Wednesday, March 30, 2016


Today was a good day. I mean, most every day is a good day, so I guess maybe today was exceptional.

Last night I accidentally went to sleep super early, so I woke up this morning feeling really good and happy. As I am very much not a morning person, "really good and happy" is not usually an accurate description of how I feel at 6 am. Since I was feeling so good and happy, I braided my hair in two braids. Sometimes I feel like this makes me look like a little pioneer girl, but today it was ok. To continue the trend of wonderfulness, my Chadian mother gave me potatoes for breakfast. I love potatoes.

I went to worship at the hospital, and I managed to sit on a row that was equipped with a French hymnal. This is important, because if I can read along, I feel like I can do a pretty good job of pretending that I can sing in French. If I don't have a doesn't go so well. This morning I also understood the numbers they announced for 2 of the songs. That's always cool too. When I don't understand the number, it's kind of hard (although not impossible) to find the right song before it ends. On Wednesdays, there is a Bible study-type meeting after worship. Today the topic was jewelry, or something like that (I'm actually not really sure exactly).

Before the meeting began, I got a call about a mother with a malnourished baby who had traveled a really long way to come enter her baby in our malnutrition program. The program is typically run on Tuesdays and Thursdays, but since she had come from so far, not knowing what the times were for the program, we were going to check out her baby today. No problem, I can do that. First challenge: find the woman. I feel like in the US we might say "it's the woman with the baby," or something like that. But it seems like most of the women here have babies. Second challenge: talk to the woman. She speaks Nangjere. I speak English. Sometimes I pretend that I speak French. She speaks less French than I do. (And basically, if you speak less French than I do, you don't speak French. Like, at all.) I speak maybe 2 dozen words of Nangjere. None of which have anything to do with babies, malnutrition, health, etc.

I found the woman quite easily with the help of one of the hospital staff. At first the talking part went pretty well too. I weighed and measured her baby, asked her how old the baby was (ok, that part didn't go so well; I still don't know how old the baby is), and more or less explained to her how to mix the milk for the baby. Right about this time, she started asking me questions in Nangjere. Shoot, why don't I speak Nangjere?! It would be so useful. Anyway, there was another woman outside, and she apparently noticed that we were speaking different languages. Turns out she spoke French and Nangjere, so she translated. Pretty much a life saver....

After sending the woman on her way, I got a text message that someone needed to assist in surgery today. My options were to either go myself, or text my 2 fellow volunteer nurses and see if they wanted to go. I figured it was easier to just go myself, since I was between tasks anyway. So I spent about the next 8 hours in the bloc. It was the day of hernias. Not the most exciting, but better the day of hernias than the day of pus. (That was on Sunday. My hands smelled like pus all day. Sorry, you probably didn't want to know that.) I was planning to go out to a village for a mobile clinic this afternoon with some other people, but I couldn't find a replacement for myself in the OR, so I sent them on their way, and went back to hernia land.

This evening, I got a box of America (thanks mom <3), are some triscuits, talked with various and sundry people, was offered cold grape juice by one of my fellow volunteers (I've forgiven him for dumping cold water on me yesterday), and then came home to my sweet, smiling little sisters. They brought me my supper, which happened to be one of my favorite meals here. I put on my soft, comfy pants--they're better than a skirt, because when my legs sweat when I'm wearing a skirt, they're all sticky. But if I'm wearing pants, it doesn't matter. (Sorry, you probably didn't want to know that either.) Then we sat on woven mats in the courtyard doing various things. I made some plans for tomorrow. Then I read a little bit. My mother gave me some sweet milk. We talked about the day, and then we went to bed.

But as I lay on my mat and listen to the crickets and think about today, I'm angry. Because there was a mother with a malnourished baby who had to travel for two days to get here for the nutrition program. Because there was a little baby who has malaria and was limp and had intercostal retractions and nasal flaring. Because there was a terrified little boy with an abscess on his liver, who was so scared when the doctor lanced it. And all I can do about it is try to explain to the mother how to give her baby the supplemental milk, hold the baby for a few minutes and say a prayer, and hold the little boys hand (because I only speak 5 words of his language).

I had a good day today. But a whole lot of other people didn't. And that's not fair. I like it when things are fair. Someone please tell me how to solve the world's least the ones that involve children.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016


I don't know if I spelled that right. Good thing you probably don't know how to spell it either!

On Monday, Naomi and I hopped on moto taxis and headed out to Nergue-Gam. It's about 12 kilometers away, and takes just over half an hour to get there. I love moto rides, so going to villages on them is always fun.

The people in the village had gotten some misinformation about what time we were coming, so apme of them had been waiting for us for several hours already. They were in no rush though. We spent some time talking with the village elders outside under a mango tree. Then we talked with the responsable at the health center in the village. Then we returned to the mango tree and they gave us tea and gateaux! This was a pleasant surprise. I love tea. And Chadian tea happens to be quite delicious.

When we finally started our health education, there were about 120 people gathered to listen. They say on benches or on mats on the ground. Most of the kids just sat in the dirt. (There's really no reason not to; everything is dusty and dirty anyway). This village seemed much more orderly than some of the other villages we've been to.

We gave some health presentations on topics like malaria, personal hygiene, dental hygiene, tuberculosis, and things like that. The people who came to listen were super attentive, asked applicable and useful questions, and commented on things that they had learned and what they could change as a result of this new knowledge. For example, malaria is transmitted only through mosquito bites. This might seem basic, but it's not common knowledge out in the bush. Some think that it comes from the rain (not a bad deduction; there are more mosquitos, and therefore more malaria, during rainy season). This sparked a little discussion about mosquito nets, and how they are designed to keep mosquitos away at night. They're not exactly meant to be used as fishing nets....

It was a really enjoyable time of learning and discussion. The people were enthusiastic and interested. Unfortunately very few men were in attendance...but I guess not everything can be perfect. After we finished our health lectures, we asked some questions of those in attendance, shook hands and received many warm greetings, and prepared to leave. But they weren't done with us yet. They led us over to a quiet corner with a table waiting, and brought us a meal! I was so surprised. The food was quite delicious. The hospitality was quite amazing.

I don't know how much of the health information we presented in this village was new to the people. I don't know whether they will act on what they did learn. But I think maybe they will. They were energetic and enthusiastic about every topic we discussed. We returned on Tuesday to do more health teaching, and today to do a mobile clinic. This evening when we were preparing to leave and there were still lots of people waiting for a chance to have a consultation with a nurse, one of the older women suggested to me that we sleep in the village that night so we could keep working longer. Seemed like a good idea to me...

I would eat fish sauce every day if I could do it with a group of motivated people who want change and progress for their village.