Hettie, Laura, and I headed up north to the backcountry for a 2 day safari adventure. Living IN the ship is a whole world of its own, so it was nice to actually be off the ship and enjoying being IN Africa and being completely immersed its in incredible culture and people. We took a 8 hr bus ride complete with a full 8 hrs of blaring African Pop music and soap operas, ha. and a 4 hr off roading drive into the Pendjari National Park.
Considering we had "speed racer" as our chauffer we didn't scare off all of the animals! We saw baboons, elephants, antelope, alligators, buffalo, hippos and much more. Lions and cheetahs have not been seen in the park since Feb. The early morning time when they may be seen, our car broke down (luckily not in the field!) so if you know the scene from "Little Miss Sunshine" when the whole family is running behind the car and trying to jump in after it starts.... well my friend...that would be us ;) and we missed them possibly coming for a morning drink at the watering hole.
( this particular elephant SUPRISED us as he came up from the river and we got a little too close , My head was out the window mind you at this time until I heard its trunk making a charging trumpet sound. yIkes!)
Other fun was had as well, with the right connections you too can illegally enter Burkina Faso for a short ride and eat FuFu with the security guards!
On the way back to Natatingou we stopped to swim in some beautiful waterfalls and we picked up all sorts of people for the ride back into town!; kids, men and women that needed to get to school, market, or home.
The last night we watched an amazing thunderstorm come across the town. It was the first sign of rainy season coming and I can't tell you how felt it good to be cooled off by the fresh rain. On the bus ride home we saw tons of children going to and from school in there little uniforms, not only are they adorable to watch, but encouraging to see as its a sign of the importance of education they emphasize in the country compared to other areas of W. Africa that are more underdeveloped. The more I am here in W. Africa, the more I see education really is there key here to rise above the poverty that surrounds every city and every village here.
Suzanne, Lauren & I are sitting in our chairs about 6am watching the sun come up over Lake Aheme in the small village of Possotome. Its one of 45 tribes around this fresh/salt water mixed lake. Canoes are gently gliding along the shiny, glass water. Fisherman checking their lines to see what the night brought in the baited traps. They teeter around the edges of the lake's circle of sticks, outlining where the lakes "divinity" lives " a spirit hippo" the guide yesterday said, like its common knowledge of course. If one casts his net in there, it is sacred and will upset the God, causing the Chief to have to heavily tax him & put a curse on him. Once a year each of the surrounding villages adds their own sacrifice to the whole to please the God so he will continue to provide fish.
This morning as we sit and sip our coffee we hear canoes first from the loud chanting and then from the sights of large huts they have built into the canoes loaded with as many people as they can possibly fit. It is a "game" they say... that is only done when there is a robber or dignitary in town. The game is played by the adults of the villages in which one man goes into the canoe's hut and is said to cause magic and turn into a snake!! Others are celebrating by dancing around with pillows. Thats about as much as I could understand of this story told to me by a Beninese?
Looking back, the past two days have been perfect. None of us speaking French and many charades later, we took a moto, got a taxi, and then foot arrived at our nice hotel. We spent the first afternoon passed out under a palm tree from the busy week. We woke up to drumming and I decided to see where it was coming from. We followed it to the village right next door and found a great delight... 20 some kids in their underwear from 2-6 yrs old dancing like freebirds!, older boys drumming and giving them their beat. Their round bellies and beaming faces COVERED in sand from their sharp, joyful dance movements on the beach. 20 soon turned to 30 kids and we took the beat and turned it into a swirl of "wear the kovos out" (kovos pronounced YoVos- is white person) ha. We played tag, duck duck goose, head shoulders knees and toes, and mass tickling sessions. We ended back in the drumming circle where we started - now time for the younger ladies to show off and perfect their dance moves. Every once in a while they took my hand and led me in the middle of the circle to try to imitate. Complicated feet patterns puzzled me and after several minutes of goofy attempts I sat back to watch in wonder again.
With a little more concentration I can tune into many more sounds around me...roosters crowing for the last of the members to wake up, laughter of staff, palm trees being swept on the ground to clean, birds chirping, water gently lapping as the locals go into bath and check crab traps near shore. It is so peaceful this morning.
We sat that night, us three girls, with the full moon rising over the lake, a glass of wine, african food, and good conversation until our candle burnt to the bottom and mosquitos came buzzing.
Friday we wondered around the village road passing some children practicing their special dance for their Easter service. (Videos on Facebook) Their moms sat underneath the tree practicing for the church choir.
We were found by a eager teenager entrepenuer who is working with the French to start ECO-BENIN tourist excursions. We glady decided to be the guinea pigs as they were offering exactly what we were looking to try....catch some fish.
(Whadd think Pops?! :) Thats my throw- thank goodnes for softball throwing sessions in the backyard!)
After an amazing meal we took a tour of their Hotel they are building in hopes of helping them along and promoting it to our lot of shipmates back in Contonou and increase business. Its exciting and hopeful to see the progress being made in the country to generate income, even in a little village.
Facial Tumors, Cleft Palate, & Cleft Lips.... This is the world of Max-Fax a.k.a. Ward D. This is my newest area of patient care. This is less pain control, and more airway control! I really enjoy this area, as I did my last time on the ship. Its alot of wound care which I love, and you get to know the patients as they are on the ward much longer the patients shown above.
Being one of a few pediatric nurses in our 4 wards, my patient assignments include getting the majority of the "trouble-makers" ( I would be too if scary white man broke my bones and made me not able to move and play in a big, scary cast!), so that the easier kids can go to those nurses who have never worked with the children patient poplations before.
Not only have these kids not seen many white people before, but many have never been in a hospital setting before, thats scary even for a mature adult!
Naturally I like a challenge, but I must be honest, these first few weeks have been very challenging at times. There are many hurdles to overcome here that I don't normally face in my job back home, a big one being trying to communicate things to the children and mothers through a translator. "Lost in Translation"....ha..... i've had some real doosies! Feeling run down by my crappy immune system lately, and a whole lot of crying and screaming children... i was feeling pretty down and really worn out.
I hit a wall last week and really started praying that God would restore my joy for working on the ward again. Thats when I really felt like he layed on my heart, Steph "SEE THE PEOPLE, NOT THE TASKS!" I am anal in my natural nursing nature and thrive on being one step ahead of the whatever may come next. With many other nursing hurdles that I won't go into, my BEST effort, sometimes is not enough or can't produce what I would like it to or get it done in time on my shift. I've had to learn when to let go of certain things so that I can really spend quality time with my patients as well, and find that needed time to laugh, rock, play, draw, blow bubbles and play games with them.
I think we all feel frustrations like this sometimes in our jobs. Even when we put everything we got into it, it doesn't seem enough. But I encourage you as well, to take the time out in our daily lives to not get so caught up in our duties, that we don't focus on the little souls right in front of us that need a little TLC. When our souls are content and cared for, many times the other little details work themselves out.