Thursday, September 19, 2013

July 29, A Pommern Monday. Part 1.

(As written in my journal that day; grammar and minor edits only. Italicized portions are additions written after the trip.)

If there was only one day to journal about in Africa, this would be it, hands down. I'm writing late on the 30th and you'll see why. This is going to stretch over a few blog posts, partly to prevent an epically long post that only my parents would fully read! Meggie and I were assigned to the clinic today - the first volunteers, yet again, to take on an assignment. Somebody sure trusts us.

After Dr. Elton, a dentist and also the presiding medical officer in the village (actually, in the whole area - this clinic serves seven villages and he's in charge) introduced us to the three nurses - Nema, Patricia and Farajah - I learned from my past eagerness in the secondary school, and instead sat on the bench to wait for an assignment. When Patricia began to mop, Meggie and I jumped up to do it for her. Something we can do!

I mopped the laboratory, the children's ward, the IUD insertion and sterilization room, and the delivery room. (Sterilizing of materials, not people. As far as I could tell.) It was amazing that last week, on our first day, during the brief clinic tour as part of village orientation, I was horrified at the filthy conditions. Too-small sheets on rusted frame beds with mattresses about 2 inches thick. Peeling paint. Pitted cement floors, windows so covered in red Pommern dust you can't see outside. A stained, torn and dirty curtain over the window, if you're lucky. Chipped metal bedpans back from well into the last century. Side tables with the tops smashed in but nothing to replace them, chairs missing armrests. But then...

This is where your baby is weighed and checked, immediately after delivery:


Ladies room...

'

Inside the men's ward...


Need an IUD? There are instructions on the wall, so don't worry. And this is the room speculums are sterilized in too (in something that looks a lot like the cooking pots, to be honest). But it smells like the Piniest Pine Sol ever.


For the gents...


This pretty room is the maternity ward, where you'll labor and recover (though to deliver, you'll be moved - only two beds, not four, in there.


Ladies' ward...


Meggie making beds.


... after I straightened everything to my beloved right angles, and tucked in corners, and mopped it carefully with the most intense-smelling disinfectant yet (and that's saying something!), I look around and think, hey! This is pretty clean! It looks decent! Ah, satisfaction.

Just like coming through Iringa Town the second time yesterday, after being in mud-hut rural villages, I thought, yeah, this is pretty modern. Fairly organized. I'd rather live here than in a hut, I see why people come to live in towns and cities. I would too.

If in only a week my perspective can shift that much, what will a second week bring? And how those Peace Corps or State Department folks must feel after two or three years away? Unimaginable. Though I can try. What else is being a writer about?

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