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KJ's current adventure

Finally... my own blog. For those of you interested in following my current trip. Thanks for your interest.
As Shakira says, "It's time for Africa!"

Diary Entries

Monday, 10 October 2011

Location: Home, sweet home, Canada

Well, I made it through the long journey home and have experienced two of three Thanksgiving meals... am I ever thankful! :) At 6 am I was wide awake, but I guess that will come in handy when I start work again tomorrow.
Some final thoughts about my adventure....
Africa is a wonderful place (the parts I saw were). It didn't quite get into my heart the same way that Haiti did, but some of the people may have. The varied landscapes and people were beautiful and though it was a challenge to deal with an enormous lack of infrastructure, the local people handle it with calm strength and many strive to improve what they can. I tried to do the same.
It was awesome to be able to tag-along with Brenda and see the end-result of all the work of many people over the last couple of years. I was humbled by their great generosity and happy to play a small part in balancing the scales of wealth. We will never really know the impact and long-term effects of the huge amount of donations that were given, but the potential for hope is amazing. I was also left feeling like it will never be enough, but any travel to developing countries usually makes me feel that way and giving in to that feeling is pointless. We have to keep trying to share what we have.

Here are a few of the "bests" of my trip:
Best overall experience: seeing wild elephants, lions, giraffes, baboons and hippos etc. (especially the baby ones).
Best meal: a real salad on the last day ... that I didn't get food poisoning from. The roasted goat at Dr. Subi's deserves honourable mention.
Weirdest meal: spagetti bolognese with banana-slices, as garnish
Best feel-good moment: Winning over the shyness of a little boy sitting at the back of the bus with us and teaching him the basics of printing his name and the alphabet.
Weirdest thing I am thankful for about coming home: the stairs in my house to a second floor... and my bed and the toilet (with handy toilet paper).
Best souvenir: a meal thermos - like an airtight, insulated casserole dish to keep things hot for 4-6 hours. cool.
Best phrase in Swahili: "Lala salama" - "Sleep peacefully"
Most valuable lesson: don't bring white shirts to Africa, if you are travelling by bus and have no access to bleach.

There were many great experiences and other valuable lessons and I think I have a few good photos, out of the 1100 that I took. I will attempt to get them organized soon and will be happy to share just a few of them with you and hear about how the last four weeks have gone for you.
Happy Thanksgiving!

Friday, 07 October 2011

Location: Kigali, Rwanda

Wow... my last day... and there is enough time, electricity and a stable internet connection, fantastic!
I leave Kigali in about 11 hours and I am excited to be coming home, but I won't get back to Penticton until Sunday evening. I am spending about 24 hours in Vancouver with my brother to break up the long journey. I can't wait to see everybody!!
How to sum up the last week???
Well, going back to Kahama felt like a bit of a home-coming because Brenda, Rob, Glen and Twyla and a few of the locals now feel like family and things were familiar. On Saturday, we made arrangements for our trip back to Kigali and in the evening ended up in Kahama's best nightclub "Club Dimples" with Joseph (our usual waiter at the restaurant we often ate at) and Andrew and Attanas (a couple of Dr.s from the Hospital). It was pretty "upscale" for small-town Tanzania, and dancing was fun and they looked after us very well. Joseph made sure I got back to the rest-house safely and then made sure Brenda (who wanted to stay out later with the guys) did, too.
He was also ready to take me to his church the next morning, which was awesome. (AIC- African Inland Church) I knew most of the songs (not in Swahili, of course, but the tunes were the same), and Joseph asked me, "Are you AIC?" :) The awkward part was being dragged to the front and introduced to 300 people and not bringing enough money for an offering as well as the second-offering that was really public (we are talking role-call and announcing how much each person gave!) yikes - they were raising money for a new speaker.... personally, I thought the service was loud enough already. :) Joseph covered for me nicely, though.
In the afternoon, our team was invited to Dr. Subi's for lunch. It was a big feast, delicious and very welcoming. Then very early Monday morning we left. :( It was a bit sad, but Joseph came to the bus station to say "good-bye". That was cool. The new pavement on the highway was also wonderful.
After 9 hours (or so) we were met by Jean-Claude and Franklin and we got to stay at Franklin's for two nights. Great other than another round of bad gut trouble for both Brenda and I.
We met their neighbour a lady who is at least 105! A young soul, who danced a bit and loved seeing us and Franklin's kids. She told us about the old courtship/wedding rituals in Rwanda. Really cool.
Then I got to go to another genocide memorial site and a basket-waeaver's home. That night was Franklin's birthday. 13 of his friends and family were there including Brenda and I. More fun dancing and I was honored with a new Rwandan name.
Usually at a baby-naming ceremony friends and family suggest names and the parents think about it overnight and name the child the next day. Here, everyone wrote down a suggestion and Franklin translated their meanings for me. Wow.... they chose some beautiful names for me. They made me choose, but I couldn't pick only one... they let me have both of my top-2 choices... my new name is Keza-Mbabazi. :) Got a nice ring to it, eh? It means beautiful one, giving mercy. I like it a lot.
We went back to Kigali for the last two nights and tried to get my flight on the same day as Brenda's, but couldn't, so I am hanging out with Denise (Brenda's friend from previous trips) today. Yesterday we went to the memorial for the Belgian soldiers who were killed at the start of the genocide in 1994 and back to the cool markets. My bags are full again. There is not much else to do here, but I have a few more hours to go... I am looking forward to seeing everyone again soon. Hope you are all well.
Sorry I haven't been able to get up any photos, yet. Brenda has been able too, so you can check out her blog... I mean't to give you this link before, but better late than never. She has done a great job.
bye for now.... kj

