24 September 2011

The Saturday full of Smiles :)

This is the second day I’ve put on the same pair of scrubs only to change out of it into “village clothes.”  I’m beginning to think that if I really don’t want to go to work, all I have to do is put on this pair of scrubs and there will be some excuse not to work.

Yesterday’s excuse was too much partying.

Today’s excuse is we have to go shopping!!

Actually, our excuse today holds a bit more weight than just shopping.  We’re going to stop by the lepper colony, go to the “Big Hospital” in town, Mbenga Hospital, and then go shopping in town for groceries, because gas here is about $8.00 a gallon (that should teach me to stop complaining about the $3.50 a gallon in America) so we need to do as much in town as possible in one trip.

So, first step after changing out of scrubs was to Wikipedia leprosy.

Yes, I just used “Wikipedia” as a verb.  We turned “Google” into a verb, and I believe that Wikipedia deserves to become a verb too.  It’s only fair.

Like any good “med” student, it’s wise to read up on whatever you expect to see that day, so when you get asked a question, you’ll know the answer.  Wikipedia is my favorite free online way to get information.  We got almost no education in PA school about leprosy, even on our infectious disease rotation.  I got about one page worth of information in the “International Medicine” class that INMED (my sending agency) had me take before I left, but that didn’t give me any information about modes of transmission, early signs and symptoms.  All I really remembered was that it was caused by AFB (acid-fast bacilli) of the Mycobacterium family (like TB) and that it had a 3-5 year latent period.

Really, I needed to make sure I wasn’t going to walk home with leprosy.

The good news, according to Dr. Wiki, is that 95% of people are naturally immune to Leprosy, and if you aren’t, there are very good drug regiments that you can take.



In keeping with the theme of the trip, things today did not go as planned.

I’m not actually sure why I expected them to.

So, picture this:

[village hut from the view of the truck]

As you’re flying down a dirt road at 40k/hour
Listening to classical music, a Mad Russian’s Christmas comes on:

Duh nuh nuh buh nuh nuh duh duh duh duuuh….

Or Pachelbel’s Cannon in D

Duuuuuhhh nuuuuh buhhhh nuuuuuh duuuuuuhhh nuuuuuh….

(I realize how poorly my written nothings come across as music)

Then the dirt road turns into gravel as we fly toward Luanshya (Lew-wants-ya).  The same Luanshya that was closed down yesterday from all the post-Sata-win celebrations.

We stop in Luanshya at a small shop that’s the equivalent to a Home Depot, only it’s selling random sinks and toilets for about 30 American dollars.  It’s kinda small, and really there are no words to describe it.  It’s one of those places you’d just have to see. 

We pull money out of the bank in Luanshya.  A lot of money.  Well, it’s not a lot of money in America, but here in Zambia we get huge stacks of bills, the stack is so thick it makes me nervous holding all of it. 

1,500,000 Kwacha.  That’s like a million.

It is a million and a half.

Woah.  I’ve never held a million anything in my hands before and all of a sudden, it feels huge.  I’m a millionaire, thanks to Frances who had to help me figure out all the zeros for the exchange rate.  People tell you it’s about 5 K : 1 USD. 

What they forget to tell you is that the 5 is followed by about 3 zeros.

Which makes a huge difference when we’re talking millions.  So about 5,000 K = 1 USD (US Dollar)  Which still throws me for a loop when people talk about 8500.  I forget to drop 3 zeros and I can’t figure out if it’s $17 or $35. Not that $35 made any sense.

Then, our supervisor decided to go to Ndola.

The same Ndola where a police officer was killed and 6 cars were burned 3 days ago with election violence.

She actually asked a police officer on the way if Ndola would be safe.

Does that sound safe?!

But we arrived at a HUGE fancy shopping mall in Ndola.

[Welcome to Ndola sign that I almost missed]

The grocery store was called pick and pay and was huge. 

[Shopping center]

It had frozen food, vegetables, fruit, sodas, oatmeal, and most importantly: dessert!  We got Mango Tango ice cream and sprinkle cookies.

What would we have done without the sprinkle cookies?

With them, we decided, we’d better start working on our push-ups…

[Mango Tango: two of my favorite things!!]

We finished grocery shopping around 12:30, just as we started to get hungry and try to start throwing everything in our cart.  I did manage to make it out with toilet paper and a chocolate bar.

We headed next door to a place called King Pie 2 go.  It sold these things like hot-pocket-meets-pot-pie.  And soda and French fries. 

Only I think they called the fries chips.

[King Pie]

It was good, but I think I ate too much.  Or the road was too bumpy.  Or the dirt flew into my mouth.  Or maybe my hair flew into my mouth.

A lot of things fly when you have the windows down.

We drove by the Ndola Hospital.  It looked like a very dreary place.  Our supervisor said you enter on a gurney and you leave in a body bag.  No one gets better.  (which, I’m sure is an exaggeration, but by the way it looked on the outside, I wouldn’t be surprised if it was the truth.)

[Ndola Hospital]

When we got home it was nap time.  Only I skyped with Ryan instead of napping, which was a good trade off.

Around 4:30 we took our daily walk.  We decided to walk towards the river.  Mufutu came along with his 2 friends.  We learned a bunch more sign language from him: water, will, God, church, start for, family, think, know, give, have, picture, image, sun, beautiful, pretty, sister, brother, friend, road, want, river, boat…

Did you catch the theme.  We wanted to go on a boat ride across the river.  And we did.  It was a fancy boat complete with a captain and 2 men rowing it.


I realize your definition of fancy may vary slightly from mine.

It was a lot more work than just crossing the bridge. So we crossed the bridge on the way home and then we ran into a herd of cows.

No joke.  That happens in Zambia.

And on the way home we learned happy and smile and laugh.  We had already learned funny and we reviewed it with our new similar words.

We’re becoming quite proficient in sign language now. 

I can tell you that you are funny or that church starts at 11 hour or that we are here for 1 month or ask how are you?  Do you have pain? Where?

Oh, and our favorite word is where you look like you’re putting on a ski hat.  I’ll share my one million Kwacha with the person that can tell me what that means.  (We didn’t learn it from anyone here).


To finish off our day, Frances and I want to watch the Fighting Texas Aggies BTHO OSU.  We know how to sign some not-so-nice things about OSU, but I haven’t decided if I’m ok with saying them yet.

We decided that for every time OSU scores, we will do push-ups to carry the team on our backs.

For the record, we can’t do many push-ups yet, so OSU better not score very much or I’ll be too sore to move my arms for our outreach clinics and I need them to weigh children and give them life-saving vaccinations.

So, by praying that A&M plays well tonight, you’ll actually be providing children with much needed medical care.

And you wouldn’t be able to sleep very well if you denied medical care to children in rural Zambian villages.

I think I just played the trump card.  :)


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