31 August 2008

It is NOT a Mumu! (Today's lesson: HUMILITY)

I didn't realize when I signed up for this gig, just how hard it would be for me to "dress African." It's really been a struggle. But today is Sunday. And that means church. And church is a very social event. So a western style skirt and top just wouldn't do for a prefield Missy. Nope. It wouldn't do. So Auntie Cindy decided to play dress-up with me. I still can't believe I went out in public like this.

She had me try another one when we got home. (The best part is that the skirt is a wrap around, and there's a real technique to securing it. It was an act of God that the village of Galmi didn't a free show this morning! I did have to "catch" it a few times . . . I'm going to need a lifetime supply of diaper pins!)
(I still can't believe I smiled for these pictures!)

Ebenezer de Galmi

Since leaving Morocco, I have now met two sets of semi-famous Nigeriens. Actually, they're not-so-famous-but-should-be Nigeriens. On our flight from Casa was the entire Nigerien Olympic team! All five athletes! I was greeted by the two female runners and actually got to speak (though briefly) with the swim team (what was funny was that he was wearing a US National Swimming shirt), he told me he met Michael Phelps. They all still wore their Beijing 2008 lanyards and official passes around their necks. The sad thing was, it was no big deal. No one even nodded their way (except for me, and I don't matter). Even at the airport, they just came and went. Hmm.

But even better than that, tonight (drum roll please) I met, and got to sit in on a jam session with Christian Nigerien recording artists, Ebenezer de Galmi!!! WHAT?!?!?! You've never heard of them??? Well, you're missing out! Four young Nigeriens in their early twenties . . . they are onto their second CD. They sing in Hausa, French, & English. All praises to Jehovah, God. And it's absolutely beautiful. My neighbor on the compound, Yoko, was having them for dinner tonight, and invited me as well. We were celebrating a birthday, and saying goodbye as three of them are returning to school this week in other cities.

I had such fun with them tonight! There was a fifth boy there tonight. Yoko has been teaching him to read. He is Muslim, so she uses the Bible for his practice. She says that he loves to read the Word of God and that he is showing interest in Christ. She had him over with these four so that he could meet some guys his age who love Jesus. He just sat and listened as they sang to Jesus and thanked Him for all He had done in their lives. Then they all spent time in prayer together before they left (they had to run home into town just as the rain was coming!). It was a beautiful night.

I'm really starting to like it here.

30 August 2008

A New Use For an Old Garlic Press

I'm not a big fan of sour. But I love limes. I put lime juice in my rice (mmm, with a splash of cilantro -- that's coriander leaves for those of you not from NorthAmerica) . . . I like it in Coke . . . or sprinkled on chicken or fish . . . mmmmm, lime. Well, here at Galmi we have them GROWING ON TREES! That's right, we don't have to wait for a vendor to pop up on the compound, or venture out to the market on Wednesdays; nope, all we have to do is hunt down the nearest lime tree and give a good shake. Or at least pick them off the branches.

Well, I didn't do any of the picking, as I still don't know what a lime tree actually looks like (I know, "it's the one with all the limes on it" . . . but the SIM compound is actually quite a jungle in the midst of the Sahel here . . . so the limes are blending in a bit.

ANYWAY, what's all of this have to do with a garlic press?? Well, I'm glad you asked. If you want to make fresh-squeezed limeade, but the limes aren't nearly as big as your used to, and have way more seeds than those do, just cutting and squeezing makes a nice sized mess. Here, in the lovely flat SIM has provided for me, is a Juice-O-Matic . . . circa 1950 . . . in fact, I believe it came over with the Long family when they started Galmi hospital. And considering my respectfulness towards antiques, I felt it wouldn't be right for me to smush little tiny limes on it's experienced surfaces. So, I looked for some sort of mesh sieve to press the pulp through.

Found one, but I can't tell if it was painted redish-brown or if it's just rusting nicely . . . so I opted to find a Plan C. Voila! There in the drawer was an old garlic press. All I'd have to do is pop in a lime half and . . . wait . . . fit in there limehalf . . . grrrrr. Limehalf doesn't fit. Hmmm. OOOOH, how about limequarter?? Hey, now that works!!!!

