More Pictures from Kenya

A few readers have asked me to post some more pictures from our trip to Kenya. I would be more than happy to! Enjoy!

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Med School Update…And a Trip to Kenya!

As I write this, I am sitting on a paving stone step, listening to the wind blow through the slender pointed leaves of majestic eucalyptus trees towering over me, forming a blanket of protection against the omnipresent African sunshine. My family and I are thrilled to be spending the Christmas holidays in my home land…Kenya, where I was born and raised.

It has been 7 years since my husband and I were last back. And this is the kids’ first trip to Africa. They have loved every moment of it, from the perfect weather, to the friendly people, to the delicious food, to getting to meet cousins, aunts and uncles for the very first time. Words cannot express the joy in seeing my own children embrace the culture of the country where I grew up and of which I have so many beautiful childhood memories. It feels like I have come full circle!

During our 2 weeks here, we have been staying at my mum’s house in Nairobi and the kids have already reignited the bond with their Gran who they hadn’t seen since 2014. We have been having a wonderful time and I am not sure the kids will ever want to leave at this rate!

And what about med school? The last block (Neurology) was fantastic. Without a doubt, one of my favourite blocks! The last month of school was quite intense with block and anatomy exams, presentations and standardized clinical exams. It is bittersweet to have come to the end of my “classroom” learning (already!) but also very exciting to be starting TCP (Transition to Clinical Practice) in January. My rotations will be in 3 main blocks:

  1. Family Medicine, Pediatrics, Neurology
  2. Internal Medicine
  3. Surgery, Anesthesia, Radiology, Ophthalmology

TCP will run from January to June and then, after a one month summer break, I will begin my 3rd year clerkship rotations at the end of July.

The next few months will be quite an adjustment for our family due to the long hospital hours. I will have to be strong being away from the kids so much but I know they are in good hands and we will work through this as a family!

In the meantime, we will enjoy our last week of vacation here in warm, sunshiny Nairobi before heading back to snowy Canada in the New Year. Merry Christmas to all my readers and thank you for reading! I hope to continue to hear from you in 2018! Whatever dreams you may have, continue working towards them and never give up! All the best!

Train Rides and Sandy Beaches

There’s something I just love about trains, particularly old trains. As a child, we used to take the train from Nairobi to Mombasa at the coast of Kenya during the school holidays. The trains were old and rickety with small cabins that could fit four people. We would congregate at the train station in the heart of downtown Nairobi in the late evening in anticipation of an all-night journey to the vibrant coast of Kenya, it’s white beaches drenched by the warm waters of the Indian Ocean.

Caleb at the Exporail train museum in Saint Constant, Québec
Our big boy Caleb at the Exporail train museum in Saint Constant, Québec

As we drifted off to sleep lulled by the chaka-chaka sound of the old train, the night was pitch black and the stars crystal clear. The morning greeted us with salty, humid coastal air. We would spend most days swimming or running along the beach, our feet entangled in dark green seaweed. Each night as we slept, I loved the rhythmic sound of the waves approaching and receding from the beach.

As we headed back to Nairobi on our favorite rickety train, we eagerly looked forward to the next year when we would be back to enjoy the lure of the majestic Indian Ocean.

My latest experience of trains was through the eyes of my 4 year old son who spent the afternoon with his daddy, uncle and cousin on a ‘boy’s day out’ at the Exporail train museum located south of Montréal. The museum has plenty of large trains to explore, model train set-ups with the finest level of detail and of course, train rides!

It’s been years since I have been back to the coast of Kenya. I will forever cherish the memories of the old train-rides shuttling back and forth between Nairobi and Mombasa in my homeland Kenya.

Climbing Up A Misty Mountain

When I was growing up in Kenya, I had the opportunity to climb Mount Longonot, a shapely, dormant volcano sitting quietly on the bottom of the breathtaking Rift Valley escarpment. The mountain was not all that difficult to climb and no special equipment was required. It was more like a hike if you compare it to an intimidating mountain like Mount Everest. But what I remember most about it was the mist that swirled around us as the guides stealthily led us up the mountain.

Every so often, we would hear the crack of pebbles rolling down the steeper areas of the mountain which had been eroded over time. It was hard to get our bearings. The guides instructed us to stay close together and if we ever lost sight of the person in front of us due to the mist, we were to speak loudly enough to regain contact with the group and ensure we had not become lost.

