Archive for » January, 2011 «

random topics and pics to enjoy!

After I wrote this update, I realized that there aren’t really any pictures that I have to go along with these topics, so you get some of the random pictures of life here that I haven’t gotten to post yet.

bantaba (meeting place) in front of the clinic

pounding groundnuts

eating around the bowl - yummy benichin

me being artsy on the road outside of Sibanor

sometimes Gambia looks like SD

SP is my cuddle-bug

American night!

Every week, we have a designated day to pray or hang out as a team.  In the last year, my team has been taking one of our fellowship nights to learn about other team members’ cultures.  Since I’ve been here, I’ve heard about German, Swiss, Dutch, and Brazilian cultures.  It is super fun to see how each group perceives his/her own culture.  Everyone seems to light up when they are talking about their home.

Last week, was my turn to lead the culture night.  I had to come up with food to prepare and what to share.  Since America is pretty huge and diverse, I chose to focus closer to home and the places I like to go.  I prepared a bunch of different pizzas for the food:  buffalo chicken, BBQ, Hawaiian, cheeseburger, and cheese (for the picky eaters), and served it with Coke and M&Ms.  Although pizza isn’t considered to originate in America, I personally think that we perfected the technique and so they got to try very Americanized flavors.  Everyone liked it and several asked for the recipes for some of the pizzas.

For my presentation, I had my team start by saying what they think of when they think of the States (foods, people, general impressions).  Then I showed them pictures of my family and my home (house, city, state) and the places and activities I like.  I received my Christmas package from my family a couple weeks ago with this year’s marching band show.  Since this was a HUGE part of my high school experience (and so many people have a very dull version as their mental picture), I showed them the video.  They were blown away.  I got goosebumps (way to go band – even from a video – that is pretty impressive).  Then showed them pictures of my alma mater (they had to ask what an alma mater was…) and the med school I’ll be going to next year.

At the very end, I had them play a game called Four on a Couch (some of you may be familiar with it – if not, ask me when I get home b/c it is kinda hard to explain).  That turned out to be an even bigger hit than the food and the marching band show.  Everyone got really into it.  We played long hair against short hair (my mentor has short hair so she joined the boys to make even teams), and long hair won both times (I will admit that it was a pretty close game though).

Dressing Wounds

As a general helper, I get recruited to do all sorts of odd jobs on top of my normal responsibilities.  One of the things I’ve also had the opportunity to learn is how to dress wounds.  It’s not very hard, but it was a little overwhelming to start.  I had observed a couple times before, but never had to do it myself ever.  The nurses definitely threw me right in and made me learn.  It was awesome.  It was just like the saying “see one, do one, teach one” (the motto for overseas surgery), but on a much less scary level.  Here there are basically three kinds of dressings:  sugar, iodine, and an ointment for really badly infected wounds.  For wounds that are not infected, we use a sugar dressing (to give the tissues energy to heal , and for wounds that are, we use an iodine dressing (to kill any bacteria that would be hiding there so that the wound can heal more effectively).

The first day I did dressings, we also had patients who were involved in a road accident.  It was a very minor road accident: no stitches or major treatments were needed, just some scrapes and bruises, but it made the day a little more exciting.

This last weekend, I also was called on to do some dressings.  I was a little unprepared for my first patient though.  She was an under 5 girl who had fallen in the fire and had major 3rd degree burns to her thighs (~5-6% of her body surface) with blistering.  They had been dressed previously, but even the process of removing the previous dressings was excruciating for her.  I hate being the bad guy.  It was bad enough that I was pretty sure it was beyond my capabilities, so I asked the doctor on duty if there was more pain relief we could give her or anything.  He definitely agreed and took her to the doctor’s room to put her under ketamine anesthetic and removed some of the blistering and admitted her until she could walk again.  He didn’t end up dressing the burns, but just put an antiseptic on the burns so that they could air out and heal faster.  It was really cool to watch her change from a girl screaming in pain to one that would give me high fives the day she was discharged (<5 days).

This weekend, please be in prayer as I try to figure out some details so that I can wrap up my job of making the HIV care database.  The first format that I made it in was incredibly frustrating and limiting, but changing it is also a big hassle.  Computers are frustrating.  I can now empathize with my dad when he comes home from working with computers all day.

Countdown:  less than 40 days until I fly.

