Getting out of Nairobi proved to be a bit tricky as we tackled a mass of tangled, unpaved highways looking for a hidden "bypass" among all the construction. After a number of stops and multiple discussions in Swahili, Stephen found the road north to Meru and we were on our way!
The landscape along the highway was beautiful and like no place I've ever been. My favorite areas were the steep hill slopes covered in oblong tea bushes interspersed with exotic trees. At the bottom of the hills I could sometimes glimpse a small river and a couple of times, waterfalls spilled out of the hillsides, contrasting perfectly with the orangeish-red soil.
Alexia was shy and quiet at first but quickly warmed up to me and had all sort of things to say. She told me she was going to give me some Swahili lessons and her and Stephen started immediately. One of the first words I learned was mzungu, meaning white and in reference to a white person. Alexia had been stroking my wrists and I hadn't thought much of it until Stephen said, "You know, she has been touching your arms thinking the white pigment will rub off on her". Alexia agreed saying that by the time I left she would be white.
Meru lies right above the equator which we crossed on our way there. Stephen told me the best way to tell which hemisphere you're in is by seeing in which direction the water in a toilet flushes. As we drove on we saw people carrying miraa, or khat, a drug which is grown widely in parts of Meru. It is something I will be investigating as I learn more about malnutrition in the area because it is thought that the shift in focus away from crops for consumption and towards miraa, which is more lucrative, could be a causal factor. I hope that our interviews with the parents of malnourished children in the pediatric ward of Meru District Hospital will shed more light on this topic.
We drove on past an "Obama Shoe Clinic" making me think that maybe I wasn't quite so far away from home... Stephen referred to himself, Alexia, and I as the Three Musketeers and mentioned some upcoming trips we have in store to Nairobi and Mobasa.
Once in Meru we stopped off at the Miriam Kanana Mubichi Foundation's (MKMF) office where I met Dorcas for the first time. I will be spending the majority of my time with her both in the office and during our site visits. This morning she showed me around town and got my internet set up and Monday we will start visiting MKMF's various projects! I can't wait to get started. Dorcas has been extremely helpful and is always checking in to make sure I'm adjusting alright. I think we'll get along really well.
Alexia spent at least an hour last night plaiting my hair, aka twisting it into tiny knots. She told me multiple times she wants to take me to the salon to get my hair braided like hers. Not so sure I can pull that off as well as she can... I went to sleep feeling completely at home and full from a delicious traditional Kenyan meal. Alexia woke me up early this morning saying, "Breakfast is ready, my sister." She's adorable.