love laurie

Port Reitz

Port Reitz School for the Handicapped is a school unlike anything I have ever seen before. It is an inclusive mixed school in that both handicapped and non-handicapped students attend. Children attend school here with severe handicaps, spina bifida, cerebral palsy, hemiplegia, and severe congenital abnormalities. The list could seriously go on and on. I being the sheltered woman that I am have never seen such a parade deformed children. Kids come in the office and I do what I do with most tasks in Kenya, I just take a deep breath, and put one foot in front of the other because I have learned that having a running commentary of the things I have seen is completely futile. This is the way it is here.

So it is hot and sweaty and hot. The air is still and dense. Four in a room, Dr. Keith, Mary, student Karissa and myself. I busily stooped in frustration trying to get Karissa’s dress off so Dr. Keith can examine her. I twisted and pulled and struggled with her dress but her arms keep getting stuck, she is probably 10 and not helping me at all. The physical therapist Mary is no help and I think ‘why can’t she help me? I am totally struggling with this dress’… then I really lose it as I see Mary bending down to take off her shoe. WTF! My mind flares, my temperature rises yet another degree, however I calmly ask her what she is doing. At this precise moment I look down and see the sole of the foot of Mary and Karissas’ feet touch… She replies, “We are saying hello” calmly laughing a little. “She can’t use her arms nor can she talk”. Ffffffff. Nice one Laurie.

Diluted and overcome I felt 6 inches tall. How inconsiderate my first world impatience is. How stupid the mind is at trying to understand all things that are not completely transparent. This little girls’ will to live has more tenacity and courage that I can ever know.

When I went back last week to check up on her treatment, I recognized her and promptly took off my shoe and greeted her. She lit up like a light bulb and I almost cried.

So yeah.. The experiences continue… LL

The Lovely Karissa

Hello Lady!

Congenital Abnormality

Wet to Dry Bandage

Some days…..

Some days I just wake up in a fowl mood. No matter how splendid the clean windows sparkle with crisp blue sky, my mind grumbles like rusty cogs and I twist in my sheets wishing I could hide in bed all day and save those around me from my wrath. On these moody days I rely on the splendid indulgence of coffee, sex and yoga… addiction much?

In Kenya I am left to my own devices with no such crutches, and this country continually challenges me. Like not just once and a while… likes everyday, sometimes two or three times. Not only am I missing my tools to re-centre, re-align and re-focus, I feel stranded on a foreign continent. I try to muster up my character to sense out the situation and that too is gone. All my intuition and sensibility has gone west with the wind. I feel like a witch without a wand. Every characteristic that I usually rely on is a little shaky. So every new little stride in a plan or a stable feeling is fleeting because Kenya changes… and then changes again. Kenya in her ways is relentless in her ability to call me out, she coaxes me to come out to play, she hustles palm trees and bird songs to relinquish everything that I thought I knew about myself. Just love and let it be.

pinch me I am here

Two days ago I drove for the first time to my village in the outskirts of Mombasa alone. I drove into the madness of rush hour, Matatu’s buzzing past like a scene from Nintendo Mario Brother (Matatu’s seem to be the ONLY ones that move fast in this country), past the markets teeming with men trying to make a dollar. I drove across the sorry excuses for roads. I drove on the only road out of the only major port in Eastern Africa. I drove into the eyesore of the chaos surrounding Mombasa into the palms trees of the village. And of course I was late for the first Jipe Moyo Woman’s Group Meeting. Dr. Keith had kept time up to this point and today I causally sat on my veranda and had another cup of coffee knowing that I was going to be late, but did it anyways. Ha! Maybe I am part African! Anyways…I was calmly confidant that the women would like my presentation. I translated words into Swahili, drew pictures and made food. All to stress the important issue: Prevention of disease. I charismatically solicited they should ‘prevent illness in your kids so that they have a better life than you, prevent illness so they can learn to read and write’ I preached with science and with emotion, pulling on all the heart wrenching be a good mother strings I knew of. During the last two months of clinics I have learned from Dr. Keith the pathology and treatment for the primary afflictions that their children suffer from; ringworm (tinea capitis) scabies and parasites. While discussing parasites I told them how Schistosomiasis enters the body, through a water source, the quarry, that they all use for free water. The prevention tactics up this point were doable; washing sheets, not sharing combs, keep finger nails clean, but Schistosomiasis has long term health implications and difficult to combat because it is endemic. It affects 20 million per year and 85% of the cases are in Africa. Kenya’s Prime Minister Odinga stated that those children with parasites are more likely to be illiterate.

