Monday, September 13, 2021

Balance, Rhythms, and Senior Year

It is hard to believe it's been five months since I last gave any sort of update. Time flies. I was reflecting this past week that a year ago, Labor Day weekend, we flew back to the States for 4 months of debriefing and home assignment. It's been an incredibly tough year-plus, but we are grateful for the love and support shown to us by so many friends and family. I thought it might be good to just update you on how we are doing as a family and what each of us is up to.

Drop-off day for senior year!

Bob and I feel like we have both found balanced schedules and healthy rhythms that work for us in life and work. Surgical training continues to be a major part of our lives. We conducted our interviews for residency in August. We selected 4 individuals who will start the residency program in January. We are incredibly excited for this group of trainees and look forward to sharing more about them in the near future. We have also enjoyed the opportunity to mentor graduates from surgical training at Tenwek. Fridah is a general surgeon at a mission hospital in Nairobi. She was one of the first trainees that Bob and I had the privilege to see through from interviews to graduation! Her husband, Ian, is an orthopedic surgeon working in a difficult area of Nairobi. It is encouraging to see all that they are doing to improve surgical care in Kenya, especially in places that might not typically have such excellent and compassionate care.

Meeting up with Fridah and Ian in Nairobi

Bob continues to be very involved in research and mentorship here at Tenwek. He is working hard to increase the research coming out of Tenwek and sub-Saharan Africa, which is vital for representation of our context in the medical and surgical literature; in other words, it helps the scientific community know what is going on in sub-Saharan Africa. We recently had a manuscript accepted for publication in the preeminent surgical journal, which was a huge accomplishment! While currently in the editing process, it should be published soon. I continue to focus heavily on surgical curriculum development. I had the huge honor of recently being accepted to the American College of Surgeons Academy of Master Surgeon Educators and will be inducted in October. We also both have presentations at the upcoming American College of Surgeons meeting, which though virtual again this year, should be fun.

Madison just started her senior year of school at Rift Valley Academy. After a 7-week break from school, she was ready to go back. She has great friends this year and is really enjoying her classes so far. She is in the midst of completing college applications and essays. Over these past 18 months, she realized how strongly she feels about justice and equity, especially related to the law. She has decided to pursue advocacy work and is applying to schools with that focus in mind. It's amazing to see how this combines so many of her interests (art, writing, reading, learning), gifts (compassion and kindness), and beliefs (human equality and love of others).

Madison's dorm parents were kind enough to take a photo on the first day of school.

As we have realized that this is Madison's last year in Kenya, we have made an effort to visit some places that she enjoys for what will likely be her last opportunity. During this August vacation, we spent several days in the Kenyan rainforest, about 4 hours north of here. It's Madison's (and our) favorite place in Kenya for its serenity and tranquility. It has amazing wildlife, specifically birds. The longer we have been in Kenya, while we appreciate the large game and traditional safari wildlife, we have found that we love seeing birds. Although Kenya's land area is 6% that of the U.S., it has nearly the same number (and a few more) bird species. Because we visited in August, we also got to appreciate the peak of butterfly season in the rainforest, which is amazing!

Hiking together in the rainforest.

One of our favorite butterflies, the Blue Mother-of-Pearl butterfly.

Madison and I looking at and photographing butterflies.

Throughout the upheaval and uncertainty of the past 18 months, we are grateful for God's faithfulness and for the many lessons we have learned. Through struggle and hurt, as we lean on those we serve with here and those of you in the U.S. who love and support us, we have found solidarity and empathy that isn't always apparent when things are easy. We realize the shared struggles and common hardships. We know that these things make us stronger and that we are better able to love others in their hardships by experiencing our own.

Enjoying lunch in Nairobi before heading back to school.

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