Saturday, 01 October 2011

Location: Kahama, Tanzania

Hey All,
Alive and well after a wonderful whirlwind safari!! The books got to Moshi fine and I left on time from there for a 3-day race across the Serengeti. After a slow start, stopping at a few tourist traps, and overnighting a ways away from the Ngorongoro Crater and a foggy morning start the next day, when I thought I wasn't going to see a thing at all.... all of a sudden, just inside the gate.... an elephant!! He looked right at me and we had a moment. :)
Then Zebras! Baboons! Gazelles of all types! Lions! Cheetah! Cape Buffalos! Wildebeests! Warthogs! Hippos! and finally a rhino and baby (way in the distance) and then at last Giraffes!! It was amazing... if the place wasn't so big (19km across) I would have thought I was at a zoo. It was kind of surreal seeing things up close that I've only seen on TV... oh yeah, Ostriches! (they're huge!). It will be hard to top that day for the amount of pure wonder it provided.
The next days in the Serengeti were also great, but things were fewer and farther between... but we finished off the "Big 5" with a long (eventually successful) search for a leopard! whew.
The last day was an epic bus trek back to Kahama in the Land Cruiser at 6:30 am, saying good-bye to my guide and personal cook (having one of those was kind of cool, but kind of awkward). They put me on the normal bus to Mwansa, then I got on what I like to call the sardine-bus, because there were about 28 people in a minivan... one seat for me and my back pack...mmm. Then a bigger bus I will call the B.O. bus, thankfully a nice guy was my seat-mate and he let me have the window seat about half way.
shoot... internet time is running out quick. I will be off to Kigali on MOnday. Hopefully, I can update this again before long. We've had terrible luck with the electical grid here. I am writing this by generator.... got to go. oxox kj tummy troubles all gone :)

Sunday, 25 September 2011

Location: Moshi, Tanzania

Hi All
We’ve had a few issues with power outages and internet problems in the last few days. But today, all is well… for now. It’s a quieter day, before our big travel day to Moshi to deliver 31 boxes of books and school supplies to a school there. Should be fun, if the bus we are taking can hold all the books and doesn’t break down, so we won’t have to transfer them… big “if’s” here in Africa.  Always an adventure.
Well, the crate has been officially handed over to the “Kahama District Council”. They had a big ceremony yesterday. I got to be one of the official photographers, along with two people from the media. Brenda got to make a speech and she did great. There was entertainment in the form of drumming and traditional dancing/acrobatics/slapstick… quite good actually.
We’ve also been able to visit and give gifts to the Faraja orphanage and deliver some of the totes that families in Canada made for their World Vision sponsor children here.
I have also been able to give one of my two cardiology presentations (Intro to ECGs) to the medical staff, at their clinical meeting. It went well, other than the fact that the kindly donated ECG machine from Canada was damaged on the way here and didn’t work. But I was able to explain and to show them how to hook it up. They seemed interested. Hopefully, we can get them a functioning ECG machine soon.
I am excited about seeing more of the countryside and after we do our visiting there, I get to do a 3-day safari in the Ngorongoro Crater and the Serengeti National Park! I can’t wait to see some wildlife. All I have seen so far are mosquitos, cats, and geckos… and maybe a few bigger bugs, some of whom I have squashed dead…. not too exciting.
I have now tried Ugali. It’s a corn-flour based, thick paste of a porridge that you eat with sauces. As staples go, it’s pretty bland, but filling.

