22 November 2011

Why I am Not an Expert

Most of the moments I share here in this space are the unique misadventures that color my new life in Niger.  The thing is, like everywhere else in the world, there are even more 'everyday' type events that have become mundane and even, dare I say it, normal.

I had a great normal-moment today . . . I made two men laugh while doing crutch training with a patient.
My patient was wearing a full-leg cast, and that much plaster makes for a heavy lever-arm for even the strongest of hip-flexors.  In other words, it was near impossible for him to use the crutches without putting weight on his leg.  

We started out alone, but within minutes four men from the hallway stepped in to 'help out'.  Which really means they all loudly barked orders . . . uh, I mean . . . generously offered advice to my patient on how he should be walking.  

The Last-Man-In forcefully insisted my patient do the exact opposite of what I had advised.  I tried explaining why his suggestion wouldn't work.  But, considering my massive lack of Hausa, my charaded discourse ended with a simple shrug of Babu Hausa (no Hausa).  

I turned back to my patient.

He had stopped attempting to walk.

All four Nigerien voices were simultaneously rapidly firing.

I understood nothing.

As the four began arguing, my patient grew exasperated.  They got louder and louder and he began to grow angry.  I tried the diplomatic approach of ba komi (no problem), but I got quickly shot down by Last-Man-In.  

Suddenly the quartet became a duo as Last-Man-In bickered with his new nemesis.  I decided to take advantage of the moment and I quietly whispered to my patient, 'Toh, chigiba' (litterally: okay, continue; Deb.'s translation: QUICK!  Hurry back to your bed while they're too distracted to interfere again!).

The true meaning of my words was not lost!  The two men who had been excluded from the debate flashed me a knowing smile and began to laugh.  

But you know, for me, this scenario has become a daily event.  I have very similar interactions all the time as the older, male family members attempt to 'assist' me with my work.

At first it drove me CRAZY!  But I have come to accept that the louder a parent is during my therapy sessions, the more he is trying to prove that he is concerned for and involved with my patient.  

One day, I found myself wedged away from the side of a patient by an older relative.  The first thoughts that ran through my head were 'WHAT IS WRONG WITH THESE MEN!?!?!  DO THEY HAVE NO RESPECT FOR EXPERTISE!?!?!?!?'  

But then it occurred to me that here, in the culture of my new surroundings, expertise is not determined by education, degrees, credentials, or the alphabet soup we string behind our names.  Nope.  In the village context, expertise is determined by a Y-Chromosome and a gray beard.  

Guess that rules me out.

4 comments:

Chcpe said...

See, I've been trying to tell my family this exact thing...Y-Chromosomes and the gray beards rule! 

Deb. said...

Um, I think you missed the 'CULTURAL CONTEXT' bit!! :) But, you're bald, and in my book that trumps it all!! (miss you guys!)

Shal said...

Haha! I could probably mail you a fake beard but the Y chromosome is another issue...

Deb. said...

I've actually made one out of a paper plate and cotton balls . . . but yeah, it's that stupid Y chromosome!!