29 December 2011

How Not To Build Rapport

This morning a little girl from the Under 5 Clinic came to see me.  She's nearing three and cannot walk.  She was a little bit like a rag doll . . . really floppy . . . and absolutely adorable.

She came into my office hidden under her mom's flowing head covering.  We all three sat on the floor, ready to play . . . well, at least I was ready to play.  She was ready to scream.

And that's all she did for the next half an hour!

26 December 2011

TED Gets It Right Again

Alberto Cairo is an Italian PT who works with the Red Cross in Afghanistan.

20 December 2011

Lessons from the Tour

This morning the operating room staff went for a tour of the new Post-Surgical Building.  Our current facility is the original (plus some simple extensions as we grew), dating back to the 1960's.  The cement is crumbling, there is barely any airflow, it's dark, and it was time for a change.  So we are nearing the end of Phase I, next up is OB, then medicine/peds, then . . . I forget.

It's been a long process (not sure how long, but I'm confident that someone from my team will read this and let me know just how long, so be sure to check back for details).  And we're nearing the end!

But you don't want to read about buildings . . . okay, really, I don't want to write about buildings, I want to write about people.  So, I arrived on the tail end of the OR staff's tour of the new facility.  And experiencing it with them was a privilege.

15 December 2011

Stupid Birds

While most of our local wild life doesn't span beyond the imagination of donkeys, camels, chameleons, snakes and the ugliest spiders on the face of the earth, we do have quite an array of birds.  There are swallows that dive to drink out of our swimming pool . . . and these beautiful blue ones that don't do much of anything except fly away the moment they sense a camera within a 10meter radius.

And there are the pigeons.  

Stupid pigeons.

07 December 2011

A Kettle, a Pot, a Log, and a Crocodile

I've been back from dropping my mom at the airport since Sunday.  Today is Wednesday.  And still hospital employees say good morning by first asking how she is . . . if she arrived safely . . . and when I'm getting married.

Today it was a man who works in the outpatient chart room.

06 December 2011

Maybe Close Is Good

I just had a brilliant conversation with my gardener's father in English.

It all started when he asked how my mom was doing . . . if she had arrived safely in the US . . . how she liked Niger . . . and so on.  Then he asked how many sisters I had in the US who would take care of her since I was here.  I told him I had no sisters.

'But, how many brothers?' he asked.



04 December 2011

This Is How We Roll

I write this blog to help you better understand what life is like for an outsider in this little corner of the world I'm currently calling home . . . okay, so really it's to help ME better understand my not-so-brand-new-anymore context . . . but you've been invited to be a 'fly on the wall'.  So in the spirit of the holistic approach, I documented my trip from the capital back home via the Nigerien version of the BulletTrain: the bus.  

Since most of you will never have the privilege of riding the bus in WestAfrica, here it is, chronicled as it was happening:

It's 4:40am.  I've been on the bus half an hour and we are still sitting in the parking lot.

03 December 2011

Knock-Off Magic

Late Thursday night, I put my mom on a plane and she went back home.  The month went quickly, and she had a wonderful experience being here.

And when in Niamey, for whatever reason, it's important to take an extra day or two and run as many errands as one possibly can.  Like taking advantage of having a small grocery store.  Or checking out prices on garden hoses.  Or eating in a restaurant.  Or . . . well, all the things you can't do when you live in a big village.

28 November 2011

His Brain Is Speaking English

This morning I was asked to see a patient who came in for an operation and had a stroke while he was recovering.  The doctor told me that he had left hemiplegia, so I knew it was right side (of the brain) involvement.  But since we live in a world of Where-There-Is-No-MRI, I had no idea what to expect.

It's been a while since I've had a patient with an acute stroke . . . but it's like riding a bike.  One with a cool basket in the front and streamers in the handle bars!

24 November 2011

When the Cultural Tables Turn

Yesterday one of my burn patients asked if she could leave for a day or two and then come back.  I thought it an odd request, but today her baby turns seven days old.

According to the local customs, turning seven days old entitles one to a name and a big party, the biki.  I've been to a few, and yes, they are quite a big deal.  Excessive quantities of pounded millet and sauce are prepared for the early morning meal . . . everyone you know, and maybe some you don't, comes to celebrate the birth and the giving of the name . . . everyone gives a gift to the mother and she in turn offers a little goodie bag . . . and then a sheep is slaughtered, bled, and skinned.  

Yeah, it's a pretty big deal.

23 November 2011

Black Wednesday

Tomorrow is my most favorite American holiday, Thanksgiving.  I love it because we eat stuffing and apple pie . . . oh, and because we get to be thankful . . . maybe I should have put that part first.

And the day after tomorrow, when everyone is eating leftover stuffing and apple pie, is Black Friday.  They call it 'Black Friday' because so many people start shopping for Christmas and the stores have BIG sales and . . . well, I don't really care, because I never shop on BlackFriday.  My STA friend Cool-J, however, is a BIG BlackFriday shopper. 

But we live in Galmi, Where-There-Is-No-BlackFriday and Where-There-Is-No-WalMart.  So, we improvise . . . today is BlackWednesday.

22 November 2011

Why I am Not an Expert

Most of the moments I share here in this space are the unique misadventures that color my new life in Niger.  The thing is, like everywhere else in the world, there are even more 'everyday' type events that have become mundane and even, dare I say it, normal.

I had a great normal-moment today . . . I made two men laugh while doing crutch training with a patient.

18 November 2011

The View from Here

Nurses from the hospital giving babies vaccinations.
We spent the morning with the vaccination team in a local village.  My Momma handed out Vitamin A to moms and babies.  I wandered and took photos.  We both made many children cry . . . simply by saying hello.  Guess they don't get too many ghost-like faces in their neighborhood.

I went mainly to get a better idea of what daily life is like for my patients, since, for most of them, Galmi is considered a pretty big town.  Thought you might enjoy the little village of Gidan Miko 1 & 2 from the other side of my camera.  Enjoy.

17 November 2011

Ride, Camel, Ride

There are two things I really hate: heights and riding on animals.

The way see it, if God had wanted us to be up high, on Day 8 He would have created skyscrapers.  And if He intended for humans to ride on animals, He would have created them with saddles on their backs.

But He didn't.

16 November 2011

The Local Culture: A Guest Post

My mom is here visiting for a month.  She let me read an email she wrote my dad detailing her first Saturday morning in Galmi.  I thought you'd enjoy reading a fresh-off-the-boat perspective.  So, here's Momma:

On Friday, we received two pieces of bubble gum from a male co-worker of Deborah's.  His wife had their first child, a little girl.  The gum was our invitation to the baby 'bikki' -- naming of the baby ceremony.  So on Saturday at 7am, we and a group of other people from the compound walked to the home in town.  We were all dressed in our finest African outfits, married women complete with head covering veils (did not have to cover my face, but wanted to because of the dust!!!).  We made our way down the various alleys among the filth, donkey carts, motor bikes, bicycles, people walking, to an alley that had men gathered sitting on plastic chairs or standing around........that was the men's section of the 'bikki.'  

10 November 2011

A Mile in Her Shoes

I've had a handful of patients that have left an imprint on me from the moment they walk into my office.  Okay, so maybe 'walk' is the wrong word to use.

I will never forget the look on M.'s face as she crawled around the corner into my office.

