28 March 2013

Language Learning and Other Disasters

Three weeks ago I officially started studying Hausa.  I'm working with a tutor twice a week . . . and I'm already having flashbacks of the trauma of learning French.  

But this time, I'm in it alone . . . no classmates to cry with . . . no one else to explain it to me if I'm not getting it . . . no one to talk me down off the ledge.

And instead of having a language school . . . with professors who hold degrees in teaching others to speak and understand . . . and a proven curriculum to organize and guide . . . I have a native Hausa speaker, an empty notebook and a set of colored pencils.

Those Who Can't, Teach


I never agreed with that silly saying Those who can, do, those who can't, teach . . . that is, until I became an Occupational Therapist and realized that I was re-teaching many of my patients fine motor skills . . . I once had a burn surgeon tell me that I was the only OT in the world with butter-fingers.  I think he was right.

But these days, motor-skills is the only subject I'm teaching.  Since starting again with my assistant, B., we've hit the ground running with his training . . . well, I hit the ground and he's running (so I don't have GROSS motor skills either . . . gees people!  No need to rub it in!).

B. is super curious, and my botched-French gets the job done . . . most of the time.

23 March 2013

Tastes Like Pigeon

One of the side effects of having an unsatisfiable wanderlust is an insurmountable collection of sampled delicacies.

You know . . . foods that are particular to a certain region or people group . . . those special dishes you would probably never try at home . . . and are only trying because someone generously offered them to you and you really don't want to be offensive . . . or because life is an adventure and now you can say you 'did'.

21 March 2013

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Cornea


Today, my assistant B. asked me about a patient's cranial nerve injury.  He had learned about the cervical, thoracic and lumbar nerves, but never those that connect the brain to the spinal cord.  I pulled out my trusty Anatomy Coloring Book en français and turned to the section on the brain.

There were wonderful black-and-white sketches of what each of the twelve cranial nerves control, and when we talked about the pupil of the eye he asked 'what is that?'

'You know, the black hole in the middle of your eyeball.'

He stared at me.

'You know, the little black hole in the iris?' I explained

'What's an iris?'

18 March 2013

You Know It's Hot Season When

In the States we call it summer . . . in France, l'été . . . in Greece they say καλοκαίρι . . . and for the Japanese it's kyuuka.  But here in Niger it's lokacin zahi: Hot Season.

Before I moved my life to Niger, I knew it would be hot here.  But I wasn't really able to comprehend what 'Sahara Hot' means . . . until I experienced it firsthand. 

So, for those of you who call 'home' somewhere other than our little pocket of the world,  here's a little checklist to help you know for sure that Hot Season has arrived:

11 March 2013

Confessions: When Sciences Trumps Faith


Nearly a year ago, a patient came to see me for a pair of crutches.  He had a low level, incomplete spinal cord injury.  That means he could feel pressure in some parts of his legs and light touch in others . . . he could walk, sort of.

His gait pattern was by no means worthy of the runway, but he was able to get from here to there with significant effort.  Our hospital director had met him at a church about an hour away, and upon seeing his terrible, heavy, homemade 'crutches', promised the man a new pair if he could get himself to our hospital.

The man arrived the following day.

09 March 2013

When Jesus Was an OT

Earlier this week, I received a request to consult on a patient from the Obstetrics Ward.  This is only the third OB patient I've seen in the two years since I arrived in Galmi.  And, like those prior, this Mama had nerve damage due to a complicated pregnancy.

She had been in labor for three days.  Baby had been quite large . . . and didn't survive.  Her legs were marked by the streams of dripping urine that she could no longer regulate; now they were numb and she was unable to walk.

01 March 2013

How to Train Your Pterodactyl

One of my first nights back in Galmi, I was busy unpacking my house when all of a sudden I heard a shrill screeching squall.

Realizing it was coming from just outside my back door, I armed myself with a broom (which apart from my can of insecticide, is the only weapon in my house) and slowly slid back the deadbolt.

I flung the door open, hoping to scare away whatever beast might be waiting.  But there was nothing there.