29 September 2011

The day we almost quit

Not that we’re on payroll or anything so we don’t actually have that power.  But we seriously did almost cry at the time and then we really were upset about it after it.

It was ante-natal booking clinic, meaning new mothers around 20 weeks gestation can come and establish ante-natal care.  They get a “safe pregnancy" card and number and free HIV testing and a load of education! 

Today wouldn’t have been nearly as frustrating if the lady we worked with (I think her name is Maria, but that’s another of the million words that start with an M, so I could be wrong) wasn’t so condescending.  She talked to us as if we were stupid and got angry when we didn’t spell things correctly. 

I’m sorry, but when you have a name like Febbie and your husband’s name is Savion and you’re from Nashaiti Farm, I’m probably not going to spell it all right on the first guess. 

I'm starting to have a hard time because I can’t effectively communicate with most people here.  It’s beginning to get frustrating that everyone assumes that we should speak Lamba.  Or Bimba.  Or whatever dialect they happen to be speaking.  I wish I did.  Honestly.  But English is the official language of Zambia.

It’s unfortunate that most people sitting in the room for health education weren’t educated past primary school here (which is what the government pays for) so we couldn’t communicate with them.  So it’s not their fault they don’t speak English.

They were never given the opportunity.

Despite our frustrations, we worked hard.  She was actually surprised at our efficiency.  What we lacked in language ability, we made up for in speed and accuracy.  It made me think of my encouragement note of the day: Matt 5:16 “In the same way, let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father.” (Thanks Geneva!)

Dear Lord, this is ALL for you.

When it came time for her to teach about HIV, she tried to pass the duty off to us.  We know lots about HIV (we’ve learned even more since we’ve been here) but we can’t do it because we can’t speak Bimba and the people here don’t understand our English, even when we make the effort to slow down our talking and avoid contractions and slang.

So she taught about HIV in Bimba (I’m not exactly sure how different Bimba and Lamba are, but I know the phrase “how are you” is basically the same)

I actually think all the education and record keeping is wonderful, and I am super glad that they have all of this in place, but for the record, it's really difficult to be in charge of giving someone their safe pregnancy number or official card complete with their name, age, tribe, occupation, parity, gravity, etc.

[safe motherhood record and example of “medical records” books]

But, then the nurse midwife came in, and like rain sent from the Lord, the day began to get much better!

The midwife, Rose, talked us through how to examine the mothers here and then let us do it.  She didn’t assume we would know anything, and she didn’t talk down to us.  It was more like working with a colleague, which was such a relief.  

And it was SO fun to put my hands on the mothers and feel their belly and measure an estimate of gestitational age.  I didn’t get any outpatient OB on my OB/Gyn rotation, so I loved actually trying to feel the direction the baby was in the woumb. 

In America we’d just use an ultrasound machine to cheat and tell us exactly where the baby was. 

Most mothers here have absolutely no access to an ultrasound machine.  The nurse midwife needs to be sure that the baby is actually presenting cephalic (head down) and not breach because if the baby is breach the mother might need a c-section, which would require a several-hour ride to a bigger hospital and more equipment, which is a lot more expensive and potentially unaffordable.

We finished ante-natal clinic really late in the morning (it was about 1:30!) so Frances and I hurried to our “spot” under the tree to eat lunch and reflect on the morning.

[eating in our spot]

We both talked about frustration and being on the brink of tears when we were made fun of this morning for not being able to spell and speak in Bimba.  We also talked about how much fun spending time with the Nurse Midwife, Rose, was and how we would love to work with just her and with Lamb for the rest of our time here!

We also got a bit of a sugar from our fruit snacks and began to feel much better about the morning.

And then, some of our favorite people showed up in our transport bus! (which I still need to get a picture of so you know exactly what kind of “bus” we’re talking about…it’s most like a 15 passenger van in America, but they’re much lower to the ground and people here are impressive about the number of people they can pack into one)  Brother Bob, the 77 year old westpoint graduate/electrical engineer-turned-missionary, Joseph, the fancy pastor/ politician who has a lot of power in the community, and Henry, our supervisor’s “son”/assistant.

It’s always fun to talk to people who are fluent in American English!

Henry snapped photos of Frances and I in our favorite tree, which we learned was a mango tree, which made me love the tree even more, if that’s possible.

[tree shot]

He also snapped photos of us in front of the sign for the clinic:

[Mushili Rural Health Center]

He ALSO is very up to date on culture, so he mentally jammed with me to P Square’s “No One Like You” (Ryan, it’s # 2 or 3 on your CD) and 2 Face Indiba’s “African Queen,” one of the biggest hits this continent has ever seen.

It’s really a fabulous song, selected lyrics are posted below for your viewing pleasure :)

“and you, you are the one that makes me smile
make me float like a boat upon the Nile.

oooo ooooo yaahhh yahhh oooo

you are my African Queen and I know, oh yes I know hhn
you are my African Queen and I know, see I know
See I know what I am feeling in my heart and in my soul
oh I know that it is love
And I know that this love was surely sent from up above
Cause you're the only one I think of

and you are my African Queen, the girl of my dreams.
   you take me where I've never been
   you make my heart go ting-a-ling-a-ling, oh ahh
   you are my African Queen, the girl of my dreams
   and you remind me of a thing
   and that is the African beauty yahhh

You really have to love the part where she makes his heart go “ting-a-ling-a-ling.”  If you’ve never heard the song, you should really just download it and listen to it every time you read my blog to put you in the right cultural mindset.