09 November 2011

Okay, I Live

I've been away for a few weeks.  I took some of my vacation time and got away from here to rest.  It was good to be somewhere else for awhile . . . it gave me time to process and grieve and wrestle with some of the realities of my new life in Niger and rest.

But I'm back now.  Back in Galmi.  Back to work.  Back in the deep-end.

And the nature of my jobs brings me face to face with the full spectrum of the pendulum . . . death and life at the same time . . . sometimes with the very same patient.

05 November 2011

Ticket to Ride . . . Twice

The first time I flew with CaptainE he gave my very first flying lesson.  
Lesson Number One: Take off is optional, landing is mandatory.
Today’s lesson: Stay calm, even when the pilot tells you we can’t land.

28 October 2011

The Gift of Play

The other day I was treating a 13 year old boy with metastatic cancer.  He came to Galmi to have an amputation of one of his legs, about at the level of his hip.  My job was to help him be able to walk with crutches and to improve his sitting balance.  Crutches were a near disaster, so I put him in a wheelchair and brought him to my office.  His dad came with.

Working in this culture, I've learned that if I want a man to participate in a therapy session and not get between me (a woman) and my patient, it is best if I give him a specific task and responsibility.  So Baba was assigned to sit on a stool facing his son and toss a balloon with him.

24 October 2011

Lessons from the Intermediary

Learning to solve conflict is always an interesting process . . . throw in the context of foreign language and a new culture and you've got yourself a recipe for a few stressful near-misses.  Recently, on a couple separate trips between Galmi and Niamey, I have had the occasion to be an observer and participant of cross-cultural conflict resolution.  

The first involved a 4x4 and a moto . . . the second, a misplaced cell phone.  Both had three things in common: intercultural participants, a growing-more-aggressive-by-the-minute mob, and a lone intermediary.

21 October 2011


Five Minute Friday, brought you by The GypsyMama.  Write for five minutes, no editing, no perfecting, just writing.


The other day I sent a text message to a friend in which I explained 'I know my limits, and I know what happens if I go beyond them.'  I was referring to my deep need for alone time at that particular moment.

20 October 2011

People are People

I was walking down a secondary street in Niamey, which of course is paved with brick red sand, and I passed an auto école, a driving school.  The school is a one-room office with nothing inside but a desk, chair, and old desk-top computer.

The room was completely empty, except for a gentleman sitting at the desk, facing the computer, with his hand on the mouse.

He was playing solitaire.

18 October 2011

Fatigue Confessions

Last week, while I was at the course on Club Foot treatment, I realized just how tired I was.  It had been a rough couple of weeks . . . and my capacity for staring suffering and death in the face has reached it's maximum.  I am tired, and I have nothing left.

When I started at work again Monday, I nearly broke down in tears three times during wound care of our burn patients . . . three times by 9am.

14 October 2011


It's been a few weeks since I've done a Five-Minute-Friday post.  Mostly because Friday rolls around I forget about it.  But when I saw today's topic I got really giggly inside, because I knew exactly what I wanted to say.

So here goes, five minutes, no editing.  Go, write, stop.


11 October 2011

The Trouble with Words

An old man came to my office today needing a pair of crutches.  His French-speaking son was with him.  The old man had a necrotic head of his femur and was in need of a hip replacement . . . which is a procedure we don’t do here in Galmi.
As I was fitting him for his crutches, the son asked me a most shocking question about his father’s care:
‘Doesn’t this hospital have a Gynecologist?’

Lessons on Limitless Mercy

One of the best, and sometimes hardest, parts of working at Galmi is the constant flow of visitors who come for a few weeks or months to help us out.  What I love most about having short-termers is they leave us with their leftover coffee and chocolate.

No . . . wait . . . I think that came out wrong.

What I meant to say was, they often help renew our perspective.  They remind us how to look at our surroundings with new eyes.  The challenge us to keep striving and not give up.  They make us remember what we love about life here.

09 October 2011

Party Planning on African Time

Drove back to Galmi today.  It was a trip that warrants it's own post.

But not tonight.

You see, I unexpectedly hosted a party this evening.  Fifteen guests.  Three languages.  And many, many speeches.

07 October 2011

Lessons from a Busted Pipe

I've been in Niamey this week, taking a course on Club Foot Protocol.  It's been great.  The course was great.  It's great to get away for a few days.  It's GREAT to be able to go to a grocery store!!!  It's great to find fruits and veggies other than onions, potatoes and squash.  It's great to have more than one paved road.  It's great to . . . you get the idea.

But when I arrived in Niamey on Monday, the internet was down.  Not just in my friend's apartment, or her building, or even her neighborhood.  No, it was down throughout the city . . . I'm told they had it in outlying neighborhoods, but most of the capital was bumper-to-bumper in a gridlock on the information superhighway.  Eventually, it came back up.

The power goes out for an hour or so throughout the day.  We sweat a lot.  We stink a lot.  But we live.

Now, we have another problem.  No water.

04 October 2011

Lessons from Life's Little Interruptions

I'm in the capital for a week taking a course on the Ponsetti Method for Club Foot Treatment.  Exciting, I know!!  I drove in yesterday with one of our doc's and one of our team leaders.

As it usually is traveling in this country, our trip was a bit of an adventure, complete with having to push-start the car from the side of the road and making new friends with a random boy named Sadou from a random village somewhere a few hours between Galmi and Niamey.  But those are stories for another day.

02 October 2011

Don't Talk With Your Mouth Full: A Misadventure of the Cross-Cultural Type

I learned a very interesting cross-cultural lesson tonight:  we don't all build community over food.

WHAT?!?!?  Crazy!!!  I know, right!!

But, no, really.  In fact, I was teased tonight for how much talking I did during the meal!

01 October 2011

The Rest of the Story

When I was in high school I had a book by Paul Harvey called The Rest of the Story in which he recounted details of true stories.  Preceding the revelation of the particular the historical event or famous person about whom he was speaking, was always the phrase 'Now, the rest of the story.'

Last week, one of my burn patients died.  She was six years old.  Cause of death: malaria. It was tragic and unexpected and difficult to accept.  She had come to us to have a contracture release so that she could walk again.  But she came down with a resistant strain of malaria that eventually made its way to her brain.

And now, the rest of the story.

28 September 2011

At a Loss for Words

For the past three months, I've been treating a girl who has full-thickness (formerly known as Third Degree) burns on her thighs, chest, neck and over half of her face.  While her chest and facial burns are still in the healing stage, those on her legs are almost open-wound-free, which means she's moving into the scaring phase.

If we were in the US, she would already have been measured for compression garments and fitted for a mask.

But we're not in the US.  We are in Niger.  And we have no compression garments.  Nor the capability to pull a face mask.  Both of which would significantly help minimize her scaring.

26 September 2011


Seven and a half months.  SEVEN AND A HALF MONTHS!!  That's how long I've gone without seeing a snake.  When I arrived in Niger, I told God that if I found one in my house, I'd be on the first plane out of here.  And thankfully, He's held up His end of the deal.

This afternoon when I went home for lunch, I was peacefully sitting in my livingroom, when all of a sudden I heard a crazy commotion outside.  I peaked out my window towards all the brouhaha and found a pack of Nigerien men outside of the house next door.

Feeling curious, I went to take a closer look.

