If I had expected a MichaelPhelps worthy swimming pool, I would have been disappointed when I arrived in Galmi to find a 4 foot-deep-in-the-exact-middle-but-mainly-it-comes-to-my-waist-oversized-kiddie-pool.
If I had expected a frozen foods sections at the grocery store, I would have been disappointed when I arrived in Galmi to find I was not only cooking from the scratch of all scratches but also that the closest grocery store is 7 hours back in the Capital, as long as the roads are good.
If I had expected my gardener to replant my seedlings in the muddy garden row he's been preparing for three weeks, I would have been disappointed when I arrived home to find all of them shriveled by the scorching sun because they were planted in the dry dirt really close to the mud . . . oh wait . . . that did happen today!
Yes, disappointment has a direct link to expectations.
And today seemed more full of it than normal.
I've been in Niger six weeks. Technically not long enough for culture shock (MERCI, SEIGNEUR!) but definitely long enough for frustration. Most of my frustrations were pretty minor . . . but there's one I'm still really struggling with.
Two weeks ago a woman came to see me with her 5 year old granddaughter. A year ago, this little girl was running and playing like any normal 4 year old. Then she got bit by a mosquito who was carrying malaria. Unfortunately the malaria spread to her brain and she presents like a child with severe cerebral palsy. She has lost all ability to communicate, control her movements, or maintain enough trunk stability to sit by herself. Both of her parents are working, so it is up to grandma to take care of her. Since the family has no wheelchair for her, grandma carries her, a growing, normal-sized 5 year old, on her back. You can imagine what this is doing to her arthritis.
They came to me looking for help.
In my OT mind it's an easy one: build them a wheelchair.
So I went to the workshop to see how long it would take and how much it would cost. I had detailed plans straight from my trusty Disabled Village Children. All we needed was plywood, screws, a saw and some bike tires . . . okay, maybe a few extra nuts and bolts and hammers thrown in for good measure . . . but it was SIMPLE!
The workshop is super busy (something about building a surgical ward and operating room) and besides, the equipment graveyard is FULL of old wheelchairs that I was welcome to give her. 'Those won't work.' I told the shop manager. 'Make them work' he said (okay so he put it a little gentler than that).
My first inclination was to sneak in the workshop in the middle of the night and make the chair myself . . . but the saw table kind of scares me and I've seen enough upper extremity amputation this week alone to swear off power tools for the rest of my life.
So instead, I walked away deflated. Frustrated and disappointed that my expectation of being able to provide something so simple and basic to a family in such desperate need, I wanted to give up. Throw my hands in the air . . . call it quits . . . give up . . . admit defeat . . . and go home. 'WHAT'S THE POINT?!?!' I thought 'if I can't do what I came here for. I have the manual . . . I came here ready to provide therapy with whatever is available . . . ready to make something from nothing . . . ready to use bike tires and scrap parts to build wheelchairs and PVC piping to make prosthetic legs!! And ready to quit when my expectation that it was all going to happen according to my naïve plans flopped on its face.
Yeah . . . okay I'm disappointed. But, I found another sketch a little further in the build-your-own-wheelchair section . . . an insert for a prefab. Not sure it will work, but it's a start. So first stop in the morning on my minute and a half commute: recycled wheelchairs at the equipment graveyard.