We were scheduled to go home in an hour anyway, so the van took us back in an attempt to save some gas.  We were quite thankful!

Frances took a nap, but I went outside and tried my skill at sketching the landscape. 

Turns out I’m not that great.  But in the process, I developed some new friends.  4 cute kids braved the culture gap and made their way over to the “bleachers” I chose to sit on while drawing.  I smiled.  They smiled back.  I waved.  They waved back. 

I began to notice a pattern. 

So I leaned back against the bleachers.  They did too.  Man, this has potential to be funny.  I jumped down, with my eyes on them.  They seemed to pick up on my game so they jumped too.  I laughed.  How fun!  We continued our game.  In the process I made them skip and twirl like a ballerina and jump up and down.  It was great fun!  I gave them all high-fives at the end of the game.

They all gave me huge smiles. 

Finally!  It had been way too long since I’d made friends with a 5-year-old whose first language isn’t English!!

I went back in to get Frances for our daily walk.  It looked like rain, so I left my sunglasses inside.  We walked for about 45 minutes down the road.  We passed Joseph’s house (who owns the store that sells Coke Zero and the Eat-Sum-More cookies that we irresistibly inhale) (the same Joseph from earlier, whose wife is named Mary.  How Cute.  She also insists on doing that French thing where you touch cheeks and kiss.  I love it)

We walked past the well and I wished I had brought my camera to take pictures for you, but then I thought it might rain.  But it’s dry season, and rainy season doesn’t start for another month and a half.

It can’t come soon enough if you ask me because all the dirt here flies in my face (I’ve taken to wearing huge sunglasses that make me look like an insect which you can see in some of my photos, but they legitimately help keep the dirt out) and it also flies in my nose.

Which turns my boogers brown.

Which I just blogged about.  

I’m sorry, but I had to remember how dry “dry” season actually feels.  I’ve had a hard time keeping my hands and face hydrated here.  So if I have to remember it, you should too.

Anyway, we decided to turn around because we didn’t want to run into darkness because neither of us want to be bit by a mosquito and get malaria (even though we’re faithfully taking our malaria prophylaxis).

We got about 25 minutes from the mission before we started to get wet.  It was actually raining, and having left everything important at home, we loved it!  It was refreshing and it brought out amazing smells of magnolia flowers.  (it took us forever to realize it was magnolia and not honeysuckle, which we both love, but we never found because it wasn’t honeysuckle!)

It didn’t rain much, just enough to cool things down a bit and make the dust cling to the dry, cracked ground.  We ran into Henry and Brother Bob right outside the mission so we sat talking to them for a while.  We talked about other places in Africa, how different culture is, Victoria falls, and the word for Lamb in Bimba, not Lamba.  We still don’t remember it.  It starts with an I and it has two Ms in it….

We really have to start writing it down, especially since we love working with Lamb.

We ate leftovers for dinner made possible with our refrigerator and microwave that I’m SO thankful to have!!

We also processed a lot of heavy, deep stuff tonight.  Frances blogged about yesterday and about how hard life is here.  How we see people walking around in one shoe, which we think is crazy and that something bad must have happened (like an alligator attack) for them to be walking around with one shoe on, but the people here are so thankful for JUST ONE SHOE. 

And so often, I’m not thankful for my 20 pairs of shoes.

And how hard it is to get an education here.  People have no money.  If you’re born a poor farmer, you can’t get student loans for high school and college to change your life.  You don’t have that option so you just remain a poor farmer, living year to year, and barely knowing English.  Which makes health education efforts that much more difficult.

And how hard it is to weigh a kid, find out he’s dangerously below the growth curve, but be unable to do anything about it.  I can’t change it. 

Figuring out that I, in fact, can’t change the whole world is hard.  I want to.  I want to provide opportunity.  I want to help.  And I don’t think I’m making much of a difference. 

I want to feed the children, save babies from being born with HIV, give two shoes to people, help educate.  I can’t do it all.

But I can remember how I feel right now and I can change my attitude.  I can change the way I see things, the way I buy things.  I can change me and I can pray.  I know God loves these children, these people.  I know he is compassionate.  Even when, especially when, these things bring tears to my eyes.

One of my best friends, Charlotte, sent me comforting words: “Remember that this is how you'll learn how to make a difference. The sadness that you feel will motivate you in the future to find better solutions in prevention and education. I know it's hard now when you see it right in your face and can't do anything to help that kid, but like you said, Jesus didn't heal everyone from their sickness, He was much more interested in people's hearts, and sometimes the sickness has a purpose that you can't see.”  She reminded me to thank God in all circumstances and challenged me to thank him FOR this hardship, it's growing me.

God, make me more like you.  Let me trust you with control of their lives.  It’s hard.  I can’t.  Grow me into more faith, more trust, in you.

As I cry myself to sleep tonight.

1 comment:

  1. Am so glad to hear about what you are doing. The women and children are certainly blessed. And God is surely working through you! Thanks for your honest and resfreshingly raw blogs. Cheers from Dallas. ~ Angelo