25 September 2011

Confessions From a Drop In the Ocean

When I was a kid, I heard an illustration about a little boy standing on the beach during low tide.  The shore was glazed in stray starfish who had been washed up by the tide, and a little boy was throwing them back in the ocean, one by one.  A grown-up approached him and mocked his efforts, questioning what sort of difference he could make with such a massive shore-line and only two little hands.  The boy continued his efforts without acknowledging the man.  “It made a difference to that one,” and he tossed a starfish back in the salty waters.  “And that one,” he launched another.  “And that one.  And that one.  And that one . . . .”
I woke up this morning with that grown-up's voice echoing through my mind.  And I confess, it is much easier to believe the enemy’s lie that ‘one drop in the ocean doesn’t matter’ than it is to trust in the faithfulness of the One who called.

24 September 2011

For Your Birthday

Okay, not really, but I did find a gray
 hair in my eyebrow they other day!
Today is a very special day.  My dearest, closest friend joins the rest of us in the ranks of thirty.  So, if you don't mind, this one's for her.

I can't begin to tell you how much your friendship means to me.  You are my favorite.  And I appreciate you.  You are a very treasured gift.

23 September 2011

Quel Cadeau!

Fifteen minutes after noon today I was rushing down the hallway between the OR and my office, late for two out-patient appointments.  'Madame!!  Madame!!!' a woman shouted at me from an overflow mattress on the floor.  This is a normal occurrence for me.  Often the family members of patients assume that I'm a physician and ask me to stop and check up on their loved one or to ask for medication.  It usually takes a while to convince them that I'm neither a doctor nor a nurse and I cannot provide the help they are looking for.

I almost didn't turn around, since I was running late, but she kept calling, so I stopped.  She jumped up from the mattress where her sick baby was sleeping and came with a torn-up dirty white sack.

21 September 2011

Lessons on Abba

There are three amazing kiddos (H., Y., and N.) that I have the privilege of working with.  All three came several weeks ago for surgical releases of flexion contractures of one of their knees as a result of severe burns.  All three played, I mean, worked, very hard to be mobile with crutches or a walker . . . but since surgery, each has battled a bout of malaria, extreme pain, major set-backs in mobility, and  discouragement.

Dressing changes with these three have been difficult.  It is a painful process, even with strong medication.  Today, the father of the littlest one, N., came with her.  As he was holding her down while she received her shot of meds, she began screaming.

16 September 2011


We had a helicopter land on our airstrip today.  It's not the first time ever . . . but it's been a LONG time since the last one landed.  As cool as it was to see the chopper itself, the best part was the kids . . . the small ones and the and the big 'grown up' kind.  It was like Christmas morning: awe, wonder and sheer delight.

While we in the West don't all have our own private aircraft sitting in the driveway, we are familiar with helicopters . . . what they look like, how they work.  But here in Galmi, it's as novel as it gets.  On the far side of the airstrip were dozens of village kids, waving and cheering.  On this side of the fence were the guys that work in the shop, giggling and ogling as if a pretty girl had just walked by.

15 September 2011

Somethings Do Translate

Apart from 'sense of humor', I'm not sure there's anything more culturally distinct than 'food.'  Think about what happens to a simple clucking bird when thrown into various cultural contexts: Kung Pao . . . Jerk . . . Coq au Vin . . .  KFC.

But this post has nothing to do with food.  Except that I spent the evening with two girls I work with, making a cake.

14 September 2011

It's a Good Thing I'm Not Shy

Lately I feel like I can't do anything without an audience.  No matter where I am, there's always somebody watching.  And not just watching, staring.

Treatment today was no exception.  I am currently working with 27 inpatients.  CRAZY!!!  I know.  So I try and treat all my kiddos at the same time.  We do activities that target their general needs, and then make it as individualized as possible (for example, four of the six need to work on lower extremity strengthening, balance, and endurance, one needs to stretch the burns on her face . . . so we play a modified version of SimonSays that includes lots of up and down sitting to standing all while making prolonged funny faces).

13 September 2011

OT: Synonymous with WonderWoman

I've been treating a woman who broke her leg . . . two years ago.  And she hasn't walked or stood since.  Our visiting Ortho did something to fix her . . . and now it's my job to get her moving.

She's a short little lady, but two years of immobility has resulted in some putting on of the pounds . . . this, coupled with weight-bearing intolerance, pain, weakness, lack of endurance, and a quick rate of fatigue, in one week of daily therapy, we still have not yet taken any steps.

11 September 2011

Culture SHUH-HOCK!

Lately I feel like I've been blaming my crappy attitude on an easy scapegoat: culture shock.  I'd like to think  that's what's really going on, but to be quite honest, this go-around has looked tremendously different from the last time.

When I arrived in Niger I found myself homesick for France.  I missed everything.  The food (okay, so not the snails!), the fashion, the easy access to anywhere, the pace of life, the Eiffel Tower, the public gardens, the beautiful doors, the architecture, the museums, the stark differences and similarities in each region, the baguettes, the culture, Provence, the Atlantic and Mediterranean coasts, the people . . . EVERYTHING (except the snails).

In Real Life

Brought to you by Five-Minute-Friday: SundayEdition.

In Real Life

Yesterday I found myself in a really grouchy place.  I was tired of the heat.  7 months of summer sounds appealing, until you're living it!  I was sad that on Facebook I had read updates about the impendingness of autumn, and it made me cranky.

07 September 2011

Get Up and Walk

Jesus said that once.  To a lame man.  And immediately he stood up and walked.  I'd like to think he actually jumped around and skipped and hopped like a little kid, with a shout of 'HALLELUJAH!' as he clicked his heals.  But, unfortunately the Bible leaves out all those minor details.

Well, I can't heal the lame, but I do get to give them crutches.

Gross Meets Normal

So I just had a horrifying experience.  As I laid in bed ready to sink into a coma, safely tucked under my mosquito net, I realized that I had forgotten to wash my feet!  That's 17 hours worth of yuck on my sheets!

But you know what bothered me: I considered just going to sleep anyway.

06 September 2011

Confessions of a Thankless Advancer

I love reading blogs written by other people.  On one hand it reminds me that real people live outside of Galmi . . . and some days, I admit, I need a mental holiday, just to 'get away' for a few hours.  One of the blogs I follow is about learning to become a better writer.  Most of the time, I find GW's tips translate well into many areas of life.  His post today reminded me that I've been procrastinating all day.

You see, I'm going through another round of culture shock (these 'phases' seem to be falling much closer together than I'd like).  And today I found myself frustrated, cranky, irritated and well on my way to becoming straight up angry with certain aspects of my new cultural-surroundings.

05 September 2011


I guess if my mom wanted to know, maybe some of the rest of you would too.  'WOTH' stands for Women of the Harvest.  They are a non-profit organization that provides resources for women working cross-culturally in capacities similar to mine.

A few months ago, one of the editors read a blogpost I had written, and she contacted me asking if they could reprint it in the September/October edition of their online magazine.  I said 'Of course, Madame Editor, that would be fine' (or at least that's what I wrote to her . . . I'm pretty sure the voices in my head joined forces for the evening and threw a party).

Anyway, you can find the article here.  Be sure to check out the others in this month's edition.

04 September 2011

Post-Wedding In-Law Fun

After my friend S.'s wedding yesterday, there was a second reception for the families in the late afternoon . . . my friends Alheri the Great and O. the Numbers Man were invited, and welcomed me to tag along.  Not quite sure what happened, but when we arrived at the time given, the whole thing was over.  But we weren't told that yet.

