Mali adventures “she will eat anything!”

The water tower in Famorila and a boy fills up the water jugs for his family.


Hi all!  Sorry for the delay in posting –   Hopeful that all of you who would have been following my blog got my email updates passed on to you.  If not, no worries, I’ll be including basically everything within my blog.

Where I was and what I did:

When I arrived, I flew into Bamako, and then drove east to where Brett and Sheri MacLean live.  Brett is a pediatrician and Sheri is a family practice nurse practitioner.  I enjoyed hearing their stories and picking their brains on how to live and practice medicine in Mali, as well as how they got to Mali and what they have experienced of the culture.  Had the opportunity to go rock climbing on their house!

MacLeans start their kids climbing young!

The next day, Sheri took me to the hospital in Koutiala 2 hours to the south where there is a women and children’s hospital.  That was a really great experience because if/when I came back, it would likely be there that I would be working to teach Malians how to do what I do in Obstetrics and Gynecology.  They have at least 11 labor beds (2 private), and  have 3 operating rooms, and a very large post-partum unit.  I was very impressed with the whole place.

The next day, we packed up and they brought me to Adamabougou, my main site for my time there (on the map below it is in the bottom right corner).  This was over 2 hours drive to the south and east, only half an hour of this was on paved roads, and the rest was on the “red road”.





The "red road"
The “red road”

In Adamabougou, my main jobs were to assist with prenatal visits, participate in any deliveries that happened (only 1 that I was able to attend, but did not deliver), teach them how to use the Doppler and otoscope (for looking in ears).  We also put together an incubator for the premature and jaundiced babies (the lights for jaundice are not pictured here).

Using the video otoscope to teach the workers how to use the them
Teaching a maternity nurse how to use a Doppler


The first baby to get to use the incubator in Adamabougou!
The first baby to get to use the incubator in Adamabougou!

I spent a week in Adamabougou doing all those things.  After that, I went to 5 other centers: Tatrima on Wednesday, slept in Famorila (in the center of the map) Koro on Thursday, stayed at the Famorila center on Friday, to Kallan on Saturday, church in Famorila on Sunday, and Tiecorobougou on Monday.  In each place I taught them how to use the Dopplers and made incubators with them.  Every day I travelled to a different place, so it was kinda fun to meet lots of different people and see all the centers.

Similarities and differences:

This experience in Mali was similar in some ways and also very different in what I learned and what I noticed from when I was in Gambia.  Probably no one will notice differences in any pictures but me though. It is hotter (because we are landlocked and subsaharan – there were several windy days but still very sunny, so it felt like an oven opening.  One of the downsides to being landlocked is that I couldn’t go to the beach to cool off.  🙁  The landscape is more sparse though the plants and animals are almost all the same. The buildings are similar, but more of them are made of mud than cinder blocks whereas in Gambia it was the opposite.  (I have a video that is a better example of the houses, but it is too large to upload on here, so ask me about it when you see me, and I’ll show it to you.)

Note the contrast between the mud building and the brick one.


The people have similar daily habits and mannerisms and tone of voice. The clothes are essentially the same, though I’m still flabbergasted that some of these guys can wear heavy jeans every day!

The food is similar in taste, and I like most of it, but it is not as good as in Gambia (in my opinion).  Since I was in the bush, I ate a lot of Malian food, and didn’t have much for Western food.  Got mango a few times (soooo good!), but mostly had a staple carb (rice, sorghum, couscous, or rarely spaghetti noodles) with some sort of sauce (peanut, onion, okra, and a couple I couldn’t necessarily identify), and a lot of times some sort of meat (mostly goat or chicken, but occasionally beef or guinea fowl).  A couple times I got spaghetti noodles with an oily onion sauce for breakfast instead of the soupy tapioca-looking stuff for breakfast.  Since I hadn’t brought much for “Western food”, I didn’t have a whole lot of choice in what I ate, which was fine with me.  I was always hungry since it was so hot, so most days wasn’t limited by taste.  One day when I was in Famorila, I was eating with the head of the center, and there was a bunch of meat on top of the sorghum and sauce, that he said was guinea fowl.  One of the meat bites that I got felt and tasted like liver, which I’ve ended up with before.  The next bite I got had a bunch of blood vessels coming out of one side.  I didn’t think too much about that  until after it was in my mouth, and I realized by the texture that it was heart… Guinea fowl heart.  That was a first for me.  Thankfully, this was earlier in the meal, so my gag reflex was suppressed with my hunger.  😛  A few days later, when MacLeans came to pick me up, he told Brett and Sheri that “she’ll eat anything”.

Reflections on the experience:

I have to be honest and say that this experience was probably one of the more difficult things I’ve done in life.  Being in Adamabougou and Famorila without anyone else that spoke English, and having a house/compound to myself was fairly isolating.  I struggled having to use French all the time, since I’m not very good at it anyways, and I basically couldn’t speak at all in Bambara, so that was very limiting.  When we would have patients at the clinic, they would talk to the workers in Bambara, then if the workers translated what they said, they said it in French, which I had to then translate to English for me.  A lot of work, no doubt leading to some misunderstandings.

Through all the difficulties of living and working there for those couple weeks was where I saw God work the most.

  • He provided in that when I was in Gambia, I learned Mandinka instead of another language – Bambara is similar in several words and phrases, so I was able to pick up a few words, which was a big deal
  • The times that I felt the most alone, He provided with people who came to greet and welcome me, or work to do or encouragement from a Scripture or email
  • I got to use email the whole time I was there.  Brett let me use the replacement iPhone he had me bring from the States, so I was able to connect to the mobile network there for keeping connected with family and friends.  Granted, in Adamabougou, I had to use an antenna to get enough cell service to make a call or check emails, but it was so nice to have that ability to be connected.
The antenna sticking up over the roof of the house I stayed at in Adamabougou


So that’s all I have for now.  I might try to do a few more specific stories on another date, but I’m sure this is enough for you all to read for now.  🙂  Thanks again to all the people who supported me in prayer while I was there and for those who made it financially possible for me to go and bring all the medical supplies!


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *