Saturday, December 1, 2007


Today was payday. The worst day of the week, and month….well it’s not so so bad but very very hectic. Fatuma, who is the office accountant, had to go to Nairobi this week to have an interview to get her Kenyan passport. Yes, in order to get a passport you have to drag yourself the 14 hour drive to Nairobi. She’s been waiting for over a year and they kept rescheduling her appointment, so after being here for one week, I had to run the finances for the organization for three days while she was away. Her trip to Nairobi coincided with week-end payroll for non-contract staff as well as month-end payroll for contract staff. She had all of the information on her computer and did not get back to the office until Saturday morning.

So, at 7am today Fatuma and I frantically went through attendance for the week for the sprayers to figure out how much money to get out of the bank. We left for Busia (1.5-2 hours away) to go to the bank at 9:00. Thought the bank was open till 12, my stomach dropped to my feet when we arrived at Barclay’s at 11:05 and it was closed…I banged on the door, there were still staff inside, luckily someone gave me the manager’s number and he let me in to cash my check for $3000 to pay everyone. I would have had a revolution on my hands had I not come back with cash to pay the 100 people I had to pay today!!!

So we raced back to the office and got there at 1:30 and of course crowds of people waiting to be paid. I then had to go through the stacks of bills (largest bill is 1000 shillings, about $15) to divide up into small quantities to pay people. All 100 people have to line up and sign their name to receive their pay and I have to make sure everyone gets paid the right amount or there is chaos. By 2:30 we started to pay people (Saturday is supposed to be a half-day of work for us mzungus). I had 10 people in my face all at the same time demanding this, asking that, upset because they thought they’d be paid more…and I hadn’t eaten since a half a cold chapatti at 6:30 in the morning….

Anyways, it was an interesting experience, and I’m learning about budget management which is always a good skill to have (maybe I’ll be able to keep track of what’s in my bank account after this?)

Otherwise, the week was great. The people here are so great, my Kenyan coworkers are so wonderful, it is nonstop teasing, joking and general hilarity. I began community mapping activities on Wednesday. Up till this point we didn’t really have a good idea of how many houses there were in each village. We asked someone in Budalanga village if they could draw a map of the houses in the village, and the next day we went there to begin the mapping and a guy had already drawn a fantastic map of the village, complete with key, compass rose, etc. I hired him on the spot to be a mapper.

While we map we use chalk to draw numbers on each of the houses in the village, which are then drawn and numbered on the map. Then when the sprayers to the village, they survey each house to determine how many people reside there and if there are pregnant women or children under 5 in the household (these are the most vulnerable to dying from malaria), as well as whether or not there is a mosquito net in the house (we will be distributing nets in the next phase of the intervention so need to know who already has them).

Unfortunately the other villages that have been sprayed thus far in the past month have not had good data collection…we have no way of going back and determining which house was which because no mapping was carried out. We will send our mappers back to these villages (we now have a team of 5 + 5 “chalk men”) and resurvey.

I’m expecting some software from Nairobi to be able to map these on the computer. I’m also working on developing good data collection and management methods so that we can carry out statistical analyses on the data we collect. Once I get them mapped we will be able to carry out analyses like comparing the number of nets in various villages, examining the prevalence of malaria in different areas, etc.

I also went to Bungoma, about 2 hours up the road, to meet with the director of a radio station that broadcasts in the local language (Luyha). The IEC team developed a script for an ad explaining IRS and promoting the work of MENTOR. We will record this ad next week for broadcast once a day. Everyone listens to radio here, there is no tv. It is the best way to spread information in the population. We will also have one of our IEC team do a call in show where they will interview her and take live on-air calls about malaria prevention and control. This will also be in Luyha (most people speak kiSwahili here but there are many that only speak Luyha). Then we will have a reporter come out to do a live story from the field during spraying. Hearing about something on the radio legitimizes it for people….if it’s said on radio, it must be true. We have some people refusing to have their houses sprayed because they believe it is some sinister plot to kill Africans, or that it will make them impotent, etc etc. lots of superstition.

Speaking of sinister plots, the election will be happening on Dec. 27. I don’t know a lot about the various players but it is absolutely crazy…there are 120 political parties!! If someone is not elected leader of his or her party, they go out and start a new one!! There was a story in the paper this week about the MP for this area being caught with a cache of weapons in his (government-issued) car. Politics here is serious business…and can be dangerous. I’m planning to lie very low over the holidays and stay out of Nairobi.

Went into the field again on Thursday with the IEC team. They put on an absolutely hilarious drama…not that I could understand a word they say but it was still hilarious. We go into these villages and they bring out chairs for us to sit on and all gather round to listen to the presentation. After explaining about MENTOR and what we are doing the IEC team does a drama to teach the people about spraying and malaria. They are all just fantastic actors and the audience goes crazy. Fanette insisted that all of the IRS supervisors come with us for one day each to see what the IEC team does, and she made all 4 guys play pregnant women in the dramas. It was gut-busting hilarious, they were absolutely brilliant. After the drama and presentation the people always insist that the mzungus are introduced and say a few words. They get such a kick out of mzungus coming to their village. We are always so welcomed.

Our little visitor visited me last night. I woke up to “scratch scritch scratch” and I thought it was the night watchman moving around on the veranda outside my room. It kept going and I thought ok, it’s an animal of some sort outside. Then I realized it was IN MY ROOM!!! There are a couple of boxes under the spare bed in my room and I moved them and out zipped a big rat up the wall and under the curtains on the door. I very carefully moved them expecting to have it jump out again but found one of the windowpanes in the door broken, so this is where it has been coming and going from. So I’ll put some paper over it until I can get it fixed.

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