Second Week in Sagam, Kenya

It took me about a week to get accustomed to the culture here in Kenya but when I did, it made life much easier. The second week of my stay here started off really well. On Monday, I had the opportunity to meet Deborah Rogo, the daughter of Khama Rogo, who owned the hospital. Deborah is the acting General Manager of Sagam Hospital and was a great source of knowledge in terms of hospital operations. Seeing from her point of view gave me very useful insight of operations from the local context. I then presented my analytical findings and masterplanning to her. She had a few comments on things that I may have misunderstood due to the difference in context but overall she agreed with my analysis. From her feedback, I went back and worked on my traffic flow analysis of the hospital to prepare for my presentation with Khama Rogo.

Deborah Rogo

Deborah Rogo

The next day, Deborah gave me a tour of the entire hospital and the sites for expansion. Sagam Hospital has a lot of plans for expansion including housing for their workers. They have been having a difficulty recruiting new members because of the hospital's remote location. I learned that provincial hospitals need to be built with housing in mind to encourage healthcare workers to work there. Since the housing were still under construction, I got a sneak preview of how they locally construct buildings. For most one story buildings, Kenyans use a combination of mud bricks and concrete to build load bearing walls, which are approximately 200mm in thickness. For every 4 layers of bricks, they use a metal bar or "wall pass" to add strength. The bricks are made by simply digging up their abundant soil, pouring that in a mold, then leaving it to dry in the sun. This makes their wall construction very affordable. After the tour, I got back to work on the designs for the 3rd level and the masterplan for the hospital including its expansion.

I then got a call from Khama who told me to observe some masons working on the flooring for the entrance of the ER to see if I can get inspired by local craftsmanship. They used the thin stone and placed it on top of cement mixed with rough sand. Their methods of making the path were simple and rudimentary but highly effective.

On Wednesday, Khama finally arrived and I was able to meet him for a quick update of what I was doing. I presented my analysis and designs. He agreed with me that the old building has poor access to natural light and air ventilation. After the discussion, he told me that he was going to be in Kenya for 5 straight weeks and that he wants a lot of construction done before he leaves. Apart from the 3rd level, he wants to implement what I had proposed for the OPD in class last semester. What I have noticed so far was that construction only really happens when Khama is present on site. He is very hands on with construction and spends a great deal amount of time to make sure everything is moving.

Khama then shared his plans for the second level of the hospital. He wants to add another level above the old building and asked me that if I was not working on the 3rd level, that I should be "dreaming about the 2nd level". I took that as a call to action that I should design the second level. Currently, the doctors in the hospital did not have their own office space. The expansion of the second level would provide them with just that. Designing the second level also gave me the opportunity to give the first level more access to natural light and improve passive ventilation.

Original Building First Level

Original Building First Level

I felt accomplished that Khama had asked me to help him design the second level and that he trusted me as a designer. It was not part of the initial responsibilities that I was tasked with but am happy to accept more work while I was there. Like I said in my last post, I want to make the most of my trip here. After conversing with Khama, my tasks now included helping implement the 3rd level of the ER, masterplanning the entire hospital, landscaping, redesigning the OPD, and now designing the second level of the old hospital.

Thursday started off really interesting because I volunteered to be a patient for a medical simulation. The MGH fellows hold simulations every Monday and Thursday to better equip the Sagam Hospital healthcare workers. My role for this simulation was a construction worker that had fallen off a ladder and was then unconscious. I was instructed to lay down at the waiting room. I was then transferred to a gurney and brought to the resuscitation room. I cannot recall the last time I was being transferred using a hospital bed. It was quite unnerving. After several physical exams, they then had to put a neck brace. Overall, the fellows and I were impressed with the performance of the doctors and nurses.

After the simulation, Khama called me asking me to meet a man named Werewn who was in charge of construction for the steel roof. I had to then explain to him what was happening for the second level. It was a strange feeling being depended on like that in spite of my recent arrival. On my way back to the house, I bumped into Khama who asked me if I could present all my work to him. I then proceeded to present my traffic flow analysis, masterplan, and landscaping.

Traffic Flow Analysis

Traffic Flow Analysis

Throughout the presentation, it was very exciting seeing his eyes light up and that my work resonated with him. He then went on approving my designs and saying that he will work on it within his 5 week stay to make them a reality. It left me in a state of both giddiness and fear because I am finally getting work out in the real world. I have designed quite a bit of built projects but all of them were personal work for my own business. This was the first time that it was for someone else.