They sent us across the street from the bride's house to a cousin's house.  The wedding gifts from the family were piled in the middle of the courtyard: 100kg sacks of dried corn, rice, millet and wheat; cases of pasta; 15 sets (3 each) of small pots; a few bed sheets; some rugs; four large grass mats; and several dozen metal bowls.  The women of the family sat on the ground by the gifts, waiting.  Alheri, O., and I joined them.

And then we waited.

THE Wedding

Any of you who have been in Galmi for any period of time in the past three years have been waiting (and asking) to see photos from THIS wedding.  I know many of you wished you could have been here . . . and I hope you're not too disappointed with the pics.  The church was PACKED and DARK so it was very difficult to get any good shots.

After the groom's family danced in, the bride's family followed suit.  The couple were left on a big goldenrod plush couch at the front of the church.  The choirs sang . . . a lot.  One of the women's choirs sang a song of advice . . . something about learning to be patient or else you'll have to put your bags on your head (complete with motions that included purses being placed on their heads), and the youth choir sang a goodbye song (literally: 'Bye bye Sani . . . bye bye you . . . bye bye Saratu . . . bye bye you').  It was great!!

03 September 2011

The View From Here

It's been a while since I've had any new photos to post.  Here are some shots from around town.

01 September 2011

Never Mind

So a great big THANK YOU for all the great suggestions for what to name my new little hedgehog.  I was just narrowing it down to my top three when she was delivered last night.  We spent some time bonding and I tried out the different names on her.  She's cute.

I returned her to her box and went to bed.

30 August 2011

Left, Left, Left, Right, Left

My New Year's Resolution should have been 'Learn at Least One New Thing Every Day' . . . that way I would have at least had a shot at keeping it.  My favorite prof in undergrad used to say, 'I'll stop learning when I'm dead' . . . if that's true, I've found the secret to living forever: be a cultural transplant.

Without question, I am learning a lot living in Niger.  While I wish I could say the opposite, the reality is most of my lessons are not the result of careful study and observation . . . no, most of my learning comes as a direct consequence of cause and effect.  Cause: I unwittingly do something against the social norm.  Effect: shock, horror, or lots and lots of Nigerien laughter.

Yesterday's lesson resulted in all three.

28 August 2011

I Need Your Help

I'm finding myself in a bit of a difficult situation . . . and frankly, I need some advice.  So, I'm asking you for your input and opinion.  I only have until Wednesday to decide, so I need your feedback pretty quickly.

25 August 2011

Club Foot

No, I'm not referring to a new indoor soccer complex or hot dance club in Galmi village . . . rather Club Foot, as in the diagnosis.  You know, when a baby is born with abnormalities in the positioning of the bones of the foot.  Their little feet actually look twisted.

In October I will go for some training on how to apply plaster casting to these tiny crooked feet as the first stage of their treatment.  Today I got a preview of what I'll be learning.

24 August 2011

Crutch Training and the Feminist Movement

This afternoon, I fought my own personal battle for Women's Rights in Niger.

I think the reason I hate crutch training the most is because often it becomes a community event.  It's hard enough with the language barrier, but throw in and extra dozen people and their two-cents and you've got a circus.

And what's Ringling Crutch Brothers got to do with the Feminist Movement??  Keep reading.

22 August 2011


As I was leaving the hospital today, there was an old Fulani woman on the back steps next to me with a baby tied on her back.  Which is nothing out of the ordinary here.  What made me stop and take notice was that the baby was only a few days old.

'Akwai jariri!' (There's a baby!) I said to her.
'Akwai Debo' she responded with a smile.

21 August 2011


Five Minute Friday . . . okay, so it's Sunday night here.  And I'm just now getting around to this.

So here's how this works: TheGypsyMama gives us a topic, I set a timer for 5 minutes, and write whatever comes to mind, without editing, without tweaking, without trying to make it perfect.  The trick is keeping it five minutes.  Here goes.

18 August 2011

The Secret to Therapeutic Success: Pants

It may seem like a small thing to you, but I got to wear pants today . . . at work!  So in my book, that makes for a good day.  Granted, they were the deep kelly green hammer pants that I feel a bit ridiculous wearing, but hey, pants are pants and my rebellious nerve was satisfied.

Okay, so I wasn't intending to talk about my ongoing-rebellious-towards-having-to-wear-skirts-all-the-time attitude, really I wanted to tell you about the super interesting case I'm currently treating . . . well, at lest I find it interesting.

17 August 2011

The Answer is Still No

So last week I practically had to push a guy out of my office . . . he just didn't want to leave.  While I wish I could say it was because he loved therapeutic exercise and functional activity, unfortunately the real reason was that he wouldn't take 'over my dead body' for an answer.  I think I need to sew patches on my scrub tops that say 'I Won't Be Your Next Urwagida (wife), So Don't Bother Asking!'

The whole story will have to wait for another day . . . but the best part of it happened about three months ago.

15 August 2011


I've never had so many nicknames in all of my life . . . just walking down the hallway of the hospital I can pass seven different people who all call me something other than 'Déborah'.

The latest of which has been Amatta.

The Art of Visiting

I heard a Hausa proverb that had something to do with relationships and feet . . . I don't remember what it means, but I remember that 'visiting' was mentioned in the conversation.

Regardless of culture, nationality, or people group, relationships are developed through time spent together and the sharing of experiences.  It is, however, culture, nationality, and people group that determines and defines the quantity of time necessary and which experiences are shared when developing relationships.

11 August 2011

And Thus Starts Earwig Season

This morning I made myself a nice tall glass of iced coffee.  It was yummy . . . well, at least the first few sips were.
Now, I’ve eaten some weird stuff in my life.  Giant ants, pirana eyeballs, kangaroo, horse, and snails (twice) . . . just to mention a few.  
What’s all that got to with my iced coffee this morning??  I’m getting to it.

09 August 2011

Unexpected Smiles

It's been a day . . . a week, actually . . . and it's only Tuesday.

I'll spare you the details and just skip ahead to the best part so far.

So this afternoon I had a scheduled outpatient . . . but by the time I got to my office I had another four patients waiting at the door.  My regularly scheduled appointment was the only one who could speak French . . . so you can imagine the chaos and near disaster that scenario was.

07 August 2011

Teaching from Scratch

There was a short period during my childhood when I thought I wanted to be a teacher.  I set my dolls up as 'students' and pretended to give tests and assignments . . . but I realized early on that I seriously lacked the patience and attention span to spend my days imparting knowledge and wisdom to the next generation in a classroom.

So I became an OT.  Which I love.  And have never regretted.

But when I signed on to work at Galmi, I did so with the understand that I would be starting something new here . . . which meant from scratch.  And by 'from scratch' I mean 'FROM SCRATCH.'  When I arrived six months ago, I was given two dozen wrist splints that had been donated a decade ago, a handful of knee immobilizers, and the hospital had a guy that builds crutches.  I'll put it this way, if I were baking a cake, that would mean I've got some chickens out back that lay eggs, some wheat in a field ready to harvest, and a couple of rods of sugarcane.  SCRATCH, people!!

05 August 2011


Another Five-Minute-Friday.


I had a patient today who brought his own crutches with him to the hospital.  They're metal.  But they were slightly too short for him, so I adjusted them.

04 August 2011

Fan Mail

I try not to check my mailbox too often . . . cause it's usually empty.

But the mail came while I was in Niamey.  And this time my box was full.  There were miscellaneous items from the SIM office . . . a postcard from my mom (thanks mom!) . . . and then there was a half-size manilla envelope with my name and address on it.  I didn't know the return address, but I confess I got a little excited when I saw the customs sticker on the bottom left corner.

