Sunday, August 16, 2015

Interview with a Parker Part II: Andrea

What has been your favorite thing about moving to Kenya?

The sense that we had finally made it through all of the preparation and are doing what we know God has called us to do in the place He has called us to be.

Welcome sign for Tenwek 
What is the funniest thing you’ve seen?

Newspaper picture

Pretty amusing is this newspaper picture and caption which really had nothing to do with any article on the page.

What is the coolest thing you have seen?

I think it is the scenery and wildlife we have seen. Going on safari and seeing the vastness of the Mara is humbling. The animals in the wild are beautiful. And traveling over the escarpment of the Rift Valley is breathtaking. Pictures never do justice to the beauty of seeing it all in person.

On Lake Naivasha, a storm in the distance
Giraffes against the skyline

What is your favorite part of living at Tenwek?

I really enjoy working with the residents and my fellow surgeons. There is a very collaborative spirit and taking call is actually fun….most of the time. I also love the weather which is frequently sunny and mild like a warm spring day. I enjoy being able to run in the beautiful setting that the surrounding hills provides.

Two of the residents operating together

The view on my run
What new foods do you eat?

Madison talked about the types of new food we eat, but one thing that is fun about living in Kenya is the freshness of all we eat. The majority of our produce comes from local small farms and we buy directly from the people who grow the food. We even have our own garden in our back yard. There is an avocado tree out front which means we eat a lot of very fresh guacamole. And the fruits we eat are rarely imported.

Butternut squash, scallions, kale and cabbage
Loquat tree outside our house
Do you miss any foods?

I miss grilling out. In the summer, that is something we would do on a fairly regular basis, and I miss the smell and the taste of grilled food.

What do you do during the day?

Most days for me are spent in the hospital, either in the operating room or seeing patients in clinic. The days are busy. We usually start with rounds, which is seeing each of the patients in the hospital in order to assess them and make decisions for care. Then we have a meeting or teaching session. We then start cases in the operating room or go to clinic. We are usually able to make it home for lunch with Madison, which is very different from the states and a wonderful part of our lives here. The afternoon is similar to the morning. If I am not on call, I go home once cases and patient care have finished. If I am on call, sometimes the day doesn’t end until the next morning.

What do you miss most about the United States?

Family, friends and convenience. It is hard to be away from those I love. I miss the ease of conversation that comes with seeing people on a daily basis; I didn’t miss any of the details. Six months is a long time to go without spending time with or hugging those we love. We are so grateful for technology that allows us to email and even Skype sometimes.

Madison on Skype
Convenience is such a part of life in America that it is easily taken for granted. Living in Kenya takes a lot of planning, something that has taken (and is taking) time to adjust to. There’s no fast food or take out beyond Nairobi (4 hours away). While there are small markets with staples easily accessible, there are no grocery stores near. And there is little in the way of prepared foods to grab from a cupboard or freezer for dinner. Sometimes it would be nice to swing through a drive-through.

What do you want people to know about Kenya?

While not a problem specific only to Kenya, there is dire need for surgical care in Kenya as in much of the developing world. A recent Lancet report, summarized in this BBC article (, highlights the vast need. The numbers in Kenya are similar to those in Bangladesh. We are working to train surgeons who will serve the people of Kenya with the love of Jesus.

Residents and consultants at this year's spiritual retreat (Bob and I stayed at Tenwek to take call)

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Interview With a Parker Part I: Madison

It is truly hard to believe we have been here six months. On the one hand, it seems like so long ago that we said our goodbyes and boarded the plane. On the other, it seems like we should have figured out more than we have in six months. Since we came to Tenwek from language school, things have been quite busy, and it is hard to find the time to write. And to be honest, when we do have time, it's hard to know exactly what to write about in a blog. So, at our six-month anniversary here, we thought it might be fun to post a series of interviews, one with each of us, where we answer some questions about our life here at Tenwek. First off, Madison....

Safari sunset - by Madison
What has been your favorite thing about moving to Kenya?

I think my favorite thing about moving to Kenya is being able to connect with the kids and make friends. The kids here (both American and Kenyan) are all really cool.  

What is the coolest thing you have seen?

It was pretty cool when we went on our first safari seeing all the wild animals. My favorites were lions, elephants, and giraffes. I had seen those animals before but it was cool to see them roaming around in the wild.
Lion - by Madison

Elephant - by Madison

Zebra - by Madison

Madison with giraffe
Madison with lions

What is your favorite part of living at Tenwek?

It’s probably the fact that you can just go outside and play. It’s safe and I can just climb a tree whenever I want.
Madison reading in a tree

What new foods do you eat?

We eat a lot of Kenyan food, like ugali (imagine stiff mashed potatoes), sukuma wiki (boiled spinach/kale with tomatoes and onions), and chapatis (like tortillas).
Chapati, cabbage and samosa

Do you miss any foods?

I miss things like burgers and fries, which I don’t get very often.

What do you do during the day?
It is summer vacation for me, so I play outside and with my friends most of the day. Since being here, I have learned to ripstik, which is like skateboarding but with only two wheels. I have also learned to crochet. I do a lot of reading and crafts, as well.

What do you miss most about the United States?

I miss family a lot. I think that is my biggest thing. That and not being stared at everywhere I go.

What do you want people to know about Kenya?

Some people think Kenya is a barren land where people know nothing and have no modern things. While some places are very rural, without running water or electricity, where we are there are certainly cars and phones and internet. Kenya is a mix of the old and the new.