Tag Archives: summer research

Kenyan Healthcare Adventure and 1st Day of Work

June 18, 2018

By Griffin Walsh ’20

A few weeks ago I was bit by a tick in Pennsylvania. After arriving in Kenya, I began to develop a rash on the exact spot where I had been bitten so I began to suspect Lyme disease. We decided I should go visit a doctor to confirm that I did not have the disease, which comes with a whole host of nasty side effects. I think its always essential to sample the local healthcare when travelling abroad. Dr Joireman and I decided to head to Nairobi Hospital to go meet with a doctor. After filling out the required paperwork we waited for about two hours to see a doctor. Finally, we were admitted and spoke to the doctor. Unfortunately, Lyme disease does not exist in East Africa so the doctor had never seen a case regarding the specific disease. He told us he had only read about it in textbooks. The doctor was very knowledgeable and friendly. He prescribed me some medication that worked both as an antibiotic and anti-malarial, which killed two birds with one stone. An interesting aspect about the visit was the doctor used his iphone as an examination light. After he had written the prescription we chatted for about ten minutes about our lives and how he had worked abroad in the United States. He lamented that he enjoyed the United States but the work environment was very sterile and impersonal. He much preferred the familial and personal relationship based system that exists in Kenya. We agreed that it was much better to have those personal connections, even if it meant waiting a bit longer in the waiting room. Another thing that surprised us about the hospital visit was how cheap it was compared to United States standards. The whole experience including prescribed medicine was less than thirty dollars, without insurance. This experience gave us an opportunity to see a part of the healthcare system in Kenya.

The team arrives in Kenya!

Yesterday we had our first day in the office at the National Land Commission. We received a very warm welcome when we arrived from the whole staff and spent some time getting to know our colleagues who we will be working with for the next month. They showed us our office spaces where we would be working. After these introductions we went to the conference room for a press conference. The various employees and commissioners at the National Land Commission introduced themselves to the media and to the people present. There were several reporters and TV cameras present at this meeting. Dr Joireman, Dr Boone, and Professor Browne all spoke about the project. The commissioner then gave a small speech and ceremoniously handed each collaborator on the project a set of the Kenyan constitution and a book on Kenya land policy. After this meeting we went to the Fairview Hotel for lunch and spent some more time getting to know our colleagues. We were also finally able to look at the Kenyan settlement schemes on the hard drive we were given. There are over a thousand files so it will take some time to go through them but we are excited to finally start working on the project using the maps. Our colleagues at the National Land Commission have been very gracious in providing us excellent spaces to work and we feel very welcome in Kenya.


Week 1 of Crash Course: Kenyan Culture

June 7, 2018

By Lauren Scheffey ’20

Today we met Kimberly Wolfe in the Digital Scholarship Lab in the library to learn how to convert physical maps to a digital form. We used the university’s high-tech, super-expensive camera and a program Kimberly called “photoshop on steroids” to take a photo of the map and adjust the focus, exposure, white balance, and alignment. Our end result was a high resolution.jpg nearly identical to the physical map, and ready to be imported to ArcMap and georeferenced. The National Lands Commission has already scanned the maps of the settlements, so we will not be involved in that aspect, rather we will be cataloging, georeferencing, and digitizing the scanned maps. However, seeing how to scan maps and convert them to digital forms helps us understand the process from start to finish, rather than simply the components we will be working on directly.

We been dividing our time between technical, GIS-related prep/training and ensuring we’re prepared with things such as medications, clothing, and TSA-approval, plastic-free travel bags. Yesterday Taylor showed some of the data he has been downloading from OpenStreetMap that will be useful to us when we are digitizing the polygons of the settlements. We created a template map documents including roads, waterways, and counties in Kenya, as well as a 50k and 10k grid. Each settlement map has an index number, which we will use to locate the settlement within our grid system. Once we have the location, we will be able to see the roads/waterways that constitute the settlement’s borders and use the corresponding features of those roads/waterways from the OpenStreetMap data to digitize a polygon of the settlement.

We have also been reading books and articles about Kenyan culture and corporate etiquette and practicing some simple Swahili phrases, such as “habari” meaning “hello,” and “asante” meaning “thank you.” We are trying to read some of the most popular/important books in Kenya culture, and I am currently reading “Wrestling with the Devil,” Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o’s memoir recounting the time he spent imprisoned by the Kenyatta regime. From 1977-1978, Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o was detained in Kamiti Maximum Security Prison, under 24-hour surveillance. It is here in prison, however, that he writes his most famous novel, “Devil on a Cross,” on prison-issued toilet paper.

While it is impossible to learn everything about a culture in just two weeks, it has been fun for us to immerse ourselves in Kenyan history, language, politics, and customs as we try to learn as much as we can in preparation for our trip. We are finishing up our training and some last-minute packing and are excited to be in Nairobi soon and start working at the NLC!