03 August 2011

Today Niger was Beautiful

I first came to Niger in 2008 for a just-under-a-month-survey-trip.  I had already signed on with SIM and had committed to Galmi Hospital, but since I was starting a new department I knew I had to scope out what was and wasn't available in therapeutic terms.

I'm not going to lie.  As a result of that trip, it took around six months before I even wanted to come back to AFRICA, let alone Niger.  There were many reasons . . . but the main root was fear.

01 August 2011


Five Minute Friday . . . a few days late.

I'm still in Africa.

Uno, CokeLight, and Other Acts of Hospitality

My friend B. was in Niamey this weekend too.  She lives closer, so she gets here more often . . . and has lots more African friends than I do.  After church yesterday, we stopped in at the Pastor's house to say a quick hello.  That turned into a three hour visit.

What started as a very short Just-Popping-in-to-Say-Hi-Since-its-Been-Awhile visit quickly turned into an Uno tournament.  All of which ended in a full-blown meal.

29 July 2011

I Miss Trains

When I was studying French, I took the train everywhere.  Whether it be the RER from Massy to Paris or the Métro around the City of Light or the TGV down to Aix-en-Provence for some time at L'Eau Vive.  I love trains!  Even more than airplanes.  I don't know why, but I love trains.

Unfortunately, we don't have trains in Niger.  We have bicycles, handbikes, donkey carts, camels, 4x4's, bush taxis, and buses.  And since when you're a single, you don't raise funds for a car, bus is the transport option of choice when needing a little R&R away in the big city.

25 July 2011

My New Wheels

That's right!  I now have a vehicle!!  And have to brag . . . it gets GREAT gas milage!  At first I thought about going with a LandRover, since I do live in Africa . . . and was even considering a hybrid for a while, since Niger's only green during rainy season . . . but in the end decided that the best way to help develop Galmi's new Therapy Department was to go with something a little more . . . what's the word I'm looking for . . . MANUAL.

My new trike-style wheelchair arrived yesterday and I took it out for test-drive this afternoon!!  My knees get in the way . . . my arms are barely strong enough to push up even the slightest slope . . . and it was only a hoard of guardian angels that kept me from crashing six or seven times.  At one point our visiting SIM Deputy International Director of Africa and Europe had to push me out of a dirt pile, and I already have blisters on my palms.  But I figure with a little more practice and some rewelding of the crooked front shaft, I'll be picking up the speed in no time!

Helping at the Hospital: A Guest Post

Norton is seven.  He hails from western Australia, and is here at Galmi with his family for three months.  His dad is working on our surgical team.  A few weeks ago he came, with his mom, brother and sister, to help me with a pediatric therapy group session.  Here's his experience, in his own words . . . completely unedited (except for the names the African kiddos).

On Thursday, Caiti, Hudson and I went with Deb. to the hospital.  We plad in Deb.'s ofes.  For once we got to go in a ofes that we could graffiti on the walls and flor with chalk.  We played with two litel African girls called A. & B.  to help them learn how to use their left arms.  A.'s right arm was burned because she fell in a fire.  It was so bad my Dad had to take her arm off.

23 July 2011

Busy Saving the Day

This morning, bright and early was another biki, a baby naming ceremony.  By the time we arrived, the event had already begun.  Unlike the previous biki I had been too, the women and men were only separated by seating sections, so we had to sit through the sermon too. 

Being as it was in Hausa and the pastor was only turning to the men's side, I zoned out and began checking out what all the other women were wearing. Within a few minutes, I could here a bit of a commotion inside the house.  Someone can rushing out with a small pitcher.  There was no more water!

21 July 2011

Hausa Culture 101

So I've been working with a tutor to learn me some Hausa grammar and all the joys that come with a tonal language.  It's been really helpful so far as I try to wrap my head around what is still sounding like senseless noise.  But today I had a rough morning in the hospital and had trouble focusing.

What started off as a Hausa language lesson ended as a culture lesson.  And it was fascinating!  I learned about the different styles of 'family meals' . . . about Nigerien social strata . . . and about the art of visiting and hosting.  Talk about a wealth of information.  I feel like I've struck gold.

20 July 2011

The Turning Head that Also Swims

La tête tourne.  That is to say, my head is swimming!  I have no idea yet how the Hausa say it.

It's 3:30 in the morning and I've woken up, unable to sleep more.  Normally, at times like this I'm feeling prompted to pray for someone in particular . . . but this morning . . . nope.  I have Hausa conjugations racing through my head!!!

19 July 2011

A Night In

My company just left . . . and now I have a headache.

No, no, it's not what you think . . . my company didn't give me my headache . . . well, actually, they kind of did.  Our conversation at dinner tonight was in three languages.  That's right!  THREE!

English, French, and Hausa . . . or was that Haulish, Franglais, and Frausa . . . OY.

16 July 2011


I like these Five-Minute-Fridays from the GypsyMama.  I don't have anything profound to offer, but I enjoy the idea of linking in to a topic and seeing what come outs without pre-meditation or editing (wait, doesn't that break the Think Before You Speak Rule my mom was always trying to teach me???).  Well, anyway, here goes (and this GM, thanks for the extra few minutes this week . . . I think I'll take 7 1/2).

I thought I would lose a piece of myself as a watched a little girl dying in front of me.  As a result of typhoid, her stomach was an open pool of rotting insides.  Everything that could be done, had been.  We were asked to clean the wound, in order to provide her a little time of relief . . . which was ironic, because she was too weak to receive medication, and so this was about to be a painfully excruciating process.

15 July 2011

Assistive Technology and the Cultural Context

I have a patient who broke four of the five metacarpals of his right hand . . . those are the bones in the hand . . . the five longbones that connect the wrist to the fingers.  And while it seems, on the surface, they don't move much, the reality is, without correct positioning of the metacarpals, proper grasp, grip, and general dexterity of the fingers is significantly hindered.

Our surgical team did a good job resetting his bones.  But they can't do anything for him once the cast comes off.  And six weeks of immobility leads to stiffness, pain, and more immobility.  So, they've sent him to me.  After two weeks of an hour a day of (painful) stretching and exercises, he has seen a significant amount of progress.  He can pick up different sized items and can open bottles and pinch clothes pins.

12 July 2011

The Surgical Grasshopper

This morning in the OR, I was debriding a gangrenous hand when all of a sudden I felt a little pop on my surgical mask . . . right on the bridge of my nose . . . where the thin metal strip bends down to help keep the mask in place.

Having never before experienced a 'pop on my surgical mask', I assumed something had been twisted, I moved funny, and the little metal strip snapped into place, and I thought nothing more of it.

That is, until . . .

So Much for No Free Shows

Living in another culture is always an adventure.  Waking up in the morning, one is never sure what sort of I-can't-believe-that-just-happened-to-me moments are waiting just outside the front door.  No, I mean, literally on the front porch.

I just came home from work and there was a Granny waiting on my front porch for my house helper.  Apart from bonjour and merci, Granny only speaks Hausa.  We greeted one another and she started to tell me a story about something that happened at her house yesterday (I actually understood about 85%!).  Then my R. came out of my house (which was a surprise because she normally doesn't work Tuesdays) and asked if I was feeling better as she grabbed my arms to inspect my 'allergic dermatitis'.