On Friday, Tim Duchenness, my first teammate from RISD finally arrived. After giving Tim the tour of the hospital, we then got working on the 3rd level designs to make it ready for implementation. Now that Tim was present, I was able to spend more time on the other designs that needed doing. As per Khama's instructions, we needed to start construction. So Tim and I met the masons that were going to build the curved walls that's part of our 3rd level designs.

We spent the weekend working at the hospital. For Saturday, we were instructed to foresee the beginning of construction at 7:30 in the morning. When Tim and I arrived on time, we had to wait for a couple of hours until all of the workers had arrived. It turns out that just like the Philippines, Kenya had their own sense of time. When they actually started construction, it felt great because we were finally getting physical work done. We started with clearing the floor debris and then we started constructing the curved walls using brick.

On Sunday, I prepared a construction schedule for us. Another aspect of design that I had to learn on the spot. Thankfully, everyone seemed to be on board with the schedule that I had proposed. Overall, the week was a pretty productive one.

Organizing Your Own Shoot

The best way to build up a portfolio is to set up your own shoots, may it be with a model or yourself. This can get very troublesome and tricky. I went through a lot of problems and complications when planning my own shoot. I wish to share my experiences so that you can avoid the same mistakes I made.

In this segment, I will go through the whole process I usually undergo to prepare for a photo shoot.

Outtake from “Rough Landing”

Outtake from “Rough Landing”

Brainstorm and Take Notes:

For all my shoots, I plan and conceptualize way ahead of time. I write down all my ideas on a moleskin notepad. Practice your mind to think conceptually. I try to base all my ideas from my own experiences to make my own work very personal. After a few sentences of my concept, I add some thumbnails just to help me visualize my compositions and how I want it to look.

Always have a concept in mind before a shoot. Do not just take random photos and add a concept later on. If you are new in photography, you will soon learn that just taking pretty photos will not get you anywhere. You need concepts.

Deciding on a Model:

After finalizing my concept, I choose a model that will suit the role of the character I have envisioned for the shoot. I usually ask friends because they are generally easier to work with. They are also much more comfortable with experimental shoots. Perfect for learning and adding pieces to your portfolio.

You should also be ready with backup models that you can ask at a short notice. But, if all else fails and none of your models show up to your shoot, try shooting some self portraits.

Finding a Location:

I find this one of the most difficult aspects of photography. Finding a location is very troublesome as there are so many restrictions involved. There are many places, especially in the Philippines in where using a DSLR is prohibited. I never understood the logic behind these rules. However, it is still best to check before hand. One tip would be to avoid private areas and stick to public locations.

Then there is also the problem of finding a location that would suit your idea. Again, this is where having friends comes in handy. When you ask around for a specific location within your friends or your parents, you’re bound to find one that can work.

However, The biggest tip I can give you regarding location is to scout your location beforehand.

Prepare your Gear:

The day before the shoot you need to make sure all your equipment is operational. Charge all your batteries. Clean your lenses. If you are using off camera flashes, make sure that they are in working order. If you are using a tripod, make sure that you have the dove plate. Pack all of the equipment you think you will need or might need. The more equipment you have, the more versatile you can be. However, that also means the more things you need to carry around

You are more prone to lose your equipment if you have a lot of bags. So try to fit all your equipment in one or two bags.

Make a Checklist:

Create a checklist of all the equipment that you think you will need. This checklist will come in handy during the day of the shoot to make sure you have everything but also to make sure you don’t forget anything from the shoot.

Think Logistics:

You need to consider transportation for you and your model. Set a meeting place and time (set it earlier than your imagined call time to make sure everyone gets there in time). Make sure that you set the time according to the amount of light you want from the sun (if shooting outdoors).

Bring an extra amount of money just for emergency. It’s not an essential for a photo shoot but it can come in handy.

You also need to figure out if you need help from other people, especially if your camera gear is quite heavy to keep carrying around by yourself.

Outtake from “We Are Masterpieces”

Outtake from “We Are Masterpieces”

Shoots are hard to plan as there are a lot of complications and factors involved in the process. However, planned shoots yield the best results and will make your work stand out.


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