Thursday, August 4, 2011

maybe just a tad bit jaded...

swamped! well not really. applying to medical school from africa is quite stressful at times. the internet is too slow and then things dont load properly. or the electricity goes out and you lose all your information. or the electricity goes out and you can't submit something. cant call the admissions office to ask questions because international calls are just too expensive. so many more factors that you have to worry about on top of making medical schools love you and not forget about you in their applicant pools. but it's almost over... (still waiting from uc san francisco, crosses fingers...)

a thought that ran through my head the other night:
i am spoiled. i am spoiled because i sleep under the stars every night. there are no cities nearby and my village (unbelievably, astonishingly, speechlessly) has 4 street lamps only so it's dark. very dark when it's a new moon. the night sky is crystal clear. i get to breathe (relatively) fresh desert air. yup, i dont know how i will ever return to sleeping in a room, with a solid roof over my head.

a thought that ran through my head as i hung out with the village kids:
up until africa, i hated sand. especially wet sand when it's not directly touching ocean water. i liked beaches but i really didnt like the sand. i hate bathrooms near the beach because theres always that gross, wet sand trail on the floor everywhere. it's disgusting. and then i moved to senegal. if i gain nothing else from my two years, i have learned to live with sand. i can roll around in it and it doesnt bother me anymore.

another thought as i watched the news about the drought in east africa:
the rains are either extremely late this year or they're extremely scarce. i can't say we have a drought because it rained (or rather drizzled) a couple of times already. but it's not enough for the farmers to seed their crops. i dont know if theyre nervous or not but im nervous for them. i wonder if i can learn a rain dance off of youtube...

ok, so i've been a bit jaded lately. i think it's just a short depression spell in village so in the end, things will be ok. the last two weeks have been tough. instead of the usual talks with women groups that ive been holding, i've been informally talking to individuals as the occasions arise. behavior change is so... frustrating. let me give a couple of examples:
1. 6-month old baby is malnourished - distended belly, really thin arms and legs. mother is not giving breast milk, only powdered milk. i sit her down and explain to her how powdered milk, although it says it has vitamins and calcium on the packet, actually has no nutritional value compared to breast milk. if she was using those milk formulas that we have in america, that's a different story. but no, this is ordinary milk in a powder form. i tell her that her baby needs breast milk and if she cant provide that, at least go to the health center because they have plumpy'nut there and that could suffice. i could teach her a nutritious porridge too since her baby is of weaning age. she agrees with everything i say but continues to give it regular powdered milk. even when the doctor gives her plumpy'nut, she does not give it to her baby. why? no explanation.
2. mother brings teenage boy in to health center. teenage boy is constantly tired, never has any energy. the doctor presses down on the nails and lets go. they stay white instead of returning immediately to pink. doctor says they're anemic. need more iron in their blood. oh! that's easy! i tell the mother that she could give her son meat and beans and veggies and then he wont be sick anymore. she laughs in front of my face and says "what meat?" i give her this dumbfounded expression and i told her to look outside. outside, there are herds and herds of cattle, sheep, and goats. each family has hundreds and hundreds of livestock and these animals breed like crazy. all im saying is if the family could kill one animal maybe once a month, the meat would help with the anemia. she laughs and says "that meat is not for eating. it is for selling only." you're joking right? your son is sick and i just told you how to make him not sick. and once you sell your livestock, what do you do with the money? you buy food do you not? she says "no it is different. give him the iron injections." then eat nuts and beans and vegetables. stop eating plain rice. they cant. it's their diet. she stops responding.
3. old man comes in very weak. the doctor pulls on his skin and instead of immediately snapping back like normal, hydrated skin would, it sticks pulled out. dehydrated! drink water. but no, he says, he cannot drink water because he doesnt like the taste of it. "how about tea?" he asks. absolutely not! for one, their tea is not water, it's mostly sugar. no no no! he asks "cant the doctor just give him an iv?" i walk away.
4. a woman is fasting for ramadan. she has a 3-month of baby so she's breastfeeding. i tell her "you know, if youre breastfeeding, you actually dont need to fast. it's in the qur'an. and plus you really shouldnt. your baby needs you to be healthy and well nourished so it can be healthy and well nourished." she obviously doesnt listen and goes on fasting. she gets sick, a headache, starts vomiting. i tell her to drink water and eat something and she pushes everything away. she's too proud. i call it idiocy.