Here, Ducky, Ducky

Yesterday was my first day back to work since my 'allergic reaction' (sounds much more public-knowlege-friendly than 'rash') got hyper-out-of-control last week.  Apart from Soho's BIG smile when I walked into the OR Bloc, the day was pretty typical . . . full of more only-in-Galmi crutch emergencies (including a crutch that was SNAPPED IN TWO!  I have no idea how that happened!).

But the highlight of my day came when I was asked to work with a little three-ish year old girl who came in for contracture releases of several fingers on her right hand, following neglected full thickness burns.  Coming straight from another new para, I was only armed with a jar of bubbles.

09 July 2011


After a terribly boring week, trapped inside, drugged up on anti-humidity-enducing-weirdo-rash meds I have nothing . . . nada . . . rien . . . babu interesting or funny or self-deprecating to share.  But lucky for you, it's Friday . . . or at least it was 27 minutes ago.  Which means, Five Minute Friday!  Thank you, GypsyMama.

The rules are: 5 minutes.  No editing . . . just writing . . . for 5 minutes.  Today's topic: Grateful.

06 July 2011

Freak of Nature

It's official.  I'm a FREAK OF NATURE!  I have spent the past two days holed away in my house under the AC and drugged up on something stronger than benedryl that has probably not been approved by the FDA.

I mentioned the other day that I have a crazy heat rash that has been brought on by the heat and humidity that will be with us until at least the end of September.  I am currently 1/3 strawberry . . . lathered in calamine lotion, using every ounce of self-control to not claw my skin off.

04 July 2011

I'm Allergic to Niger

When I was doing my undergrad in Athletic Training at Cedarville University, I had to take a class called 'Modalities'.  The point was to learn the what's, where's, when's and how's of therapeutic 'tools' such as electrical stimulation, ultrasound, massage, heat, and cold (things like hot and cold packs and heat and ice baths, etc).  Our labs were always a lot of fun and through them I learned a tremendous amount.

Including the fact that I have a rare allergy to cold.  Weird, I know.

03 July 2011

That Narrows it Down

On Friday morning I had three outpatients all scheduled to come for handtherapy at the same time.  One guy has been coming twice a week for some time now, and he's always ontime . . . but for some reason this week he was running late.  Since I had the other two patients, I decided to go ahead and get them started and he could just see himself to my office once he arrived (normally the guard makes them wait for me to come).

The guard schedule changes each month.  There's a rotation of four or five locations, and being as it was 1 July, there was a new guard who doesn't quite know my regulars.

02 July 2011


The top half of my body is currently one big red blotchy mess of itchiness.   I'm told it's 'just a heat-rash', but I think 'Maladie de Baturiya' (White Woman's Disease) is more fun to tell my Nigerien co-workers.  We have officially transitioned from It's-So-Hot-I-Can't-Move-or-Think season to It's-So-Hot-&-Humid-I-Can-Drink-the-Air season.  I guess my skin isn't happy with the change and has decided to throw a temper tantrum.  Thankfully, my face has decided not to get involved in the public demonstration!!  So I've decided to lock myself in for most of the day and run the AC.  So far it's working . . . I'm only half strawberry.

Today's lock-in has afforded me the time to catch up on my blog-reading.  I do quite enough of my own blog-writing, but there are many blogs that I love to read but normally don't have the time.  One of which is The Gypsy Momma (I think I love her most because she is SouthAfrican).  Every week she writes Five Minute Friday, in which she takes 5 minutes to write non-stop about a topic.  Normally I read her post and write my own in my head.  Today I thought I'd join her . . . even though technically it's Saturday.

A Fun Way to Stay Connected

I've said it before, I'll say it again: I LOVE SKYPE!

30 June 2011

Vor You, Veeeddy Gud Price!

Every few weeks we have a Tuareg trader that passes through selling artisan made jewelry and handicrafts.  The stuff he sells is alright, considering he brings it 'to our door' . . . but his prices are HIGH!

But it's also very cultural to barter and haggle for a better price.  Something about a long tradition of giving the vendor the opportunity to demonstrate his generosity.  Some days it's fun.  Other's it just tiresome.

29 June 2011

A Meeting Place in the Worst of It

I watched a little boy take his final breath this morning.  He had just celebrated his first birthday this month.

He died from dehydration caused either by malaria or meningitis, his doctors were waiting for the lab results, his family was preparing to donate blood for a much needed transfusion.

28 June 2011

Hands-On (Family) Education

I used to treat a lot of stroke patients during my former life in Philadelphia.  Here, I’ve had one or two.  I see fewer stroke patients here mainly because most of the time the patient doesn’t come to the hospital for a few days or weeks since the onset of symptoms.  And at that point they are considered ‘medically stable’ and are not admitted, but rather sent home with bloodpressure meds.
On the off chance that I am asked to see a patient who’s had a stroke, it’s mainly for family education.  You know, some exercises the family can do with the patient . . . encouraging the patient to use what functional capacity they have . . . safe transfers . . . etc.  It’s often 15 minutes with the family in the doctors’ office.

25 June 2011

Lessons from Soho

Normally the back entrance to the hospital has people coming and going . . . but it's not 'busy.'  But this morning, at 10:59, it was a buzz of near hysteria.  
There had been an accident between two bush-taxis (or at least that's what I was told), both packed with passengers.  As I ushered my three outpatients to my office, nearly a dozen gurneys whizzed passed us taking bloodied victims to the OR.

23 June 2011

Galmi's Red Light District

I went to the market today.  It's Wednesday . . . our only market day in Galmi.  I went with Alheri and two of our short-term guys in for a few months.  It was a normal trip to the market . . . at least it was once we got there.

About a stone's throw from the entrance of the marché, Alheri and I were approached by a woman asking for money.  Now, it's common for us to be bombarded with beaucoups of 'akwai cadeau?'s (a hybrid of Hausa and French to ask 'Is there a gift??') by every child we pass, but it is rare that an adult will ask on the street in Galmi (in the hospital, and in Niamey, that's another story).

21 June 2011


SoHo is a neighborhood in Manhattan ('SOuth of HOuston . . . street).  It's also an area of London (minus the capital 'H').  But in Hausa, soho means 'Old Man.'

Soho and I work together everyday in the OR.  I think he's my favorite Nigerien.  Apparently he retired a few years back, but keeps coming to work because we're short-staffed.  I don't exactly know why he's still plugging along . . . regardless, I'm glad he is.

19 June 2011

Things That Go 'Bump' on My Head

I've come up with a new get-rich-quick scheme.  I'm going to charge the grasshoppers, spiders, and ants rent!  It's brilliant . . . I'd make a fortune!!  We're talking, Oprah-rich!

One would think that after four months I'd start to be a little okay with all the creepy-crawlies.  But, I'm still walking from room to room armed with a can of insecticide.

Lessons from Oral Rehydration Solution

I don't know if you've ever experienced dehydration.  I mean, real dehydration . . . like plugged to an IV dehydration.  I haven't . . . but since moving to Niger, I've been close a few times.  Usually on Sundays.

I'm not sure why, but on Sundays I don't drink nearly as much as I should and come 5 o'clock in the evening, I'm feeling it . . . massive headache . . . whole body aches . . . sometimes chills . . . usually really gross GI yuckiness that I don't want to describe on a blog for all the world to see . . . weakness . . . oh yeah, did I mention the headache??

