Weekend to Maseru

19 Jun

Went to Maseru, the capital this weekend! Took public transport there and back where they basically shove you in a little minibus and they fit as many people as they can in, collect your money and then drive off to wherever. Stayed in a little hostel which was fine, then bought some honey toffee candy (heh… ..), a pretty souvenir mug, and ate out! That was nice. Eating out. It’s funny how often I used to eat out (sooo much) and now it’s become a luxury again. Trip was fun though! Wanted to buy a cute jacket but it was expensive and the shape slightly didn’t fit me… Ah well. Maybe I’ll go back and buy it if I have left over money, haha. Now time to rest… phewph.

 

Dr. Oden and Dr. Richards-Kortum coming to check up on us next week. Better shape up, hahaha. Nah, we’ve got stuff to show them… though apparently they’re only going to be here for a couple hours… mmmm.. we’ll see if we pass the test. 😛

 

Anyhow, I’m gonna go play soccer with some orphans now! Doo doo doo…

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Twinkle twinkle little star…

14 Jun

So. Let me tell you about these goddamn stars.

It’s cold outside, chilly. And it’s dark. Like really dark. Just imagine a whole field of dark, no light from cars driving by, no light from street lights, no lights from buildings with people working overtime. It’s the darkest darkest black-blue you can imagine. Pretty much black with just a smidge of blue tossed in.

But the stars. Not just a couple above you and a shape you think is the big dipper to your right, and the moon off to your left. The stars, they’reeverywhere. Spread out your arms like you’re trying to measure you’re wingspan. From your finger tip up over your head down to your other finger tip — that’s how much sky there is. Literally nothing blocking your view of the night sky but some mountains and trees in the far off distance. And this sky is absolutely filled with the stars.

The sky’s not just speckled with stars, it’s filled with them. There are these cloudy mists hanging in the sky, like powdered sugar on that dark shirt you wore eating beignets. These mists are made of stars, accented by brighter stars sprinkled on, framing the cloudy mists. Then there are all the other stars in the sky, on top of these clouds as a second layer scattered across the entire sky. Literally a complete dome of stars above your head. Making the most gorgeous figures in the sky, like chaos, but so beautiful.

And then a falling star.
Your heart makes a wish before your head can think of a good one.

And you tear your eyes away because if you don’t, you’ll never leave, and there’re dogs barking in the dark, and you don’t want to be outside in the dark for too long.
One last peek at the entire galaxy blanketing you this chilly winter night. Then close the door into your room, crawl under four layers of covers, and wish you could say goodnight to your dumb boy… Fall asleep until your next day.

Plans? What plans?

14 Jun

There are no such things as “plans,” here in Lesotho, Africa. You can plan all you want, but when things are happening, they’re happening, and you can either hop on the bus, or try to stick to your “plan” as well as you can.

So Tuesday, Andrea and I decided to hop on the bus. Literally. Just as we’re walking to the hospital to start our day, we run into one of the doctors, Dr. Tibenda. Making small talk, we find out he’s going to an outreach clinic that day in Pitseng. Interesting… Then, as we start heading to the obstetrics ward, we spot another two doctors, Jair and Rooland, and deciding to take a change to jump an opportunity, we ask if they’re going to the outreach clinic too, and if we could come along. They wave for us to follow them, of course we can go along! So instead of our working off our plans for the day, we jump on the bus to Pitseng.

The clinic is about 45 minutes away, just a single small building. Maluti Hospital sends people every Tuesday morning: a driver, a nurse to take money, a nurse to distribute medicine, a nurse to take blood pressures of patients receiving “family planning” (aka birth control), and one or two doctors to see the patients. Patients come in either to get a check-up with a doctor, or to receive their monthly/bi-monthly/tri-monthly “family planning.” Those coming in for a check-up wait in line on benches grouped to one-side of the waiting room, those coming in for family planning wait on the opposite side.

 
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Each patient carries a little book with them – essentially their medical history file. This little book serves all the purposes of a medical file at your own doctor in the US; you even need it to enroll in primary school. Each time you go to a doctor, the doctor writes down his/her diagnosis and prescription in your little book. You take your book to the bus where they collect money through a window and give you a receipt for your prescription. Then you take your receipt to the pharmacist, and she gives you your medicine. Done!

Andrea and I spent the day asking questions and observing different aspects of the outreach clinic to get a fuller picture of how the clinic worked. We took plenty and plenty of notes so we’ll have to sort through all of those and do some brainstorming to see where we might be able to help or make some improvements. It’ll be tough since, because it’s an outreach clinic, any tests doctors might want to run have to be rapid diagnosis tests (tests like pregnancy tests where it shows the results immediately). Andrea and I also think the outreach clinic might be a good place for sexual education to happen as well, seeing as so many women come in for family planning.

Overall, really informative day. And, as an added bonus got some really fantastic views of the Mountain Kingdom as we drove to and from Pitseng.  But you’re probably bored of hearing about those by now, anyway, haha. I’m telling you, man, I don’t know if I’ll ever get bored of these mountains.

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Also because most of you only skim this for photos, here’s a photo of me, my partner Andrea, and one of the doctors who takes care of the outreach clinic, Dr. Tibenda. He’s pretty badass.