The big move

I want to apologize for not updating for so long.  I’m doing very well and so it is not on account of anything happening to me.  The first weekend I should have put up an update, I had no excuse other than I was having too much fun going to the beach and hanging out with Margit and Lisa.  :D  Then the weekend of New Years, I didn’t have internet access because we went camping again (see the other post).  Then I would have had it posted on Wednesday or Thursday but the internet didn’t cooperate.  So here, finally, is a couple updates.  This one is more a bunch of small, random topics and the other is about the holidays.  Don’t feel like you have to read it all, but for those who were dying to hear from me, hopefully this gives you your Emily fix.  :P

The Big Move:

As you may have noticed in previous posts, I was meant to move to a compound last month.  This ended up not working out.  I am bummed out, but I am glad now that I am still in Blue House.  Despite not moving outside of the clinic compound, I have moved… to a different room in Blue House.  We just had a new girl move into Blue House who is a doctor (Rachel).  The room that I was in is a more convenient room for doctors to be in so that it is easier for the watchman to come wake her up if she is on call.  So here are the before and after pictures of where I call “home.”

before - bed to the left

before - desk

new room. desk on my right

“Bambu”:  No doubt, when you think of Africa you have some picture of a woman carrying water on her head with a baby strapped to her back.  At least here, that is no exaggeration.  Women carry tons of items on their heads.  I’m impressed over and over at their strength in their necks to be able to do such a thing.  That is one thing that I haven’t really tried and don’t really plan to because I it isn’t necessary and looks too uncomfortable to me.

Here, when a woman has a baby strapped to her back, it is called bambu-ing.  It is rare that I ever see a baby not on its mother’s or grandmother’s or older sister’s back.  They can cook, farm, and do about anything with a baby strapped on.  From very young the girls are taught how to do it with younger siblings even if the baby is half their size.  I always thought it looked like a comfortable way to carry a baby, so I got to try it out a few weeks ago.  I was at a wedding and was holding a baby for her mom for a while and my arms were getting tired, so I stuck her on my back.  It really was comfortable for me, and she even fell asleep.  I carried her for almost 2 hours and didn’t really get tired.  I only had to stop because she got hungry and I couldn’t help her solve that problem.  :P  I will definitely use this when I get home.  It really is easy and comfortable.

Thinking about home:

For those of you who weren’t counting down yet, I am getting close to being done with my time here.  As of now, I have 4 weeks of working left.  I still have to work on handing over my responsibilities and soaking up all the tropical medicine tidbits I can while I’m here.  Then we have a week of meetings and fellowship with the team to work out visions and goals for the year.  Following that I am taking two weeks of holidays to visit people and say my goodbyes and prepare for going home.  Then I will fly at the end of my holidays.  I will then go back to the US headquarters to have a debrief time for 5 days.  Following that, I will fly home.  So, if you’d like, you may start your countdown.  8 weeks and counting…

Clinic needs:

In the time I’ve been here, I’ve become aware of the enormous challenges of living and running a medical clinic overseas.  There are staffing issues as well as supplies issues to deal with.  We are all praying for these needs to be met, so on behalf of my team, I am asking you all to pray as well.

Since it is dry season, our staffing is not so desperate, but rainy season is coming, which means more infections and a busier clinic.  Between now and then we are also looking at losing up to 4 staff members and only gaining 1 in replacement, and the staffing is already difficult with the current people.  Recruiting from other institutions is impossible because we cannot offer better salaries then them.  In the past, we have held nursing training on our compound, but at the moment, we have no nurse tutor and none in the foreseeable future.  So if you can pray for this need to be met, that would be awesome.

One of our other big needs is for a new ambulance.  Our current one is quite old and not so reliable anymore, and we have to use it frequently to transfer patients to larger hospitals for any surgery or complicated treatment.  It is also used to transport staff to and from treks to smaller villages to provide care to people who cannot get to our clinic.  We have an estimate for a new ambulance which would be approximately €39000.  We already have raised €25000, so there is still €14000 needed.  This translates to about $18500.

Christmas in the Tropics

I love dry season.  I didn’t think I would.  During rainy season, I was always so thankful for the rain because it cooled everything off, but now the humidity isn’t around so the heat is more bearable.  At night it even gets a little chilly.  I usually have to crawl under at least a sheet if not my quilt (thank you Portal!).  I’m sure you all feel sorry for me that I have to deal with this weather shift.  :P

During the day, I am also not burdened to watch the sky all the time.  I don’t have to worry about going out and getting stuck in a downpour anymore.  But I do have to think about trying to stay out of the sun in midday because it gets quite hot if you are not in the shade.  I am getting a nice tan though.  I will really stand out among all the pale South Dakotans when I come home.

