Tuesday, November 23, 2010

A culture view – clothing and food

I thought I should share some of the observations I have made here in regards to clothing. Tenwek is in rural Kenya and therefore ladies don’t usually wear pants but instead skirts at least past the knee. I had brought some scrubs from home and although the surgeons and OBs wear scrubs most of the other female physicians are in skirts. All the female nurses are in skirts. I have therefore modified my scrubs into skirts and wear that with my lab coat every day.

There is almost an even split at the hospital between male and female nurses and I am impressed by their dress. The male nurses are in dress pants, shirt and I often see a tie always covered up by a lab coat.  The ladies are in blue skirts and white tops, I will often see the nurses put cover ups (think isolation gowns) over the clothes so they stay nice. I saw one of the ICU nurses leaving work the other day in a full out suit, he had changed into it for his 1 mile walk home. With all this clothing how they do not get too warm I do not know.

On Saturday Heather (my roommate) and I were invited to the home of one of the nurses we had a great visit but the thought of clothing came to mind once again in this picture you would think that this little girl likes to play dress up and be a princess like all little girls
My friend and her 2 girls

Heather with one of the girls in front of their home
A further look around the room shows many embroidered wall coverings. People here take a great pride in their appearance and things need to be dressed up. The dress here seen on the little girl would not be uncommon to see on a lady at church on Sunday or while walking to the market. These dresses remind me of bridesmaid's dresses and are quite popular. Sundays I often feel underdressed between the bridesmaid dresses and 80's style women's suits. Today I saw a man in very dressy pinstripe pants. Things are stylish to wear as long as they are neat and properly ironed. One of the missionaries here has said, the gaudier the clothing the better.

As I mentioned above Heather and I were invited to visit one of the ICU nurses at her home. We took a ride in the Matatu there. Originally we were invited to go on a piki piki also called a boda boda, this is a dirt bike that people hire to get around. It is not uncommon to see 3 adults and a child all on the same piki piki, none with helmets. I do not think this is the safest mode of transportation and opted to pay for the matatu instead. Anyway we had a good visit and were also fed lunch which consisted of ugali, a porridge made of corn meal and water, it also had some millet mixed in, the consistency was very strange. We also had some spaghetti noodles and beef stew as well as cooked greens. The latter foods were all ok, I did not care much for the uglali but the Kenyans seem to really like it though. The meal finished with a glass of morsik. I had heard about it and said I would just try a little bit. Morsik is milk left out to sour mixed with some charcoal to prevent bacteria from growing. Heather and I both tried a taste and I think she had the best description – it tastes like vomit.  Maybe that is why they call it morsik – more sick. To each their own.

The ride back to the hospital was a little more interesting. The nurse we were visiting has a very sick family member in the hospital and some of the family wanted to go visit him. We piled 10 adults and 2 kids (no car seats) into a station wagon like car and headed back for the bumpy ride to Tenwek. I don’t think the car had any shock or suspension left, every time we went over a bump (which was quite often) there was a bang. We stopped for gas on the way and put a total of 300 ksh in (that is about $4 CAD) and probably gave us 3-4 liters of gas. This is Kenya. Despite the interesting food and drive it was a very enjoyable visit and it was good to see friends outside of the hospital and to experience a little bit of Kenyan life. I also was able to get a bit of a suntan as we sat outside, we went inside after a bit as it was just too hot outside (sorry just had to rub it in as I hear it is -27C (-17F) at home).


  1. Loved reading your blog and pictures of the children, animals and scenery are great. God bless you and your work - it's wonderful.

  2. I laughed out loud over your "morsik" description. Isn't there a prayer for foreign workers - Lord, I'll swallow; you keep it down? Enjoy your travels.