18 June 2011

Lessons from Life in the Dust Bowl

My househelper, R., came on Thursday, and worked her regular magic and left my kitchen, bathroom, and floors sparkling clean . . . and rather dust-free.  Mondays and Thursdays have become my favorite days of the week, because while I love the satisfaction that comes when there's a pile of dirt in the corner of a clean floor, I hate, no really, HATE that within an hour, there is no evidence that a broom had ever been swept over the painted-gray cement.

So R. came on Thursday morning.  And that evening my toes relished in the joys of walking through the house barefoot.  As I fell asleep there was a soft wind blowing through the windows.  Clean floor, nice breeze . . . ah, yes, life was good, and I was quickly asleep.

16 June 2011

Wheelchair Wars

One of the most important lessons for every patient in rehab to learn is how to get back up off the floor.  Sure Rule Number Two of OT with Deb. is NO FALLING . . . sometimes, however, it's inevitable.  And while I prefer the fall is on their own time, I do consider it in my scope of practice to teach my patients how to get back up off the floor.

And considering the cultural context here, home life happens on the floor.  Nigeriens don't tend to have dining room tables, they eat on a mat on the floor.  They generally don't have couches, so they sit on mats on the floor.  Most social events take place sitting on mats.  So naturally, moving from her wheelchair to the floor and back is a much needed skill for H.

15 June 2011

Tonight, Jesus is Speaking Hausa

Our morning was interrupted with the awful news that one of the hospital employees died suddenly and unexpectedly during the night.  He was not only a leader in the hospital, but one in the church and community as well.  He was highly respected . . . always ready with a kind smile, gentle word or a good joke.

Yesterday there was work being done on the hospital waterlines, so for a few hours, there was no running water in the hospital.  I needed to wash my hands, and word on the street was they had water in his department.  So I quick went that way and just before I pulled water from the bucket, he came running over and told me it would cost me 600cfa PER DROP!  So, I began counting.

13 June 2011

Who Needs Words

My patients speak to me in Hausa.  I answer in French.

And every now and again we manage to make do.  But periodically we hit the jackpot and communicate.  Typically it's through the language of charades . . . but lately it's been through the tongue of laughter.

Farmer Deb. . . . Most Certainly NOT!

Being as it's hot (and dry) season, any variety we had in terms of fruits and vegetables is now limited to: onions, mangoes, and tomatoes . . . with a pineapple, a head of cabbage and a few puny carrots here or there.  But the rains are coming (soon) and that means it's Garden Season!

Nearly a month ago I fired my gardener.  We sort of had a conflict of interest . . . I wanted a fruitful garden, he had trouble taking orders from a single woman.  So, when his trial period ended, I decided not to renew the contract (let's just say that is a story for another day).

10 June 2011

Topless Transfers

While the saddest news of the week is that Little B. was discharged to the ACU (Ambulatory Care Unit: a series of cement rooms behind the hospital used for patients that no longer need nursing care but still need dressing changes).  I have yet to have time to go say hi, but our goodbye was really sweet.  I gave him his very own little bottle of bubbles and he spent the following hour making the rounds with me as I treated my other patients, lifting everyones spirits with a complimentary blow of the bubble wand (either that or he was rubbing it that he got bubbles and all they have the hope of receiving comme gift is a pair of wooden crutches).

But I have a new patient occupying much of my afternoon.  A woman about my age with a very sweet smile.  H. came to our hospital with multiple bed sores.  She recently suffered a T11 level spinal cord injury, and the hospital she originally went to sent her home after two days.  No wheelchair.  No patient education.  NOTHING.

08 June 2011

Lessons From the Sink Scrubber

M. is a kid that works in the OR Bloc.  He has a high school degree, and started off working in the hospital's housekeeping department.  Word on the street is that our chief of surgery watched him cleaning the hospital hallways for several months and went to the head of personnel and told him that he wanted M. moved to the OR.

This guy cleans as if the Queen of England is due for a visit.

07 June 2011

Today's Best Moment

I want to tell you about the best moment of my day.

I was walking down the hallway of the hospital, hand-in-hand with Little B., from his room to my office.  For the past few days he's been sporting a pair of briefs, SpongeBobSquarePants style.  I had a CRAZY day today and decided to save him for last.

06 June 2011

What is a Google?

My friend R. was recently repositioned from WestWing Secretary to OR Bloc Secretary.  With the 'promotion' came the demand for learning a new skill: how to use a computer.

No.  That's not: how to type.  Or: how to switch from a PC to Mac.  Or: how to create new documents in MS Office.  Nope.  We're talking ground ZERO: where is the power button . . . what is a password for . . . how to use a mouse!

Adventures in WheelChair Building: Part 3

The final chapter.

I was in the OR Bloc today when a guy who works in came into tell me that Granny was here with R.

The chair was finished and had been in my office for several weeks, taking up space while waiting for them to come back for another check-up (and for me to sew a cover for the cushion . . . which, I still hadn't done).

05 June 2011

The Lost Art of Appreciation

Our Pediatrician, Dr. D., and family are leaving this coming week to return to the US.  At this point, they don't know if they will be coming back or not.  Tonight, we had a compound BarBQ as a last hoorah before many people split for the summer.  And since the S-Haus family isn't sure if they will be returning, we took some time to say thank-you and share special memories of the things we appreciate about each member of the family that has been working with us for the past two years.

Listening to my teammates say thank-you to this family that has given so much during their time in Galmi, I began to think 'Why don't we do this more often?'

03 June 2011

I Think I've Been Stood Up

Making friends in Galmi is hard.

First off there's the language barrier.  Sure my French is good enough . . . but my Hausa is not.  Then there's the cultural barrier.  There's a set of rules for the intra-Nigerien relationships and a whole different set of rules for the Nigerien-Batura relationships . . . and I still don't know any of them.  

But being a single woman here throws an additional curveball into the mix.  The young, single girls consider me to be competition and therefore keep me at a distance.  The married women with children who are my age don't understand me as I'm not married, and therefore keep me at a distance.  And then there's the men . . . and if you've been reading this blog since I've arrived, you know all about my interactions with Nigerien men.

The Split Heard Around the World

As you know, it's been a bit of an adjustment for me adapting to my new dresscode.  Not gonna' lie, the calibi and the zuni bring out my rebellious side.

But regardless, I've been learning to successfully tie my calibi so that it stays on my head . . . most of the time . . . and I've been surprised the number of things I've been able to do in my wrap-around zuni without it ending up around my ankles.

02 June 2011


'Na jira! Na jira!' (I waited!) he whispered as we walked hand in hand down the hallway of WestWing.

I froze.

I turned and smiled, 'What did you say?'

'Na jira!' he whispered with a grin as big as his belly.

Plague of Locust

Okay . . . so their not locust . . . their grasshoppers (at least I think they're not).  And it's not one of the 10 plagues against Pharaoh in ancient Egypt, but it certainly feels like it.

I've never seen such big grasshoppers and I'm pretty sure that the ones here can fly . . . or else they leap compound buildings in a single bound.  And despite screens on the doors and windows, those suckers have managed to sneak into my house . . . very uninvited.

At least they're not as ugly as the midigin kanuma's!

29 May 2011

The Most Beautiful Laugh I've Ever Heard

So blogger.com's been down for nearly half of the week.  I'm not sure how I've survived . . . thank goodness for word documents and cut-and-paste.  So, I'm finally caught up on all the silly misadventures of my week.

