Friday, July 31, 2009


Last weekend, Sue and I went to Kisumu. We got a hotel for 1000 ksh a night, which is about $12. Good luck finding a hotel in the US that cheap and I bet they wouldn't even provide bed nets. Friday we took a boat ride around Lake Victoria which is the largest lake in Africa and the source of the Nile River. We saw the mangroves, fishermen wading around waist deep in the water, and hippopotamuses (or is it hippopotami?). It was pretty cool seeing hippos. There were probably twenty or thirty of them and we got fairly close. After the boat ride we ate dinner, had a few beers, and stayed out past dark. This was the first time I went out after dark since January. Chances are, nothing would happen to me if I stayed out after dark in either Awkunanaw or Malava but the nuns highly discourage it and I figure why tempt fate. So I enjoyed the two block stroll from the restaurant to the hotel on a lit sidewalk. Saturday we met up with Tom and did some shopping. Then Sue and I spent most of the afternoon at the pool. We finished the day with dinner and a movie. It is a sign of how much I miss going to the movie theater that I actually agreed to see the Hannah Montana movie. Sunday morning we left bright and early for the matatu stand and headed back to Malava. All in all it was a very nice vacation.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Working at an orphanage is sort of like being a parent, you love all of your children but there is one that is definitely your favorite. (Parents can deny it all they want but come on, who are they trying to kid?) My favorite is Matthew. He is about a year and a half old and he is the oldest child in the baby wing. Matty is a charmer and everyone loves him. On my second day of work I rocked him to sleep and since then he has been my pal. Matty can be a handful: turn your back on him for two seconds and he will be getting into something he shouldn't, he gets jealous when other children are getting more attention than him, and if he is mad at you he likes to spit. Still he has a smile that never fails to melt my heart.

This week Matthew has been pretty lethargic and when he threw up yesterday morning we knew he was sick. At first the Sisters thought it was malaria but now they suspect it's measles. I thought measles was a thing of the past, like the plague but apparently there has been an outbreak around Kakamega. One of our newborns is spending her second night in the hospital for treatment and now Matty is sick too. Poor babies. Tomorrow we will take Matty to the hospital and all I can do is pray he will be alright.

On a happy note though, Lawrence got adopted today. Richard was adopted last week and a family from Malta is in the process of adopting Monica. Since I began working at the orphanage two children have been adopted but we got five new arrivals. Sometimes it feels like we take one step forward and two steps back when it comes to finding homes for our babies.

Saturday, July 18, 2009


Last weekend I was sick and my time was spent in bed watching dvds. So today I wanted to get out of the house and do something fun. Sue and I finally decided to make a day trip to Kisumu. We had to spend two hours on the matatu but it was nice having a change of scenery. Kisumu is the third largest city in Kenya and it is located on Lake Victoria. There is a lot of things to do in Kisumu but we had to leave by three o'clock if we wanted to get home before dark. So we ate lunch at a Chinese restaurant. I haven't had Chinese food since last December and I was excited when we found this place. Sue got a Thai dish and I got terriyaki beef, which was soo good. After lunch we went shopping at Nakumatt which is like a Kenyan Walmart. Then it was time to go back home. Our little day trip got me looking forward to next weekend when we are going to get a hotel and spend more time in Kisumu.

Thursday, July 16, 2009


I made potato and corn soup for dinner tonight and I thought it was pretty good. My special ingredient: just a dash of worchester sauce.

I have taken to wearing shorts under my skirts. Lucky for me too because today Hilary was sitting in my lap and he peed in his pants and on my skirt. It was a lot easier to wash out my skirt because of my trusty shorts.

It was cold enough for me to see my breath on the way to work. I never thought living on the equator would be this cold but then again it is winter time.

Last week I stopped by the boys' house on my way home. Michael was chasing a chicken around with a spatula. Apparently the chicken just wandered in off the street and made itself at home. It even laid an egg on Michael's bed, which I found hilarious. Michael was less amused but at least he got dinner out of the deal.

I have the worst luck when it comes to picking matatus (public transportation in the form of a 15 passenger van). Today I got on a matatu and had to wait 25 minutes for it to leave when full. The other day I was on my way to work when the driver pulled over in the middle of no where to urinate by the side of the road and then take ten minute smoke break. Last Friday Sue and I had lunch in Kakamega and afterwards I got on a matatu back to Malava, while she went to the store. When I got off at the Malava, lo and behold there was Sue. My matatu was so pokey that she beat me back to town.

