One of our current visitors gives a good picture of daily life, on her blog Nurse Millie Goes to Africa:
Just in the past hour, I knowingly ate several bugs that had made their way into my trail mix because I didn't want to waste the M & M's, I looked out the window while I was writing this and there was a family of goats wandering around my front lawn, I almost stepped on a chicken when I opened the front door, I took a cold shower from well water (because there is no such thing as hot tap water), I made tortillas from the only cooking appliance I have which is a small propane camping stove while rocking out to Nigerian reggeaton and listened to my roommate's account of how she just went to go meet people at the airport and ended up on the runway helping fix a part on the plane because the plane broke down and she was one of the only people at the airport that could speak english as well as the local native language.
In the past week I have taken care of more people with advanced malaria than I can count, seen a boy that I have been taking care of since I got here that was an inch from death due to malnutrition, meningitis and pneumonia sit in a wheelchair and smile and try to say "Mbote" to me (hello in Lingala), I have seen people die simply due to lack of diagnostic tools or treatment options, I have also seen patients survive and improve beyond what I even thought was possible, biked with my roommate and friend, Mama Sarah, through a jungle road to a village outside of the town where the pigmy people live to bring food (stuffed into my massive basket that I have on the front of my old rusty beach cruiser bike), do wound care, and listen to Mama Sarah tell them a bible story. I have been bit by the most interesting looking bugs while in the middle of giving meds or starting an IV, and I have chased gigantic African wasps out of the Emergency Room to the complete amusement of all the patients and their families. I have been so hot that I just sat down on the floor of the ward to find some coolness. I was invited to a coworkers house (they are typically 1 room huts made out of mud) in town and was taught by her and all the local neighborhood children how to prepare and cook some of the local food (who knew that it would take coming to Africa and having to pound out leaves in a wooden bowl while being cheered on in Lingala to get me to learn how to cook.) Read the rest here
At Reigning in Life, the Tenpenneys continue to share about the stories of patients here at the hospital. If you aren't following this blog, I highly recommend it! Check out the story of Presence and Mr. G and His Chronic Wound.
One of my favorite writers, Rachel Pieh Jones posted about Dangerous Riches at A Life Overseas:
There is an inconvenient truth in my heart that I like comfort and ease. And yet, when I am comfortable and life is easy, I do not cast myself on God. I don’t beg and plead and demand that Jesus make his presence palpable. I don’t cry for miracles, I am less desperate in prayer. Read the rest here
Tuesday, April 15, 2014
The day of the wedding arrived, and we were able to see how everyone styled their wedding pagne.
|The wedding procession around town.|
|Dr. and Mrs. Harvey entering the church|
|A sea of pink and purple|
|Hospital employees at the reception in the evening|
|Hospital employees at the reception in the evening|
For more pictures of fashion in Impfondo, check out Congolese Style by Danny Ryan.
Saturday, April 12, 2014
Today is the day of the wedding! We received our clothes from the tailor and only had to have a few small alterations made to my outfit. It almost fits now... close enough...
|Some last minute alterations for a friend's outfit took place at our house.|
We were able to get a special order of more fabric, and make sure we had some clothes made for all of the missionary community. Corentin, the tailor we used for most of them, did a great job. I can't wait to see everyone in their clothes this evening.
|Isabelle wanted to get her sewing things out!|
Friday, April 11, 2014
As we transition from the dry season to the rainy season, there are often severe storms. Wednesday evening brought one of the worst we had seen.
Stephen and I had gone to our usual Wednesday mission team meeting, which begins at 4:00 pm. Some members of our team were running a little late, so we were just sitting around chatting, waiting for the meeting to start.
|A big branch in our front yard|
Suddenly, the wind and rain started, and it quickly became apparent that the water was not going to stay outside the building. The six of us who were there immediately got to work, closing the window shutters and trying to check for any leaks.
|No chainsaws! The branches have to be cut to smaller pieces with a machete so they can be carted away.|
The rain blew the roof of part of the building, and water was streaming in through the ceiling, the windows, and under the doors. We were pretty busy fighting the inundation! Someone even climbed up on the roof in the rain to replace the tin that had blown to the side.
The kids were home alone, on the other side of the compound from us. We were hoping that they were able to close the windows and keep things dry at our house.
|In front of the surgery building.|
Those who were running late to the meeting had to drive past big branches and around puddles in the road. They had a nerve wracking drive.
By the time our meeting ended, it was beginning to grow dark outside. We didn't really see the complete damage until the next morning. All around the hospital, there were fallen branches and sticks.
|The back of our house. There were various size branches all over our yard.|
But in spite of everything that happened, there was no major damage to any of our structures or vehicles. At our house, Isabelle was able to organize the kids to close the windows, and cover the desks with blankets.