After that translation there was a snicker among the crowd… I found out no families can pay the 5 shillings for 20 gallons of water. 5 shillings is less than 3 Canadian cents. How could I teach prevention of their biggest problem when the source of their problem comes from the only commodity that they receive “free”? I suddenly woke up. I am a white woman sitting in a small Kenyan Village among 40 women who live day to day with no resources. We are worlds apart, and I don’t understand their problems. I have never ever had to choose between eating and not eating on any given day. I realized that I can’t help them, they have to help themselves, they have to work together and collaborate as a community wanting to sacrifice the nothing that they have in exchange for the idea of something unknown that MIGHT be for the better. These women know very little other than surviving, having babies, and having more babies. I had take 20 steps back to get their perspective in our discussion. I asked why they couldn’t pay, who had jobs, if they wanted them, where and what they would do. Would they like to work in the village or out? Who has husbands that work? Who worries about food and who wants their children to live differently than them? Their silence and solemn nods told me everything. I let them discus among themselves and come up with ideas. They all looked at me for answers and asked me good questions. Could they kill the parasite in the water? I told them every parasite scientist in the world is wondering the same thing. I told them they have to think together, work together to come up with a joint solution because I don’t understand their problems, I told them I would support them but I wouldn’t do the work for them. I am teaching them how to think differently, not immediatly providing them with the answers. If they had income they could feed their children and pay for water. As much as they looked to me for answers, and as much as I wanted to answer them and tell them what to do I turned the questions on them and forced them to come up with the answers themselves. What would be your ideal situation? How are you going to make that happen? I am still scratching my head at the events as once again African’s ever changing stoic façade has caught me blindsided…and hopeful.

Zanzibaaaaaar!

Star fruitcoral cave boatson the dhowcaptain all smilesopen to the worldopen doors and open mindslazy merchants

5 photos

shy girls

little boys who got it...

Portreitz School for the Handicapped

elephant rump at Tsavo East

me on my perch, lovelaurie

The King of The Jungle

“Lions are more intelligent than some men and more courageous than most. A lion will fight for what he has and for what he needs; he is comtemptous of cowards and wary of this equals. But he is not afraid. You can always trust a lion to be exactly what he is – and never anything else.” B. Markham

Over a cup of tea, they call it Chai.

Today I sit on my perch, on the outside looking in. On this particular day the white light of Mombasa frames the scene. Constant humming of foreign languages broken by tinkling glassware and spoons. Causal mounds of people sitting around, conversing, silence fills the space between the easy flow of travel plans, social plans and whatever plans. I am the soloist, also relaxed, watching, wondering, what fills their day? What brings them here? As I do the African Stare, the African’s are not bashful about looking squarely in the eyes from across the room, my mind softens and I smile at the little curious girl staring at me sipping at her soda while her elders sit back engaged, heads bobbing in agreement. We hold the moment for a few minutes. Black woman come and order Fanta. They wait, patiently for their next meal ticket. Expats smile and jovially join them. When I first found out that in Mombasa there were scores of expats, my mind filled scenes from James Bond movies. Slick hair, causally opened button shirts revealing a tanned toned frame, private jets taking off from the beach and eyes that could leave you hot, speechless and sweating. I envisioned these expats to look like Daniel Craig, Pierce Bronson and the young Sean Connery and of course me, the next Ms. Andress Bond girl…SCRATCH… not so much, these for real expats are weathered hairy beasts! Stagnant and complacent in their current lives and preferring the local flavor, re-living the salad days of their youth.