my friend annmarie told me an idiom: you can lead a horse to water but you cant make it drink.

what can i even do?!!
no one listens. i feel unaccomplished.

sometimes i do feel bad for the kids here. my heart hurts a little everything my brother dumps out his toy chest onto the sand. there are planks of wood, and old torn headphone wires, a dust pan with no handle, pieces of paper and cardboard, a handle for a pot, empty used containers, a teethless comb. these are toys. they have nothing. and i want to give them everything. i want to shower them with toy race cars and GI joe figures and barbie dolls and playsets. i want to give them board games and all those cool toys we played with when we were young. but i cant...

because they're so destructive. their toys end up looking the way they do because they have made it so. they dont know how to take care of things. and explaining and showing them slowly, repeatedly has changed nothing. this adidas soccer ball that i brought back from america has a label that says the shell and stitching are guaranteed to last for at least 2 years. in less than 6 months, this is what the ball looks like. (how did you even manage to do that?! they love soccer here!)

ah, the Balla Gaye Versus Tyson wrestling match. senegalese television and radio and pretty much everything have been building this up for half a year. people talk and speculate about it constantly, to the point of boring. then on the day of, the pre-show is 5 and a half hours. that's 5 and a half hours of agonizing waiting as they build up the anticipation just to watch these 2 men wrestle. and then the match. it lasts 36 seconds.
36. seconds.
not even a full minute.
waste. of. life.
i cant even begin to describe the utter chaos, the pandemonium that ensues. the supporters of the loser cry (cry is an understatement. they scream bloody murder). they thrash around, throwing themselves onto the floor, banging their heads on things, rolling around in the fetal position. generally acting possessed. think of those revival church spirits lord has gotten into you type things. that's them. completely overdramatic. it's painful to watch.

this is my pulaar neighbor. isnt he adorable?

but he's a terribly messy eater...

so it's that time of year again. ramadan - or ramadeath / ramadumb as some people have coined it. ramadan, the religiously sanctioned month of decreased activity, stunted productive, and glorified putzing around. i admire their devotion and their religious faith, but i question the stupidity of not drinking water in a hot desert. my case and point? go to the health centers. daily cases of dehydration. daily need for ivs. it's a month of boosted income for the doctors because people think fasting and not drinking water in 130 degree weather is smart.
i have no idea how i did it for 15 days last year. unfathomable. ive only done one day so far this year and already im over it. the not eating is whatevers. it's not really not eating. you're still eating, perhaps even more than usual. it's the timing that's different. breakfast is at 5am. breaking of fast is at 7:30pm. lunch is at 10pm. second lunch is at 11pm. if anything, i eat more and better during ramadan than usual. but the timing screws up my body. my metabolism is all out of wack. the decreased water intake has also made me quite constipated. i am all around just one big mess. i think the worst part is the thirst. you can't even binge drink during breakfast because you just urinate it all out.

so what do people do all day during ramadan? they play board games, or should i say sand games? this one is kinda like checkers, but not really.

but mostly, people dont do anything. they just lie around all day because they're too tired, thirsty, hungry, exhausted, cranky (from the caffeine and sugar withdrawal). fun, eh? for me, ramadan = book reading club!

i have this weird skin rash on my hand. i dont know where it came from. nothing bit me i dont think. it's blistery and pus-y and painful. hmm...

OHHH!!! SHOUTOUT TO DR. TIFFANY SOU!! she sent me a package with lots of goodies!!! love you! come doctor in senegal. they could surely use it.

i have really damaged hair. the tips are all white. my hair is soo not black anymore. it's mostly dark brown. kinda lighter brown toward the tips. and almost white at the tips. im more brunette than black.

and it is too long... see my point?

so my friend annmarie cut it.

and now i feel a lot better!

because my head feels lighter!

The End.

Anyway, so back to ramadan i guess. hungry thirsty tired. i cant wait to go to dakar and eat my heart out when this month is all over. in the mean time, doing a regional project with all the other volunteers here. we're gonna be going around talking about malaria and how to make neem lotion (insect repellent). yayy!!

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