Wednesday, February 29, 2012
Monday, February 27, 2012
of a generalization? to be viewed as a non-person, part of a collective?
I'll tell you how it feels.
It feels like your in a box.
It started off with,
I can't pay for the camera you bought me.
I'll pay you later.
Okay, when? March 15....ok, okay..... because I'm nice and it was the
then the other person can't pay for their camera either
never mind the fact that they told me before I left they could afford it
and would pay me back.
then its the nurse I brought the headlamp for - the 15 dollar headlamp
give it to me, she says.
give it to me.
oh no. pay me first. 7,500 F.
pay you?? she looks astounded, shocked, hurt
I am a mother with children, she says.
you would make a poor mother with children pay you??
yes. pay me.
i don't have the money, she says, i thought you would give it to me.
I told you how much it was going to be. i told you and you agreed. you
told me to buy you a headlamp and you would pay me.
hii!!! she says, but i am a mother with children.
yes. and I'm Bill Gates.
and then it was the bean leaf hay -- i negotiated a deal in which i
payed a certain amount for each.
but, no, you are a nasara. you are rich, he says.
you will pay more.
but no! we agreed on the price! you agreed to transport it!
but my mother is sick.
you must pay me more.
i need to fix my roof. i need to hire the contractor today.
you need to pay me today.
no! i said, i will pay you the agreed upon price AFTER you deliver it to
he shakes his head dissapprovingly,
back and forth
you are rich
i am a father with children.
yes. and I am Bill Gates. or you can call me Angelina Jolie. Or
Obama. Or Madonna. or no, because we are in Africa, lets go with Bono.
I mean, i must be a millionaire.
I am from America.
so, finally, i give him the money. I may or may not see the hay
and then it is the mango
the little burned girl, the 13 year old with her face burn.
who i already gave all my silver sulfadine to
she calls me over
she is under a mosquito net, away from the flies, under the trees.
she is peeling a green mango
go buy me a mango she says
this one is green
no. no, i will not buy you a mango.
go buy me a mango
and then a woman calls me over.
give me money
my child needs zinc oxide for his face.
the face was scabbing from some eruption or another
go buy it for me
i do not have the money.
I do not have the money.
white person. nasara. rich person. American. Affluent.
my demographic has historically and even presently been the one that
does the labeling. the one that puts others and even ourselves into our
boxes. redneck. southern. yankee. Indian giver. black. poor. rich.
and I have not really had to work to fight to raise myself up and out of
a label. to defy it. to ignore it. to obliterate it. to change it.
to succumb to it.
but when people view you as a label - they don't view you as a person.
you are not unique, you do not have feelings, you are not someone which
something can be learned about.
when you are labeled,
they already know.
maybe they met one person like you one time.
and you are the same as that person.
and you both are the measure of a nation. of a color.
and it doesn't feel good.
it might make some people smile,
the middle-class white girl finally getting discriminated against.
finally finding out what it is like to be in a box
finally finding out what it is to be befriended for others personal gain.
but it still made me cry.
it is a hard thing - working with people that assume you have
everything. that you can and should give them anything, because why
couldn't you? the fact that you are white and you are working in
Africa, and you have a nice phone, and you can fly home when things get
hard, that fact alone means you have everything.
everything is all in how you define it.
do i have more?
should i give more?
but it is a hard balance - trying to be kind to people, to give of your
resources to those that have nothing - to balance that duty while trying
not to be taken advantage of.
When people like me are burned too many times, we want to stop giving.
when too many people assume that just because we are white it is our
duty to pay for all their expenses, we want to stop giving.
and then we tend to guard our finances and our souls a little tighter.
and then a little tighter
until it is too tight,
until we miss those truly in need because we do not want to be taken
and i have ALWAYS tried to err on the side of giving too much.
of giving to every bum on the street, knowing that of the 5 that go buy
alcohol, 2 of them might have been really hungry and really sad
thats what i do.
and i do it here too.
and should i give in silence? yes.
and should i give not expecting or needing thanks? yes
and is it my duty to give of what i have to the less fortunate, yes.
but it just gets so hard.
it is so so so hard.
should i feel guilty about where i come from, where i am, and where i'm
should i feel guilty about the money i spend? the money I will make?
should i live in poverty?
what is a good balance between giving enough and taking care of my
dreams and my soul??
because, to american standards, i am not rich.
i have barely any money in the bank
i have one tiny credit card.
all my savings will be spent flying out when i go.
i will have to scramble to get another job ASAP and rely on the grace of
friends until then.
