Friday, December 25, 2009

Photo Update: Week 26

Merry Christmas! We've spent the day with family, so I made sure to have my mom take a picture. It's been a while since I've shown an update of how I look. I'm 26 weeks (6 1/2 months) and am really feeling the baby move around. It is the most reassuring feeling in the world! If a length of time passes without me feeling much movement, I get antsy and just wait and wait to feel the baby move around.

All seems to be going well for both me and babykins. I am so thankful. Here's how we look:

Monday, December 7, 2009

My Diaper Bag

I made a diaper bag for my sister-in-law. Then I made one for myself. I made it before we knew we were having a boy, but I chose blue because I wanted to use some fabric (called shwe shwe - used to make the traditional outfits.) I bought in Swaziland. I had only purchased a yard of it (why not more?!) so I had to mix and match with some other random fabric that I had. Here are the results.
Inside. Here's where you can see the shwe shwe: the blue spiraled fabric.

Bag, changing pad, two accessory bags - the largest of which is lined with waterproof vinyl.
Tucked away.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Diaper Bag

My brother and his wife are expecting their first child just a few months before us. I decided to make a diaper bag with a few accessories. Here's the finished product.

They don't know if they're having a boy or girl, so I didn't want to be too gender specific in the colors I chose. Plus, hopefully this bag will be durable enough to last them through more than one child!

Rear pocket

Interior with pockets

Changing pad and two zippered removable pockets which may or may not actually be useful. I thought they were cute and I got to practice my zipper skills, so here they are.

In the bag. Not much room left over, so some rearranging may be required.

I also made them a baby sling after my brother commented on our cousin's sling. I had purchased a pattern a few weeks before and thought it was the perfect chance to practice making a sling. Here I am modeling it with my child's second cousin who is about 3+ weeks old in this picture (if you're my friend on facebook a larger version of the picture can be seen there).

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Toddler Books

Ever since I learned that we're expecting a boy (Yes, a BOY! I don't think I mentioned it in a post yet. Sorry Debby!), I've decided I want to find a collection of the cutest toddler books I've seen. They were written by Barbro Lindgren and are about a toddler named Sam. When I was nannying years ago, I found these books at the Lancaster Co. Library and read them to the little boy I took care of. He loved them.

When traveling in Germany I saw them (a German version, of course) in a book store and now wish I'd have bought them, even though I'd prefer English copies. I wasn't able to find the books in a book store last time I looked. I have found copies online and hope to assemble my own collection. They include stories about Sam and his car, teddy bear, wagon, cookie, potty, ball and bath. And as I said before, they are absolutely adorable.

I wish I knew if the Lanc. Co. Library was every getting rid of their collection. I'd wait in line just for them!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Recent Readings

I've been reading a number of birth-related books lately (to break up the melodrama of the Twilight series) and thought I'd share them. If you like reading about birth history, birth stories and midwifery-related items, you'll enjoy these books. I've found them entertaining as well as educational.

I love the philosophy of midwifery and like to think that I'd have chosen midwifery as a career if I hadn't fallen in love with Family and Consumer Sciences.

I've always gone to midwives for my "female care." So when we moved to Delaware and I knew we'd be thinking about starting a family, I thought I should find a midwife ASAP. Did you know there aren't many in our area of Delaware? In fact, I don't think there are many at all in the whole state. Where we both come from (Lancaster), there are scads of midwives, in comparison, at least. Two large OB/GYN practices are staffed with over half a dozen midwives who attend the low-risk deliveries while the high-risk deliveries are reserved for the OBs. There's a birthing center staffed with midwives that's very popular, and I even have friends and acquaintances who have had homebirths attended by midwives.

Needless to say, I was quite discouraged by the limited number of midwives in our new location.
I found 3 practices in our area with midwives. I think two of those places staff only 1 midwife. The other is a birthing center. After lots of debate, we chose the practice (and midwife) associated with Dan's hospital so that he would be able to attend appointments more easily. Plus, if I go into labor while Dan's working, he can just walk from one part of the hospital to Labor and Delivery to join me.

It seems like it can be a tough battle for midwives to find acceptance in the medical world, and I'm excited to have a midwife who is committed to helping a woman have a good birthing experience, who is supportive of low-intervention labor and delivery, who is encouraging and experienced.

Here's to midwives and all the laboring they do with women!

A very fun read with stories about a nurse midwife who had her own practice for over a decade. Click here for more information.

Another autobiographical story about a midwife from Virginia. This one explores even more of the politics of the medical system. And, Mennonites are even mentioned!
Click here for more information.

Ever wonder why and when most women stopped delivering babies at home, who decided that women should deliver lying on their back, or what exactly "Twilight Sleep" is? I enjoyed reading about trends, beliefs, conflicts and techniques - minus the scary tools sometimes used long ago.

