Ashley and I have been in Kapsowar, Kenya for a little over a week now. We will be spending about a month here in Kenya. Ashley is working at the local hospital here in Kapsowar as part of her residency training for family practice. There are a lot of interesting things to write about, so I’ll break it down by category. I also plan to add more pictures once we have a better internet connection (we are in rural Kenya – so as you can imagine, the internet is very slow).
Kapsowar is a small village within the Marakwet District of the North Rift Valley Province. It overlooks the Kerio Valley, and is at an altitude of about 7800 feet. The town has a number of small shops and a local market which sells a fairly wide selection of local produce as well as basic cooking ingredients. Most of the population of Kapsowar are the Marakwet, a Kalenjin sub tribe. The total population is 9,000 – 10,000. The people living around Kapsowar are primarily subsistence farmers. Many are poor but may still have basic needs available. Maize is the primary crop and people keep cows and sheep.
Travel En Route to Kapsowar
We flew from DFW to London, then after a 3 hour layover, London to Nairobi via British Airways. Both flights were about 8 hours or so. We arrived in Nairobi around 10:00pm and by the time we picked up our luggage, went through customs and headed to the guest house it was about 12:00am. We had to get up at 4:00am to head to the airport for our short flight from Nairobi to Eldoret.
After arriving in Eldoret, we waited at the airport for our ride. We were greeted by Laura Rhodes (Dr. Bill Rhodes’ wife) along with the driver – Jonathan, who is also a nurse at the hospital and a few others. After running a few errands, we began the 2-3 hour drive back to Kapsowar on bumpy dirt/rock roads.
In Kapsowar and the surrounding areas most homes are built with either sod walls and dome style roofs that are thatched together, or concrete walls and sheet metal roofs. Across the road from the hospital there is a section (station) of housing where many of the doctors, nurses and other hospital workers live (both American and Kenyan). We are staying in a recently remodeled duplex in this section. It has a refrigerator/freezer, microwave, oven, and a great view from the back porch.
The duplex does have electricity – some of the time. It isn’t uncommon for the power to be out 2 or 3 times a week – sometimes for a few hours, sometimes for a few days. When the power goes out, someone will call to let someone know and the response they always get is, “A tree fell” – this has become a running joke around the station. No electricity isn’t really that bad since we have a gas stove, and because of the elevation, no need for air conditioning in Kapsowar. The only downside is after the sun goes down, no light makes you want to go to bed at 7 or 8pm.
The water source in Kapsowar is a river that runs through the valley. During the dry season (~September – March) it is common for your water tank to run out of water, until they can get it filled back up, which can sometimes take a few days. The water isn’t safe for drinking from the tap. We put the water in bottles and leave them out in the sun all day to let the UV rays kill the bacteria. Then after running it through a filter, it is safe to drink.
Kapsowar does have places where you can purchase fresh produce, bread, eggs, milk, flour, cornmeal, rice and meat (lamb). However, most of our food purchases were made in Eldoret at a grocery store – Nakumatt (similar to a small Walmart). This store had pretty much everything we needed/wanted, they even had Betty Crocker brownie mixes. Since, Ashley and I don’t cook everyday back in the states, this was quite a change. There definitely isn’t a Chick-fil-a 5 minutes down the road. But this has been a good test for us… we know we can cook if we have to : ) The first few days we pretty much exclusively had PB&Js and hotdogs, but since then, we’ve ventured out to actually cooking – and it has turned out pretty good considering there is no real way to control the temperature in the oven. We’ve also discovered there is a small shop in Kapsowar where you can purchase bottles of Coke, Fanta or Sprite. For around 500-600 KSH ($6.00) you get 24 bottles.
Phone & Internet
In Eldoret we purchase a local SIM card from Orange for my old iPhone. I had to unlock my phone from the AT&T network before leaving the states. With the SIM installed, I just needed to purchase minutes/data to access the Internet. I also purchased a USB modem stick from Orange to plug into my computer to connect online, but when trying to get it setup I realized it didn’t support the latest version of my computers operating system. But since I had my iPhone, I could use it as a hotspot and connect my computer to the internet that way. The internet is very slow here. Basically it operates at 2g speeds, or the Edge network. For comparison, the speed is the same that was featured in the first iPhone in 2007. But I can’t complain, slow internet is better than no internet. Its also very interesting, it seems like everyone has a cell phone here. It is very cheap (I think a SIM card in Kapsowar is 50-70 KSH (~$0.50 – $0.70).
More to follow…
We have met a lot of really great people here. Everyone is so friendly and welcoming. In another post, we will share more about Ashley’s work in the hospital and my work in the community along with stories and pictures. Thank you everyone for all your support.