Q&A With The Creans

This week I’ve produced five 2 minute videos answering some questions about life in Africa.

1. Does everyone live in mud huts?

2. Isn’t it always hot there?

3. Everything is cheap there isn’t it?

4. Isn’t it dangerous being there?

5. Are there beggars everywhere?

Hopefully you feel better informed and see that Kenya is just like your place – just a bit different!

boy praying

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Solomon’s Choice

When people think of labels like ‘Third World’ or ‘Developing Country’ there’s this automatic picture we get in our mind of streets lined with beggars.

I can only speak on what I’ve seen here in Kenya – there aren’t that many beggars. Pete tells me that he was shocked when he went to Ethiopia and saw so many people begging on the streets. We see some regulars at their normal spot. A mother with a child, a legless man, an elderly bearded man and a bunch of kids (on the weekend). They’re all situated by shopping malls where traffic slows down or there’s an intersection. During the holidays there’s a whole stack of primary school boys who have a ‘pimp’ telling them how to get more money.

We’ve made it a general rule not to give out money to kids begging on the street. It’s a hard one because you know that these kids are from families that live on $2 a day. They wouldn’t be doing it if they didn’t have to. Most people here will find a way to make money, usually by selling some goods, clothing or services.

The reason we generally don’t give out money is that we don’t want to encourage the practice. There’s a huge assumption that because you’re a foreigner you have lots of money. It’s true, foreigners generally do have more money than a local. However, if you look at whose driving the BMW’s, Mercedes and Prados, many of them are driven by Kenyans.

Last Sunday our stance was challenged. Liz had stayed to hang with her mates at an after church event so Pete and I snuck out to a great Chinese restaurant by our house. The food there is ridiculously cheap and tastes fantastic. Sundays are the only time you can drive around the city and not get stuck in a traffic jam.

This is not the boy I saw begging

This is not the boy I saw begging

As we’re driving into the restaurant I notice a boy aged around 4 dressed in rags and looking like he hadn’t bathed in days. He was by himself which is unusual because they normally work in groups. He wasn’t actively begging, running up to cars and tapping on the window. He was simply standing as close as possible to the road with a vacant look in his eyes.

He was four.

Two hours later we drove out of the restaurant and he was still there, in the same spot.

As we refueled the car I just kept staring at this boy. Here, we had just spent hours eating, having a Coke and planning out the next few months. This boy had no future, he didn’t even have today. I had to make a choice – stick with the plan or give this kid a chance.

As we drove past I told Pete to slow down, wound down the window and handed the boy fifty shillings (around 50 cents). I said to him “Go buy yourself some food”. He probably hadn’t started school so didn’t know what I was saying but I’m sure he got the gist.

The reason I only gave him that amount is that he was by himself and if I gave him more someone would’ve snatched it out of his hand. If I had something like some fruit in the car I would’ve given him that. At least then there would be food in his stomach.

This is why I hate poverty. It makes people do things they normally wouldn’t. It stops them from having a life where they can go to school, find employment and have a future.

All I did was help for one minute. Imagine how many more we can help long term.

Would I do it again? Maybe. I’m not planning on making a habit out it but I am planning on helping a whole bunch more who can help themselves.

Want to help me achieve that?

http://makingadifference.gofundraise.com.au/page/TheGirlsProject

Dentists and Rats

Admittedly, I haven’t been to the dentist for 15 years, but I was surprised to find parts of my left back molar in my hand as I was eating popcorn at the movies. I love their popcorn, it’s caramel coated. I didn’t love feeling a giant gap in my tooth.

The last time I went to the dentist I had 3 wisdom teeth out – no wonder I make the decisions I do! It was one of the most painful experiences in my life.

I’ve never liked going to the dentist. At primary school we used to call it ‘the murder house’. As an adult I figured out that dentists were most likely bullied at school and this was their revenge, and to make lots of money doing it.

I mean, who wants to look inside the mouths of people every day?

I was thinking of a quick fix, even getting it pulled out. Not going to happen to this chick. It was a crown or nothing, and I had a few other holes, another cracked tooth and the final wisdom tooth that had grown sideways which had to come out.

The drill is a horrible but effective tool.

The drill is a horrible but effective tool.

