Thursday, March 18, 2010


Yes, I am. That's what all the kids on our Pediatrics ward think, too. Hospital rounds are always fascinating and often intense, but today's were more diverse than usual. Dr. Hardison appointed me the official "kuku-catcher."

"Kuku" is the Kiswahili word for "chicken." The two kukus who used to wander through our hospital wards actually took up residence there a few weeks ago and began to roost. Be assured that I like chickens, some of my best friends are chickens, and my clever grandchildren even raise chickens. But not in a hospital. Chickens are not the tidiest of creatures, and they leave... um, you know.

We scouted unsuccessfully for the kukus' owners. We shooed the kukus out the doors, only to find them coming back in the windows. We sent word to the community that we might be a mission hospital, but that we could not provide room & board for their fowl. It was all for naught, however. Last week, Dr. Hardison, concerned about the potential health risks, sent a specimen for culture to our lab. "What is it?" the lab tech asked. "Read the label," the courier responded. "Chicken shit," the neat print said. (Pole sana/so sorry!)

Today was the day set aside for the great kuku caper. It is important to understand that, because chickens are valuable property in a country with very little food, absconding with chickens is something akin to cattle rustling. People go to jail in Kenya for far less, and jail is not a pretty place to be, especially here. As a result, no willing kuku-catchers were to be found on our hospital staff, and I... Well, my job description as a missionary is to "help Dr. Hardison at Maseno Mission Hospital."

So I dutifully found a cardboard carton -- with an unfortunately flimsy top and bottom that I carefully reinforced with used "strapping" (adhesive tape) appropriated from the ward. At the appointed hour, I cornered the kukus, who are particularly fond of the tidbits of food "accidentally" dropped by our Peds patients. And the great chicken chase ensued. The children were intrigued, although I'm sure their mamas were skeptical, to witness a crazy mzungu sneaking up on those (pardon me) poor dumb clucks.

To our mutual amazement, I efficiently scooped up the first hen and deposited her into the waiting box. It was great entertainment and everyone clapped, but my beginners' luck was short-lived. It took 15 minutes, several ruffled (and lost) feathers, some desperate squawking (not mine), and ultimately a hospital blanket to capture the second culprit. Definitely the worse for wear, two iffily-crated chickens and I then carefully made our way to "Bruiser," the Hardison's old Land Rover, in the Maseno Hospital parking lot.

Dr. Hardison drove the finally-subdued creatures three kilometers to the hen house at St. Philip's Theological College ... "A nice Christian environment," he explained. I hope the judge will agree.

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