- Funny moments/ Firsts since I’ve been here
- I was called “Sir” for the first time in my life a couple weeks ago, and it wasn’t someone trying to be funny; he was actually trying to be respectful. In Mandinka (not sure about all the other languages) there is no differentiation between he, she, and it. Those pronouns are all the same word. For this reason, men get called “her” and women get called “him” on a very frequent basis. I usually hear this mistake several times every day.
- First time being away from home for so long (I passed the previous record a couple months ago)
- First time enjoying peanut butter since I was 5 (I remember the day that I decided I didn’t like it pretty vividly).
- First marriage proposal. Actually, I’ve started to tally all the times that I get a marriage offer and I’m up to 11 so far since I arrived (or family members who say they have a husband for me). No worries though, Mom and Dad, I haven’t accepted any of the offers.
- first time being called “mate” (by one of our Australian team members)
- first time being wished “Cheerio” without trying to be funny
Normal clinic day
Clinic starts with staff prayer at 7:40am in the OR (not used anymore obviously). This means that I get up at about 6:30am to have a little breakfast with my malaria meds and do my devotions before I go to the clinic. Then at 8, the clinic starts. Usually I go with the doctors and nurses on the ward rounds (lasting about 10 to 40 minutes depending on how full the ward is – lately, it has been taking at least a half hour with the rainy season boom in patients). I usually learn a lot about treatment and culture norms. The doctors and nurses have a wealth of knowledge (especially Dr. Jamie – he is a walking encyclopedia!).
After rounds are done, I go to the waiting hall to help the waiting hall nurse get started with the day. We weigh screaming children and adults and take the blood pressures of all the adults. About half of the children under the age of five scream bloody murder when they have to stand on the scale, hang in the hanging scale, and/or be near my strange toubob skin. The ones who have to stand on the scale are the worst though because they will do everything in their power to not stand on the scale: arch their back, move their feet away, or run (if they can escape the grasp of their mother). I think it’s hilarious though because I’m not going to do anything to them. All they have to do is stand on the scale for two seconds and let me look at the reading and then they are done. I don’t even have to give them an injection or even touch them. As a result, I’ve learned the phrase “kana silaa” (don’t be scared), though it doesn’t do much to calm down hysterical children.
At 10 or 10:30, all the staff go for second breakfast break. We get tapalapa with the toppings and coffee or tea, and every once in a while, a bit of good fruit (like the sour sop in the picture). It is a good break from the craziness of the clinic and gives a good opportunity to ask questions or learn more about my team members. After break, I usually go to the pharmacy to break/wrap tablets or do work on the HIV database (see below for a description of how that project is going), or observe the doctors or nurses treating the patients. Regardless of what I do, I always learn a lot. Wrapping tablets is usually the most boring job, but it is really necessary. To wrap the tablets I have to cut up scrap paper (usually from an old book) and fold the paper around the tablets and then label it. As I’m wrapping I always read a little of what is on the pieces of paper and I always wonder if people who ultimately get them actually read the pieces of paper that their tablets are wrapped in. The most recent book I’ve been using is an old history dictionary, and I’ve also used a book on treatment of sexually transmitted diseases. Sometimes I hope they do, because it is good info, but most of the time, I’m not so sure I want them reading it (either because I’m embarrassed of the info or they might take the info out of context).
In the afternoons, I usually do a bit of reading or studying or other small things that need to get done in my room. It is too hot to do anything else, so I try to use that time well. Then around 4 or 5 when it is just starting to get a little less hot, I go out and visit people. I have several compounds that I try to visit at least once or twice a week, and two days a week, I have language study for an hour. I never know what I will do once I’m in a compound though. Sometimes I have just sat and listened to conversations in Mandinka or Balantes and try to pick up a few words or phrases, and sometimes, I end up helping with shelling beans or cooking or keeping children occupied so that their mother can get stuff done. They are always honored to have people come visit though, so this is the most important part of my day or week.
On Mondays, we usually have a meeting with all of the team members in Sibanor and on Thursday we have fellowship time. Fellowship time is a couple hours set aside to pray together as a team or learn about each other’s home cultures. I always enjoy this time to get to know my team members even better.
As most of you know, one of the things I was expected to do while I’m here is to create a database for the HIV care team here in Sibanor. It is mostly to make doing end of the month statistics easier, but initially they were hoping that it would be able to keep patient histories as well. For that reason, when I started my project, it was more than a little daunting. Since then, it has become more defined and a little less ridiculous guidelines. I wasn’t sure what I would have to work with when I got here, so I brought my computer equipped with programs that I thought would be helpful, but it turned out that Dr. Jamie had a much more user-friendly program from the CDC that I could use. As a result, I have been able to get the database up and running. I just have to work out the bugs and make it more streamlined and teach the rest of the staff on the team how to use it.
Flying chickens and more adventures with animals
I didn’t think that I would ever see the day where I saw a chicken flying, but I have witnesses to attest to what we saw. I first noticed something larger than a normal bird in a tree. Then after some rustling, it flew down from the perch it had in the tree. Not only that, I saw another chicken fly UP to the same branch that the other one had been on. Wow! That’s some major evolutionary progress.
Chickens are normally not kept in a pen here. They roam freely around wherever they please. I still have no idea how on earth the people here know which chickens are their own. It’s pretty funny though because these roaming chickens come wandering in the clinic all the time. I’ve had to chase chickens out of the ward and out of the waiting hall (while there were 50 people sitting in it – they have no fear). The funniest chicken is a hen that has a brood of guinea fowl that are “her chicks.” Guinea fowl are funny looking and sounding enough but this little family makes me laugh every time.