty student leaders and staff from Mount Kenya University who were accompanying us to Marsabit. Mount Kenya University has been helping our client with field research and support. It was great to meet and interact with some peers!

marsabit team

Most of Monday went in travelling to Marsabit. It was interesting to learn from others that over the last few years, thanks to devolution, there has been much investment made locally for building roads and infrastructure. At Marsabit, we spent the whole of Tuesday and Wednesday gathering relevant data for our project and understanding the market for water packs in these regions.

We spent the first day visiting local schools that are getting free water packs. We got to talk to many locals and understand their issues. It was an interesting day and a great way to learn more about rural Kenya.

The second day, we got a chance to go to Parkishon village, which was an hour further into the interior of the main county district. We experienced first-hand how women in these villages carry water from a usually muddy source back to their villages using jerry cans.

marsabit water pack

All five members of our team tried carrying the jerry cans and then the water packs, which  helped us better understand the product. We surveyed the villagers at Parkishon to understand the pricing and usage of jerry cans among other things. I was able to gel well and have constructive discussions with local Kenyans on various issues. I could attribute it to having lived in a developing country myself and knowing the issues faced in such places.

We also visited the Marsabit county hospital and spoke to the chief doctor there to learn about the health problems that were specific for this region. We were given access to some great data resources that should help us immensely in our project going forward. I think that our initial visit to Marsabit helped us really sink into this project and country. We now know the product and the market better.

One of the most interesting parts of my Marsabit trip was that even in these remote villages, many kids could read English and were going to school every day. We also saw that the village was being connected to the rest of Kenya by a new highway. I am positive that this country has great potential in the future and am eagerly waiting for the next two weeks to see what more surprises Kenya has to offer!

First Week in Kenya! #TeamGreif

Week One in Kenya is on the books and has it ever been a whirlwind! It feels as though we have been all over this country in just this first week- from twelve hours north of Nairobi to six hours west to a brief border cross into Tanzania. We have seen the relatively modern urban setting of Kenya’s central capital city Nairobi, the primitive remote tribal living in the outskirts of Marsabit in the far north, and the unbridled wilderness of Masai Mara in the west.

We started the week on Monday traveling twelve hours by bus with Partners For Care and nineteen students from Mount Kenya University into the north of Kenya to a small town called Marsabit. Marsabit lies beyond the paved roads of Kenya’s developed cities. Our mission in Marsabit was to help Partners For Care (one of our clients for our GAP project) treat people in Marsabit, especially children, for a parasite called jiggers that is common in the red soil of the north. Jiggers emerge at night, when they come up through the soil and infect children’s feet causing a host of problems, most commonly malnutrition and severe aggravation of the infected area leading to sleep problems and difficulty paying attention in school. On Tuesday, we set out with the Mount Kenya University students to visit three local Marsabit schools and treat jiggers. The kids were amazing. Living in relatively austere conditions and infected with a nasty parasite, they were still full of joy and life. Most were excited to see us and were eager to talk with us, even though they spoke very little English. Still, we exchanged names and communicated the best we could. The Mount Kenya students were able to translate for us most of the time, but, even with that help, at one of the schools the local dialect of Swahili was different enough that even the Mount Kenya students had trouble communicating well. By the end of the day we had treated 79 school children of varying ages who would go home that night rid of a terrible (and more importantly preventable) parasite and sleep comfortably.

Wednesday we traveled another hour away into an even more remote area called Parkishon to visit a tribal village and see and experience first hand the water situation there. The people of Parkishon live extremely simply, sleeping in structures called manyatas made of gathered tree limbs and thatched roofs not tall enough to stand in. While there, we experienced what it was like for the women of the village to fetch water. We hiked about a half mile from the village to the nearest water source. There, we filled a 20 liter jerry can and took turns carrying it back to the village. It was an exhausting and uncomfortable the trip that, incredibly, the local women and girls have to make several times a day. Hopefully, we can make this difficult job easier with the PackH20 water backpack- that is our project’s goal after all!

All in all, this week has been a quite amazing and very eye opening. We have seen and experienced incredible things in just the first few days. I look forward to the next two weeks and the culturally expanding experiences yet to come!imageTeamGreifimage