After what seemed like an eternity, we finally emerged at the top, the mist evaporating. I will never forget the view of the interior of the volcano. What had seemed to be a very dry, drab mountain from the exterior had a lush, thriving interior filled with trees. It was like a hidden paradise waiting to be discovered by those willing to push through the mist. As I turned around to take in the view surrounding the mountain, it was simply spectacular. The Rift Valley rolled away from us on every side. The ground under our feet flashed in the sparkling sun due to the rich, glassy obsidian rocks scattered all about. As  we rested and ate, I was in no hurry to climb back down the mountain. I simply wanted to take it all in and enjoy the beauty of nature.

Mount Longonot in the Great Rift Valley of Kenya. Image courtesy of kenyahotelsltd.com
Mount Longonot in the Great Rift Valley of Kenya. Image courtesy of kenyahotelsltd.com

Interesting facts about Mount Longonot:

  • Its name is derived from the Maasai word oloonong’ot, meaning “mountains of many spurs” or “steep ridges”.
  • It is thought to have last erupted in the 1860s.
  • The mountain is home to various species of wildlife, notably zebra, giraffe, buffaloes, and hartebeest.

 

See How Much I Love You

When my husband and I got married in 2007, one of the things he pledged to me (aside from a lifetime supply of chocolate) was that he would write me a note every day for the rest of our lives. I was impressed and waited to see if he would pull it off. He was inspired by a book called “Night Light, a devotional for couples” written by Dr. James and Shirley Dobson.

Within the first few pages of this book was a little excerpt describing the love between grandparents. They would play a daily game with each other where they wrote the word “shmily” somewhere around the house for each other to find. It was an expression and reminder of their love for each other.

They dragged “shmily” with their fingers through the sugar and flour containers to await whoever was preparing the next meal. They smeared it in the dew on the windows overlooking the patio…”Shmily” was written in the steam on the bathroom mirror, where it would appear after every hot shower. At one point, my grandmother even unrolled an entire roll of toilet paper to leave “shmily” on the very last sheet” [pg. 16].

My husband has been true to his word and somehow a note (usually a brightly colored post-it) has materialized in some unusual corner of the house. Sometimes it is in a kitchen cupboard where I find it when I’m cooking. Sometimes I find it rolled up in a box of cereal. Sometimes I find it hidden behind the leaves of one of our house plants as I’m watering it. When we travel, the note makes its way into a sock or a hidden pocket in the suitcase. We are certain someone might find one of these notes in a hotel room, left behind by mistake. Hopefully, it will brighten their day. Today, I found my note in my shower cap!

Caleb, our son, is starting to catch on. He proudly presents pink notes he has discovered and says, “Mummy, here’s a note from daddy”.

I sometimes joke that I will enter my husband into the Guinness Book of World Records for the most number of personal notes ever written. Since 2007, when we got married, they now number close to 3000 notes! I have kept them safely in a box in our bedroom hoping that one day the kids will read through them and know that their parents loved each other very much. I love these notes, they brighten up my day, motivate me, make me laugh, and remind me that I am appreciated and loved.

“S-h-m-i-l-y…..See How Much I Love You”

A note of encouragement from my husband
A note of encouragement from my husband
Our wedding day, Sainte-Agathe-des-Monts, Quebec, May 2007.
Our wedding day, Sainte-Agathe-des-Monts, Quebec, May 2007.
Our wedding day, Sainte-Agathe-des-Monts, Quebec, May 2007.
Our wedding day, Sainte-Agathe-des-Monts, Quebec, May 2007.
Our traditional wedding, Nairobi Kenya, May 2007
Our traditional wedding, Nairobi Kenya, May 2007

Little by little…Fills the Pot

There is a Swahili proverb that I learned growing up in Kenya that says “haba na haba hujaza kibaba”. This means “little by little, the pot gets filled”. This vivid image reminds me that in many things we undertake, it takes perseverance and a realization that most things worth having don’t fall into our laps. They require successive stages of effort in order to get to our goal.

My son Caleb, who is almost 4, got me thinking about this concept when we went to the swimming pool this past weekend. He has only been in the pool a few times in his life and during those times, he clung to our necks like a barnacle! So this past Sunday afternoon, we embarked on our new swimming adventure at an outdoor pool not far from our house. I got Caleb excited about how fun it would be to swim and also warned him that he would have to be extra brave since the pool water was likely to be quite cold. I also told him his life jacket was like a super-hero jacket that would help him float.