I notice the differences in the people at cafes here than in Vancouver. In Vancouver people walk through the doors of the trendiest local serving primo coffee like they would walk down a red carpet. Instantly composed, materialistically assured, closing the curtain to any glimmer of internal grace compassion or inspiration. The café at large already diligently self-consumed also intently pretending not notice those walking though the door.

yoga is…

yoga is what yoga does

Teaching yoga, advising the students on thier practice and watching them has allowed me the opportunity to witness a transformation. Students start the yoga with an intention, usually to improve the body, well being and getting back into shape. What they don’t know before they start is how self-reflecting the practice is. Students look at themselves through whatever lens is filtering their mind; self-loathing, self-loving, judging. It could be a mirage of deceptive perceptions of themselves they hide behind to make them feel safe. The ego lives behind this safety. Hatha yoga, any type of yoga in which their movement utilizes a group of asunas; Bikram’s included, is forcing and controlling the mind. Use the body to control the mind. So it is very likely in yoga class you will be looking, feeling, and experiencing a tug of war of the mind ego. The ego mind which refuses to let go of it’s strangle hold of deceptive perceptions which keeps you from experiencing more ______(insert satisfying life goal here)_____. Others easily push beyond their boundaries in a euphoric epiphany that hits them like a tonne of bricks, leaving them reflecting if it was that easy why didn’t I do this before? Working, concentrating and focusing on what the muscles the postures demand eliminates any room for your own ego to exist. It takes all your brain power to “hold it, freeze it, think of it” and that is the beauty of it. There is no space for anything else. Students frequently struggle. They advise teachers of their numerous aliments that they cannot heal, many have been certified by doctors, however I encourage those practioners to make peace with it, do what they can and not make a mountain out of a mole hill. The ego mind loves to make the body weak. Instead of perceiving this illness or injury as a wall, ask what this struggle represents for you in your life, ask if it is serving you as an abundant, healthy individual and move past it to what is just around the corner.

Last week my apartment was broken into. Among the goods stolen were my mac laptop, camera, lens, glasses, electric tooth brush and $700. Asides from the utter annoyance with the absence of these handy devices, in a foreign country, I am in a bit of a funk. This entire month I have been feeling pretty good – by day I avenge ringworm and parasites in village kids, by night I pilot through endless dinner conversations and the landscape of the interweb. I research parasite life cycles and how to disrupt them in their hosts. I post marketing inspirations on pintrest for Macpherson Crate Co. I felt connected but not consumed. I felt that I had struck a balance between constructive technology use and doing volunteer work. Then SLAM! …The universe pulls the table cloth from under my well planned dinner party to see what kind of skills I really posses to deal with it all. I felt sick, I was sad, I suddenly missed my family, I worried for my safety.

The next morning on my run I viewed my computer in my head and all the files I had catalogued over the past five years. Asides from the school notes, pictures and music there really is little on it that is useful to me now… why such the big tears Laurie? Catalogued hidden away I had sequestered my “private notes” file. Old letters to and from “the” ex boyfriend. The one whom when he walked out the door a piece of my heart died. He wasn’t “the” love of my life, he was the one where I carelessly foolishly trusted someone else to determine my happiness. We were young (and dumb) and thought that we loved each other and knew what that meant. The breakup was messy, hence why I loath liars. However, I paid the price with depression taking me to rock bottom. But as Paulo Coelho wrote: “It is said that the darkest hour of the night comes just before the dawn” so came the excavation of my life and my beautiful sunrise continues to grown and blossom everyday since then.  So these letters, this sadness that I feel for my lost laptop, all from the past that for years I have held on to so tightly to my chest is gone, they are no longer a part of me. Poof. Gone.

longing

I asked him why he played songs about unrequited love. He said *What else is there to sing about?