Jambo from Kenya! Well, after a long journey, our group is now in Eldoret and beginning to get settled. Every aspect of our trip went smoothly--the bus ride from Indy to downtown Chicago, the subway from downtown to O'hare, the flight from O'hare to Amsterdam, the flight from Amsterdam to Nairobi, the overnight stay in Nairobi, and the final flight from Nairobi to Eldoret the next morning. My friend Ryan and I (who both rode the bus from Indy to Chicago) commented several times that we felt like we were in the movie Planes, Trains, and Automobiles!
We arrived in Eldoret on the morning of July 4th. When we got to the IU house, we were informed that there was going to be a 4th of July celebration amongst the Americans at 3pm. Everyone was preparing a dish to contribute to the festivities. After getting a brief tour of the grounds and being shown to our room, the four of us headed into town to run a few errands and figure out what we could bring to the BBQ. We decided on deviled eggs, which were actually quite a hit! The 4th of July party was a lot of fun and a great opportunity to meet people on our first night here.
As of right now, we are staying at the IU house. I am rooming with Marissa--the other female 4th year student who came in our group. The two males in our group--Ryan and John--are also sharing a room. The boys will probably be moving to the hostel very soon. Marissa and I will move over to the hostel when a room becomes available. That may not be for a few weeks, but we aren't sure. The IU house is very nice. It's actually 5 houses within the same property, which means there are a lot of people coming in and out. One of the houses has a big kitchen with a dining area, which tends to be a big gathering place. Wireless internet is pretty reliable here, and I am able to logon with my laptop at my convenience. Once I move to the hostel, internet will become less reliable, but I will be able to come to the IU house to use the internet here.
This morning, I went to mass in town with two Canadian medical students who are staying at the IU house (only one of which who is catholic). I have not come across too many catholics at the IU house as of yet, but I'm glad that there was at least one to take me to mass on my first Sunday here. I always get mixed emotions when going to mass in foreign countries. It's a very different feeling to be the only 3 "white" people in a church (and I'm not nearly as white as the blond Canadian that was sitting next to me). There was a little girl sitting in front of us who stared at us the entire mass--she was very intrigued. At one point she actually came into our pew and climbed over everyone to get to us. We smiled and waved at her. She was as cute as can be. Mass had a lot of similarities to that in the U.S., but it definitely had its differences. They sing and clap here more than we do back home. All of the song is in Swahili (with bongo drums and everything!), giving the mass a more cultural feel. There are no collection baskets, but rather a wooden box with a money slot on top that sits in the front of the church. Thus, at collection time, everyone stands up and walks single file in organized fashion up to the front to give their donation (much like we do at communion time). Communion, on the other hand, is a free-for-all. It's very similar to my experience in Honduras. Everyone gets up and goes up to the front whenever they want to, rather than going row by row. It was interesting to see how the African culture plays a role in the catholic mass, mainly through their expression of song. However, the most intriguing thing about mass to me was the fact that the bulk of it was exactly the same as home. Here I am, half way around the world, and I could literally speak the Eucharistic prayer along with the priest because it was so familiar to me. There were no language barriers or cultural differences at those parts of the mass. That was a first for me, because ever other country I have visited has been Spanish speaking. It was a very surreal moment and was evidence to me that we all really can be united despite all the differences that exist between us.
Anyway, I'm going to get going. A group of us is about to go for a run. Eldoret has an elevation of about 3000 ft, so we'll see how well it goes! I hope enjoyed their 4th of July! I'm starting at the hospital tomorrow, so I will write again soon to let you know how it is. In the meantime, take care. Much love to everyone from Eldoret. God bless.