Je suis arrive aux Cotonou!
No need to go into details, but suffice it to say that all my flights went well, although I only slept about two hours en route to Paris from Chicago. From Paris to Cotonou I was seated next to a man with whom I conversed in French for about two hours. Despite my rusty French, we got on quite well and I was pleased to remember as much French and follow the conversation as well as I did. I hear that many of the surgical patients come from the northern part of Benin, though, and there are 52 languages (not just dialects, but languages) in that part of the country. So the communication often happens through more than one translator--English to French to one or two other languages. Sounds like quite the process!
After a brief orientation to the ship this morning (much, much more to come later), my group ended up running into the director of the MS hospital, who invited us to go visit the Hospitality Center with him. The Hospitality Center is a new thing this year for the vesico-vaginal fistula (VVF) patients. When women have extremely prolonged/difficult labors, one side effects can be to develop VVF, where the bladder and uterus develop holes or connections between the two. The end result is that the woman is unable to control her bladder, thus is constantly wet, and therefore is ostracized from her family and community. Mercy Ships will do about 120 or so VVF repair surgeries while here in Benin. But back to the Hospitality Center-- it's a ward of sorts off the ship where the women stay pre and post op--no medical procedures are done there--to ease up on the number of "hotel" patients in the wards. After touring the center, we were treated to a tour of Cotonou by land rover, then went out to lunch at a nice place along the coastline. Anyway, all in all a great day and definitely way above what other orientees receive.
Tomorrow I've signed up to go to a local church with some other crew. Monday launches more orientations, safety drills, and goodness knows what else. I think I start in the ward on either Monday or Tuesday. And, get this-- I heard from the hospital director that the President of Benin is going to have us all come to dinner this Friday as a way of saying thanks for the work we do. I have to say, that would be pretty amazing!
Anyway, I think that's all for now. I promise not to give blow-by-blow updates all the time...but at the start, that's really all I have to write about for now. I'll update more later, of course!