Brave Woman

Adventures of a future nurse-midwife


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And I Missed It

Posted by Lucille on June 2, 2011 at 1:25 PM Comments comments (0)

A group member told me that in maternity today she had a frank breech, a set of twins (one of which was breech), and a baby born in the caul. All delivered vaginally with no pain medication and no tearing. These women are amazing.


Posted by Lucille on June 2, 2011 at 1:25 PM Comments comments (0)

I love that the people here wear traditional clothing. The women wear those colorful dresses and head wraps and the older men wear those long shirts and caps. With the younger people, like high school to college age, shorts and t-shirts that say things like, "Know your HIV status," "Find the volunteer in you," and "Celebrate International Women's Day" are more popular.

There are tailors in the market and I want to get a couple of dresses made. I bought fabric and ordered a dress, but it didn't fit well enough. It's very cheap here, about ten dollars to make a dress, but they also don't do much with them. I'm going to surge all the seams when I get back home, and not wear them until then in case they fall apart. I went back to ask them to fix the fit, and went through a chain of translators to communicate quite clearly that the bust is fine, don't touch the bust, just take it in in the waist. They took it in everywhere and now it's hard to breathe. I'll go back at some point.


Posted by Lucille on June 2, 2011 at 1:25 PM Comments comments (0)

Two crossroaders have hooked up with local Gambians. The downside to this is that it's easier not to feel homesick when the people around you are missing their boyfriends, too. The good part is that the flirtation is amusing and has included bringing jewelry, supplying the group with free mangoes, offering to convert to Christianity, and offering to send his children to their mother’s so he could move to the US. Someone reminded me this morning that I've had my share of admiration. I don't think the drunk guy counts.

I Love Living With Med Students

Posted by Lucille on June 2, 2011 at 1:25 PM Comments comments (0)

I was walking through the market today with some people from the group when they decided to try street meat, which came as three pieces on a small kabob. They asked what kind of meat it was, and the boy said chicken. They asked what part, but apparently that was the only word he knew. One woman, a med student, took her piece and gave it a closer look. "I don't think this is chicken..." she said, "Look, you can see the (long medical word I didn't know). I think...I think this is heart meat!"

Another woman, who had been chewing thoughtfully, spat it out. "What?"

The first woman continued to examine it. "I'm sure of it!" she said, "I've dissected hearts before, and it looks just like this, only, you know, bigger..."

We found a boy who spoke English. "Do you know what kind of meat this is?" He took one look at it and said, "Goat heart."

The woman was delighted. She's going to email her anatomy professor and tell him.


Posted by Lucille on June 2, 2011 at 1:20 PM Comments comments (0)

A member of our group was sick last night. Really sick. Another team member stayed with her through the day and when we got back she was doing worse. We sent for someone from the hospital, who brought a malaria test, and waited, worried sick, while they interviewed her about everything she'd eaten. They kept suggesting that she'd had too many mangoes. It's mango season here, so we've been getting a lot of kids in the hospital who just ate too much fruit, but there's no way mangoes could make you that sick. The malaria test was negative, and she took one of those prescription antibiotics we all brought with us and felt much better the next morning. But while we wee waiting, we came up with an idea. Since we're all expecting to get hit with a GI bug while we're here, every time someone gets sick we vote them out like that show, Survivor, and the last person to get sick gets a prize. The exact prize is still being discussed but it seems like a week free of your least favorite chore is on the table. I'm so going to win this.

At Long Last

Posted by Lucille on June 2, 2011 at 1:20 PM Comments comments (0)

The water kept cutting out at inopportune times so I went five days without a wash, during which I was putting on layers of sunscreen that would each get caked with dust. The water finally came on tonight. Best shower I've ever had.

Lights Out

Posted by Lucille on June 2, 2011 at 1:20 PM Comments comments (0)

I really needed a shower after work today. The light was on in our room, so I assumed the water was on, undressed, and stepped into the shower. I tried to turn on the water, and nothing happened. Then the lights went out. It was pitch black. I waved my hand in front of my face-- nothing. My roommate had a headlamp somewhere, so I thought I could feel around and find it, but I nearly tripped over the edge of the shower and decided quickly that stumbling around in the dark was a very bad idea. So there I was, butt-naked in utter darkness, waiting. Luckily my roommate came in a few minutes later and rescued me. It was quite an adventure.


Posted by Lucille on June 2, 2011 at 1:20 PM Comments comments (0)

You have not seen bats until you come to Gambia. At dusk, they fill the sky. I've tried to get pictures, but they don't turn out well, and the strongest part of the image is the movement, the thin flapping wings everywhere, like the sky is boiling. At first, you can actually see all the bats flying in one direction toward the town, and all the birds fling the opposite way, but as soon as it starts to get dark, the bats cover the sky.


Posted by Lucille on June 1, 2011 at 10:25 PM Comments comments (0)

In 11th grade we had two students from PSU come into our class to talk about gender stereotypes. They brought in boxes of magazines and invited us to make a collage. "So for girls, you'd put make up, and for guys you could put a sports car or something, okay?"

"No!" I wanted to say, "If you hadn't said that, people would have come up with their own images, the symbols and stereotypes they really use. Now it will all be the traditional stereotypes." Which is indeed what happened. The first image that came into my head for a feminine was a picture of an old woman's hands scooping soil in a garden. I was unable to find this picture in the magazines (though there were a lot of pictures of makeup).

You know that standard (though striking) image of a baobab tree against a fiery sunset, usually found in National Geographic and NOVA shows? I've seen a lot of them, and usually the tree is shown with very barren surroundings, which made me view the baobab as a weathered testament to survival. The first time I saw a silhouetted baobab with hundreds of fruit and flowers dangling from its branches I was completely blown away. It seemed such a powerful symbol of feminine strength, and my first thought was that it would be a magnificent visualization during labor, a way to connect with that ancient part of yourself that guides birth. The next day in maternity, I wondered if the women thought about things like that, and if growing up around such spiritually powerful symbols affected them or gave them strength in some hidden way. But if you saw this kind of thing everyday, you would probably stop noticing it. I don't think people here pay attention to the baobabs very much. Which made me wonder, what powerful images are there in our culture that are so common they're overlooked?


Posted by Lucille on June 1, 2011 at 10:25 PM Comments comments (0)

The daughter of someone from the lodge graduated from ninth grade. We had fun putting together a card and gift for her. Everyone came out to celebrate. We decked the place out with streamers and the owner of the lodge made everyone dinner. Some of the girl’s friends came over to join us.