Friday, December 23, 2011

Flies on poo

…they got nothin’ when  compared to toubabs in strollers.

Getting to know people here has been difficult .  Meeting people has not.  Heads are constantly turning and looking at us when we are walking places.  It’s not just the stroller (although we have only seen a handful of them…all steered by white people (toubabs)).  Charlie and Maeve are magnets to our darker skinned neighbors and strangers. They love to come up and shake their hand, touch their hair, just touch them in any way.  Maeve is usually more up for the commotion than Charlie. 

They are quite the “in” if we had any language skills to get to know the people.  I took a walk with them today and it made one lady’s day just to come up and have Maeve shake her hand and Charlie squirm away when she tried the same with her.  She then went and got two white towels (she had a stand selling them), as gifts for both Charlie and Maeve.  Just a small token of her appreciation. 

The people here are truly special.  Just like any other place, though.  Hope you have a good holidays with the “special people” you surround yourself with this Christmas. 


p.s. my parents and sis are coming in tomorrow for a week!  We are all very excited!  Merry Christmas!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Walking Away

note:  this is kyle speaking here: school is out and I've had some time to think.  thus, here comes a thought or two your way (beware...there will be more in the coming days).  hope it provides a window into our life here

It has never been my strong suit.  I’m a people pleaser.  I like people to be happy.  Saying “No” and sticking to it has always been hard.   Turning around and walking the other way is a notch or two higher in my book than just saying “No.” And on top of that, it’s harder saying “No” when it comes to people seemingly worse off than myself.  I’ve struggled on 2 fronts with this walking away phenomenon while being here in Africa, one good and one bad, amidst my people pleasing mentality.  Let me explain:

Input this people pleasing tendency in an African marketplace. We went to one yesterday.  If I were to stick to my natural bent, I would leave with empty pockets and hands full of bags every time we go shopping.  The persistent business owners would devour my approval addict affinity (we both usually walk away drained from all the bartering and incessant desires to have us “come and look.”).   Africans love to see white people…especially ones in a marketplace.  Saying “No, Merci” upwards of 4 times is almost necessary to pound the point home you don’t want to buy something (along with the occasional “not today” line).  Them pleading you to “just take a look” because it would “make me so happy” is the first step down this path.  Walking away is something every toubab (white person) out here needs to learn…especially in a marketplace.  Walking away is necessary here. And I’m getting better at it.  It gets easier the more times you do it. …But it is something I don’t want to get used to by any means.

Scenario #2: Input this mentality anywhere outside a marketplace.  Kids coming up to you with yellow bowls and no shoes, torn shirts and dirt ingrained jeans asking for money (your typical talibe kid…good article here).  Handicapped people along the roadside begging.   Women who are seemingly widows or whose husband is no longer with them and with 3 kids sitting on the side of the road (all day).  A man in tattered clothes slowly walking barefoot alongside you on the street.   Taking the girls for a walk and seeing people living in shacks next to buildings only 4 “blocks” from your home.  It’s pretty unnerving.  At least it can be.

Given those scenarios, walking away doesn’t always seem the right thing to do.  You can become calloused to these sights.  The sights are wrong.  What do you do?  Things shouldn’t be the way you see them (at least in my Western eyes).  “What can I do?” is usually the question I think.  And don’t get me wrong.  People are wonderfully happy here and have managed to look out for their needs despite their scant resources and position in life they find themselves.  Nonetheless, I think turning the other way and walking away can be a slippery slope.  I don’t ever want it to become easy. And unfortunately it has become easier.

It’s been a fine line, with ignoring leading to acceptance on one side and disturbance, hopefully leading to action motivated by compassion on the other. 

So what have we been doing?  We’ve been trying to impact those outside our own “American bubble” here but still in our world.  Those we can get to know and build relationships with.  It’s mostly boiled down to befriending those around us not connected to the school(often the guards we see hanging out around the neighborhood)  and baking cookies/giving them goodies when we have the chance (as well as always greeting them, as this is very important here).  Mainly just trying to show small acts of love.   Planting seeds.  Exercising prayer and patience (neither of which are my strong suits at least).   It’s tougher to help in tangible, practical, relational ways given the assumed “need “here than I had envisioned but we are trying to do our part.  The language barrier has been a HUGE stumbling block to really engaging and knowing the people, rather than observing the culture.  Nonetheless, it’s the situation we find ourselves in.  It’s been a process. 

And I hope the walking away feeling continues to disturb and disrupt.  I hope that part never changes.

Monday, December 12, 2011

the blog i hoped to never write

well it happened. we kinda thought it would at some point. didnt make it any easier.

my rambuctious, stubborn, loveable daughter turned sad, cuddly, and feverish. no eating, no drinking.

to the hospital we go.

pretty sure i cried more than she did the first day. it was the worst feeling to see maeve sick and have no idea how to get help. i had limited resources in my foggy brain. kyle thankfully kept calm and led me to call some friends who work from home and speak french. they quickly came to the conclusion that the best option was to take her to the emergency room at the best hospital in the city. repeat, best hospital in the city.

we arrive unsure of where the emergency room is. not a problem, as there is currently only one pediatrician in house and he is in his office seeing patients.

he takes us next, asks a few questions, checks her over and confirms what i suspected. she is dehydrated from whatever it is that is causing the fevers and diarrhea. she needs fluids. we then make our way to our room. before we can settle in though and get poor maevers taken care of. first we must pay. we pay a cap of 750,000 CFA (500cfa roughly= $1) and are informed we will get reimbursed upon discharge with whatever money is left over. different, but ok. lets get on with it.

we make it to our room and the staff quickly arrive ready to draw blood and insert an i.v.  we are asked to step out. my heart aches to hear her cry "mama" on the other side of the door

coming from a medical background there were some things that i felt were a bit off.
for example, there are no name bands or i.d. of anysort for the patients.   for nursing buddies-can you imagine JCAHO here? it kinda made me chuckle in a not so funny kind of way

staff wear sandals and no socks.

there are no towels in the bathroom, i was informed to use toilet paper to dry my hands. this made me question what the staff use to dry there hands. or, do the staff even wash there hands...

they checked maeves temperature every four hours, but never once any other vital sign or assessment, except for the one time i asked them to listen to her lungs.

the room had a hospital bed without side rails for maeve and i to sleep in. she only fell out once.

other than those observations the hospital was pretty nice. it reminded me of an american hospital, just dated.

although quite modern for african standards...we are in africa. we passed a nurse doing his daily prayers on his prayer mat in the hall. there were ants in our room despite the fact that housekeeping cleaned twice a day. at 4:30pm everyday they delivered tea to your room, dinner at 7.

we saw plenty of no smoking signs (good) in the hospital, but apparently opening a window and holding your head out while you smoke is allowed. i guess "technically" you aren't smoking inside...

by the end of her stay she was getting pretty accustomed to pushing around her own iv pole.

the day we left she met her doctor at the door and reached out to shake his hand. (a senegelese kid at heart!)

i think that was a good indicator that she was back to her old self.  we left that evening, happy to return home and rejoin our family.

thanks to all here in Dakar who helped us out in many different capacities and to those all over who prayed for her. she is back to her happy, hydrated self!