Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Pink eye for a pink day!

Hey all! Happy late Valentine's Day to everyone. I hope that you all felt very loved where ever you were. I can tell that the Zambian's definitely felt the love too. I was surprised to see how big the holiday was in Zambia. I went to Arcades Shopping Center, one of two outdoor shopping malls in Zambia (the shopping malls are primarily targeted for Westerners/Foreigners and well off Zambians) and it was packed. There was like a mini carnival happening there where kids could play on a bouncy house thing, zoom around in kid sized cars, they had some people juggling and doing trip with fire and balancing things, as well as a couple of food carts. This was in addition to the weekly Sunday craft market where most of the westerners buy their souvenirs. The highlight of the day was the wicker love seat they had parked outside of the supermarket with a massive display of heart shaped balloons behind it where people could take Valentine's pictures. I celebrated the day in much less style by developing an eye infection that turned my left eye pink. Thankfully, I happened to be going over to Dr. Tim's house that night for dinner and he was able to evaluate my eye to make sure it wasn't anything serious. We had a good dinner that night-He made turkey, potatoes, green beans, sweet potato pie, and much more. It was delicious! Before I go further, let me go back to where I left off last time I wrote.

Last Wednesday I spent the day working on the new record keeping system for the House of Moses and then walked over to the bible study that I have been attending. It would a good discussion on the necessity for Christianity to be rooted in the resurrection of Christ-and how without the resurrection Jesus and his death means nothing for us. Important stuff!

Last Thursday I was at the clinic and we had a busy day from the time I got there at 9:30, until we left around 5:30. With the exception of our lunch from 12:30-2:00, we were seeing patients whole time. To put this in perspective, let me tell you the following things:
1. The clinic hours are actually only from 2-4 pm and only 10 patients are scheduled to be there on any given clinic day.
2. By the end of the day we had seen between 20-25 patients.
3. The clinic is housed in a room that is approximately 12 feet by 15 feet. In this room there are two computer desks, a patient bed, 6 chairs, two filing cabinets, a step stool, mini fridge, and medication cabinet. Not to mention the clinical officer (like a physician's assistant), program manager, 1-2 social workers, 3 volunteers, a pharmacist, a receptionist of sorts, and 1-5 patients. There also 2 doors to the room. What about privacy and confidentiality? Pshaw! Impossible!
4. I am also working closely with the clinical officer-I start the patients by examining them, doing an initial history or some blood testing, appointment making etc. I can start patients but can't finish them and we usually can't communicate very well. The problem with this situation is that the clinical officer kept disappearing when there were patients to be seen, or if he was around, I couldn't keep his attention long enough to ask a question AND get an answer. It was frustrating! So the patients ended up sitting around, for much longer than they had to, which just added to the chaos!
5. The patient files are always difficult to locate-the office assistant doesn't do her job well and they end up piled in the most random locations, and never where they should be. This usually leads to a 5-10 minute search by multiple people, which eats up a lot of time that could be spent on better things.

So for all the griping I just did, it wasn't that bad-just so that you all know some of the things that I am experiencing here! I am pretty easy going on most things, so that helps, but sometimes....

Friday I was at the House of Moses and was able to make some revisions to the records that I created after discussion with Irene. Then in the late afternoon, one of the employees here dropped me off at Arcades where I was going to meet Ntula (the clinical officer from the clinic) and the other American volunteers before going out for the night. It was an interesting night of some African clubbing (must better than American clubs, I have to say!) before the other volunteers and I crashed at midnight. We have been going to bed around 9 or 9:30 so midnight was pretty late for us. I stayed at their place and the next morning went back to the House of Moses on the bus. This was quite the ordeal because I got lost on the way to the bus station (it was supposed to be really easy to get there, but I messed it up). It should have only taken maybe 10 minutes to get there and I some how bypassed it altogether and ended up in an uncomfortable part of town before finally making it to the station 45 minutes later! It was stressful because I was harassed a lot (a female Westerner by herself is just asking for it!). The once I got on the bus and it started to move, it got pulled over by the police because it was overloaded and we all had to get off! Thankfully a gentleman was kind enough to explain what was going on and helped me get on a new bus. All in all, it took me more than 2 hours to get back when it should been less than an hour.

Later that afternoon I went over to Ruth's house to meet her family. Ruth is one of the staff at the House of Moses and does the laundry, cooking, cleaning, etc. She has been here for a long time and is always a welcome sight when I visit. She is a woman of strong faith and is the sweetest person ever. Her family lives just behind where I have been going to church in a small house. It was nice to meet her family, but I was so tired after the events of the morning that I didn't stay long. I have never been very good at figuring out social expectations in a setting like this one-especially because it's a different culture. I hope they weren't expecting me to stay for a long time! It was also a really hot and sticky day (the hottest one so far-maybe 85-90 degrees with alot of humidity. The rest of the day was spent veg-ing out and resting.

Sunday morning I woke up with pink so stayed home from church and instead got a lesson on how to hand wash laundry. Let me just say that I suck! Janet was helping me and it was so embarrassing because I would wash something and then she would rewash it for me. There were a couple of things that she didn't rewash and there was a big difference afterwards when my laundry came off of the line. After that was my trip to Arcades and so on...

Monday was an outreach day for the clinic. After initially starting off in two small cars, we ended up switching to a bigger one and all cramming into it. We got lost all along the way, and there was definitely no way that we would have made it through those huge mud puddles if we had stayed in the smaller cars. Upon arrival to the clinic where we were going to test, we discovered that we had left the testing kits back at the office! So Ntula and one of the other American volunteers, Brook (he's a guy, fyi!), went back to get it while Anna and Sabrina (the other American volunteers), Justin and Fernando (the social workers), and I waited in the clinic. This waiting period led to hilarious discussions on the proper social protocols for dating couples in Zambia: most people (including the parents) won't even know they are dating until they get engaged, it's acceptable for guys to hold hands in Zambia, and a guy will be affectionate with you until he likes you and then he backs off-that's how you know he likes you. At this point Fernando asks Anna if she has a boyfriend which was quite hilarious because Brook is her boyfriend and they are definitely affectionate in a way that wouldn't be if you were only friends. I know this was one of those moments that you had to be there for, but it just goes to show that lines between friends and more than friends are difficult to determine in a cross cultural situation. Then it also came that Fernando still doesn't know the names of the volunteers-even though we have all been here for almost 3 weeks! Funny stuff! Anyways, eventually Brook and Ntula returned and we tested about 50 people with several positive results discovered.

Tuesday was a better day at the clinic, just as busy as last Thursday, but we had a better rhythm this weeks so it wasn't so frustrating.

And now, here we are at today! I had a meeting with Irene, the head nurse, today and discovered that I am not supposed to be posting pictures of the kiddos here on the internet, so I am sorry to say that you won't get to see lots of photos anymore. I will still be able to post photos from the clinic though, so you can look forward to that!

On one last note, thank you to everyone who has posted a comment on my blog. I don't know how to respond to them individually but I have read them and appreciate it! Thank you!

Until next time!


1 comment:

  1. Hi Melissa,

    This is Eliza from GVN Foundation. You posted a comment on our ESTC blog about the research you are doing - I was doing similar work in Kenya. Sorry for the delay in replying but I've only just returned to my office! I'd love to hear more and share ideas. My email is: