Mr. Exactly, the Parasite and Beautiful Diary Cows

I’ve had trouble putting something in the blog – not due to a lack of stories, but because there are too many.  I’ve written a few rough drafts only to feel dissatisfied at how they were coming together for one reason or another.

I realized today it was because all these little stories really work together to tell a bigger story, but it’s difficult to tie these things together in order to make someone who has never been to Kenya get a real glimpse of what it is like living here.

Although I have travelled to many places and have met many people – the bigger story of Kenya is that it has the unique ability (in my experience) to make your heart grow in size.

The trouble comes with detailing exactly how it happens.

The people are gracious and generous hosts.  The poverty is motivating and heartbreaking in the same breath.  The scenery is unlike anything I have ever experienced before.  The wildlife is spectacular.  It’s an amazing place, and I’m so happy to have had a wide variety of experiences while I’ve been here.

I’ll never stop smiling to myself when I think of Mr. Exactly.  We were parked by a mechanics shop when I saw an older man with a cane dancing and looking at us.  I started to laugh because he reminded me of Mr. Peanut.  He, of course, saw this as an open invitation to come and chat with us.  As he was walking over, his friends were making fun of him (we found out later it was because they knew he didn’t speak English and would be at a loss once he actually came to talk to us).  “Hello.  How are you?”  I smiled and replied “Fine, thanks.  And you?”  He paused, then smiled broadly and pointed at his cane.  “CANE.”  I smiled politely.  Then he waggled his finger and said “EXACTLY.”  To which I replied with a finger waggling of my own: “EXACTLY.”  As he was walking away proudly, thinking that he showed his friends a thing or two, Shauna leaned over and whispered: “Exactly WHAT?”  Ephraim, our driver thought this was the funniest thing he has ever heard, and now when we see the old man on the roads, we all shout “Mr. EXACTLY” out the window as he smiles, waves his cane, and continues on his way.

I’m thankful to have been invited to some of the schools that are twinned through Farmers Helping Farmers with schools in PEI.  We got to visit two classes of Standard 8 students, and as I spent a few years teaching English in Asia, I was more than happy to pull an English lesson together.  I have never been more impressed as I was upon teaching the students about the anatomy of the cow stomach and having them all succeed in remembering the different names of the stomachs an hour later when we quizzed them.  But the best moment for me came as we waved good-bye and they broke out singing the Canadian national anthem as we were on our way out the door.  They have had Canadian teachers and had learned the anthem a year before.  We turned back to watch them sing, and I’ll never forget their bright shining smiles that met our looks of surprise.

I’ll not quickly forget the quick turn of my stomach as I realized that there was a parasite making one of my toes its personal breeding ground.  Or the number of times I had to ask my friend Shepelo to pause in the process of removing it because I was in danger of vomiting.  Upon realizing what it was – she quickly looked at me and asked: ‘Do you trust me?’  I agreed without hesitation, and that’s when I realized how deep our bond has really become.  She’s been a great friend to us over the past weeks, and I’ll miss her dearly when I’m back in Canada.  I can
only hope one day we will meet again.

I’ll always remember the feeling of the wind through my hair, peeking out the top of the safari van at 6:30 am in the morning, on the chase of wild dogs and cheetahs and all sorts of other adventure.  Not much has ever made me feel so alive and so amazed at how incredible the world we live in is.

And I’m most thankful to have had the opportunity to participate in a research project with an incredible team of people, some great (and some…interesting) farmers, and hundreds of dairy cattle.  I’ve definitely fallen in love with cattle over the course of the trip and am so thankful for the confidence and experience I have gained in dealing with them.  Our lead researchers – Shauna Richards and Shepelo Gertrude have proven dedicated and committed to rising to the many challenges that have faced them, and have demonstrated a true love of both animals and people.

I can’t believe the trip is coming to an end this week.  I’ve been told that home is wherever your heart is.  I’ve found in my experience it’s best to always carry it with you – you’ll end up leaving little bits of it everywhere you go.