Friday, 11 July 2008


Wheelbarrows –

I have been thinking a lot about wheelbarrows…thousands of them being pushed about Liberia…mobile store fronts for flip-flops, clothing, fabric, tools, bras, toilet paper, eggs, tapes and DVDs, baskets, towels, Chiclets, candy, charcoal, head bands, coconuts; a means of delivery for a host of purchased goods; even recliners for sleeping men…but I think one thing that has shocked me and that is common here is when I first heard of a child dying in the wheelbarrow on the way to the hospital. I thought “Surely not!” But then a pastor friend of ours in a village said his wife was so sick in the middle of the night that they thought they would have to put her in a wheelbarrow and take her to the clinic. So, yes, it is a common means of transportation when you live way out in a village and it is the rainy season and there is no other way to get to the main road. Shocking. I find it shocking.

There is so much I need to think about here.

Tuesday, 8 July 2008

Sensory Overload

Last week I saw a cobra.

I went out to the village with the community health care team. What an afternoon it was. Sometimes I think it is all the sensory overload that can be overwhelming. First stop Duala market because we needed some peppers and onions for the meal provided for the participants in the class. While waiting in the land rover, there were so many things to see. UN vehicles, taxis, taxis, taxis….So, after the buyers got back into the vehicle, I reach in to the bag to see what they got and pulled out……chicken feet. Wow!! Not expected. Then on our way to the village, watching from the back of the vehicle - A beautiful young pregnant woman hurrying through the crowds. What must it be like to be her? What does she see. I know as women, our dreams must be the same.
As we travelled along to the village we saw a large black stick in the road which, of course, started to move and crawl along the road. And it raised its flat little head. Cobra! The picture here is not the one we saw but - it looks like it! It was about 5 feet long.

Reaching the village, something is amiss. We find out that the baby our team took to the hospital on Tuesday died of malaria on Wednesday. Today is Thursday and she is already buried. It is her 4th child to die. They think all died of malaria. We got started late with the class, held in a small Catholic church which functions as a school in the mornings. We talked about nutrition and they coloured and played a game. It was a review day and they seem to know their stuff. Rice is the main thing they eat. And in talking to our crew, we learn that if they have not eaten rice they have not eaten that day. A crew member from Guinea told me that he might eat potatoes, carrots, and corn but if he had not had rice he would not think he had eaten. And I have also heard that if rice is hard to come by, it is considered a desperate situation, like a war time situation. And we know that right now rice is hard to buy. It is expensive everywhere. It poured while we were there. It rains so hard during this rainy season that if you are in a building with a zinc roof, which most public buildings are, it is so loud you cannot hear the person beside you talk. All teaching stops. It was like sheets of rain. On the way home, we stopped to see the young mother to offer our sympathies. Losing 4 children I cannot imagine. And from Malaria?? Next week the team begins handing out mosquito nets, training in the villages at the same time and then the teaching and hanging of the nets will be continued by the participants in the class. They will go from house to house in their villages and teach at the same time.
Here is my latest little song, sung to Happy Birthday…

Use your net every day.
Keep mosquitos away!
Use your net when you’re sleeping…
It is the best way!

Saturday, I went along to a meeting of various NGO’s with a friend. I was just observing but it was interesting to hear the difficulties of obtaining the tests to rapidly diagnose malaria. Malaria is a very big problem here. Right now I cannot imagine being back in North America and getting bitten by mosquitos and knowing you do not have to be concerned about malaria. What a privilege that is and I do not even think about when I am at home.

Anyway, it was five hours of sensory overload.

And again… much to think about!

Monday, 7 July 2008

Breathless Tales

Breathless Tales

I would rather
clutch my invitation
and wait my turn
in party clothes
prim, proper
safe and clean.

But a pulsing hand
keeps driving me
over peaks
and spidered brambles.

So, I’ll pant
up to the pearled knocker

and full of tales.

by Janet Chester Bly

Tuesday, 1 July 2008

Courage and Desperation

Let me share a few stories. We do a lot, a whole lot, of cataract surgeries on board. Sometimes 30 a day. One older woman came on board with fear and trembling. Her people told her that if she came on board, we would sail away with her. She came anyway. Another woman came with a shaved head. Her village had told her that we would cut off all her hair when we operated, so instead she did it herself. And she came anyway. Then I heard last week of one young man who was agitated in the OR and fought the nurses we then found out that he had been told we would circumcise him if he let us operate on his eyes. It is amazing to me the courage it takes to come to a Mercy ship. And the desperation that brings people here.