During rainy season, everything was green.  There were almost forests of grass everywhere.  As the sun dries everything  out, the grass turns a golden color and gradually withers and is scorched by the sun.  Also the dust starts to cover everything.  It is a dull red color, and as it settles on the trees, it almost looks like Christmas… red and green with gold surrounding.  Very beautiful.

Now, almost all the crops have been harvested.  There is still some cous left and some rice I think, but the groundnuts and corn are all finished.  We have been eating plenty of watermelon and bananas lately too.  The harvest was good this year.

The one unpleasant thing about dry season is the dust.  Although it is pretty on the trees, whenever a car drives by the clinic, a cloud of dust follows making it almost impossible keep anything clean.  We have to be very careful with computers so that the dust doesn’t damage the hardware.  We also breathe in a lot of dust as well.  Usually a couple times during the day I have to blow my nose to clean the dust out of my sinuses.  It’s pretty gross.

Other than the dust on the leaves, it didn’t look or feel like Christmas at all to me.  I’m used to having a white Christmas and it was very strange to have a hot one.  Even though it was very different, it was really good.

A couple weeks before the holiday, we had our staff Christmas party and we came up with the theme of snow with the reference text being John 20:29 since relatively no one here has ever seen snow.  The decorations were snow and the cards for the staff had snowflakes on them.  Since I was in charge of the cards and the decorations, I made a LOT of snowflakes.  I had help with them, but I was so sick of them by the end.  After the party, we hung the snowflake decorations up around the clinic and ward.  They really turned out nice, but I’m glad they are done.

Margit with our SNOW

The day of the party, we also showed Narnia 1 for the staff in the evening.  It really went well and it was really interesting to watch it with the people here because they really get into the movie.  They especially like battle scenes – they really cheered for Aslan, and didn’t laugh at the same jokes that we did.

Then on Christmas, we had a big service at the church.  There were tons of decorations up and everyone was dressed up very nicely.

all fancied up

We got started a little late and then we sang for 45min- 1 hr.  Then each conceivable group there got up to sing a song.  It was a lot of fun.  There was plenty of dancing too.  Finally Dr. Jamie preached.  Awesome experience – one to remember forever.  But the service was 3 1/2 hours long.  That is record breaking for me – though I’m sure many of you all can top that ;).  After the service we all moved to Jamie and Debbie’s compound for lunch.  The ladies had all worked very hard to cook it.  They started the previous evening at about 6 to cook.  A bunch of us had come for 3 hours and chopped carrots and green beans and potatoes and onions and garlic.  The onions were a pretty miserable job – for about 30 minutes, we were crying.  Anyways, the meal ended up being really good.  It is called chicken yassa (one of my favorites) and it was served with noodles rather than rice.  Delicious.  Afterwards, some of the youth people went to the preschool to play soccer with a group that was visiting us.  Since it was only the guys playing, we girls sat and chatted and watched.  When it got dark they started a campfire and played some games and shared testimonies  under the stars.

The following day was Sunday, so we went to church.  After the long service the day before, I was less excited for another service, but it was good.  When I got home, I gathered together the Christmas gifts that I had to give out and went around to give them out.  That was fun.  Then in the afternoon, we had a smaller Christmas party planned for just the single people with our station leaders and their baby daughters.  We started with coffee and nice Swiss Christmas cookies (all homemade).   So yummy.  Then we played a game of Rage.  For those of you who play Up and Down the River, it is similar to that but with extra cards that make it a lot more interesting (thus the name is Rage).  I was winning for a while in the middle, but ended up in 3rd place in the end.  We are all competitive so it was a ton of fun.

playing cards - lisa, simeon, david, james and margit

After that, we made dinner – meat pastries with salads with ice cream for dessert.  Over dessert, we asked our station leaders some deep questions and got to hear their story of how they got to be where they are now – the short version, but I am so glad I had the opportunity to hear it.  I’ve really enjoyed hearing my team member’s stories in bits and pieces.  I am privileged to work with such amazing people.

on the beach

lisa, margit, me :)

counting down with our sparkling grape juice!

For New Years, a bunch of us went camping at the beach – the same one as we went before.  This time, we mostly hung out on the beach, had some cool conversations, and played in the waves the majority of the time.  The waves were amazing.  They looked pretty intimidating but we had fun playing in them.  A couple people got scraped up a little by the waves, but otherwise it was all good.  At midnight, we had a countdown and then we had some non-alcoholic champagne, lit off some fireworks, and then some of the more adventurous members of our group went for a New Years swim.  So much fun.