Diani Beach

The following day we went to Diani Beach (beautiful beach) and spent two nights at Silts which was a few minutes from the beach.  It was a nice spot on the beach too, people didn’t bother us that much in terms of trying to sell things.  It was so nice to just hang out at the beach, look at the beautiful water, read, nap, and swim.

Our last day at the beach, we went to an all-inclusive resort for Dennis’ early birthday.  I was able to get resident rate for all-inclusive for both of us which was a great rate.  An average hotel room in America would have cost more than the rate I got for a room and all-inclusive passes (drinks and meals) for two people.  We were able to get some pool time before it started getting cloudy and rained a little bit so it was a bit too cool to swim.  We were fine with just napping by the pool, dangling our feet in the pool, and wandering down to the beach (although people there were trying to sell us things to the point where the hotel security started following us around so that the people would back off…lol).   We also played a couple games of ping-pong and had a nice dinner (bunch of different roasted meat).

We headed back to Nairobi after spending the night at the resort.  Dennis and I hung out in Nairobi for a day and half before he had to catch his flight back to the States.

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Mt. Kenya Day #5

We only had to hike for a couple of hours back to the gate (aka the finish line) where we caught a matatu back to town and then got on an express matatu back to Nairobi.

After we got back to Nairobi we went to the shopping center, took a shower, napped, and had a nice dinner at an Indian restaurant.  We also bumped into a few other PCVs (2nd year Math and Science) at the hotel.

We just hung out the next day in Nairobi before getting ready to head to Diani Beach.

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Mt. Kenya Day #4

Day #4 is we attempted to make it all the way to the top of Point Lenana.  We woke up at 2 am and started our hike around 3 am.

It was a bit disorienting to not be able to see anything further than 3-5 feet in front of me especially when hiking up a super steep rocky mountain.  The skies were clear and I felt like I was hiking straight up towards the stars.  I’ve never felt so close to the stars, such an awesome feeling.

We got to see the sun come up over the mountains which was beautiful!

After a while we realized we were the only people on the entire mountain attempting to make it to the summit.  There had also been a snowstorm the night before which meant some of  the cables were buried or had ice on them.  I’m not sure if the cables are used on the original route we were going to take.

We came to one of the most steep part of the trail heading towards the summit and the guide had me sit on a rock on an exposed side of the mountain (brrr) for 20-25 minutes while he and Dennis attempted to get up the steep part about 15 feet away that had some icy spots.  The guide knew there was a risk of us falling off the mountain and he wanted to be able to focus on getting us up one at a time because he wouldn’t be able to grab us both.  Dennis did almost take a fall (too close of a call) and the guide had to grab him under his clothes (if he had grabbed Dennis by his coat then he might have lost his grip or the coat might have ripped).  After a couple of wayyy tooooo close calls we decided the mountain simply did not want anyone on her that day so we hiked back down and around the summit.  I also almost slipped off the side going back down but the guide grabbed me…it wasn’t as a close of a call as Dennis’ experience was!

As we hiked down, I kept slipping in the slushy snow (it was icy at the top and slushy at the bottom).  When we got to a less steep part I finally got tired of falling down so I just slid down on my behind.

We hiked down to another camp for breakfast and then hiked….and hiked….and hiked through water….through mud….up and down valleys…until we finally made it to our camp for the night after hiking for about 14 hours (around 18-20 miles, about 9-10 miles of that was above 14,000 feet).  There was actually a British army unit there doing some training, there is a base near the mountain.

We crashhheeedddddd!  🙂

Even though the mountain basically tried to kick us off and we came close to the summit…I’m not disappointed…it wasn’t for a lack of effort….it was more that we didn’t want to fall to our death after slipping on patches of ice more than a couple of times.  We got a little tiny taste of what serious mountain hikers experience (e.g. those Mt. Everest hikers) and it was a wonderful experience overall! .

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Mt. Kenya Days #2 and 3

We started trekking Mt. Kenya on Day #2.  I was responsible for carrying our box lunch which included chips (fries), sausages, bananas, juice boxes, and boiled eggs.  Our guide took care of our lunch that day by picking up some food from town before we left.  Our cook was responsible for cooking the rest of the meals on the trip.  The meals were HUGE portions (we couldn’t even eat half of the food), filling, and good.

I also got rips/blisters on the back of my heel halfway through the 2nd day.  This is usual for me but I was really hoping it wouldn’t happen on this trip since it gets painful to walk with them (especially up a steep mountain).  By the 4th day I could barely put my shoes on without yelping in pain.  Two of my toenails also managed to turn blue/black by the end of the trip and I lost one toenail as well!