After a scenic drive through vast farmlands, we arrived at the pool and Caleb walked up to the pool all kitted out in his swimsuit, life jacket and goggles. I knew that plunging him into the cold water at the outset was not likely to be a good idea.  So we started off with him dangling his feet in the pool as other kids splashed around us. “It’s cold, mummy“, Caleb said cautiously. I told him not to worry and that if all he wanted to do that day was dangle his feet in the water, then what was fine. There was no rush.

After some time, I got into the pool and asked if he wanted to join me. He agreed and clung tightly to my neck. I strolled around the pool with the water at my waist and every so often, dipped a little lower in the water. Before long, Caleb started to view it as a game and I could feel the grip of his arms around my neck loosening. I then asked him if I could put him in a horizontal position with my arms under his belly so that he could try kicking his arms and legs to move around. He tried it and although he was unsure at first, he loved it! He then noticed some pool noodles lying at the side of the pool and asked if he could try one. Before long, he had pushed me away and said he wanted to float on his own, his legs and arms kicking excitedly. You can imagine what a proud mama I was at that moment. It had taken baby steps over the course of 1.5 hours to get him to this point but he was already seeming so much more comfortable in the water than when we had first arrived.

Caleb’s swimming experience reminded of two things: one, it takes patience to ‘fill a pot’ slowly rather than engulf it in water but usually the final result is sweeter, more hard-earned, more memorable! And two, our children really depend on us for so much, but there comes a moment when they are ready to do things on their own and even though my son is only just approaching four, I feel that he is becoming so much more independent. It is an interesting phase we are in!

Little by little…fills the pot. I see it in so many facets of my life. I remember when I first started using weights during my exercise a few years ago and I could barely do a tricep curl with 3 pounds. Now I find 10 pounds manageable. It took months of progressively increasing the weight. The expansion of our family didn’t happen overnight. It took months of trying to get pregnant and then a miscarriage before we finally had our first child Caleb and subsequently our second child Naomi. My faith in God is something that has taken many years to grow and bloom. It starts with a small seed of faith that grows into a tree of complete trust and dependence on God. Similarly, it has taken many steps to get to the point where I am finally applying to medical school. But each step brings me closer to my dream and it will mean so much more to me when I get there!

Little by little…fills the pot. Don’t give up on whatever you are working towards or believing for. Some days will be difficult, some days will be easier. But your effort and faith are not in vain. Progress is being made, however slowly it may be.

Caleb with his 'super-hero' goggles, ready for his swimming pool adventure!
Caleb with his ‘super-hero’ goggles, ready for his swimming pool adventure!

A Tribute to My Late Daddy…You Will Never Be Forgotten

Such strong emotions when I think of you daddy. It has been almost 29 years since we lost you but your memory and legacy still live on warmly in our hearts. I was only 5 years old when you were taken away but I still have snapshots of our time together embedded in my memory.

Despite your busy schedule as a surgeon, I remember you coming home from work, me rushing to the front door, you picking me up and twirling me around in your arms with a big smile on your face, presenting me with a big bar of Cadbury’s chocolate. I remember me sitting on your belly like you were a motor-bike, your hands as handle-bars and your nose as the horn, revving up your voice as you pretended to accelerate. I remember us dancing in the living room to music on the record-player back when turn-tables were popular.

I remember you on your knees, leaning over to wash me in the bathtub saying in a gentle voice “close your eyes” so that soap wouldn’t get in my eyes. I remember family trips to the game parks, upcountry and the coast, you stoically breaking up fights between me and my big brothers. I think of you often and I missed you even more the day I walked down the aisle and when the kids were born.

I remember your gentleness, humility and compassion. Mummy, I don’t know how you managed losing your husband at the age of 39 and raising 4 kids but you are my hero and I applaud you for the great sacrifices you made to give us an unforgettable childhood despite the loss of the head of our family. To my amazing big brothers, uncles, cousins, friends and in-laws who have since become father figures to me, your contribution to my life has lessened the blow of such an early loss and has allowed me to appreciate even more the beauty of fatherhood that I see in my loving husband towards our children.

Happy Father’s Day, daddy. We love you, and you will never be forgotten.

My dad and I at our Kitisuru house in Nairobi, Kenya (1981).
My dad and I at our Kitisuru house in Nairobi, Kenya (1981).