27 May 2011
Being a therapist is like being a parent . . . you shouldn't have favorites, but sometimes you do . . . and no matter how hard you try to hide it, sometimes you just can't (don't worry mom, we'll let Mike keep thinking it's him . . . for now).

A Complete Bubble Failure

27 May 2011
Shortly after I arrived I was given a WonderBubbleTub . . . one of those big containers with three long bubble wands . . . where you put the bubbles in the bottom and even if it falls over of flips upside-down the bubbles don’t spill.  (And it works!  I tried it!  No spillage!)
So after my big proclamation of my new found adoration for the use of bubbles in therapy, our pharmacist informed me that should I decide to make my own, glycerin is available in the pharmacy.  I didn’t know what glycerin was, but I was thankful that it was at my disposal.

Chronicles of the Misadventurous Washing Machine

26 May 2011
A few weeks ago my neighbor L’s washing machine broke with my clothes still inside.  The guys at the workshop managed to get the machine (which was, at that time, cohabiting with it’s third owner) open, but it was then that I decided best to go ahead and get a new one that will last me many years to come.
When I was in Niamey I shopped around a bit, and had settled on a size, price-range, and few good models.  Once my furniture is ready, someone at the office in Niamey would go and haggle down the price and they’d send the washer with my table and chairs and sofa, etc.

Cheese Making and Other Brilliant Disasters

25 May 2011
Last night some friends came over for dinner.  As you will remember, we make everything from scratch here . . . unless you’ve brought it with you, or you’ve been lucky enough to find it in Niamey.
Before I arrived in Niger I had the understanding that mozzarella cheese was not available in Niamey.  My friend A. in Paris assured me that it was a really simple process . . . I had my doubts so I asked my all-knowing friend Google, and he agreed.

25 May 2011

Get Involved

I've had a number of you contact me with requests about donating supplies and goodies.  Mail to Niger takes a LONG time and it can sometimes be more expensive to ship whatever the package than the contents are actually worth.  All that to say, it is REALLY nice to get mail though.

Anyway, the good news is there's a container being packing in the US that will be shipped her.  It takes a month or two to arrive in Galmi (unless of course there was a coup d'états last year and the temporary govm't is waiting for the new elections and things get held up in customs . . . but seeing as that's already happened this year, the odds are in our favor).

24 May 2011

Treatment Updates

Since I know you are all sitting on the edge of your seats and checking my blog every hour, on the hour, for an update on Little B. and the success of my airplane splint . . . I will ease your mind.

23 May 2011

Adventures in Splinting Part 1

Splinting is a science and an art.  I think that's why I enjoy it so much.  My left brain enjoys the opportunity to problem solve and logically reason, while my right brain gets to create and play.  Everyone gets to be involved.  It's like balancing your checkbook with crayons!

22 May 2011


Just yesterday I was thinking to myself, 'Wow!  I really miss rain.  I never thought I'd say something like that, but I do.  I miss it.  Even the sideways rain in Ohio.  And the cold slushy rain in New Jersey.  And the rain that moves across Lake Pleasant like a big sheet, from Turtle Mountain to Camp.  RAIN, TU ME MANQUES!'

This afternoon was I sitting on my living room floor (because I still have no furniture) doing a puzzle (wasting time as usual) when I realized the light in the room had gone from white to red.  I glanced out the window.  The sky was not it's usual the-color-of-warm-milk but was a rusty red.

21 May 2011

Little B. Strikes Again

I wish I could say that the past few days have been less of a struggle for me as I interact with the men of this culture.  Unfortunately, the past 48 hours have been rough.  At one point I entertained the thought of using a pair of crutches as clubbing device, I'm not proud of that moment, but thankfully the Holy Spirit intervened and reminded me once again that I am to love my enemies and I should be praying for this man, not considering harming him.

But I find that even in the midst of what seems like an endless ocean of discouragement and frustration and losing battles, the Lord always provides those little sunny rays of blessings.  And today, it was in the form of Little B.

18 May 2011

Confessions of a Crank-aholic

We all have a go-to sin . . . you know, the one that always seems to creep it's way in when you're not looking.  That 'root of the issue' attitude that is the real cause of the resulting surface behaviors.  Yeah, you know what I'm talking about . . . and you know what your's is!

For me . . . mine is anger.  Always has been.

17 May 2011

Bubbles, My New Favorite Therapeutic Activity

When in the US, the thought of working in pediatrics triggers my vagal nerve.  But once my passport is stamped, there's something magical that transforms inside me and I can't get enough of working with the little kiddos!

Right now I have a somewhere-between-four-and-five-ish year old that came in with partial- and full-thickness burns on his back, up the left side of his trunk, into his axilla (aren't you impressed with my fancy word for 'arm pit'??), over his shoulder, down his arm, across his elbow, along his forearm, crossing his wrist onto a little scorched hand.

Life of Leisure

In the wonderful world of Occupational Therapy we have some fantastic terminology.  Such as 'sensory integration' and 'neural pathways' and 'areas of occupation.'  No that last one isn't making reference to military strategies, rather to seven categories into which falls every activity that we humans do in life.  They are as follows (unless of course the Powers That Be of the Wonderful World of OT have changed them without telling me . . . or maybe they told me and I wasn't paying attention . . . or didn't care . . . or am too stubborn to accept the things I cannot change):

16 May 2011

Not My Story . . . But a MUST READ!

So I have this rule when it comes to blogging: Tell your own story.  And tonight, I almost broke my rule.  I was going to repost the birth story of the brand new daughter of some friends from language school . . . but it's their story, so you're going to just have to follow the link and read it on their blog (that and I wanted to help them with their page-view stats).  

It's an AMAZING story . . . one of those you don't know whether to laugh or gasp in disbelief . . . TRUST ME!  It's a good read!  So here's to M&J and BrandNewBaby: http://goodbyeharan.blogspot.com/2011/05/elsie-joy-story.html

15 May 2011

Confessions of a Crappy Churchgoer

Church in the US is predictable.  We love schedules.  We love knowing how many songs or hymns are going to be sung before and after the offering.  We know, down to the precise minute, when the pastor is going to make his final point and begin wrapping things up.  We like being able to depend on the service being only 1 hour and so many minutes.  We know what to expect.  And we like it that way.

Church in Niger couldn't be more opposite.  I never know what is going on, let alone what is going to happen next.  I never know how many choirs will sing or how many numbers they'll do . . . or how many special offerings there will be or what they are for . . . or how many different men will stand up to give reports or how many hours the service will go.

White Girl Can't Dance

Dancing is a huge part of Nigerien culture.  They dance when they sing.  They dance for weddings.  They dance at ceremonies.  They dance.

At first it seemed like there wasn't much to it . . . it was more like rhythmic hip and arm swaying.  The more you get into it, the more you bend at the waist and the stronger you pump your arms.

But it's one thing to watch and appreciate and enjoy Nigerien cultural dancing.  It's another to be forced to participate.

11 May 2011


So I've been in Niamey since Friday, without internet (below are two adventures from my time there), to complete the process for my permis de séjour.  But since I had some extra time to spare, my friend B., who works with youth in a village not terribly far from the capital, put me on the back of her motorcycle, with her point-and-shoot camera and asked me to document the circles we made around the city.

This is by far not my best work . . . but since this is one of those places you have to see to believe, I thought you might enjoy a little visual aid of what our world looks like from this angle.  (And no, don't worry about running to the optometrist . . . your prescription is FINE, some of the photos are just that blurry!)