Letter to Grandpa

Trip Start Nov 02, 2003
Trip End Feb 14, 2006

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Flag of Madagascar  ,
Thursday, February 26, 2004

Dear Grandpa,

It's so wonderful to get your aerograms every week! Thanks so much for keeping me updated about the rest of the family and for your constant encouragement - I appreciate both more than I can say.

Today I went to the clinic to observe consultations, as I have been, and a young woman came in; she had been cutting corncobs and her knife slipped and slit open a toe. I accompanied her to the hospital across the street (the clinic is for consultations and injections only; all procedures are done at the hospital) and stayed to watch. I've never been able to watch surgery on T.V. (which my dad and Jen always enjoyed), but thought that I could handle a couple stitches in person. I was fine for the first stitch but on the second, watching the needle go in and seeing the girl's pain (she had been given a couple shots of anesthesia, but it clearly wasn't enough - surgery to my finger last year took 9), I had a reaction so utterly stereotypical that I wouldn't have believed it actually happened to people. The room started spinning. I was overcome with nausea, and my ears were ringing so loudly I could no longer hear the doctor speaking. I spent a few anxious moments by the garbage can! I had been very anxious to see a birth, but after this, I might wait a while. I'd never live it down with the hospital staff (my supervisors, advisors, and colleagues here) if I actually passed out! Anyway, I guess this is proof that I won't be following your footsteps (and my dad's) into surgery.

It's sweet that you're thinking of organizing my letters to show your study group, but I'd much prefer that you organize your own letters and diaries (and hopefully, write a narrative, as well!) to send me or show me when I return!


I imagine you know that my parents and Jen are planning to visit from late May to early June. We haven't made very specific plans yet, but will likely travel all over the country. As I walk around my town each day, I think about places to take them and people to introduce them to. I'm a little nervous about serving as translator for every single conversation and interaction for 3 weeks but extremely excited that they'll be here in just a few months.


I can't believe that it's March already! Today is the beginning of my 7th week at site, and the time has flown. I've been assisting with more prenatal consultations, giving tetanus vaccines and weighing the mothers, and the doctor and nurse have been showing me how to feel the fetus' head and letting me listen to the fetal heartbeat. It's so exciting! Tomorrow (Tuesday) and Thursday morning, I'm going to give a presentation on malaria prevention at the nonprofit where I help weigh babies; if those go well, I'll start giving the presentation (and others, eventually) for patients waiting at the clinic (about 100 people on an average morning.) Malaria is a really important subject to me; AIDS is an enormous bogeyman here, the topic of innumerable meetings, clubs, and presentations at my site even in my short time here, but only 1.5 percent of the population is currently infected. I don't mean to undermine the risk - that's the rate South Africa had 10 years ago and now it's 38 percent - but tons of Malagasy die of malaria and no one's talking about it. Hopefully, I can help to lower the incidence in my town.

Next week I'm going with friends whose sites are near mine to visit friends a little further away. I'm really excited, both to see them and to see a slightly different part of the country. Also, I'm part of a dance performance for National Women's Day next week.

My parents and Jen sent me photos from Thanksgiving, including one of you with Rohn, Jeff, and my mom, which I loved! Hopefully you can all send some from Aunt Laurie's Bat Mitzvah - I wish I could be there!

I'm going to send this to my parents to post on my web site first and they'll send it on to you, so you don't have to bother finding a xerox machine. Give my best to Harriet, as always. I miss you! And thanks again for all the letters - they really brighten my weeks!

Love, Jessica

And now, some legalese:
The opinions expressed and experiences described in this travelogue are those of one individual Peace Corps Volunteer. Nothing written here should be interpreted as official or unofficial Peace Corps literature or as sanctioned by the Peace Corps. I have chosen to write about my experience online in order to update family and friends; I am earning no money whatsoever from this endeavor.
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