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Just smile and nod

8 Jun

It’s raining today! It’s the first time that it’s rained since I’ve been here. Apparently when the rain clears, there’ll be snow up on the mountains too. The weather since I’ve been here has actually been really fantastic. During the nights and early morning it gets chilly to about.. skiing temperatures, but during the day when the sun’s out, it’s like a chilly spring day. Take a look at this sunset I get to see every day:

Pretty good huh?

So a week’s past and a lot has happened. We’ve been demonstrating the technologies to various doctors and nurses, getting a TON of feedback, and learning so much from the hospital. I’m pretty surprised, but we’ve actually made a lot of progress. Before we came, people get warning us not to get frustrated because people here tend to resist change and it would take us a while to win them over. But it turns out the doctors, and even many of the nurses, have been really receptive and enthusiastic. Even if you have a suspicion that something might not be useful, they’re still polite and let us explain the whole thing and just want everything/anything you’ll give them. Even when Andrea and I determined that our device probably wasn’t going to be useful, they still insisted that they keep it. When we came back at the end of the day, they’d recorded that they’d used it 5 times, but in the end, thought their way was simpler, and gave us great feedback. As always, most everyone’s full of smiles and nods. It actually makes it more difficult to tell if they actually understand what you’re talking about, haha.

Lookit what I made!

So highlight of the week: I was showing M’e Matsebo (head nurse in the lab) about the dosing clips (read more in the technology section), and as she was studying it with a face impossible to read, she says “Hmmm, maybe this will be useful for her (pointing at another nurse), she takes the blood.” And Andrea and I are kind of thinking “… What? Blood? These syringes aren’t sterilized.” And she runs off for a second and comes back with a syringe, takes the clip from my hand and snaps it in. And as she pulls back the plunger to exactly 3mL, just like it’s supposed to, her whole face lights up and she does this huge grin, scrunching up her face, sticking out her tongue at us. Best. Moment. Ever.

She explains that when they take blood samples, they always take 3mL or 4mL, so the dosing clips will work perfectly. She won’t even let me put them back together for her and wants to do it herself.

It was so great. So awesome.

Iron Chef

8 Jun

Also, let me tell you, I’ve become an expert cook. Not bragging or anything. Just look at this badass meal.

I am awesome at cooking

Yeah. Chicken, beans, and mashed potatoes. Yeah, the beans were canned, and yeah the mashed potatoes were made from powder and boiling water… But we’re making progress! At least it’s not this anymore…

It's vegetable stew.

 

We’re making strides.

Oh the sweet sound of flushing toilets.

8 Jun

So as you’ve heard, I have acquired both internet and running water and let me tell you: the sound of flushing toilets sends chills of delicious happiness down my spine. Honestly.

 

There’re quite a few things that are worth noting make a different “norm” here.

Running water is awesome. It’s magic when you turn on a faucet and water starts coming out. Really, think about it the next time you step into a shower and water just magically starts pouring over you all nice and warm and fuzzy. With just a turn of a knob! Amazing.

Washing laundry by hand is something I actually legitimately have never thought about doing and so I actually have very little idea how to go about that. How weird is that? How spoiled am I? Don’t even know where to begin with washing by hand. Interesting.

Afrikans have a secret handshake. It’s really cool actually, when you meet someone they shake your hand and then go into a secret-handshake type handshake, and you just smile and introduce yourself and ask how they are. And that’s how you begin every conversation. After you’ve met someone once, you still have to ask them how they are and how their day is, before you begin any conversation. I think that’s nice. Takes more time of course, but it’s nice to begin every conversation cordially.

The language is slooow… The Sesotho language they speak in Lesotho is very round, and very slow and your mouth makes nice big round syllables. It sounds like drums and Africa and Lion King. The laughter is great and sounds like a happy, pleased cackle. I love to see everyone smiling. All the time.

Internet is addictive. It’s interesting that once upon a time, when I forced myself to be in a place without internet I could survive and probably lived more healthy for it. Now? Can’t survive without it. Really can’t. Not just because I miss people and crave constant connection to people that the internet provides you, but I need it for work-related business, looking up information I should know but I’ve forgotten, even looking up recipes for dinner. Which leads me to the next:

Cooking… takes practice. Andrea and I are getting better! We’re carefully tracking our progress but let me just tell you: today, we only had ONE “instant” food on our plate. (Instant being… we put powder into some water and BAM: mashed potatoes). The rest we made ourselves! Chicken! In a pan! With some onions? We’re getting so good at this.

Mommys are pretty essential to living. It’s pretty much impossible to survive without mommys. My mommy made sure I packed clothes for pretty much all variations of cold that I could encounter here plus a ton of different snack foods so I could continue my unhealthy lifestyles even when I’m not living in a college dorm. My mommy feeds me, and clothes me, and gives me a place to stay… and most importantly she freaks out about me if she even remotely thinks I’m leaving her in any way shape or form. But in the end, at the very least, she’ll keep me warm with clothes and love.

Today is a good day.

6 Jun

Today is a good day because the running water came back, and the miracle of all miracles: the internet has returned to the hospital. Happy days!!

 

So now you can hopefully expect more updates about my life which I’m sure you are all just absolutely fascinated by. Can’t get enough of me, I know. I get that a lot.