Wednesday, December 23, 2015

One Month in Béré

One month ago, I arrived in Bere. It's amazing how much can happen in a month, and how much can change. It's probably been the craziest month of my life. Sometimes I can't believe how amazing it is to live in the African bush. Sometimes I don't feel that way at all. But I've learned a ton, met some amazing people, and had some really cool opportunities and experiences. I hope that all of that continues.

Perhaps a few of the most exciting parts of my month... I have learned some French (more than I think, less than I wish), seen hippos, watched gorgeous sunsets, survived malaria (it's horrible), experienced quinine (treatment for malaria; it's nasty), tried fish sauce, had countless conversations end with someone involved shaking their head, lacking comprehension (usually it's me), shopped in Chadian markets, seen too many patients that nothing more can be done for, stared at the stars on clear nights when the light pollution is practically zero, taken cold bucket showers outside in the open air, and sang songs in French on a mat in the bush with dirty little children.

So not all of that is super exciting.... Actually it is. It's just not all big stuff. Except that it is... Cause here it seems like sometimes the little stuff is way more important than the big stuff. At any rate, most of those are things that I wouldn't have done if I was in the US, so I'm gaining new experiences if nothing else.

Sometimes I ask myself what I'm really doing here. I'm not super useful in the hospital yet, and I can't really have legitimate conversations with most people. But I do have laughter and love to share. And sometimes that's all that matters. (And I'm working on being useful in the hospital and being able to have legitimate conversations.)

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

A Few of my Favorite Things

Bush church and singing, and smiling babies
African sunsets and starting IVs
Trying new food and the fun that it brings
These are a few of my favorite things.

Riding on motos and cool bucket showers
Warm tea with honey and small desert flowers
Tiny bananas and plucking uke strings
These are a few of my favorite things.

Learning new French words and nights of star gazing
Mail and email and friends iMessaging
Sitting on mats on warm breezy evenings
These are a few of my favorite things.

When the bugs bite, or my alarm rings
When I'm feeling sad
I simply remember my favorite things
And then I don't feel so bad!

Monday, December 7, 2015

Paper boats, jelly beans, and stethoscopes

So many things happen everyday that are different from what I'm accustomed to, that I really don't know which things to write about. 

I like to think I might be starting to get used to the work at the hospital. It's very different than hospitals in the US. Some things I really like. Other things confuse me. And a few things really bother me. One of the things that I really like is the scale they use to weigh the babies after they're born. Random, I know. It's a hanging scale, and a wash basin is attached to it with little ropes. It's just really cute somehow to weigh babies in a bucket. Another thing that I really like is using cotton balls dipped in alcohol rather than alcohol swabs. It just makes sense. And there are no annoying little packages to worry about. One thing that confuses me is the way they give shots. It's a little different somehow. 

Those are all very insignificant things; the things that really bother me tend to be a lot more significant. Foremost is the number of patients that die. Or maybe more specifically, the reasons patients die. For that matter, the reasons that patients come in to the hospital in the first place. There was recently a woman admitted because her husband beat her up. I know that happens in the US also, but there is no social worker here with resources and help. But going back to the reason patients die, a baby was born not long ago with a severe cleft palate. Because of this, the baby couldn't suck. And treatment options were basically non existent. So the baby died. That bothers me. Babies aren't supposed to die.

It seems like everywhere I look, there are kids. The family that I live with has five, plus a few extras living here. Anyway, I have been trying to devise ways of spending time with and playing with them that doesn't involve much talking. Last week I made my family's kids yarn dolls. I thought I would just make them for the little girls, but as it turned out they all wanted them! It was fun. Thus week I decided I need to start learning origami. Yesterday we made paper boats. That was fun. What do you like to do with paper? Or yarn? I would love some more ideas! :)

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Life in Béré

A few people asked some questions after my last post, which was super awesome. I don't plan to post about every detail of life here, because that would probably be boring. So if you really want to know how I slept last night, what I ate for breakfast, what I did after work and with who, when the last time was that I showered, or anything like that.... Send me an email! And I will send you a long, merry chronicle in reply. Should you desire to send me an email, my email address is hisjoyfullamb @

Having said that, I'll try to be at least somewhat descriptive about what it's like here.

It's hot here. I don't have a thermometer, so I don't know how hot. I'm guessing 85-95 or so. This is almost the coolest time of year, so it cools down quite nicely at night. A few months from now, it will be much hotter. There are also lots of bugs. Mosquitos, ants, flies, cockroaches, spiders.... And I don't like bugs here. They're bigger, or something... So if they're inside, I kill them. I don't like killing bugs in the US, but then there aren't really any bugs there that I consider a threat to my wellbeing.

The food here is interesting. It's good, but very different. We have lots of rice, some pasta, and some other grains I think. They're all white. Hence, there are lots of malnourished little children running around. To go with the rice or boille or pasta or whatever, they have various sauces and such. Beans, spinach, tomatoes, onion... I don't know. Most of the time I don't know exactly what I'm eating. Also there are bananas. And vegetables.

Laundry is either done by hand, or given to a wash lady to wash by hand. I don't think I like the idea of paying someone to wash my laundry. So I'll probably do it myself. :) On the hospital compound, we have lots of lovely western conveniences like running water, electricity, toilets, fans, etc. Its quite nice. Off the compound where I live there is electricity, but no running water or western bathrooms.

Currently, I'm "working" at the hospital during the week from 7am to 3pm. By "working" I mean that I follow a nurse around and watch what they do, help if I can, and try really hard to understand what they're saying. To my great delight, French is starting to sound like French, and not like just any old language. Hopefully this continues.

I have Internet from my phone; it's kind of prepaid, and has data. It's kind of slow and kind of expensive, so I'm trying to not get on Facebook and things like that. Email works great, and also, as of last night iMessage is working on my phone! I'm really happy about that. My Chadian number is +235 65288857. Regular texting from the US doesn't seem to work for some reason, but if you have an iPhone it should work. :)