Thursday, October 16, 2008

Mombassa and More

I have traveled many beautiful places in the nine weeks I've been in Africa, but I think this week, I went to the most beautiful of all - Mombassa! Amy (the bridger from Kenya) and I flew in on Monday morning and met Crystle and Dave, our Canadian CRWRC friends, at the hotel. The Nyali Beach Holiday Resort (funny name, huh?) where we stayed was right on the Indian Ocean and beautiful. As soon as we met them, we headed into Mombassa to Fort Jesus which is the big tourist attraction. We hired a guide to show us around the fort who gave us a lot of information and history and was well worth the hire. It was built in the 15th century by the Portuguese and was taken over a few hundred years later by the Arabs. The views from the fort were amazing, and we stopped to take in the view and treated ourselves to a glass of lime juice which the fort is famous for. It was in my top 5 glasses of juice of all time - just sweet enough, so refreshing but not too cold, and served in a clear glass mug. Plus, it was just fun to stand on top of a really old fort in Kenya, drinking real lime juice.

On a more serious note, we learned quite a bit about the fort's history, including how it was used as a holding zone for Africans who had been captured and were being sold into slavery. They would keep them at the fort, load them onto ships to West Africa, and then sell them off from there. We went into a tiny room they would hold them in - it was so dark, no windows, cold and damp and had a horrible smell to it. I had never experienced anything like that before and it was one that I will never forget.

After we left the fort, our guide Mohammed took us through Old Town Mombassa. It reminded me a lot of the Pirates of the Caribbean ride at Disneyland in its architecture. We went to the local market and I bought some spices to bring home with me that look wonderful.
Then we went back to the hotel for a late lunch and our celebration of Canadian Thanksgiving. We went around the table and shared what we were thankful for which was really nice, and something I think should be done more than just on Thanksgiving. I shared I was so thankful that I do not have cancer, and that I am healthy and fully supported by so many friends and loved ones at home in my journey here. Please know how thankful I am for all of you!!!

The next day, we were working all day out in the field. I had the chance to go to the smaller town of Kilifi, about an hour from Mombassa with the HIV/AIDS coordinator, Joyce. We spent a great day meeting with support groups and widow groups, but my favorite part was at the end of the day when we went out with a Home Based Caregiver named Emily. We went to visit her client Joy (both Emily and Joy's names have been changed to protect their identity, but they are fine with me sharing their story and photo) who is HIV positive and is in a public hospital. The hospital was one of the most horrendous places I have ever been - so old and run down, people all over the place waiting to see a doctor, and inside was even worse.
Each room/area had 8 twin beds in it. Bad enough, there was no privacy, but each twin bed was shared by 2-3 people. It was so hot and the smell was overwhelming. The people in Joy's ward were terribly sick - many of them reminded me of my friends at the AIDS hospice and how they looked before they died. I spent maybe just a half and hour with Joy and Emily, hearing about their friendship and the many challenges they face on a day to day basis. It was such an amazing experience, and when I left, it took everything in me to not turn around and go back. Hands down, I have not felt the kind of joy and peace I experienced in that hospital since I have been in Africa.

I flew into Zambia yesterday and am in the CRWRC office in Lusaka today just learning about their programs here and getting to know the staff. The HIV rate is about 16% in Zambia, and in the Copper Belt, where we are going for 4-5 days starting tomorrow, the rate is 20% - 1 in 5! They told me that CRWRC spends about 75% of it's HIV/AIDS resources in Zambia, so I am thinking the next few days will be very informative and powerful as well. I will be traveling with the HIV/AIDS coordinator, another staff from the office here and a partner from within Lusaka. My Zambian experience so far has been great - people here are so friendly and welcoming. I am looking forward to the Copper Belt and about learning more about the environment these miners are forced to work in and how it contributes to the HIV/AIDS pandemic. Hopefully, I'll have a chance to blog about it next Wednesday. For now, thanks for reading!

1 comment:

rubyslipperlady said...

I am really enjoying catching up with everything even though I've heard most of it. strange?

Thanks for blogging.

Hope your getting your email hunger fed!