I am not rich.
or am I??
and if I had nothing? would i be the same?
do people ask out of desperation?? does desperation make it okay to be
just plain rude?
but its okay to be rude to white people. its okay to cheat them at
every turn. to lie to them, to charge them more, to take advantage of
them. because they are white - and that means they can take it and that
means they can give it and they will go one day like all the others
before them so why not get what you can while you can???
but then i'm generalizing too. I'm acting like all tchadians are like
this. and they are not. my family is gracious, giving, grateful. so
are others I know.
we all need to be careful not to put each other in boxes
to take off the labels that exist only in our minds
to erase the invisible lines
and to treat each person with respect, as someone new and unique, some one.
I am not a country, a history, a statistic.
and I need to realize that no one else is either.
Friday, February 24, 2012
I started off tired - being unable to sleep at staying up late working on my Project 21 lectures (HIV/AIDS, Malaria, TB) and writing the Community Health Worker training program.
Project 21 is a community health project started by Marci Anderson, MPH with a grant she wrote to AHI (Adventist Health International). I have been involved in the conception and development since the start and we started this week in the first of the 21 villages in the district of Bere. What we are doing includes lectures on natural remedies, nutrition, potable water/waterborne illnesses, women's health, care of the newborn, malaria, HIV/AIDS, and TB. We are giving prizes and incentives along the way, are providing free dental services for each village at the hospital on Wednesday mornings, and are training 2 CHW and 2 traditional birth attendants from each village.
This is a good learning opportunity for me as I have no previous community health experience. So, I came back and jumped right in and I am revising my lectures as I go. Things are always different on the ground then on paper so I already have to revise my lectures and my training program as I expected.
so - sleepless nights prior to leaving because of procrastination on Project 21 - I finally finish and take the 2 hours shuttle to ATL airport. My flight leaves 5 Am monday morning. I fly to DC, pick up last minute items for the hospital from Olen's dad and wait in an impossibly long long line at the Ethiopian Airlines ticket counter.
then - my 14 hour flight to Addis Ababa. I love flying Ethiopian Airlines - the food is amazing, fresh white crusty rolls with real butter, crackers, crisp little salads - then they go up and down the isles offering tea, coffee, more tea? more coffee?? I had the good fortune of a window seat with a free seat next to me and an interesting seat mate who is the director of YoungLife Ethiopia ( a Christian Youth program) and has a band he tours with called Ethio Zion. He told me his brother is one of the premier guitarists in Ethiopia and so I got his information in case my brother wants to go study Ethiopian music.
The Addis airport was confusing - it took me more than a second to realize they had dropped me off in the completely wrong building for my flight - the sign in that building that said "All Gates" only actually applied to 3 of them. Finally I found the bus to the other building and as I walked through it made a fierce promise to myself to immediately buy a roll-along carry-on because this business of heaving 40 pounds from one raw shoulder to the other has GOT to go.
When you get off the plane in Ethiopia, the wind immediately hits you. It rolls off the parched grassy plains and is the coolest, freshest, sunniest, most invigorating wind I have ever felt. A wind that says, I am in Africa, and I am alive.
But getting off the plane in N'Djamena is a more oppressive story. You are hit by a wall of hot, simmering, stale burnt air. It is the anti-wind that says, I am in Africa, and somehow I need to stay alive. At this point all the resolve and good intention built up during the previous 24 hours of travel being to melt away and you have to grit your teeth focus on the next thing - customs.
my visa expires in 2 weeks. I decided to just tell them I would be there until March 10 ( it expires March 13). Luckily, they didn't ask for a return flight, I showed them my yellow fever card, and walked into the madness that is the baggage claim - since I actually had smaller Tchadian currency with me this time and I was exhausted I didn't put up a fight when an enterprising soul grabbed my bags for me, loaded them onto a cart, and turned in into the pushing, fighting line.
there is no concept of lines in Tchad. If you wait in line kindly and respectfully you are guaranteed to be the last person going anywhere, doing anything, or receiving services. People are banging against each other, yelling at each other for bumping into them with the carts, and shouldering their way past you in the crushing bottle-neck that must be navigated before you are finally free to leave the airport.
