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!)

Mother's Maiden Name

Monday, 9 May 2011
The whole reason I came to Niamey was to get fingerprinted for my permis du séjour.  A month ago I received an email letting me know that everything would be ready to go since I would only be in town two business days.
But this morning, we received a phone call making sure I had the Form I’ve Never Heard of Before.  Which, of course, I did not.  But no problem!  It could be taken care of from here.  Unfortunately, however, there was something else that needed to be gotten from The Justice of Something or Other by someone in the office and I would have to wait until tomorrow morning to be able to go for fingerprinting.  C’est la vie.
Change of plans . . . L. and I would just have to go shopping.  Bummer.

Par Avion

Friday 6 May 2011
In order to get my permis de séjour (a residency permit) so I can stay in Niger as long as planned, I needed to go back to Niamey to have my fingerprints taken.  That will happen (hopefully) tomorrow, and I’m sure will be a story of it’s own.
But, as those of you who have been reading this blog for any continued period of time would be able to attest, my life is never without event.  And I would first have to GET to Niamey.

04 May 2011

La Femme Likita

I'm not a doctor.  But here in Niger, OT doesn't exist . . . nor it's French counterpart, ergothérapie.  On occasion, someone will have heard of physio (or kiné), but in general, my patients have no idea who I am or what I do.  They know I'm not a nurse . . . mainly because every time family members see they come carrying a patient's chart, to which I simply respond 'babu magani' (no medicine).

Often, when it's not 'baturiya' (white woman), the patients will call me 'likita' (doctor) . . . to which I reply 'babu likita' (no doctor) . . . and then they are confused even more.  So I've tried to come up with some other options.  All have failed.

03 May 2011

Adventures in WheelChair Building: Part 2

I was in my office today with a hand therapy outpatient, when Granny walked past my door with R. tied on her back.  I wasn't expecting to see them, but they were here for a check up with the pediatrician, and thought they'd stop in just to say hello.

You will remember that we are modifying a wheelchair for R. because Granny can barely carry her anymore.  Well, we are still waiting for bike tires . . . and I'm going to have to do something about the foot rest . . . and get her a cushion for the seat . . . and make a chest strap to make sure she doesn't pop out as they 'offroading' to get home, but it's just about there!  Not too shabby for my first effort (okay, so I can't take ALL the credit . . . M. is a carpenter and welder and plumber and sort of Jack-of-all-trades . . . well, here that'd be Abdu-of-all-trades . . . he actually did all the work . . . I just sort of consulted on the project).

Le Premier Mai

Sunday was 1 May . . . in Niger, it's Labor Day.  So every year the compound hosts an evening of festivities, along with a meal, for the entire hospital staff.  Five women do the cooking for nearly 200 staff.  It takes them all day, between chopping and cooking.  Figuring it a good opportunity to practice the cultural concept of 'physical presence speaks louder than words' I brought my knife and came to help.

They put me to work chopping tomatoes.  I sat down ready to do some damage and the Nigerien woman I was working with took one look at my my little paring knife and suggested I use the spare machete.  I tried.  But after a few seconds we were both thoroughly concerned that I'd end up with more bits of finger in the bowl than tomato, so I switched back to something more familiar.  I will simply say, it's harder than it looks to chop (VERY ripe) tomatoes in a completely different way than you've done your whole 30 years!  Talk about a new motor pattern!  But I'm happy to report that by the end of the afternoon only 3 of 10 fingers were sporting bandaids . . . now that's what I call victory.

02 May 2011

Baturiya Baturiya.

You  know you're a good singer when you can get to go by only one name.  Beyonce.  Shakira.  Bono.  We'll as of Sunday, my stage name is Baturiya ('white woman').

That's right, Sunday in church I made my musical debut.  

In theory I had several 'background' singers (who happened to be in the foreground, only because they're a lot shorter), but I'm pretty sure that when it was their time to sing, they were actually whispering.   I don't know what got into them!  In Sunday School the little boys are yelling the songs at the top of their lungs.  Put us all in front of the church . . . their lips move, but nothing comes out!