For a while I will have to blog day-by-day about Danja, Niger. So far my time here has been so rich and full that I think you might enjoy some details!
Saturday (Day 3): work, work, not dare to shirk!
|Walking down from our guesthouse to the Danja fistula hospital for the first time. Alainie managed to successfully carry our medical supplies on her head African-style.|
Our objective today is to clean and set up both the operating room and the ward. The rest of the team is due to arrive on Monday, at which point we’ll screen the ladies and make up a surgical schedule. We are using temporary facilities here until the new hospital is built, so all our supplies are packed away in one closet in the OR. Turns out that the closet is also the local party palace for termites! Everything in the closet is covered with red dust, and there are substantial piles of termite leavings/poo. Not to mention that there are definitely bugs everywhere (in our house too, by the way)... spiders, mosquitos, beetles, ants, earwigs, and moths. We unfold the drapes for the surgical table, and insects fall out. We sweep them out from the cupboards. They are hiding between the catheters and the glove boxes... basically everywhere. We clean and bleach everything, and attempt to kill or shoo away as many bugs as possible.
Next we go to meet the ladies who are all sitting outside in the shade of a large tree. Some of them have been waiting for a week for our arrival, and all have brought mothers and children. They are thrilled to see us and warmly welcome us in Hausa. Of course none of us speak Hausa, but this is one of those times when words aren’t really necessary.
As a preface to the next little story, let me tell you about the bulls. We often see bulls grazing all over the compound, and we’ve been astounded by the fact that very small boys armed only with sticks are responsible for keeping them in line. Some of the boys look to be about 4 or 5, some perhaps 7 or 8. All are fearless as they boss around these massive horned bulls. So, now for the story. After cleaning everything in the OR and ward, we’re walking up to our house for lunch when one of the bulls starts to follow Sarah and I. Sarah peels off the the side and I walk faster, but the bull keeps following me. At this point I figure that if a small boy can keep a bull in line with a stick, then it’s really all about the attitude and about showing no fear. So I turn around to face the bull and put on my stern face and simply say “no!” The bull stopped, but he also didn’t seem inclined to wander away. At this point one of the boys came charging over, stick flailing madly, and shooed the bull away. Thank goodness for small boys with sticks!
|Staring down the bull who by the way was not tethered. I appear to be smiling for some reason, but it was not amusing at the time.|
My favorite part of today was going into town with James, the physical therapist from Australia. He took all of us girls to a local tea “shop” in Maradi which turns out to be a couple of benches under a pink and green umbrella with a tea kettle heating over a small wire basket of coals. Our tea, called “shiya,” comes in shot glasses and is sweet, a touch spicy, and wonderful. We sit on the benches, drinking our tea and watching the people passing by until the owner of the shop comes. He speaks small small (a favorite French-African phrase of mine) English, and proceeds to quiz us on which states we’re from (he’s stumped by Idaho). He tells us that he used to be in politics, but wanted a break so he quit and opened this little tea business. Now he wants to get back into politics, so he’s running to be the mayor of district two in Maradi. After two shot glasses of tea, we’re ready to leave, and we have to haggle with him to allow us to pay him--he insists that we should pay next time, not this time. He finally lets James pay for his tea, but he doesn’t accept money from us girls. I think the notoriety he gets around town for being the tea shop that the white women go to is perhaps payment enough, but I can’t exactly ask him, of course! It was just so wonderful to be able to sit and watch the world go by--something that I miss on the ship.
|At the tea shop in Maradi with James and the girls. I wondered if the local Nigeriens thought we were his wives, especially with our matching headwraps!|
We end the day by going to the French Club for dinner and a swim. Some of the other SIM missionaries are there with their families, so I chat with them for a long time about living in Niger. As the light fades, we are preparing to leave when someone notices that there are some small lemur-like monkeys in the trees. It’s just dark enough that we have a hard time seeing them, but we watch their silhouettes leap from tree to tree until the mosquitoes finally chase us to the car.
It’s just another normal day around here-- cleaning the OR, a showdown with a bull, tea with an aspiring mayor, and lemur monkeys in the trees. Oh, and let me not forget the sheep in the trunk of the car in front of us as we drove home... the passengers were all dressed up like they were headed to a party when all of a sudden a sheep sticks its head up in the back window of the car, then settles back down again. (Maybe you had to be there to understand it, but it really was hilarious.)
Like I said, it’s just another normal day in Danja. It's just that normal looks completely different here!
Tomorrow: the blind and the broken (Hausa church)