So, wen you're here at Galmi (because even if you're not a doctor, there's plenty to do here), and you're tired of straight water, and you'd like to make a nice pitcher of refreshing limeade, but you don't want a lot of mess and fuss, just whip out your garlic press and you'll be refreshed in no time!

(everything here, I'm learning, is a process . . . but that seems to be where the joy is hidden.)

29 August 2008

Iced Coffee, African Style

Those of you who know me, know I love a good cup of coffee. There's nothing like it! In all of my travels, I've had some great coffee. And I've had some not-so-great coffee. But then there's Nescafe, which falls into a category all of it's own (kind of like diner coffee). I love Nescafe, not because it tastes good, but because when I drink it, I'm usually with people that I love and rarely get to see. Nescafe is the taste of friendship-that-picks-up-right-where-we-left-off.

But I'm alone in my flat for siesta (the wonderful time of the day at Galmi when everyone goes home for lunch and a rest before continuing to work until 6pm . . . because it's just too hot to move). And I didn't bring any oganic decaf French Roast with me (mmmm . . . can't you just smell the fresh ground wonderfulness??) . . . so, Nescafe it is.

But I was in the mood for a nice, smooth iced coffee! And since there's no Dunkin' Donuts or Starbucks on the corner, I had to be creative.

Iced coffee, African style:
  • 1 part Nescafe
  • 1/2 part sugar
  • 1 part powdered milk
  • 8 parts filtered water
  • 4-6 ice cubes

Stir and enjoy! Mmmm. (You know, if Starbucks never makes it to Galmi, and this OT thing doesn't work out, I may be on to something here.)

28 August 2008

Power Outages, Running Toilets, and Makeshift Palm-Protectors

And now the power's out. Which means no more fan. Which means I'm dripping in sweat as I write this. I should be up at the hospital, but I have a low-grade fever (apparently there's a bit of a flu going around . . . two days of fever, fatigue, and aching) so I've been instructed to rest.

My toilet has been running all day. Seems the stopper in the tank wasn't sealing. So, like any good I'm -going-to-survive-at-Galmi-if-its-the-last-thing-I-do prefielder, I unscrewed the flusher (they're on the top of the tank here), lifted the lid, and (thankfully there was nothing abnormally gross inside . . . or I may have run out my flat shrieking "GOD WHY ARE YOU ASKING ME TO DO THIS?!?!? HA! I can handle burn care, but when it comes to things growing in a toilet tank, I'm helpless) wait . . . where was I. Oh, yes, I fiddled with thingy inside, and suddenly, the water in the bowl stopped running and the tank was actually filling. I DID IT!!! My very first do-it-yourself-plumbing-job-in-Africa.

I replaced the lid, screwed the flusher knob back on, and voila! Wait . . . WHAT'S THAT?!?!?! WATER RUNNING!?!?! Somehow I managed to loosen the seal when I screwed it back on!! OY! So, Plan B: turn off the water source and call the maintanance man . . . or at least mention it to some who knows Hausa and can call the shop to send a workman around. He had it fixed in about a minute and a half. So much for being an independent woman!!

(OOOOOOOh, the power just came back on . . . not bad, only out about an hour. And as far as I know, this is the first power outage since I've been here! PTL!!)

So I've had several requests for pictures of the palm protectors I made for the little guys at the hospital. So here you go (along with one of the front of the hospital):

The front of the hospital.

Palm protectors for tiny hands (the fat middle part fits in the palm; the straps are tied around the dorsum of the hand . . . they work okay, better than nothing, but for the little guys with really high tone, after about a day and a half they're pretty smushed . . . so I'm going to need to come up with a better model . . . although little resting hand splints would be ideal. I could have tried some out of plater of paris, but their hands are SO tiny that it would just been a really big mess).

Here they are on. It's hard to see them in his plams, but you get the idea.

27 August 2008

Le marché à Galmi

Ah, yes. The Galmi market. There really aren't the words. I was able to take a few shots, but not good ones as the best places for photos were so crowded I couldn't actually shoot anything. This has been a challenge for me to put my camera away this trip. I'll be going east to Maradi on the first of September, and hope to do a bit more shooting while I'm there. I think it's because this is where I'll be for a long time . . . I'm not here to document . . . I'm here to prepare. It's a whole different way of approaching the place. This is new for me. I'm used to using my camera as an expression of how I see the world. But here, while I'm still an outsider, I'm not going to be. I'm here to get a small taste of what my life is going to be like. I cannot shoot that. I don't know how.

