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 ├ęcole, 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.