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.