Sunday, March 9, 2014

Going Home

Bonjour from Charles De Gaulle airport in Paris. I'm headed back to San Francisco after a little more than 9 weeks in Kenya. This was my last of 5 trips to East Africa as part of the MGH collaborative (the first trip to Juba, South Sudan, and the subsequent four trips to the village of Sagam in western Kenya). It's been a nice ride. I've certainly learned a lot, made many good friends, and met my future wife in the process. How could I ask for anything better?

Friday was full of good-byes and well-wishing at Sagam and the nearby city of Kisumu. While Paula was rounding on the patients in the hospital, I had a chance to say good-bye to some of our clinical officers (Stella and the new eye CO, Audi), nurses (Margaret, Samuel, Mercy, and others), accounts team (Mr. Ofula and Eunice), lab personnel (Erick and Mary), pharmacy tech (Edwin), and of course Walter, our chief medical officer. There were lots of hugs and pictures with the canteen staff, that group of great women (Emily, Millicent the younger, Millicent the elder, and Janet) that has brought us great food day in and day out. And of course the hardest good-bye was to Jane and Nelson Rogo. They have been  my extended family out here and take care of us like one of there own.

We wrapped up the day with dinner at the Kisumu "Yacht Club", and I said good-bye to the medical team from Sagam. The next morning, I headed out for possibly my last run on the Kisumu loop that includes the Milimani neighborhood, goes past the Hindu and Hare Krishna temples, returns down the gauntlet that bring
s the cool lake wind at your face, and around the bend of the Impala Park animal sanctuary. Brunch with the Kisumu house crew (Anna, Griffin, Jackie and also Brianna) was at by far my favorite restaurant in Kenya, Gopala's Vegetarian Restaurant, followed by a cup of cafe and a very moist slice of chocolate fudge cake at The Laughing Buddha across the street.

As far as my role in the project goes, the question at the end of the day remains, have I done more good than harm? And my answer is still a slightly shaky, "I hope so". There are those in this line of work (NGO staff, global health volunteers, foreign aid workers and the like) that are 110% convinced that their projects are beneficial. I imagine that they sleep soundly with slight smiles on their faces as they dream of all the happy, well-fed children who's lives they are improving. I'm not in that camp. I know I have gained much from this and other projects. And I know there are some patients that are in a better place because of our presence. I also think that the doctors, nurses, and clinical officers that I've taught and learned along side with are better equipped to deal with a variety of challenges they face in the hospital on a daily basis. I do hope that the overall benefits of our presence in western Kenya (and foreign aid's presence in the developing world, in general) outweigh the harms. I don't know for sure, and I probably never will. But as I spend some time back home, catching up with my family and friends, I will have some time to think about it.

Thanks for reading along. Signing off for a little while.


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