Two days later…
Well the big travel day is behind us. We expected about a 10 hour ride to go 650 kms…. We were 7 hours wrong…. 17 hours on a bus with one 20 minute scheduled stop is too long!! Thank heavens for flat tires and running out of fuel. Too bad I developed a case of the trots during the last seven hours. Brenda made them stop for me once… yes, I was the weak “Muzungu” (white person) who cried “uncle” first, but I was turning green and biting my lip… and a few others were relieved that we stopped, too. Anyway, we made it. And today we drop the books from Holly Cross school in Penticton at St. Timothy’s school in Moshi. And I am feeling better. whew...
Hope you are all well.

Tuesday, 20 September 2011

Location: Kahama, Tanzania

Another hot, dusty day in Kahama. Having a good time. Yesterday, we worked like dogs, in the crate unloading, organizing and re-loading it. We had about 10 guys working with us, so all together it was about 60 hours of work done in the heat of the day. But it felt great and went smoothly. yay! So did the immigration stuff we had to deal with... just two more official guestbooks to sign and one more storeroom to unload.
Today, we met with Joseph, our waiter from the restaurant, and he helped us negotiate some bus tickets to Moshi and the local market.... mmm dried fish, live chickens and mystery candy that has seeds inside it. He also helped me to buy some kanga... the sarong type wraps they wear here. They have slogans or sayings written on them, but I wanted to know what mine said because some of them say stuff about your husband or children... Joseph helped to translate and I picked some nice ones that say "Love from the heart", Let us remember only the good" and "Thanks be to God". :) We made our own food for dinner tonight, fresh avocados, tomatoes, egg salad, fruit and two bags of instant noodle soup for four people. Not complaining, it was good.
Tomorrow, we will finish up with the crate and possibly have a handing-over ceremony, complete with media and photo-ops. My 15 minutes of fame are running out quickly! Oh well, it's Africa... guess my 15 minutes are about an hour and a half here. :)
Thanks for the messages! love you.
Chandra, I hope Kirk's leg is getting better and that you are feeling ok. Take care!! We are thinking of you, lots MJ!! Miss you.

Sunday, 18 September 2011

Location: Kahama, Tanzania

Just a quick note to say “Hi” again. I had written something else since the last post, but the computer I was working on inexplicably shut itself down in the middle of what I was doing, and today is the first chance I’ve had to get on again.
We have been in Tanzania for three days. We arrived over a very bumpy, dusty road that they call a highway here. It was the first time that I’ve seen handprints on my facecloth after washing off my face. 
We have been welcomed by everyone and have met several VIP’s in the last few days. This resulted in us being the guests of honour today on stage in front of thousands of people for the town's celebration of Tanzania's 50 years of Independence. It was so weird, I kept thinking I might be dreaming, but I wasn’t. I guess I’ve used up my 15 minutes of fame. It was a bit hard to sneak out after the third hour of speeches started, so that we could get started on the crate-work, but that is what we did.
Tomorrow will be a busy day unloading and organizing the huge crate in the hospital yard... if you are the praying type, please pray that it goes smoothly and that everything stays secure and organized.
Avocado juice is yummier than it sounds. 
Thanks for the messages, pictures are a bit tricky on here, \i will try at some point.\love kj

Tuesday, 13 September 2011

Location: Kigali, Rwanda

Hey, two posts in one day! :) I found the internet cafe.
Well, the orphanage was a bit of a bust because we arrived when they were all at school. I guess it's a good thing they get to go to school.
We did entertain a few kids from the community with our bubble wand and they entertained us with the alphabet song and their National Anthem. We got to go on bicycle taxis on dirt roads to get there. It was kind of fun trying to communicate in broken English, French and Swahili with the bicycle drivers. Mostly got as far as "my name is..." but still building bridges. :)
The next stop, was the GO Rwanda office, who The ONe person Project works with here. There were kids there too, more singing and dancing (including me) and gave some gifts (including Ironman finisher shirts from 2008. It was cute to see a baby just walking with a "finisher" shirt on.
We found a yummy indian place for dinner and met a friend there.
Tomorrow, the main genocide memorial in Kigali and back to the market! Baskets and bananas anyone?