We arrived at our “camp” early on the second day (right before it started to rain) so Dennis and I spent some time playing cards.  It got pretty chilly that night even though we slept in our coats.

On the third day we did a bunch of walking and saw some interesting plants.  There was only one other group (2 women) who slept in the same “camp” as we did the third night (they were trying to hike Mt. Kenya in 3 days and realized they couldn’t do it so they didn’t attempt to make the summit with us the next day).  We went during the “on season” but must have ended up at the very end of the “on season” because it sure seemed like it was the “off season.”

We slept at around 14,000 feet and had a wonderful view of the mountain.  It SNOWED!  I was so excited when it started snowing that I went outside for a few minutes.  I can now say that I’ve seen it snow in Kenya at the equator!

We went to bed early since we had to get up at 2 am the next morning for a lonnggggggggg day of nothing but hiking…..

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Mt. Kenya Day 1

Mt. Kenya is the second highest mountain in Africa and the highest mountain in Kenya at 17,057 feet.  The highest peak is the most difficult peak to hike, only a handful of people attempt it a year since it requires experienced technical climbing skills.  The most common peak to hike is Point Lenana at 16,355 feet which is the one that Dennis and I attempted.

Dennis and I have hiked a couple of 14Kers in the States.  The highest mountain peak in the lower 48 states is Mt. Whitney at 14,505 feet in California so we were pretty stoked about hiking something higher than 14,000 feet!

Hiking a 14Ker can be challenging since they can be very steep with loose rocks and it becomes difficult to breath after around 12,000 feet.  You oftentimes have to start hiking in the wee hours (around 2-3 am) to make sure you’re off the mountain before the usual afternoon lightning/rainstorms.  You also have to take into account that you’re at risk for acute mountain sickness (usually occurs at above 8,000 feet) which can lead to the more serious high altitude pulmonary edema (HAPE) or high altitude cerebal edema (HACE) which can be fatal so they’re not something to be taken lightly.  Dennis and I usually try to adjust to a higher elevation for a couple of days before attempting a 14Ker, we make sure we take it slow, we check in with each other frequently, and we check ourselves/each other for any symptoms.

We hiked from August 21st-25th.  It was pretty cool being on the mountain on my birthday!

We met up with our guide on Day #1 in Nairobi.  It’s common for people to hire a guide, cook, and porters.  I have always been amazed at how porters can carry all of those things up/down a mountain at that altitude.  I felt almost guilty at first because I’m not used to having someone else do that kind of thing for me but I would have never made it past the first day if we didn’t have porters.  It was amazing to see them do what they did.

We originally wanted to hike up the Chogoria route and down the Naro Moru route.  Our guide suggested that we hike up the Naro Moru route and down the Chogoria route, we agreed.  By Day #3 our guide was saying it would be better to take the Sirimon route down instead of Chogoria since it would be a shorter hike down the mountain and he wasn’t sure if we would get a ride back to town after reaching the Chogoria gate since he had heard the roads were impassable due to recent rain and we would have to hike 33 km back to town afterwards….so we agreed…..and we took the Naro Moru route up, Sirimon route down.

We took an express matatu from Nairobi to Naro Moru which was really nice because it was roomy.  Everyone had their own seat on that matatu, it wasn’t your usual “let’s see how many people we can cram into this little vehicle” matatu.

We had some local nyama choma (roasted meat) and mukimo (mashed maize, beans, peas, and potatoes) for lunch.  We dropped our stuff off at the hotel and realized we had a nice view of the mountain once it peeked out from behind the clouds.

Dennis got to experience the fishbowl effect in this town as well as the typical wandering animals.

We walked past some goats and chicken and he mentioned something about them.  I didn’t even notice them at all which I found a bit amusing.  When I first got to Kenya, I couldn’t get over all the goats/cows/chickens that I would walk past and I just had to have pictures of every single one I saw.  It’s my daily life now.

One of the porters then took us for a short easy hike to help us get acclimated to the altitude.  A cow actually came out of no where and followed us for a few minutes.  On the hike back, the porter started jogging and told us to jog along with him.  Apparently he heard some kind of animal and it was large……it worried him.

We got back to town and had a filling dinner.  Our guide (Charlie) took us out for a drink before we headed to the hotel for an early evening.

Dennis gave me the birthday video, gifts, and cards a day early since we would be hiking the mountain the next day.

