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!