Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Where There Is No Doctor

December 1st, 2012

First off Happy World AIDS Day!

Second, I have had a very important and defining moment in my Peace Corps Service.  I finally administered treatment for someone who was seeking medical care by consulting the book ‘Where There Is No Doctor.’  Every Peace Corps Volunteer around the world, as well as most workers in any rural part of the world, have this book on their shelf.  It is the go to guide when trying to diagnose and treat any symptom or injury where/when there is no Doctor available.  It’s the web-MD of the non-internet world.  Despite the fact that I am a community development health volunteer my copy of this jewel of a book is a bit dusty.  My experience with consulting its pages, mostly trying to self-diagnose, has made me a hypochondriac.  It seemed any symptom I was having was a result from contracting TB, Malaria, a parasite, and a worm simultaneously.  In reality I really only had mild cases of the runs (aka diarrhea), but its really easy to freak yourself out in the middle of the night in rural Africa when you feel like you are dying.

To avoid any un-needed stress I decided it was best not to look up my symptoms anymore.  However, a few days ago my Babe (host dad) was building a new fence and the wire snapped and hit him in the eye.  Make (host mom) had gone to bed and I was left to attend to Babe’s swollen and very painful eye.  It was night, going to the clinic was not an option, so I pulled out my copy of ‘Where There Is No Doctor’ just to see what it had to say.  It recommended an antibiotic eye ointment and keeping the eye covered for a few days since Babe was still able to see out of the eye, so I prescribed just that.  I wasn’t really convinced he had heard what I told him as the next day he was out working in the field again and not seeking treatment.  I left the homestead for a few days and arrived back today.  I asked Babe how his eye was (it looked much better) and he showed me an antibiotic eye ointment Make had bought him when she went into town and he has been wearing his sunglasses as a protective barrier.  He was so happy it was no longer causing him pain. 

I feel I can officially call myself a Health volunteer now.  I had read many accounts of PCVs consulting and treating out of this book, but so far my service had not presented me with a situation where I was being relied on for medical help.  I’m glad I can finally add a ‘Where There Is No Doctor’ story to PCV service resume so to speak.

Thanksgiving 2012

November 22nd, 2012

Thanksgiving was really awesome for me this year.  I have a lot to be thankful for. 

For the past three years the American Embassy has hosted a Thanksgiving dinner for the entire American community here in Swaziland, with Peace Corps making up the majority.  This year, however, there was a changeover in Ambassadors, and thankfully the new Ambassador was still game for inviting the 70+ Peace Corps Volunteers and staff over for dinner.  However it was just us and the Ambassador this year.  The new Ambassador gave the Embassy staff the option to come celebrate with us or to celebrate at their homes.  I actually really enjoyed the slightly smaller crowd this year, but since it was just PC it was up to PC to supply all the food.  Well everything except the meat, the Ambassador supplied that. 

Myself along with 4 other G9 PCVs were recruited to help our Country Director’s (our boss) wife and our Administration Officer make all the fixings of a Thanksgiving meal.  Addy was also recruited and her and I, plus Addy’s husband Ryan and our friend Libby who were in Mbabane (they edit our monthly Peace Corps Volunteer publication), got to camp out at our Country Director’s house for 4 days/3 nights.  And by camp out I mean we slept in a bed that was softer then a cloud and had full access to all the modern amenities (showers, internet, television).  It was the best stay-cation ever!!!  We were treated to home cooked meals, had running hot water to do dishes with, slept without the fear of bugs, and didn’t have to haul water.  It was amazing  - I am tearing up just thinking about it.

We did work for our stay though – but not too hard.  We spent a day and half baking half of what we needed.  The other three PCVs were at the other house baking away on the other half.  We made 2 pans cheesy potatoes, 2 pans baked potatoes, 2 pans oven baked beans, 2 pans green bean casserole, 3 pans stuffing, 2 bowls green salad, 2 cheese and fruit platters, 3 made from scratch pumpkin pies (actually butternut squash – no pumpkin here this time of year), 2 pans apple crumble, and 2 to-die for chocolate pudding and brownie trifles.  Once all said and done I think between our two houses cooking and the Ambassador we had 20 dessert options (sadly only two of which I could eat). 

 Even though I had limited options, it was still so, so, so delicious.  I ate way to much as expected.  The Ambassador not only had turkey but also ham.  I have no idea where she found a ham because I sure have not had it once since leaving the States – it was so amazing.  It was my first time meeting the new Ambassador, who if you didn’t pick up is a woman, and she is really cool, very friendly, open and approachable.  I am very thankful that even though she is new to Swaziland she opened her house to us PCVs. 

It helps to feel like you have a family to celebrate with even when we are so far away from our own families.  PC Swaziland has really become a great family.  I am truly thankful for my group, Group 9 volunteers.  We started with 39 in my group and we are now down to 24 still in Swaziland.  We have become really close over the last year and a half and I wouldn’t change them for the world.  I am also thankful for PC Swaziland staff for helping make PC Swaziland feel like a family.  The staff really becomes our surrogate parents; they are whom we call when everything is falling apart, but as of lately they have also become friends, mentors, and guides, as life after PC is getting closer and closer for us G9ers.

On An African Evening

It’s 5:30pm; the setting sun has cast everything in a golden light.  I’m sitting on my steps, the breeze is crisp and the air smells fresh.  I watch as the neighbor boys and Babe hand plant the maize.  The hoe pierces the ground with a thud and a shoeless boy tosses in a seed before covering up the hole with his bare foot.  Three teams of two scale up and down the rows.  This is the third and final section of the field to be planted.  Section number one is already burgeoning.  The maize stocks, about 2 feet high, rustle in the wind.

Everything is stunningly green from the recent rains.  Where there was only dirt last year, there is now rapidly growing grass that just begs to be laid in.  I just spent an hour bengihlagule (weeding) in my garden.  It is finally looking less abandoned.  Time to plant lettuce and beetroot!  I found a giant spider and what appeared to be its egg sack in the dirt.  With a heavy heart I sprayed it with bug killer and reburied it.  It may have been poisonous and had direct access to my window.

Now time for dinner and another glorious African sunset!  But wait… sisi Nisipho has just come into the family garden.  She is picking tonight’s dinner – spinach.  She carried her 1 and ½ year old son on her back.  She bends with the balance only a Swazi mother knows.  A four donkey drawn car has pulled through the far gate.  They are dropping off firewood; a symbol of time passed and self-sufficiency. 

Life seems simple and pleasant tonight.  Past remorse isn’t clouding the senses, the urgency of the future isn’t pressing.  Its nice to just enjoy the moment.