The past two days our grounds crew has been hard at work cleaning up the aftermath of the storm. I was impressed by how much they were able to accomplish in just one day. Things look so much better already.
|This branch was in front of the surgical building.|
Wednesday, April 9, 2014
From Eamon Rooney: "Women in the Congo have a real rough life. For starters one in twenty seven of women will die from a pregnancy related issue. One of the main ways the hospital combats this statistic is by providing life saving c-sections to women who are at death's doorstep. This little baby is one of the hundreds of of babies that are save through c-sections every year. On a postoperative checkup, this little boy's mother asked Dr. Joseph Mapes Harvey what he thought she should name her new son. Dr. Harvey suggested that she name him after me, because I assisted in her surgery. She agreed, and now there will be a little Eamon running around Impfondo for many years to come."
Mercy Ships Facebook page about one Stephen's pediatric patients from Impfondo:
"Back in November, Ravette walked into our lives wearing a beaming smile and a pink ruffled dress on a pair of some of the most crooked legs we’ve treated. Thanks to some fancy turnbuckle casts, a surgery, months of physical therapy, and endless support from her mother, Ravette is now cruising around the dock on straightened legs. This week she said “Bye-o” one last time as she smiled and stepped out of our lives and into a bright new future. Thank you for brightening our lives, Ravette!" #MSCongoDorette Skinner, a South African living in Thailand wrote about some of the lessons she has learned for the What I Learned Series on the Djibouti Jones blog. Even though our country is different, I found myself nodding along with the principles represented by her experience. This lesson learned especially resonated with me, but all ten lessons are worth reading:
"I will never get used to some things, and it is okay. Seeing women begging on the sidewalks with babies on their laps should always bother me. Seeing prostitutes walking around on street corners should always break my heart. I don’t have to accept lady-boys as normal only because I live in a country where there are basically three genders. I do not have to go to the temples or give food to the monks. I do not have to bow down to their idols. I have learned that the things we are simply not willing to accept also make us who we are. It is part of what we believe and trying to justify it for the sake of others would also be unfair to them."Read the rest here
Monday, April 7, 2014
|Stephen being measured by the tailor|
One of the nurses from the hospital is getting married this month. As part of the celebration, everyone buys the same pagne (length of cloth) and has an outfit made. This will be our first wedding to attend here in Congo, and it will be interesting to see the process.
Our first step was to order the wedding pagne. Then we had one of our employees, who is also a tailor come by to take measurements.
I wanted to see what my style options were, so I asked him to bring some pictures the next day. He obliged, but it wasn't exactly what I was expecting. He showed me a pencil drawing of the one shirt I could pick and the one skirt I could pick. Well, I guess I'll take those! No deliberation needed.
Now we are waiting to see the finished results...
|The wedding pagne|
Friday, April 4, 2014
|Street at the market|
Upon our return, we have experienced a variety of questions and comments. Some are what you would expect anywhere, such as "Welcome Back!, or "How was your trip?" There are few that are quite interesting.
1) You're fat.
This is said as a compliment. It means that you are looking relaxed, you have had enough to eat, and you are healthy. As an American, it's hard to take that as a compliment. Of course, the thing to keep in mind is the proper response: "Thanks, you too!"
2) What did you bring me?
We did bring back quite a few presents for specific people, but not the lady who sells onions at the market, or the guy who sells elastic. It would be nice if we could give something to everyone, but it's not realistic. No one is really upset about this, but I guess they feel like it doesn't hurt to ask.
3) Did you enjoy your vacation?
We kept up a pretty hectic travel schedule: visiting churches, Stephen working, attending various conferences, and Stephen studying for his boards. But to some people, they see us working here, and our lives do not really exist outside of that. If we aren't here at the hospital, we must be on vacation.
4) It's been a year and a half...
The detail oriented part of me always wants to stop the person and point out that no, it has not. We were in the US for 13 months, to the day. And we had some time in Brazzaville as we were coming and going from the country, and a conference in Thailand on our way out. We were gone from Impfondo closer to 14 months total. But those details aren't really important, and I just nod and smile. I try to think that some people missed us so much that it just seemed like we were gone longer, but the reality is probably just that some people are really bad at math.
5) We were hungry while you were gone.
|Sunset at the Hospital compound|
This is from one of the guards at the hospital compound. They get our leftovers from meals at the end of the day. It's not much, but it's nice to know they appreciate it.
There are variations on this one, for example, parents who have been waiting for Stephen to see their child. There has been no pediatrician here during our absense.
The nice thing is that everyone has been very kind, welcoming, and glad we are back!