Tuesday, 13 September 2011

Location: Kigali, Rwanda

Alive and well in Kigali!
Yes, we arrived as planned and have been having a great time with only minor delays.
I think we were traveling for about 33 hours and only Brenda's suitcase is still missing, Rob got his after 4 days.
Kigali is calmer and cleaner and more modern than I expected and so far I have met only friendly, helpful people.
We visited Brenda's friend Franklin about an hour to the south of Kigali on Sunday and met his family and friends. We visited the Nyamata Genocide memorial which was sad and made the awfulness of that time more real. About 10,000 Tutsis were killed in and around the church and they have piled their clothes on the pews and around the alter and lined up the skull and femurs on shelves inside crypts behind the church. Sometimes you can see by the damage to the skull, how the person died... bullet, machete or club... brutal.
Yesterday, we went to Muhanga to see where the last container of supplies went. We saw the donated hospital beds in their emergency ward and a new library at the Nurse/Midwifery School where Brenda recognized some of the 15,000 books that she had helped to pack up last year. They were so grateful and the librarian lady was so proud of how she had set the place up. It was cool. They said the donation came at "Just the right time." Last year, Rwanda changed their official language from French to English and they were wondering where they could get English textbooks to replace the French ones they had. Then the donation came and they had a new library!
We also saw some new babies and a premie in an incubator using the oxygen concentrator that was donated... :) Outside some school kids enjoyed the bubble wand Brenda brought and getting their pictures taken by me. "Let me see!" was the cry. It was fun.
We thought we had time to make it to a big local market before dark, so we hopped on the motorbike taxis and zoomed up on of the thousand hills hills. It was further than we realized and was dark when we left, but it was amazing and we are going to go back when it is light.
got to catch the bus now...
Today we get to go to an orphanage, should be lovely.
Hope you are well.
p.s. the plum juice here is delicious.
oxo kj

Thursday, 08 September 2011

Location: Penticton, Canada

I'm all packed, just want to stuff a few more granola bars in somewhere.
When I weighed my bags on my dad's handy scale, they were both just under limit. Woo hoo. Now as long as they don't pop a zipper, all will be well.
Not sure how much internet access I will have in Rwanda and Tanzania, but I will try my best to keep you in the loop and post some photos. I am looking forward to reading your comments along the way, so keep 'em coming.
Loooong day tomorrow. Starting at 5am at the airport here with stops in Vancouver, Montreal, Brussels and finally 29 hours later, in Kigali. I'll let you know how it went.
Time for some sleep.

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Recent Messages

From Carrie
I hope you have a safe complication free journey home! You're in my prayers. I checked out some of the pics on your friends sight and they are amazing! Looking forward to hearing all kinds of stories when you get back! I hope you have a good time in Vancouver.
Response: Thanks Carrie. I am back and looking forward to seeing you. Thanks so much for your messages. It was so nice to know that people were supporting me.
From Christine
I think you are on your way home! Safe travels!!!!! xo
Response: not yet, but soon... in 10 hours, and 20 minutes my flight leaves... I will call you when I am in Vancouver
From Pa & Ma
Thank you, Schatzi, for such a good report, We are so glad you are ok. See you very soon. We wish you all the best and may God keep his protecting hand over all of you, lot's of love from Dad and Mom.
Response: He totally has... every minute
From donna cowles
Hey KJ!!! I'm soooo sorry you had a rough go on the bus. :( That must have been difficult.
Glad you're better now. I won't send a long message since I don't think you received my last one. Always praying for you. Gracey never forgets... she loves you! We all love you. Have a fabulous day friend. Miss you. dc
Response: Thank you!! I need it and they are being answered I think... if it's prayers for safety and not for a husband. :) I love you guys, too
From Anita
Hallo mein liebes Cousinchen! ;-)
Thank you so much for the great opportunity to join you at this very special trip to Africa.
It seems that Africa is a wonderful/interesting continent. I guess you’re making experiences during this time which are valued for the rest of your life. No one can take these unforgettable impressions away from you – never ever.
Hope you’re feeling better now and you and your friends are doing fine?!?
Looking forward to get some further news.
Take care.
Sunny greetings and a big, big hug, Anita.
Response: Thanks Anita, Great to hear from you. That's what I like about travelling, the memories and new experiences. Hope you and Reza and your husband are well.
From Buffy
Looks like you are having some good adventures Roomenhagen! Have been thinking of you lots, and will keep praying for you!
Response: Thanks Buff. I'll be home just before your BD, but your card might be a bit late. Hope you are well.
From Angie
Hi Karen,
What a journey. Looking forward to your safe return. I remember some of those longer than expected bus rides in Costa Rica & Guatemala. Doesn't anybody there have to use the facilities on a regular basis? Ha. Enjoy your wildlife adventure! Blessings, Angie
From Pa & Ma
Hi Karen, we are so glad getting an assuring message from you, that you are doing ok, after overcoming a bad stomach-problem. Keep well, it is still the same message from us, we love you and you are being very much missed but otherwie we are doing fine. Enjoy your time where-ever you are. Greetings from your Dad and your Mama.
From Jen Vincent
Oh that's terrible that the ECG machine was damaged - you must have been so disappointed!

