Friday, January 15. Day 8 of the medical mission trip to Senegal.
After 8 days in country, I finally culture shocked. Oh man, it was rough. The medical part of the trip had concluded; the witnessing never finishes. We boarded our friend, the mini bus, and headed out with packed day bags for an city called Mbour on the coast of Senegal. This is essentially resort town. We arrive first at a boutique for shopping for those who are always eager to shop (I don't fall into that category, but I did buy my sister a postcard). When the store closed for siesta (another very positive trait I wish the U.S. would adopt), we walked across the street and down this long path in a park-like setting in this beach resort for lunch and general chilling.
Europeans every where. The street outside the gate: dark skinned. Inside the resort: pale skinned (and lobster colored). They do employ Senegalese men. But it was very odd. One of the things that bothered me about this was learning that almost all of the people here arrived via airplane in Dakar, was directly loaded unto a charter bus and dropped off inside the gate at the resort. Their notion of what Senegal is entirely lies within the resort property among fellow Frenchman or Germans or whatever (mostly French). How sad. I imagine they are content with such a shallow understanding of what Senegal is about. But I suppose we all do that. The affluent take vacations outside their bubble of knowing, hit the tourist spots, and call it done. The poor have an understand of different cultures based on movies or celebrities or what is heard. (All American women aren't Brittney Spears or Paris Hilton. I know, I know, It's news to me too.)
Anyway, the next step in this culture shock occurred as I sought a place to settle on the beach to read my book and plug into my iPod underneath shade. As expected on many beaches, people lay out in the sun. Apparently, however, the French have a history of being topless. Praise God it wasn't a nude beach, but to go from conservative dress (women in villages don't wear jeans) to topless bikinis is a large leap. I only felt comfortable enough to wear a tank top and shorts.
Once again it was reinforced that I don't do 'nothing' well. And yes, I realize that I was hovering over the rest of the team trying to get them to leave. I was anxious to leave and head back to Theis.
Thus concludes day 8. One more day to go.
So I'm sitting in an airport once again ... but not some crazy long transatlantic flight. My point is, I am sitting at the gate doing nothing, so I might as well work toward the conclusion of this story before it becomes a month old.
The last I left you was Wednesday, and we stayed in Theis for the day doing clinic for young boys. Thursday started quite similarly to the first two clinic days in the villages, and the day was supposed to look close to the same as well. If you can't tell, I 'm leading into a plot twist.
We're driving along in our rented mini-bus thing (I forgot what they're called) that we've been in all week now, heading in a different direction going to a slightly different area of the country. This last village was the only Wolof speaking village on our schedule (the others were Seree). We're on our way, more than an hour into the trip when we stop with just a handful of miles between us and our destination. Why? Sand. The sand was so bad - so much of it, that if we tried to continue any further, we would have been stuck. Luckily (praise God), we happened to be driving along with this 4-wheel drive jeep that was carrying missionaries staying/working in a nearby village who was going to be helping us out with the clinic. So without much information at the time of what was going on, we piled in as many people as could fit and took off. Then the jeep went back and was crammed full of as much medicine as could fit; then people; then more meds; then more people. And oh boy were we sliding around on that sand.
Welcome to Ndakhar. We arrive (in sections) and like the other places we go, we are an instant attraction, especially to the children. We chatted (poorly on our end) and played. When the meds arrived, we set them up in a fairly dark two room school. A nearby pavilion became the consultation area, while the nurse area set up shop underneath the shade of a large tree. This day I stayed entirely working in the nurse area, mostly as the first point of contact - the weigh station. Part of my job description quickly became crowd control. The previous days the people waited, seated in some shade, waiting fairly patiently for their turn. As the villagers arrive, they are checked in of sorts and put in an order of first come first served ... unless you are triaged ahead of the line. At Ndakhar, the nurse station was the nearest shade, so they were waiting right next to us. Then it became that we had crowds of people huddled closely observing their neighbors and friends have their vitals checked and recorded. And several people throughout the day didn't really want to believe in lines, and wanted to push through to the next open seat. I am not being cynical or mean here. I experienced the same thing while in India. I was waiting for "my turn" at a hospital to pay, while the locals just pushed up and stuck out their ticket to get it taken which meant it was their turn. Sometimes, culturally, waiting in line truly is a foreign construct ... kind of like being on time and sticking intensely to a schedule. Funny things those are, I know.
My job morphed out of necessity to bouncer/ weigher/ usher/ greeter. Intense, but fun. And I got to work alongside a very cool woman who was one of the missionaries we meet on the road - Divi. She is from New Zealand doing a year service in Senegal (her term is up in May). She is my age, plays basketball, has a way cool accent, and was wonderful to talk with. She was a delight.
We did our work. Saw and helped more than hundred people once again. Chased a goat. Packed up and left the same way we arrived. Lovely day. Thus concludes Thursday, day 7 (maybe - who's counting).