Ahmet - our trusted taxi driver, is there waiting for me - my French was good enough to actually summon him and I was excited to learn that I hadn't actually forgotten any.
We go to change money for other SMs and volunteers ( bringing in the money by hand is the only reliable way to get money here). One SM had asked me to bring money in 5 hours before I departed. I didn't have time to go to the bank to get his money in crisp 100's, so the hundreds I brought for him were exchanged for 20's and begged and traded along the way.
so, of course, the man refused to change the money. I get the brilliant idea that since I am in the most corrupt country in the world, a bribe would be the most likely solution to my problem. So, 20 dollars of pocket money later, I was in possession of a large stack of CFA. Of course you can debate the ethics of bribes, argue how my behavior was detrimental to the creation of a better tchad, how I could be creating problems for the Nasaras that come after me - but I must admit - the feeling of bribing someone for something they refused was delicious. It was liberating and changed the entire dynamics of the interaction - but that is only because I was the one with money.
I went to the Lutheran mission and got put in a room with an OB doctor that has worked for 10 years in southern Tchad, several hours from Bere. I made top ramen and re-experienced the hour-long effort to check email.
I got up at 5 am on Wednesday AM to catch the 6 am bus which left at 7:30. I was taking the same route I took the first time I came to Tchad - but this time it was better, easier. I wasn't scared or nervous anymore, spoke functional French, and felt very much like a wise old competent travelor. Of course, that blissful feeling is a little preemptive but it was an amazing feeling to realized I had navigated this country by myself with almost no help from anyone.
I bought 2 huge bags of soft crunchy french bread - N'Djamena has the best bread in the country - almost everyone that travels there brings back bread for their friends and family members.
on the bus I corrected my terrible mistake from last time - sitting on a tiny seat where the leg room was eliminated by the wheel hub thingy - and took a seat where I could actually sit. The bus didn't have a free seat and even the isles where full. I cracked the window, put on my sunglasses and tried to absorb the fact that I was actually here, that I was in Tchad, and that I would be staying. The crisp brown countryside rolled by me, peppered with scraggly safari-looking trees, people on bicycles, clusters of mud huts and compounds, and brightly-colored laundry barely flapping in the dim breeze. The horn honked and screamed, chasing goats out of the roadway, the brakes coming to a slamming stop for herds of cattle crossing the road, tended on foot by dusty boys in white turbans, weathered faces, and skins of water.
In Bongor, the half-way point, the bus was mobbed by the vendors, nomad women with liter water bottles filled with fresh milk, girls with trays of carrots, mangoes, sesame seed cakes, gatos, bananas, and roasted fish on their heads. Beggars stopped quietly before each window, pausing and then going on to the next. boys selling pouches of water, crackers, cookies, gum, matches, and cell phone accessories.
not realizing it was carrot season, i bought 15 carrots in Bongor to eat on the bus and when I was adjusting my things my bread bag burst open and the loaves tumbled onto the bus floor. I picked them up and put them back into the bag.
Me and a little girl that was sitting beside me listened to Bob Marley with an ear-bud in each ear and crunched down carrots and sesame cakes and exchanged shy smiles. soon we were in the giant pot-holes before kelo, the bus swerving and lurching and braking as we bounced and grated our way to Bere.
Tammy and Jamie were waiting for me in Bere, at this point I was beyond exhausted so I just went straight home and skipped the compound altogether.
it was amazing to see my family again, and realize how much I'd missed them while I was gone. The children all looked a little older, especially the 2 year- old. I gave them all their new outfits that I picked out and everyone was so happy. When I gave them the blankets I stole from Ethiopian Airlines, both my grandmothers started dancing.
at this point I realized that all the Reeses I brought had burst from their plastic bag and has melted all over every item in my duffel. We all spent about 2 hours cleaning chocolate off every item and eating melted chocolate. I felt a little guilty that they saw how much food I had with me, but, it is what it is. I have such a hard time eating here. They know I have money, they know I come from America, and I should not feel like I should hide it.
