In the post “How Things Work” I detailed two administrative processes I have been completing. One was the work permit application through the Registrar (Admin). I did my part and submitted all that was requested. I was told the Registrar would hand carry the application to Nairobi and submit the application through the Department of Education. This is important because, I have been told, a year or two ago the Kenyan government raised the fees for a work permit from $100 to $2,000. Fortunately, for foreign lecturers working in fields where there is unmet need they would waive the fees, or at least reduce them substantially. I was told they would now accept my official University of California, Berkeley transcripts as evidence of my credentials.
When I asked the Finance Department when I might get paid the administrator reminded me I did not have my work permit. He said, “The Kenyan Immigration people are serious about their jobs. They can be difficult. You don’t want to mess with them.” I nodded my head and left the office. I was starting to think that maybe the University was protecting itself. If I was not paid, then they could say I was not working for them if trouble should arise. I have heard stories about people being incarcerated.
Kesi Naidoo of the Brien Holden Vision Institute told me that he needed a lecturer to give seminars on slit lamp and ophthalmoscopy skills in two or three African countries. He spoke with Dr. Okenwa-Vincent, and they both agreed I would be a good fit for the job. The main issue was that University lectures have started and I would miss three lectures a week for the four weeks I would be gone. I offered to make them up when I returned. In the last days, I have gotten the e-mail addresses of the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th year class representatives and will forward them reading materials, notes, etc to review in pdf or doc format. That won’t take the place of the lectures, but might move them along faster.
The only other issue was getting permission to leave from the Vice Chancellor. I was told that if my Head of Department and the Dean of the College of Public Health, Bioscience, and Technology signed my application, the Vice Chancellor would sign it. It was a rubber stamp, they said.
Unfortunately, that was not the case. The Vice Chancellor put up some resistance my request for leave of absence. I was called into his office, but he was at a meeting. The meetings here normally last at least three hours and there are a lot of them. Some last all day. I asked if I could leave him a note and the administrative assistant said that would be okay. I got out my pen and and asked for some paper. She said that I should complete a typewritten request. I told her that our department did not have a typewriter nor did we have a reliable printer. I reminded her that I was supposed to leave the next day and suggested a neatly handwritten note would be acceptable. Thankfully, she agreed.
I wrote a page and a half, and signed it at the end. I wrote that I am giving lectures, supervising students, and seeing patients. Due to several factors, I did not yet have a work permit yet, and it was technically illegal for me to be working. While unlikely, I could be subject to fines or even imprisonment. By leaving I would be protecting not only myself but the University. While I was gone I would request duplicates of my diplomas, and hopefully the situation would get sorted out in the weeks I was gone. I would return, make up my lectures, and we could put this chapter behind us.
I handed the administrative assistant my hand written note and she attached it to my original paperwork. She then handed the packet back to me. “What should I do with this?” I asked. She said that because of the amended application I needed to get it signed, once again, by the Head of Dept and his boss the Dean. “Oh no,” I said, “They already approved and signed the application for leave. They are in full support of the leave of absence, and besides I will make up the lectures I will miss.” I was on a roll now, but still respectful. “Furthermore,” I said, “You might want to suggest to the Vice Chancellor that he read my note, and then tear it up and put it in the trash. I don’t think anyone, especially the University, wants signed documentation of illegal activity in my file.” I walked away, had lunch, and then gave a lecture from 2 to 4:30 in the afternoon. It was my second lecture to the 2nd year students on Clinical Optometry Procedures.
I have fallen into a morning routine. I sit in the clinic consultation room preparing my lectures. When a patient arrives I do an eye examination, and then go back to preparing lectures. The 3rd and 4th year students have not yet returned from attachment, which is the outside clinic and hospital rotations, so there is no one to teach at the moment.
Most of the patients have been complaining about swollen, red, itchy eyes. I strongly suspect the frequent afternoon rains have promoted mold growth and/or stimulated bushes and trees to bloom in the morning sunshine. I have diagnosed allergic conjunctivitis many, many times in the last week and have recommended topical ophthalmic antihistamine drops.
Today I followed my morning routine but the optometry clinic receptionist, Jennifer, was called into a meeting. Because she was not there, less patients arrived for eye examinations. There has been a steady back log of about ten or twelve patients to be seen, and Jennifer often calls the patients when she knows a daktari will be available. Jennifer returned around two, we chatted, and I left for lunch. I bid her so long for a few weeks, because I decided I was done for the day. I wasn’t supposed to be there anyway, I reasoned. I never did hear back from the Vice Chancellor.
I had lunch at a place in downtown Kakamega called Garden View, which offers a chicken curry plate with rice or ugali for 350 KSh, or $3.50. Ugali is a large mass of white corn meal. It is good, but way too much for me eat so I usually get rice. At Garden View, sometimes the curry tastes like curry and sometimes it is a tomato-based stew with peppers, onion, and garlic. Fortunately, I like both. It depends on the cook and what his or her idea of curry is.
As I was riding my bike back to my place around 3 in the afternoon, I could see the dark clouds rolling in, the wind picking up, and hear thunder. This was a big one brewing. I decided to stop by Golf Hotel bar, an open air but covered bar, to avoid the rain. Fortunately, with my phone acting as a hotspot, I could work almost anywhere. I ordered a Tusker and settled in. While working, I got a message from Kesi on WhatsApp Messenger asking if I could talk. Sure, I responded. A couple minutes later we were talking on Skype.
“There has been a complication,” he said, referring to the upcoming optometry seminar I was supposed to teach in Tanzania. “A few days ago they said it was a go and to make the plans, but today they said it might not work,” he said. He asked if I had made the plane reservations. “Yes,” I said, “Yesterday, I made my plane reservations for Nairobi tomorrow and then to Northern Tanzania near Kilimanjaro Saturday.” “Okay,” he said. I mulled it over for a moment. “Tell you what, Kesi,” I said and I calculated the cost of the trip, “I am going to Tanzania. If they can do the workshop great, we’ll do it and the Institute can reimburse me. If not, I will just make it a vacation. I need to leave Kakamega anyway.” The flights were cheap and and I would stay in an affordable hotel. I had already done the research. “All right,” he said, “I will get back to you tomorrow with more information.” “Thanks, and have a good evening.” I said. “Good evening, Dan,” Kesi said.
So, I am headed to Nairobi tomorrow. I fly to Kilimanjaro Airport Saturday afternoon and have booked a room in Arusha, a mid-sized city in Northern Tanzania. Sunday, I made reservations for an outing at the Tarangire National Park. Monday through Wednesday, I might be teaching optometry slit lamp and ophthalmoscopy skills. If that occurs, it will take a local bus the hour or so over to Moshi, not too far away from the Kilimanjaro Airport. If the seminar falls through I will find a not-too-expensive hotel in Arusha or Moshi and rest for a few days. I can work on my slit lamp and ophthalmoscopy power point presentations because, at one point or another, they will be needed.
I am learning to go with the flow, handle the uncertainty, delays, and changed plans. It seems to happen a lot here. I am definitely not the only one dealing with all this, not by a long shot. The Kenyan people are experts at waiting. They are patient, easy going, and know how to handle adversity. This is just a lesson in doing the same.