Monday, April 18, 2016

Evening in the Courtyard

Since I started working at the hospital here, almost all of the time that I've spent there has been during the day. There have been exceptions, but not many. Generally I work in the morning/afternoon and do other things in the evening. This week, though, I've been working evenings on the surgical ward.

The surgical ward is generally an interesting place. There are generally more than 20 patients, they generally (at least this time of year) spend very little time in their beds, there are flies everywhere, and we have a resident mouse who pops in from time to time. The vast majority of these patients have recently had surgery. Occasionally there is one or two who are waiting to have surgery. Right now, laporatomies and amputations are what most of the patients have had (one or the other, that is...not both). 

Outside of the surgical ward, there is an expanse of...I don't know, dust, sand, dirt. Whatever you want to call it. This extends from the surgical ward over to the medical ward, not too far away. There are a few trees, and a whole lot of mats on the ground for people to lay on. During the day, there are people milling around, talking, cooking nearby. But in the evening the courtyard (it's really not a courtyard, but I have no better word for it) begins to change.

It's evening now. Some women are cooking dinner for their families in an open structure not far away. Some of the men are sitting around eating. Others are talking or resting on their mats. There is a rhythmic drumming sound. I look over and see a naked baby sitting on the ground, beating out a rhythm (of sorts) with two empty water bottles.

It's starting to get dark. The women are starting to exchange their complete outfits for just a pagne (basically a piece of fabric; two yards of it) wrapped around them just under their arms. Or some of them just take off their shirt and wear their bra for the night. The number of mats laid out is increasing. There are people laying everywhere. Some of them have been here for a long time. They all seem to know each other. This is almost like a tiny village. They have all of their food, bedding, things to wash with, and the whole family here with them.

We start passing out the evening meds. One of our patients is a cute little boy with an infected foot. He's about 8 I think. His sister is probably 10. She's cute and friendly, and likes to help us find the patients we're looking for to give meds to. She follows us around, and if we can't find someone, she tries to locate them. When we give her brother his meds, she brings him water, or holds a flashlight so we can see.

In the evening, this seems so much more like a home, a family. I like it. 

Friday, April 8, 2016

Paint the Sky

Why? I don't know. Why not?

No, actually because I found a quote on Pinterest. "Paint the sky, make it yours."

Painting the sky is no small deal. If we paint the sky, everyone knows what we're doing. It's way out in the open. It's big. I think it tends to be easier to paint the ground, or the wall, or maybe the ceiling if we're ambitious. The most we'll need is a ladder; there is a beginning and an end to the job. There's no real danger. But painting the sky is a whole different thing. Where do you start? Does the sky have a beginning? And what about an ending? The sky kind of goes on forever....

This might seem a little abstract, but I actually think it's really important. There are a lot of different ways to do life. Various things come more naturally to different people, of course. As an introvert, I would typically rather paint in the corner. It is possible that at some point that will be a nice looking corner, and someone might stop to look at it. But when I make mistakes, it's likely that relatively few people will notice. I really like the song "Brighten the Corner Where You Are." But who said we had to stay in the corner?

What if we weren't meant to be in the corner at all? What if the point is to paint the sky? Maybe not the whole sky (I think that's a little too much for just one lifetime), but even just one brush stroke.

I don't really know what painting the sky actually looks like in real life. If you have ideas, feel free to share. But I think it's something like boldness, confidence, and willingness to both try and fail. I'm sure this looks different for every person, every day. But there's got to be something. Something each of us can do that has potential. Super great potential to either succeed, or miserably fail.

For me, I think this might look like telling a story to the kids in French this week (or rather, trying to). Or maybe sitting down with one of my patients and explaining to them everything I can about why they're in the hospital, what sort of treatment were giving them and why, what medications they are on, how to take them and what they're for, how they can prevent this from happening again. Maybe it's doing a craft with the kids who are in the hospital.

I think painting the sky is more about what we put into it than making a huge difference in the world. If I paint one little brush stroke, it's not going to change the color of the sky. But with time, maybe many strokes will change it. Maybe painting the sky is how we revolutionize the world. If that's the case, then it's certainly worth putting in some effort.

Let's make the sky ours. One stroke at a time.