But anyway, you didn't come here to read my ramblings . . . let me tell you (as best I can) about the market at Galmi. We arrived late in the day (close to 5) as things were shutting down. The ground was paved with rubbish that had been so compacted by pedestrian traffic I believe the plastic water bottles were paper thin. But that's the only paving around, once you exit the tar road (the one I call "Main Street" as it is the tar road that runs east from Niamey along the width of the country). I imagine it looks much like a mosh pit just after the rain.

The market was still crowded at closing time . . . and Auntie Cindy tells me that there are actually more people earlier in the day. Galmi is a town of nearly 5,000 but they come in from the neighboring towns and villages on Wednesday, Galmi Market Day. There are vendors selling EVERYTHING!!! Pots, pans, fruits, vegetables, spices, nuts, water basins, varying size (and color) plastic "tea pots" that aren't used for tea (let's put it this way, toilet paper is a western thing), portable electronics, fabric, ready-made clothes, used western style clothing (some of the t-shirts are FANTASTICLY FUNNY in this context), prayer mats, Qur'an study tablets, oh, and did I mention meat?? That's right . . . they chop it up right there for you (it's a good thing I can't post odors on a blog or I'd let you have a whiff . . . complete with flies and all). Don't get me wrong, I've seen this before in India and China, but there was just something about it today. This is about how hot and humid it was when I was in India during the monsoon . . . and it's just going to get hotter here . . . but the meat will be in the same place then!

Enough about the meat. Lets talk about the people. There were so many interesting and beautiful people in the market! The women donned all the colors on the spectrum -- and BRIGHT and BOLD patterns (okay, I have to admit something. We came to the market so that I could pick out fabric to have an outfit made. But I couldn't bring myself to get anything as they are all so LOUD!! I know I will wear these patterns when I'm here, but they don't have anything in solid black . . . or in solids!! If it's not a print, it's tiedye!! OY! My wardrobe is going to change!!! But not yet).

Okay, I'm sure by now you're tired of my words. Here are some photos I did manage to take. Enjoy.

Up first: A few houses, The CoOp, and The Airstrip.
Three favorite spots for all those living on the SIM Galmi compound.

Yes, those are goats tied to the top of the taxi.

And now a few random shots of the village:

Milk Powder Yogurt

(Debi Schellhase, this one's for you)

As you all read below, I've made myself some yogurt from milk powder. It's simple really (as long as your in a climate hot enough to do this).

1 part cool tap water
1 part hot water (boil then let it sit for a minute)
1 part (plus a little) milk powder
starter (available I'm told, in plenty, in Niamey)

While the hot water is boiling, combine a little bit of starter (whatever is leftover in the container from your last batch will suffice) with milk powder and tap water. Stir with a fork to remove lumps. Add hot water. Put lid on container, wrap in a towel or two to trap the heat, set on your counter overnight (or 6-8 hrs. in the hot season). Add a little sugar, vanilla extract, jam, dried fruit, or whatever when you serve.

It's a bit on the sour side at first (tastes like it was splashed with lemon juice), but I added a sprinkle of sugar, and some almond extract (as it was all that is in the flat where I'm staying). MMMM!!! It's so good, I've got some more steeping on the counter for tomorrow.

A Day in Morocco

Casablanca reminded me a lot of New Delhi . . . but with fewer people. Had a similar look and feel. RoyalAirMoroc put us up in a hotel for the day, so we had a chance to rest and eat before venturing out into the city. We were in walking distance from a market and we took a taxi down to the Hussein II Mosque. It was pretty from a distance. The coast was a little disappointing as it was really muggy. But my camera had a good enough time. I'll post some pics:

Sleeping Under a Mosquito Net is Only Exotic the First Night

You see, mosquito nets are designed to keep mosquitoes out. But mosquitoes are very small (and did you know they are the deadliest creature in the animal kingdom . . . don't believe me?? Come to Galmi, we have proof). So while the net keeps them from accessing your sitting-duck-sleeping-body during the night, it also prevents the flow of air. In order for the breeze to penetrate the net, the ceiling fan must be set to "highest" and therefore it creates a nice steady roar. Whoever invented earplugs was a genius -- give that man a Nobel Prize.