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Sources used for this post (try to ignore the fact that they’re wiki sources).




KU Skin-Its for CI Processors

I was able to celebrate turning 29 with Dennis (am I really 29?!?! Oy….).  Dennis bought a birthday video with some friends and my parents wishing me a happy birthday.

I LOVE THAT VIDEO!!!  It’s beyond awesome!

A couple of people also sent birthday cards and gifts along with Dennis.  One of the gifts I got was KU Skin-Its for my CI processors.

Term Break-Nairobi National Park

A few weeks ago Dennis came to visit for two weeks.  I hadn’t seen him for 10.5 months which was just too long!  I arrived at the airport a couple of hours early because you just never know with Nairobi traffic and there was no way I was going to miss him coming out of those doors.  I kept hoping the next person to walk out of the doors would be Dennis even though his plane hadn’t even landed!  It was wonderful to finally see his face when he did walk out!

The next day we just hung out and I showed Dennis around Nairobi a bit.

The following day we went to Nairobi National Park which is the only protected area in the world to be so close to a capital city.  You can actually see the Nairobi skyline from the park which is pretty cool.  We went on a two-hour safari which was great.  We saw all different kinds of animals. We even saw a dead zebra and were hoping to see whatever had killed it (we were hoping a lion) but whatever killed it went into hiding for a while so that didn’t work out.

Afterwards we went to the Animal Orphanage where my favorite animal was the Zedonk!

Afterwards, we met up with a few other PCVs who were in Nairobi and had dinner with them.  The next day, we took it really easy and decided to just be lazy since we needed to reserve our energy for our upcoming Mt. Kenya trekking trip!  We just hung out and checked out an Indian restaurant which was delicious.

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Nairobi Cochlear Implant Mapping Appointment

I had a CI appointment scheduled at Kenya’s new CI center that set up last fall. I think the next nearest CI centers are in Greece and South Africa. I started my PC journey thinking I wouldn’t get a chance to visit a CI center for two years since there wasn’t a CI center in Kenya when I first arrived.

I am comfortable with where my left CI is currently at (implanted in 2009) but have had issues with the right CI (implanted in 2011). There are times when the right CI sounds so quiet that I’m not even sure if it’s on.

There wasn’t a sign language interpreter scheduled for the appointment as expected. Peace Corps did suggest at a last minute notice (5 minutes before I was to leave for the appointment) that one of their staff who knows KSL could go with me.

The CI center had said they would just communicate with me through writing. I was not fully comfortable communicating through a staff interpreter who I had never used, who had never heard of CIs, and would have to use KSL (not my first language). I fully appreciated their offer and may take them upon that if I have an appointment for another reason but when presented with two options of communication…

1) KSL
2) Written English

I am going to pick written English over KSL every single time simply because KSL is not my first language. In fact I would pick written English over ASL because ASL is not my first language either (SEE2 is).

The audiologist was nice and was willing to write back and forth with me at first. As the appointment went on the focus shifted from giving me the best MAP to why I didn’t use my speech and her attempting to communicate with me orally and not writing.  She seemed more concerned about my speech than programming my CIs.

The MAP process was…….interesting…… This is a new center, they do not have many patients, and the audiologist wasn’t very experienced.

Basically, the CI MAP process takes quite a bit of time. The audiologist checks each electrode (I have 22) one at a time or in small groups. The audiologist asks you to tell her/him when you first hear the beep (this takes focus because they start at extremely quiet volumes) then they continue to increase the volume until it’s at a comfortable loud level.  This is done for each electrode, one at a time.

Then the audiologist asks you to listen to two different sounds at a time and ask if the volume sounds the same. This is tricky too because you have to focus on the actual volume even though the pitch may be different. This is usually done around 5-10 times with different pitches.

The process is repeated for the second CI. Then sometimes they take additional steps to make sure both CIs are balanced and “working together.”

The audiologist started off with making my whole left CI MAP louder instead of checking the electrodes individually which caused the painful stimulation in my neck that I’ve had issues with. I then told the audiologist to just leave my original program on and that I was more concerned about the right CI than the left CI.

The audiologist then chose 2 or 3 electrodes at TOTAL RANDOM and selected maximum levels at TOTAL RANDOM.

This was just too of an inexperienced process and it all seemed so random without me giving any direct feedback…..I became so nervous with this process that I cut the appointment short and made sure both of the original programs were still on my processors.

I….am concerned about how the mapping process has been done for the other patients at this CI center. The audiologist was friendly and I think she wanted the best for me but just did not know what she was doing at all.