I got depressed. Where was I, a missionary, going to find the $1,000 to get this done, even some of it? We’d just spent $400 on Pete’s broken arm and we’ve got to find a few thousand to get our visas renewed next month. Pete was really good about it, probably the same support I’ve given him over the last 3 years and the numerous hospital visits he’s undertaken.

I hate going to the dentist the same as I do with rats. I hate rats. Snakes, spiders, even getting robbed at gunpoint, fade into comparison to visiting the dentist or having a rat in my house.

Whenever I get unwell I will do ANYTHING not to go to a doctor here. Pete and others assure me there are some good guys, but I don’t want to find out any day soon.

At least the chair was comfy.

At least the chair was comfy.

I’d heard of a dentist about a 5 minute drive from our place, on the 4th floor of the mall. The place is called Skye Dental. The night my tooth broke I went up there but they had closed. I returned the next morning for the verdict.

It was bad.

Just to get a consultation, x-ray and clean it was $120. Dr. Yakub told me that dentists like to do mouths in quadrants, which meant I have to get one filling, a tooth out and a temporary filling in one go. The next visit $284. The last part, for just one tooth – a whooping $710. No one can even see where that money is going!

But what choice do I have?

Today I got the first part done. Pete insisted on walking me all the way there in case I chickened out. What was I going to do, he had the car keys.

I came prepared this time. I had my playlist ready to go, headphones on.

Dr. Yakub promised me that it wouldn’t hurt. Who ever believes a dentist?

I guess dentistry has come a long way in 15 years. I remember the needle being the absolute worse, but it wasn’t. I had 3 injections and only felt one (slightly). This is because he put this numbing dawa (medicine) on the site first. Even when he pulled out the back tooth I felt nothing.

When it came to the broken tooth, he had to get off the old filling first. The drilling sound is still as awful as ever, but I turned up the music loud. What I really struggle with is the gagging reflex. You feel like you’re drowning even though you’re not. Then they put that sucking thing in and it’s a shocker. It was made worse because I’d drank lots of water when exercising that morning and really needed to go to the toilet.

Straight after an hour at the dentists. Pretty bad shot, no makeup, numb face and the dentist looks interesting too!

Straight after an hour at the dentists. Pretty bad shot, no makeup, numb face and the dentist looks interesting too!

The other horrible thing about my visit was the metal ring they put around what’s left of your tooth. It’s not pleasant. He had three goes at building the tooth and the ring kept slipping. So I spent my time not drowning in saliva, trying to ignore the sucking thing and letting go of the pain as the metal ring was shoved up into my gum. The only pleasant thought was ‘at least I’m making him work for his money’.

I’ve given birth twice, climbed the world’s second highest free standing mountain (Kilimanjaro) twice, moved countries twice, been robbed at gunpoint and watched as our oldest daughter has taken on the challenges of being disabled. But for me, going to the dentist and rats top it all off of the things I hate most.

I’m impressed with how professional and compassionate the staff of Skye Dentists are. I had verbal diarrhea because I was not happy with going, but they let me rant on. The equipment is excellent and the after care is good. Dr Yakub explained what he was about to do and never rolled his eyes when I gagged.

I’m still not sure where we will find the money from for the next part as it’s about half of what we get from our supporters each month. But, for the next 2 weeks I will focus on work and see what happens.

Meantime, I’m really enjoying the numbness in my face.

If you would like to help the Creans get insured while they are volunteering in East Africa, feel free to make a safe, online donation HERE.

When You Break A Bone

This last week has been an interesting one in the Crean household. We had visitors staying overnight who we were taking to the airport the next day. That night Pete (who didn’t put down the bathmat) slipped on the floor as he came out of the shower. He made the biggest bang I’ve ever heard in my life.

Then there was silence.

It doesn't look broken but it is.

It doesn’t look broken but it is.

After yelling 3 times Pete finally answered. He knew right then that he had broken his arm/wrist. I wasn’t convinced and mandatorily put on a packet of frozen peas to see if the pain would subside. It didn’t and so off to the hospital we would go.

Two weeks ago our insurance ran out and we didn’t have the funds to renew it. We put out the word to everyone on our social network sites – nothing. We just hoped that nothing would go wrong until we magically found the money.

