Now the work begins

Trip Start Jan 02, 2009
Trip End Mar 22, 2009

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Flag of Sierra Leone  ,
Friday, January 16, 2009

I can't believe I've been here two weeks already.  I've been busy every day so far, and things only now feel like their getting into full swing.  The time hadn't really caught up to me until today, when three of the volunteers I came with headed to Freetown to return to the US.  So safe travels to Jenn and Melinda, who have both been gathering interviews and footage to raise awareness and for a possible documentry, and to Annie, who is headed back to college.

For the rest of us here, there is plenty to keep us busy.  I myself have been splitting my time between the garden for the Fistula Ward and teaching to the nursing staff and at the local medical college.

The gardening is going very well.  At only a week after planting, we already have corn and okra coming up, and all the cucumber and squashes we've planted have grown into full fledged seedlings, and are already unfurling their first new leaves.  We've been doing our watering by hand, hauling buckets from the open air kitchen, which is supplied by an elevated tank.  It's been working well enough, and it's the traditional way of watering, but I'm a Griffith, and so I have an insatiable need to irrigate things.  As a result, we've spent the day installing a watering system, pieced together from the local  hardware store (The Hussein Brothers).  So 100' of underground  pipe, a T joint, an elbow, a brass spigot and 20 yards of hose later, we now a pretty efficient watering rig.  This of course means we can plant more, so tomorrow will be a saturday of digging.

Classes are likewise going well.  The local university has a surprisingly decent CPR manikin that they've loaned out to me to use at the hospital, provided I come in and teach their nursing students once a week.  Of the nursing staff at the hospital (and excluding the nurses on our payroll), there are only 10 RN's, the other 120 or so are either nursing aids (akin to a CNA) or simply volunteers, with only on the job training.  None of them know CPR, although many seem familiar with the concept (usually from TV).  Teaching in a different dialect is challenging, but it's a very visual process, with lots of demonstration, so I manage pretty well.  The nurses I've been teaching in groups of six or so, which works well, but the college is a different story.

I arrived at NJALA univierstiy last Wednesday at around 10 am, with my first class starting at 10:30.  Or so I thought, but no sooner had I arrived than I was placed in front of 30 or so nursing students, and told to go for it.  Despite the abruptness, it went quite well, and judging by the questions I was asked and by the practice sessions, most of them seemed to be picking it up.  The second class was scheduled for 1:30, so imagine my surprise when I was hustled over to meet my next class at about 11:45.  I want you all to understand what a remarkable feat that is, seeing as this entire country seems to run at least 30 minutes behind schedule all the time, wether it be for a meeting, a ride, a surgury, literally everything.  To compound my condition, the 2nd class ended up containing at least 120 students, which was far more than I with my one lonely manikin was prepared to handle.  So I went through the lecture portion, quized a dozen or so students, and made plans to come back basically every Wednessday for the rest of my stay to do practicals.  Perhaps I'll earn tenure.

Despite my busy schedule, I'm still finding plenty of time to enjoy the local sights and culture.  People are remarkably friendly here, and I feel as safe as anywhere walking around the roads near the house, or in the village or market near the hospital.  The local food is hit or miss, but I'm learning what's what, and the local beer, Star, is pretty decent, and costs 2500 leones, or about 70 cents.  There's also Poyo, or palm wine, which is hauled around in five gallon jugs, and costs about 30 cents to fill a quart bottle.  It's Friday, so after work I think it will be time for a drink at the nearest watering hole, George Town (run by Johnathin George, a native who lives half the year as an ex-pat in Maryland).  Last weekend we had Poyo, so I can definitely say tonight I'll be having Star.
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