13 October 2011

The day we didn’t eat PB & J for lunch.


Joseph drove us to clinic this morning.  Henry came with us, on a trip to town.  We’re still not sure if he can actually drive, but he says he can.  I’ll let you know if we ever find out.

We spent the morning in the dispensary.  Sometimes I feel like an idiot when we’re there.  I can’t figure out what medication they’re asking for.

[the dispensary]

I’m not fluent in chicken scratch.

Also, sometimes they use generic names, which are on all the pill bottles and sometimes they use the brand name.  And sometimes they use a brand name, and you have to figure out what brand name is equivalent to that.  It’s not that hard if they write panadol when the brand we have is paracetamol. (both are acetaminophen)  But when you write Septra and we have to figure out that co-trimoxazole is the brand we have, then we start having problems.

I did learn a new skill today.  I learned how to break tiney pills in half.  And I got pretty good at it. 

[my new skill sitting next to the chicken scratch]

But by far, the most painful part of the morning came when we had to dispense “coated gauze.”   A little girl had a baseball size burn on her elbow.  One of the nurses showed us how to clean a burn wound and dress it with coated gauze that wouldn’t stick to it. 

I had a really hard time.

Watching the nurse scrub the burn while the little girl struggled to hold back huge tears made my heart hurt.  I wish I could have given her a teddy bear to hold.  Why did I not keep a teddy bear in my pocket for this?  There’s a bag with a teddy bear in it sitting next to my bed at home, donated for the trip.  It didn’t fit in my bag, instead I brought medical supplies thinking they were what was needed most.

I wish we could have given her a dose of pain medicine first.

I wish the nurse had showed a little more compassion, at least appearing like she was being gentle instead of grabbing and yanking the arm.

For the second time since we arrived, I felt nauseous at the clinic. 

The nurse put on dressing and asked me to help hold it.  The only relief I felt was being able to hold it on gently and holding the girl’s hand at the same time.  She was doing such a great job at being brave.

And I wish I could have told her that.

Told her something. 

I hope she could read my eyes, full of compassion and concern.

Sweet, baby girl. 

Frances and I were so concerned for the little girl that we didn’t even notice that the nurse was insulting us.  Talking down to us, mumbling under her breath in Lamba, not sure why we didn’t know how to wrap a burn.

Mr. Musonda yelled at her to stop treating us like idiots, that we’re doctors in America, things are just very different here and in America the nurses typically wrap burns.

Good thing he was looking out for us, because we weren’t able to.

We ate peanut butter and banana sandwiches for lunch.  I barely ever eat peanut butter in America.  I have a half a jar of peanut butter that’s still in my cupboard because I hate PB & J.   I would much rather make a salad for lunch, bring leftovers, eat cheese and veggies on bread, eat snack food, than eat PB & J.

I think we got made fun of during lunch.  It wasn’t in English but people were definitely laughing.

So we moved up to the porch of the clinic to escape the heckleing.

But I’m pretty sure we got made fun of worse on the porch by our favorite nurse.

She asked “how was lunch.”  Frances and I both said “lunch was good” followed by laughter and some Lamba.  Then the Lamba broke and we heard “lunch was good” out of her mouth, followed by more laughter and Lamba.

If you’re going to make fun of us in earshot, it would probably be best to translate ALL of it into Lamba so we don’t know.

After that, we were approached by a guy who stopped just to watch us play a game of cards.  He was mildly fascinated, and when we finished speed, he told us so.  Then he moved on.  I guess that’s what you get when you’re a musungu.

After he left, we moved on to a new game.  Old maid. 

I remember playing this a million times as a child with just a deck of cards, but it’s not the easiest game to make up the rules for.  We started playing with just pairs of numbers or faces, any color.  We had too many matches.  Then we decided our pairs had to match: red and red, black and black.  But again, too many matches.  The game was over to fast.   So we decided to try getting 4 of a kind.

Do you have any idea how hard it is to hold that many cards in your hand??

The game got pretty intense.  We were way into it.  We still had problems with cards left over.  We gave up and went back to work in the dispensary for the afternoon.


Here’s a summary of the rest of our day.  Nothing too exciting:   

Walked to Joseph’s shop.

Got a lollipop.

I had to pee but couldn’t, because a bug crawled across my shoe.

I think Mufutu (whose name means trouble) thinks he’s funny when he calls us weak in sign language: saying we walk too much and won’t be able to make it.  

 We don’t agree.

The well where everyone gets water from was busy.  So we weren’t able to get pictures with it.

No internet again.  Bummer

I worked on my project.

Then played solitaire till I won.  (Only 5 times)  I picked up some skills to help us play solitaire at lunch tomorrow.

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