It was a stressful day at work today because there was only one other adult besides me in the baby wing today. So it was two against ten. We got two more babies this week, one is two weeks old and the other is roughly six months old. The six month old was abandoned in the forest. In Kenya it is relatively common to leave a baby to die in the bush. I try not to judgemental but I find the practice difficult to accept. Most of the time it is a newborn left in the woods, but in this instance someone took care of this boy for six months and then decided to abandon him in the forest. Not surprisingly, this boy is having a hard time adjusting. He seems to cry constantly and even after I rocked him to sleep he would make those hiccuppy gasps a child gets after serious crying. Poor kid.

Hot showers are awesome. I just took one and I think I used the equivalent of three days worth of water in Nigeria but sometimes you just have to splurge.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Sunday Brunch

Sue, Tom, Michael, and I always have brunch together on Sunday. We take turns cooking and today was my turn. I decided to make pizza (complete with onions, peppers, mushrooms, tomatoes, and real bacon). I made the dough from scratch but I cheated and used a jar of pasta sauce instead of making it myself. The hardest part about making pizza is guessing when its done cooking because the oven doesn't have a temperature gauge. The end result turned out pretty well, although the cheese had an interesting consistency. The company was good and the food wasn't bad so my first Sunday Brunch was a success.

Love from Africa,

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Learning Swahili from Two Year Olds

At the orphanage I am called either mama or dada. I was wondering if the kids were a little confused when it dawned on me that maybe dada means something other than father. And it just so happens that dada means sister is Swahili.

I thought it would be wise to learn a couple key Igbo phrases before I left for Nigeria. However, I got on a plane to Kenya without knowing a single Swahili word. So I feel like I have been playing catchup trying to learn Swahili. The other volunteers taught me a couple phrases and the nuns let me borrow a couple phrase books. But most of my vocabulary comes from the orphans, the two and three year olds who can actually talk. All day long I parrot the things Matty and the other children say. Sometimes I repeat the things Mama Nene (who also works in the baby wing) says to the children. In this manner, slowly but surely I am learning Swahili.

One of the first words I learned was shika. My first day at the orphanage Hilary starts pulling hairs out of my head and handing it to the other children, each time saying shika which means to hold or take. I have learned other words at work like kuja which means come here, lala which means to sleep, hakuna which means there is no more/its all gone, kumatema which means eat, and hapana which means no. Learning another language from two and three year olds is not easy. It is hard enough to understand little kids on a good day when we speak the same language. So I am always thrilled when I tell the kids to come here or go to sleep and they actually listen.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Orphans, Malaria, and the 4th of July

This was my first full week in Malava and it was definitely interesting.

I survived my first week at the orphanage. I now know the morning routine and what to do. I am also getting to know the babies: Andrew is a messy eater, Monika likes to cuddle, and Richard hates taking naps. Still more impressive, I managed to survive the commute to Kakamega. This week I spent about seven hours riding on a matatu (bus) and eight hours walking to and from work. Oh and of course it rained every day on my way home from work.

So things were going really well until Thursday night, when I started experiencing flu like symptoms. On Friday, Sr. Joy and Sue took me to the hospital so I saw the doctor and got started on drugs. Saturday morning, I went back to the lab for the blood test and congratulations it's malaria. I really should have known since this is the fourth time I have had it in six months. Considering one British guy in Kisumu has Swine flu and is now being quarantined with a bunch of other people at their hotel, I got off easy with malaria.

Saturday was the Fourth of July and we celebrated in style at Tom and Michael's place. They had a barbecue complete with hamburgers and hot dogs, cold beer, potato salad, watermelon, french fries, and onion rings. For dessert we enjoyed cookies and ice cream. I wasn't feeling too well but I still had a good time. If only we had fireworks...

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Contact Info

Here is my address and phone number is anyone is interested:

Katie O'Dea
CO: The Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur
PO 323
Malava 50103


According to the other volunteers, the Kenyan postal system works pretty well. A letter should arrive in a week or two and padded envelopes only take a little longer.