So I've made it to Galmi!! So much has happened since I left NYC . . . traipsed around Casablanca, flew a small airplane, and made yogurt from milk powder . . . but those are stories for another day (and there are photos to prove it all).

You want to hear about Galmi . . . or rather, I want to tell you about Galmi. Where to start?? Well, it's hot here . . . but not HOT. It's the "cold season" which means it's hot and humid. The "hot," "hotter," and "hottest" seasons come later. For now its sticky and uncomfortable. But I can't say that I really even notice most of the time. I've been too busy.

The hospital is a maze, I can't go anywhere without getting myself lost. We see a lot of malaria, meningitis, TB, sepsis, perforated colons, and other non-traditional OT diagnoses. But that doesn't mean I'm twiddling my thumbs. I did some crutch training with two men who had amputations and another who required a skin graft for a massive wound on his ankle. There's a three year old with a full-thickness (third degree) burn along the width of his back, over his shoulder blades. His family waited three weeks to bring him to Galmi, so before they can graft, they have to disinfect, which means he probably won't be grafted until after I leave. Lets hope someone stretches him.

Speaking of stretching, I'm working with four little ones right now for contracture prevention and management. One has CP, two with cerebral malaria, and one with tetanus. All four are fisting very badly and they have such high tone! I've made some little palm protectors for them out of a scarf and some cotton cast lining (all hand-stitched). The width of three of them is the length of my little finger, and the one for the infant with tetanus is the length from the tip of my little finger to my middle phalangeal joint!! TINY!! (I'll post some pictures next time)

It's hard to keep the wall up working with these little ones so close to death. Their moms and grannies sit there helpless and pretty hopeless. Each patient is prayed over in the name of Jesus.

Anyway, I need to go round with the docs and do some ROM. Have a good one. Sai an jima.

19 August 2008

One more about Leprosy

The BBC has posted a photoessay on Leprosy in Southern Sudan. Just FYI.


Getting Antsy

I'm sitting in Starbucks because my apartment is too hot, as I refuse to turn on the airconditioning . . . in part to live without it, and in part to save some money. But while sitting here sipping my overpriced iced coffee, I remembered some important online business I needed to attend to -- immediately! Okay, so it wasn't that urgent, but lately, despite writting things down (in more than one location) I seem to forget to take care of all the important stuff. But seeing as I'm getting on an airplane on Thursday and won't be back until the middle of September, my room for error is slim.

I don't know where I was going with that.

But this is a perfect example of how my mind has been working for the past few days. And it keeps getting WORSE!! My mind is already on the plane! (hey, when's the flight attendent going to come around with the beverage service??) I've already put the headphones on, leaned my seatback down, donned the complimentary socks and cover-for-your-eyes-so-that-you-think-it's-dark-in-here-even-if-it's-not . . . I've dozed off to sleep with the anticipation that the next time I see light I will be on my long layover in Casablanca.


Crud. I'm still in NewJersey. Still sitting in Starbucks.

I don't like this adult-version of anticipation. As a kid it was fun to suffer through that going-mad-excitement waiting for Christmas morning. Now, anticipation sucks. I've tried reading . . . but by the time my mind returns from the latest daydream, I realize that I've read the same line on the page about three dozen times. OY.

I have a prayer letter to write. But since my computer died last month I haven't had MSWord, except on Wednesdays. So much for using my "downtime" efficiently.

BUT IN TWO DAYS I'LL BE CHECKING IN AT JFK BOUND FOR NIGER!!! WOO HOO!! In the mean time, it's sit and wait. And try not to fidgit too much.

Off to Niger

Thursday (YES . . . THIS THURSDAY!!) I will be leaving for three weeks in Niger to visit Galmi!

So stay tuned for all sorts of  . . . uh . . . well . . . I'm not really sure what to expect apart from heat and sand.  Oh, and camels. 

I will have internet access and so I will try to post as often as possible, especially when there are great stories to tell and photos to share.