I checked out of the Nyanza Club Hotel just after ten in the morning. Gedion, the driver that had been recommended to me, was ready to drive me up the hill. I was in the city of Kisumu (elevation 1174 m above the sea, or 3852 feet) and headed about 50 kilometers north, or 31 miles. Once again, you have to change American expectations of road distance and travel time. Thirty miles of highway travel in Arizona, for example, means about half hour. Our estimated travel time would be about an hour and a half. Furthermore, the elevation of Kakamega is 1535 m above the sea (5036 feet, almost a mile high) so the uphill sections can be slow due to trucks and old vehicles.
We headed out of Kisumu through the market areas that line the roads and slow traffic. Very quickly we were headed up and dealing with lots of road construction.
A Road Construction Detour as we left Kisumu
More Road Construction on the Way to Kakamega
The Kenyan Government has hired a Chinese company to renovate the road between Kisumu to Kakamega. They seemed to be doing a good job.
This is what the new road looks like.
As we moved along the road opened up. It was very wide, with a good shoulder, but with no center line or shoulder markings. But hey, it was a wide smooth road, so we could go the 80 KPH speed limit (50 MPH).
As we entered Kakamega, this was the scene. Workers were busy cutting down the large, beautiful trees on the left to widen the road. I wanted to get out and stop them, because in my neighborhood in Tucson I have been involved in traffic slowing measures. In a town or a city, you want to constrict traffic with chicanes or visually constrict wide lanes with bushes and trees to slow vehicular traffic. We have done this on 9th Street in Iron Horse Neighborhood. What they will find, I am afraid, is that when they make a freeway through town they will get a freeway through town, leading to increased vehicular speeds. There will most likely be more vehicle crashes and more pedestrian/bicycle injuries and deaths. But I was here to help with optometry not civil engineering.
I met Dr. Emmanuel Okenwa-Vincent, from Nigeria, and Head of Department of Optometry and Vision Science, at a local gas station as we had planned. I was impressed with his big smile and easy going manner as he welcomed me to Kakamega and the University. We loaded my stuff up into his car and continued up the road, less than a mile, to the Masinde Muliro University of Science and Technology. It was a large campus, very green with lots of grass and trees. There was also a lot of empty space to facilitate expansion in coming years. Hundreds of freshmen were seated under canvas tents at the new student orientation.
Our first stop was the housing office. I had been offered a free place to stay at the National Housing complex while we sorted out the paperwork. My room was not ready. There were issues with housekeeping and finding the key. We were to try again a few hours later. The next stop was the Dept of Optometry and Vision Sciences, which consisted of a small reception area where Julia, the administrative assistant, greeted guests, students, and faculty. There was the Department Head’s office where we sat for a few minutes chatting, and there was the lecturer’s office that was a small room filled with four very large desks. These desks were for the part-time Kenyan faculty who had just graduated the previous year. Next to the three rooms, and with a separate entrance was a much larger room for lectures. It had about 30 seats. There was a white board and screen in the front, with a digital projector in the middle of the room.
Dr. Okenwa-Vincent was in charge of running the department, there were administrative chores and many University meetings to attend. He was a very energetic guy, and in fact had orchestrated my faculty position with the help of Kesi Naidoo of the Brien Holden Vision Institute and VOSH International. I met Richard Donkor, OD, from Ghana. He was the other full-time faculty member in the department. Dr. Donkor taught many academic courses and was the main teacher in the clinic. At this point we took a tour of the clinic which was in a separate building just a few minutes away. Entering the building there was a waiting room that might hold 15 or 20 patients, a spectacle room with frame board, but no spectacle frames in the slots. A small room served as Richard’s office and I would share that office too. Down the hall nine fully equipped examination lanes sat with phoropter, projector chart, slit lamp, chair and stand. At least six binocular indirect ophthalmoscopes were available.
The existence of the internet has changed space allocation significantly. I arrived with a modern laptop computer, but the department did not have reliable wifi service. Later in the afternoon Drs. Okenwa-Vincent and Donkor took me to Safaricom where I bought a Huawei Android 4.4 phone and SIM card for 9000 KSh, or $90. I purchased 1000 KSh ($10) of data, for a total of $100. The phone acts as a reliable, fast hotspot so I can have excellent internet access anywhere I have phone service, which is all through Kakamega and the University. I have been using the internet for five days and I still have over 4GB of data left. If you do the math, I would have phone and internet service for somewhere between $30 and $40 a month, which I thought was a pretty good deal. I could set up my office anywhere. I could work at home, in the clinic, or at a local cafe if I preferred. I would be expected to show up for meetings a few times a week that are announced ahead of time by e-mail or text, and to give lectures. As of yet, I had not been assigned to clinic supervision. Of course, being around and accessible to the students and part-time faculty was a priority.
We went to lunch in downtown Kakamega at a restaurant known for excellent food at reasonable prices. I ordered the chicken curry plate with rice and drink was 400 KSh, $4, and it was true. The food was very good. As we left, we got word that I could pick up my keys to the room. The idea was that until my job placement came through I could stay here at no charge. Once we picked up the key, we visited another University office that was responsible for the job offer. I could tell that my presence there was helping things along considerably. Seeing me there was prompting people to move things along, and I know that Dr. Okenwa-Vincent had had some trouble getting the paperwork through. By then I was tired and ready to rest.
Dr. Donkor drove me to my apartment, with all my stuff. As it turns out, we were in the same building and five four-story buildings were in the complex. He lived on the second floor, and I was on the third floor. There was a kitchen, dining room, bathroom, shower and bedroom. It was not a five star hotel, but all was clean and furnished. It would do just fine and I was happy. If I wanted to stay here now that I had the job, they would deduct $150 from my salary for the accommodations. It was a pretty sweet deal. As I was getting ready to go to sleep I got a call from Dr. Okenwa-Vincent on my new phone. The letter had been signed by the Vice-President of the University. I had a job!
Me at my new home at the Department of Optometry and Vision Sciences, Masinde Muliro University of Science and Technology, Kakamega, Kenya.