i've been in botswana 7 months. i'm at that point where it feels like a moment and a lifetime. it's also starting to feel more like home, finally. this transition has taken much longer than i expected, but i suppose i was naive to think that moving, living, working somehwere would be as easy as going for a month long mission trip. cultural difference that are quirky for one month can be a real struggle when it's several....you tolerate things when you're a visitor, but when you make a place your home you selfishly expect it to be like home. that expectation is totally natural, but also unreasonable and incredibly frustrating. i realized this early on but it has been, and is, a process to brek that fixed notion. certain things still drive me crazy....i.e. everyone says "don't you have" instead of "do you have" and "you will give me" instead of "will you give me"...."don't you have 10 pula? don't you have a pen? don't you have a sticker for me?? you will give me your banana." the work ethic and order of priorities is different than i'm used to, and you often feel like your presence here is not necessarily desired/appreciated....but honestly, when i put myself in their position i can see why they're wary of me. and these things aren't necessarily wrong, just different. slowly but surely i'm starting to accept them, and a million other things, as home in botswana. the patients are now familiar, the clinic staff more friendly/helpful (they had to warm up to us as well), and every day it becomes easier to let the little things go and appreciate the beauty of some of our differences.
the last 2 weeks leigh and i were in serowe (outreach site 3 1/2 hrs north of gabs). life is much slower there and with no internet access and no friends, we'll just say that it made me miss home....then i realized that "home" was gabs, this was a serious breakthrough :). the work there is tedious....days spent mentoring nurses/doctros who often don't want you there and trying to sort out patients who have been mismanaged for years. scary too since baylor may only be here another 2-3 yrs and it seems we have so far to go. we did have some fun though - took a trip to the salt pans (5hrs northeast of serowe) and stayed at a really cool lodge....cool as in awesome because it was approximately 1000 degrees there. we stayed in traditional rondavels, which in english translates as oven (sarcasm). needless to say we spent more time sweating than sleeping and it made me understand why people wear sweaters and turn on the heat in the middle of the summer. apparently being this hot is actually preferable. despite the hotness it was beautiful - we went on a 1/2 day trip to the pans (leaving at 5:45am, bleh!) and drove for about 6hrs total in the middle of nowhere. i mean, NO people. the only person we saw works for the lodge....he stands all day in the desert sun tending the meerkats so that they're used to people. talk about a hot and lonely job. we were thankful though because it works and you can get out and walk alongside the meerkats as they bounce through the desert. we followed them around for a while, so stinkin cute! we also saw one of the oldest/largest baobab trees in the pans - very cool. i now have the distinguished honor of relieving myself behind (sort of unavoidably on as the roots stick out everywhere) a 3-4 thousand yr old tree :).
we happened to go in the middle of zebra and wildebeast migration so we spent most of the day alongside literally 100's of zebras and wildebeasts. it was amazing - even better than a game reserve cause they were just out doing their zebra/wildebeast thing. at some point stopped for breakfast, prepared from the back of our 4x4, then ventured to the vast pans. it's "wet" season (side note, all "rivers" in the area resemble dirt paths rather than rivers, but apparently this is wet) so didn't get to 4-wheel which is the main activity in the pans :( however we did take some pretty fun pictures (see below), as usual acting our age ;). our guides were a lot of fun and full of information teaching us all about the area. we later went on a "bushmen walk" and learned all about that culture, medicinal plants, anectdotes, etc. they carried walking sticks and made us walk single file, they were for real. the day finished with a sunset drink by an animal watering hole then retired to our oven for the evening. such a good day.
serowe also has a rhino sanctuary which we got to do a self-drive safari through. have to say self-drive safaris are a bit intimidating at first, i mean what the heck would i do if some crazy animal attacked our car?? kind of fun though cause you really feel like you're on an adventure. this was a pretty tame game drive, but still, it was leigh and i with a map against the world....if you know how well i read maps, this will scare you. thankfully leigh is better at it than i and we made it around the park with minimal problems. at one point we encountered a waterhole that had rhinos, zebras, wildebeasts, ostriches, kudu (deer-like animals), and some other crazy birds all in one place. it was straight out of the lion king, i'm telling you. if leigh didn't hate disney montages so much i definitely would have busted into the "circle of life." never fear, i refrained.
so that was serowe....now back in gabs and heading to the wards next week. trying to steel myself for the days to come, it's only a week so totally doable, just such a wild card....you never know what you're going to get there, and 9 times out of 10 what you get is bad. it can be more than a little defeating. leigh just finished a few weeks on wards and it was hellacious....6 resuscitations in one week, really in 2 days, only 1 successful. bleh. it's so hard when your best is never good enough, but such is the nature of working in resource-limited settings....have to remember that your best is the best you can do, and at minimum is better than nothing.
last week i read a friend's blog where he had posted multiple "patient encounters," a series of short stories about patients he saw during his years in swaziland. many were familiar, all were touching, and i decided to steal his idea. i haven't focused enough on the precious patients i'm blessed to work with each day....they're by far the best part of this experience. i'll try my best to do them justice in sharing their stories, stay tuned :).