Part of the waiting room at A&E.

Part of the waiting room at A&E.

Because he’s a man’s man, Pete insisted on driving the 15 minutes (at 11pm) to Nairobi Hospital. I tried to convince Pete to go to a cheaper one but he was insistent on going there. Nairobi Hospital was the place we went to when he broke his leg on Mount Kilimanjaro. They did a great job, but the insurance was paying for it – $12,000.

I was thinking it wouldn’t be busy getting close to midnight. What a fool I was. The place was packed.

Because Pete had been a patient before they had him on record so I was saved from filling in a registration form. First step – pay to see the doctor ($26). Typically you have to pay for every step along the way before it’s done. Naturally, the staff thought that our insurance would pay for it and wanted to dole out anything they wanted. Till they found out it was a cash job.

Waiting for the first cast.

Waiting for the first cast.

Second step is to go to a nurse to have a look at the wound, take your blood pressure, temperature and weight.

Then you wait once again.

Everything was moving slowly and there was the worst movie on TV. Mind you we had the choice of 3 TV’s in the waiting foyer – a Swahili program, an old cartoon or a movie about a prostitute. At midnight, what you want to do is go to sleep.

There were only a few people left and at 12.30am we were called in to see a doctor.

The next day we returned to get a better cast on.

The next day we returned to get a better cast on.

I’m not sure why doctors ask you “So how are you this morning?” when you wouldn’t choose to be there if you didn’t have to. After I had paid another $57 Pete was given a jab in the butt and we were sent off to the X-ray department. I was thinking it was going to be another hour wait.

Actually there was no one there for a few minutes. I reckon half the staff were sleeping at 1am as no one was around. The x-ray didn’t take long and Pete’s arm just above his wrist had a small crack. Thankfully nothing major (says she who has never broken a bone).

Back to the small curtained area to wait for the attending doctor to give us her final word.

A much happier Pete Crean

A much happier Pete Crean

She had a 5 second look at the x-ray and told us they may want to wire it. No way was that going to happen, there was no money for that. We would have to see the orthpeadiac surgeon in the next couple of days but meantime they would put a cast on it.

Another $93 later, it begins. I had to go out of the room because it was too small for 4 people. Meantime I was instructed to go and get his medicine. I was thinking to myself ‘it better not be just Panadol, as I’ve got stacks of it at home.’

At the beginning of our hospital visit I had asked if all the charges could be put once on a card, thus trying to avoid several international transaction fees. Looked like it wasn’t going to happen.

What infuriated me was the last bill I had to pay was only for $23 for the medicine.

It was 2am before we were able to get out of the hospital. Again, his royal highness insisted on driving home. Pete’s one crazy guy.

Overall the hospital visit wasn’t tragic. Nairobi Hospital is one of the best in town, and it’s the closest to us. You don’t have to pay for parking but like other medical places, you have to wait a long time to get seen. I’m glad it wasn’t something life threatening like a heart attack and you’d die while waiting to be seen.

Nairobi Hospital has a lot of high tech medical devices, it’s just whether you can afford to use these. I was surprised how helpful and polite the staff were in the early hours of the morning.

The medication is working, the heavy cast has been replaced by a much better support cast, after spending another $200.

Dr. Atinga repaired Pete's broken leg 4 years ago. Now he's done the arm.

Dr. Atinga repaired Pete’s broken leg 4 years ago. Now he’s done the arm.

All up the slip coming out of the shower cost $400. Insurance for a year is $1,400. Go do the maths.

The next day we returned to visit Dr. John Atinga who put Pete’s leg back together after he broke it on Mount Kilimanjaro. Unlike the doctors the night before he took a quick look at the x-ray, never mentioned surgery and gave us the simple option – a lighter support cast or 3 weeks and then a review. I wish he was on the night before as it would’ve been a much cheaper and simple option in the first place.

Here’s hoping we can get covered soon as Kenya isn’t exactly the safest place to be in (even without slipping). There’s a high terrorist threat at the moment, the roads are crazy and personal security even walking around isn’t good.

Here’s also hoping we don’t visit a hospital for a long time. Meantime, if you feel you could help us be covered by insurance you can donate online HERE.