I started getting a searing head-ache and when I opened my hut it was coated in dust and the floor was covered in rat droppings. My head was swimming and if there was ever such a thing as jet -lag it was hitting me. I hauled every item out of my hut, swept the floor and walls, and then scrubbed the floor with soap and water. I dusted everything off put it back and several hours later fell into bed not even caring about how hot it was.
The next morning, we ate bread and tea - even though I warned them it fell on the floor we all decided to eat it anyway - I then went and gave my CHW training program for the first time - i will talk more about that later because it is a whole another blog. I was gone from 9 am to 4 pm and when I got back I started feeling very ill.
I had Marci take me home and I couldn't eat supper. I had to lay down because I felt like I was going to throw up.
Then I walked over to my hut and immediately started throwing up all over the ground. I threw up multiple times, ferocious, projectile vomit that racks your entire body and leaves you gasping for breath.
I drank some water, layed down again, and then went to see Olen and Danae. I barely remember what we talked about because the whole time I was trying not to vomit on them. I left their house and walked to the SM building and immediately threw up all over the ground.
and then in the shower,
and then again in the shower,
and then again on the ground.
each time multiple times.
I hadn't eaten all day and I have no idea how that volume of bile fluid and funk could have come out of my stomach.
I was slumped over in the shower, crying and completely miserable. And I hadn't even been back 24 hours.
I went home and felt so weak that they set up my mosquito net for me and I just fell into. A couple hours later, I threw up again.
I woke up in the morning and still couldn't eat anything. the only thing I could eat yesterday, Friday, was a pack of Ritz Crackers.
I went to work because I promised, did rounds with Olen in peds, but was feeling so weak I had to leave and lay down. I passed out in the SM building for 5 hours and then woke up and went out to the village again. I couldn't eat dinner either.
it was probably the unwashed, unbleached carrots, the bread from the floor of the bus, or the peanuts they gave us in the village.
I am not usually careful with food here, and I had never experienced this before.
so, on top of semi-culture shock, trying to acclimate to 100 degree weather from frosty TN, and trying to find my niche here again, on top of that I can't eat, am feeling week and terrible, and still have to go to church today.
so, welcome back to Tchad~~~!!!!! There is only one certainty here- that you can literally count on something going wrong or befalling you EVERY SINGLE DAY.
so today, my plan is to try to eat something, drink enough water, clean up my hut, study a little french, and do a lot of laying down. So this is only 2 days. 2 1/2 months to go.
one day, i will, i will write a cheery blog - maybe tomorrow
Sunday, February 19, 2012
its 1:33 am and i'm surprisingly not tired despite a grand total of about 9 hours of sleep in the last 48.
waiting for the taxi to come get me at 3 Am - then check my perfectly weighed 50 lbs bags on to Chad.... ($800.00 lesson learned from last flight...this time a scale was utilized)
on to DC - probable luxurious nap on floor of airport, near a wall - waiting my three hours unti I get on Ethiopian Air for 15 hours of delirium, bad tv, and mentally making fun of skymall and fruitlessly trying to make the vents blow tepid air in my direction.
will have lengthy mental arguement to myself about whether or not I will be brave and talk to my seatmate - will culminate in conversation initiation as a direct result of conscious decision to engage in risk taking behavior as self-betterment strategy. may or may not result in life-changing conversation or event.
will wander through Ethiopian Airport, being herded down long corridors, up stairs, being told to wait in mysterious lines that dissipate or become frenzied based on the mood of the agent and the languages of the travelers. will second-guess the line, probably switch several times, and start pulling out rusted french phrases only to realize all the Ethiopian agents speak english anyway.
the next 4 hours to the capital will be shorter in comparison, I won't know what time it is, I won't care, and I will start the dreading the moment i push and shove my way through tchadian customs, heaving my 3 bags through the scanner and adamantly insisting i don't need help to enterprising good neighbors.
will feel momentary panic as i wonder if the trusted taxi driver switched his phone number, and wonder why i just finished complaining about the wind chill 48 hrs earlier outside of ATL.
and the yellows and the greens and the hot wall of thick crispy air will be strangely comforting, i will crack peanuts between my teeth and roll down the window and breathe the sauna of brilliantly colored humanity and i will smile as i hate it
and be glad to be back in this feverish salty wild enterprising land
and i will tuck the mosquito net around me and fall into a blistering sleep, thinking how was it only 40 hours ago that I laid in air conditioning and how could i not have appreciated that more? but i will be strangely happy
Sunday, February 12, 2012
still roam by the thousands. In a land where poachers will slaughter the
huge animals for their tusks alone, it takes armed guards to keep them safe.
