First Days in Mutomo: Dr. Mary Fleming
Dr. Mary Fleming is a US trained OBGYN who arrived in Mutomo at the end of September 2017. She will be serving at Our Lady of Lourdes Mission Hospital for the next six months. Here she shares her her story of leaving Nairobi and arriving in Mutomo.
We traveled to Mutomo from Nairobi on Monday morning. The first part of the drive out of the city was comparable to any drive out of a major city. A busy four-lane highway crowded with cars and motorbikes.
Green signs hung overhead listing nearby towns or countries, you could continue on to Ethiopia for example. The traffic here is fluid, very few stop signs or traffic lights interrupt the flow. There are intermittent traffic circles and speed bumps that slow the movement down from time to time, but let’s say crossing the street as a pedestrian is an adventure in and of itself.
Outside of the central business district, small vendor stands line the roads. Some vendors stand in the middle of the expressway alongside the speed bumps selling fruit, water and soft drinks to drivers and passengers as they paused for only a few moments.
Soon we exited the expressway for a local highway, much like a state road. We passed through more commercial areas, stopping once at a strip mall to purchase a few supplies before getting into the more rural part of the country. The store contained limited food items and assorted household items like any other variety store. We bought a large bottle of water and a few snacks. As we drove further from Nairobi, the roads became smaller, the shops and businesses fewer. After a little more than 3 hours time, we exited the paved road portion of our journey.
The road alternated from packed sand to red clay and back again. Small towns popped up along the way, often school-aged children walked the sides of the road heading home from school, sometimes their commute can be more than 2 miles each way. It was also common to see goats, cows, donkeys (usually carrying water) passing with their owners. Our expert driver negotiated the road with its dips and turns masterfully while carefully avoiding the non-motorized traffic along the road.
First Impressions of Mutomo
The climate near Mutomo is dry, more like the desert. There has been little rain this year, the few plants are mostly bare and brown. We can see small hills and rock formations in the distance. Beautifully contrasting the mostly monotone background are the women dressed in bright colors. The traditional dress includes wraparound skirts and shirts in various vibrant shades and patterns. The hospital sits right in the town of Mutomo. After passing several local shops and businesses, we enter through the gates of the hospital compound that will be my home for most of the next six months.
The hospital houses many of the staff onsite. The CMMB volunteers typically share a small two- bedroom house immediately adjacent to the hospital. I will share the space with another volunteer when she is here, though she will split her time between Mutomo and Nairobi.
As I mentioned, there has not been much rain in the area this year. The houses are outfitted with catchment systems that collect rainwater and store it large storage tanks. These tanks are mostly dry now. There is ground water, however this water is very salty and cannot be used for drinking. The accommodations are modest but adequate. Today there is no running water in the bathroom or kitchen. But the toilet flushes!
Though I will be able to cook, if I desire, it appears as if most of the staff eats at the locally owned canteen on the compound. Dinner our first night included, stewed beef and fried potatoes with a side of tomato, avocado and red onion salad. Quite tasty. One of the staff members who was helping me get acquainted with the facilities, was astonished when I marveled at the portion sizes. I couldn’t finish the meal. They were kind enough to wrap it up so that I could finish it the following day. That made me feel right at home. I love leftovers!