So will you be cooking Ugali for us when your cooking week comes round again? :)

I hope you don't have any more 17 hour bus rides - that sounds waaaay too long to sit on a bus!

Miss you!
love, Jen
Response: I don't think you'd like ugali very much, but I could try. :) It's most people's favorite food here. Just one more 10 hour bus ride to go!! See you soon.
From Carrie
Wow Karen what an adventure you are having! Glad you are feeling better! You are a stronger person than I when it comes to travel, I think I would have cried uncle a long time So good to read your update...I know you may not have a lot of computer access but I worry if I don't here from you...Have fun on your next adventure!
From Christine
Sounds like you are having QUITE the adventures! Way to rescue all the others and getting the bus to stop. I see you as the Hero for all those other people who were too shy to ask for a break :) Have a wonderful Safari trip. I'm still so excited for you and this trip. What an incredible experience.
From Ma & Pa
Hi Schnuckelchen, we just wanted to say "hello" to you and wish you all the best and good health. We miss you and love you very much, and God loves you even more, greetings from your Dad and your Mom
Response: Hi Mom,
All is well. Hope the same for you. See you in less then two weeks!
From Christine & Gordon
We're still thinking about you every day. Love you lots!!
Response: Thank you... hope you are well. Miss you!
From James Arbaugh
Hi Karen! Nice to hear of your travels! It's interesting to read of your adventures!

If I get a scholarship to attend the OpenMRS Implementers Meetings I may be following in your footsteps.

Would any of the places you stayed at be open to a visit by me. If so, can you post links to where you stayed at in Rwanda?
Response: Hi James, Good to hear from you. I am often reminded of Haiti here. sometimes the roads are worse... if that is possible. :) I will get back to you when I return about those links. The place we stayed is a catholic hostel called St. Famillie.
From Laura Harp
HI Karen,
How are you? It sounds like such a fantastic adventure you are on! Don't be too led down the road of fame though :) I just had a wonderful vision of the singing and dancing. It is what I think of when I think of Africa. Things are good here. Very hectic with planning the Bike Festival and preparing for grape harvest. The weather has been beautiful The perfect temp to sit in the sun and not be too hot. Lovely.
Miss you lots,
Are you checking your email too?
Response: Sounds great.. I hope it stays warm for a bit longer!! Not getting much computer time. But having a good time. See you soon!
From Chandra
Hi Karen,
I'm curious about the candy with seeds in it. Were they sour? Tamarind maybe? That would likely be too easy...

Kirk is now home. Hooray! He's hobbling around slowly but at least he's able to walk without crutches.

I went to Janelle's yesterday to pick up some baby clothes and assorted baby items. Came home with four boxes! Can't wait to start washing all those cute little clothes.

Can't wait to hear about the handing over ceremony. How is the Swahili coming along?
Response: I thought Tamarind, too... but I've had that and these were more starchy than sour. I will do some more checking. Cool about the clothes. Hope you are well.
Kwa heri (bye)... swahili is not so easy, but a few words are sinking in
love you, kj
HEY KJ!!!!! :)))) Mmmm, plum juice! This is sooo awesome- the blog. I guess checking facebook was a silly idea. I didn't reaize this would be YOU directly chatting. I love that. This is the first blog I've read too. My curiosity got the better of me today while talking with Fae and I said, "That's it, I'm going back to find that link. I need to know what's going on with our Karen" (sad news for Fae: granddad died last night- she's had a rough week) She's much better today.

I'm so happy things are going smoothly. ANd, you must love the wraps you found. I can see you right now :) I'll be on this everyday, so I can't wait to hear the next bit of news.
Love you sooo much KJ. God Bless you. Donna
Response: Thanks Donna,
I miss you guys and though things are great here, I am looking forward to coming home and updating each other.
From Carrie
Hey Karen,

I love reading your updates! I check for them every day. Sounds like you are having a great time. Interesting're braver than I would How are your living conditions there? Just curious.
Response: Sorry I am not updating everyday. I am trying, but the networks aren't cooperating. Otherwise all is well. I hope the same for you.
From susan
All the best! I'll be thinking of you and praying for you.
Greetings from all of us, including Ilona, who now says," Dag!" as she waves:)
Response: So cute, thanks!