Saturday, February 11, 2012
I know I've already wrote a couple blogs lamenting my return and in fact I have nothing new to say.
It is just hard to go back. and hard is an understatement.
I just don't want to. I don't.
living in Tchad is torturous.
torturous is an overstatement, to be sure. If someone waved the Fox's book of martyrs in my face right now I would sigh and say, point taken. not torture. but close
tomorrow I need to order another bug net - my hut is about to be 120 degrees in the cool of the night and soon everyone including myself will be sleeping outside.
considering our compound is over run with about 20 goats, 30 chickens, 1 horse, 4 cows, umpteen creepy creatures, and sneaking rats it should be quite pleasant.
the thought of moving my fabulously arranged chamber through the door every night and every morning makes me tired already. and I won't do it. so I will get another mosquito net. just for rapid set up and take down, leaving my other one that doubles as bedroom and library intact. I think its brilliant, even though I'll be spending another $100.00 dollars on that purchase, not to mention the shipping costs for procrastination. lets see, how many lives could that money save? or all the money I have spent making myself happy, buying myself food, makeup, taxis, books, lasagna frita at Olive Garden.......
but still, I will be buying it tomorrow.
its disconcerting how easily I have slipped back into American life. the first 3 weeks were rough and i felt like my brain was a pot of melting mud and i had my moments of being genuinely appalled at the wastefulness and extravagance of this country and even my own life.
but then the bed was so comfortable.....
and the thermostat was so nice......
and the room was a blessed 68 degrees with the fan blowing.....
and the cheese sauce at mexican restaurants was divine.....
and the internet was fast.....
and the coffee was hot and I could see my breath in the morning air.....
and the bookstores......
can you justify buying multiple books about poverty, africa, the efficacy of foreign aid, and the Aids epidemic? can you justify all the money spent on being informed? does that make it right?
has anything I've been doing the last 5 weeks been right?
did poor sick recuperating me have the right to spend that much money? or waste that much time.
sure, it crossed my mind, buying a 7 dollar tub of ice cream - that that would have bought 3 bags of IVF back in Tchad
or, spending $30.00 dollars at a restuarant - that that is a months salary for my neighbors.
sure, it crossed my mind. but i did it anyway.
because, didn't i deserve it? didn't i work hard over there? am I not going back so therefore I should tear through as many american pleasures as possible?
where do you draw the line. how do you live with integrity in a culture that has completely re-defined necessity, re-defined normalcy, re-defined complacency.
and I fell for it all. I fell hard.
I bought things because I wanted them.
I ate things because I knew i wouldn't get them over there.
I paid for movies that I didn't have to see.
but should I have not done those things?? you can preach all you want while your in it, while your surrounded by hunger, and disease, and suffering. but when your out, it is criminal how easy it is to forget. how hard it is to translate your actions, the products you consume, to keep in mind those who have nothing, and to further believe that denying yourself will actually translate to helping.
how far do we take this responsible for our neighbors thing?
its a grey line. but maybe we should re-define it. maybe we should pull out a thick black magic marker.
maybe we should say - wasting money is wrong.
but then we have to define waste.
and then we have to define wrong.
and then we are back in the gray.
so, i guess I've been wrong. I have. how wrong, to what level, i'm not sure. but am i going to waste money tomorrow? most definitely. and when I'm back, working in Peds, will I fly into a rage about how they can't afford 20 cent medications? yes.
and am I looking forward to going back? no
talk to me in a month and i'll be preaching fire and brimstone and equality again. but right now, comfort has hypnotized me. so I guess I need the imminent rude awakening.
I feel like I need to stop outside myself, give myself a lecture, pick myself up by the backpack, and place myself firmly back in Chad.
because, quite evidently, that is where i need to be.
The Prophet, Kahlil Gibran. - on houses
And tell me, people of Orphalese, what have you in these houses? And what is it you guard with fastened doors?
Have you peace, the quiet urge that reveals your power?
Have you remembrances, the glimmering arches that span the summits of the mind?
Have you beauty, that leads the heart from things fashioned of wood and stone to the holy mountain?
Tell me, have you these in your houses?
Or have you only comfort, and the lust for comfort, that stealthy thing that enters the house a guest, and becomes a host, and then a master?
Ay, and it becomes a tamer, and with hook and scourge makes puppets of your larger desires.
Though its hands are silken, its heart is of iron.
It lulls you to sleep only to stand by your bed and jeer at the dignity of the flesh.
It makes mock of your sound senses, and lays them in thistledown like fragile vessels.
Verily the lust for comfort murders the passion of the soul, and then walks grinning in the funeral.
But you, children of space, you restless in rest, you shall not be trapped nor tamed.
Your house shall be not an anchor but a mast.
It shall not be a glistening film that covers a wound, but an eyelid that guards the eye.
You shall not fold your wings that you may pass through doors, nor bend your heads that they strike not against a ceiling, nor fear to breathe lest walls should crack and fall down.
You shall not dwell in tombs made by the dead for the living.
And though of magnificence and splendor, your house shall not hold your secret nor shelter your longing.
For that which is boundless in you abides in the mansion of thesky, whose door is the morning mist, and whose windows are the songs and the silences of night.
Unlike plastic pet fountains that develop cracks, this drinking fountain is made from durable, nonporous glazed ceramic that mitigates bacteria growth. Ceramic resists bacteria that cause acne on a pet's mouth and chin.
I want to give my patient water, but there aren't any cups. Ou est votre goblet? Ici? oh. its over on the other side. by the TB ward. its the only one they have, chipped, floral, ceramic. once they are done washing the clothes, then they will bring it back. then I will give him some water.
"The Infrared LED Pain Reliever"
Using technology developed by NASA to heal astronauts injuries, this devices's 60 LEDs produce safe infrared heat to stimulate blood circulation, relieve swelling in joints, and loosen tight muscles. A study at Children's Hospital of Wisconsin showed it reduced painful inflammation by up to 37%.
He is screaming when we change the dressing. the screaming doesn't stop after we are finished. He is wriggling and tossing and kicking. hours later, he is still screaming. I want to give him morphine - but the expired vials that we had have already been stolen - another reason we can't stock narcotics. I give him some more ibuprofin. mostly to make me feel better - because he is still screaming.
"The Pet Ramp and Staircase"
This pet staircase converts into a ramp in seconds, providing a means for older or arthritic pets to reach sofas or beds without exerting undue stress on the joints and muscles. The steps fold down to form a 30 degree angle that allows pets to ascend and descend safely.
It's one of the cutest puppy's I've ever seen. We name him Barack Obama and the kids call him "Bara Bara" for short. We had him all of 2 hours - feeding him peanut milk and putting him to bed in the wash basin. Then the owner came back hauling him away by the neck. but usually, when the kids see a dog, they chase it. kick it. throw rocks at it. The dogs sulk in the shadows, blurs of rib darting in and out of crumbling compounds, snatching a fishbone or piece of rice, dodging blows. But when your kids are starving........
think about it.
**child in photo not tchadian - point remains the same
Thursday, February 9, 2012
Wednesday, February 1, 2012
just a side note -
received an email from Olen tonight. He says that the Vice President of the General Conference of Seventh Day Adventists, John Thomas, showed up in Bere to talk to the volunteers. Apparently, the case of my delayed med-evac is now known through-out the General Conference and they have their lawyers working on it and investigating the insurance company, European Assist - that insures their thousands of employees stationed all over the world.
I am surprised and impressed that they are taking the time to take the situation seriously. I am so glad that I went through the hassle and delay of my med-evac because now when the next person needs to be evacuated, it will be done in a prompt manner. the next person might not have three days to wait.
I still can't believe he showed up in middle-of-nowhere Africa to talk to a handful of volunteers.