Click here to see a copy online.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Almost halfway

We spent last weekend with my family at a cabin (a very nice, cozy cabin) in northern PA. During that time I made sure to get my mom to take a few "belly shots." I'm 18.5 weeks (4 1/2 months) pregnant in these pictures. I'm posting two almost identical pictures because I feel like one makes me look bigger (picture 1), the other smaller (picture 2). I'm not sure which is really accurate. The reality is, I really look like I'm pregnant now!

I've been feeling the "round ligament pain" - that is, the stretching uterus - for quite a while. I've noticed it goes in spurts. I'll have a day or two of periodic cramping and twinges and then - POOF! - my belly has expanded. We'll see if the pattern continues.

We have another appointment on Monday, and we'll have an ultrasound at that time. And yes, we're going to find out the sex of the baby. I always thought I'd want to wait, but I've decided I'd rather know and then be able to picture a boy or a girl. We'll let you all know, but we'll keep name options a secret until the birth announcement.

And...I'm beginning to suspect I feel our little Hessling dancing around inside me. It feels like little bubbles every now and again. I only notice it if I'm sitting still. I've heard I'll just "know", but I am not quite sure if what I'm feeling is the baby. I've had these periodic "bubbles" since Saturday, and I don't think I ever felt them before. So what do you experiences moms say: is Baby Hess finally being felt??

Here's photo evidence of Baby Hess:

Monday, October 12, 2009

Belly Picture

Here's the next belly shot of me and Baby Hess. Our camera recently decided not to turn on anymore, so I had my sister-in-law take a picture of me today.

A few random pregnancy-related thoughts:
Our next appointment with the midwife is this Thursday, and I'm anxious to hear the heartbeat again.

Some of my pants are beginning to not fit quite so well. So far I can still wear my jeans (they've always been roomier in the waist for me), but I did find a pair of maternity jeans at Old Navy. I wear them already (the kind with the low elastic waistband - very comfy - why don't we always wear this kind??).

I'm looking forward to actually looking pregnant. I'm enjoying the changes my body is going though and am relishing the experience and anticipation.

But wait, you just want to see the picture! Here it is: 16 weeks (4 months)

Monday, September 28, 2009

Baby Gifts

Some friends gave us our very first baby gifts! Thanks!

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Are you the Sub?

I decided to try subbing this year since having a full-time job didn't appeal to me for multiple reasons (one of them being the hope of starting a family - not a good idea to quit a new teaching job halfway through the year; another being the advent of Dan's VERY BUSY intern schedule, and my desire for at least one of us to not be stressed out).

A school I'm interested in subbing for called! I was so excited. On Sunday night I got a call from a local school asking if I would have interest in subbing for a Spanish teacher. Do I speak Spanish? Absolutely not. Does that always matter when subbing? No. But by the time I returned the call, they found some one else who does know some Spanish (apparently the teacher was going to be out for a while so having some one who really knows more than a few canned phrases was important.). I was disappointed, but excited overall that the school actually called me.

Monday morning at 8:30: My cell phone rang and it was the same school (the early childhood part) calling to see if I could fill in for an assistant teacher who works with 3 year olds. I said yes, and spent the day employing all of my early childhood training.

I was exhausted by the end of the day and realized how glad I am that I'm not working full-time. Props to all of you mothers-to-be who are working or have worked full-time while pregnant.

I applaud you.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

The Newest Strand

Most everyone knows our exciting news. We're adding to the family! We're going to go from a two-person family to a three-person family. It's true!

My students used to always ask me: "Mrs. Hess, when are you going to have children?"
I would always jokingly say: "When my husband earns money!"

I would explain to them how he was in medical school, that I was supporting us, and since I wanted to be a stay-at-home mom, it didn't seem like the best idea for us to start a family during medical school years (although I raise my hat to those of you who do it!). They seemed to understand the logic (maybe they'll internalize some financial planning skills?), and were satisfied.

Well, here we are. Dan's in residency. You know what that means...

Here I am at 12 weeks. The bump isn't technically a baby bump, because the baby isn't that big yet. It's more of an increased-blood-volume-and-water-retention bump. Baby bump sounds better.

Braided Heirloom

I had the honor to restore an old braided rug. A large old braided rug (approx 9X12 feet). There were many broken seams between braids, a number of small ripped braids, one badly ripped braid that I fixed and numerous weak seams between braids. But it's a beautiful rug. It deserves a post all of its own.

Here are before and after photos.

BEFORE: the badly broken braid in the process of being fixed.

After - mostly. I did do some more work after this photo was taken and straightened out the middle row, so it no longer curves.

Did I mention projects?

For those of you who pay attention to my facebook page,you may have seen some of these photos. I thought that since I mentioned projects in my post last month, I should at least put some of them here. Follow up is good, right?

I've been enjoying my available time for projects. Normally, (meaning any other year)my days would be full of teaching responsibilities. Then I'd go home and make some supper for Dan and I. Then, if I had the energy and motivation, I'd work on whatever project was at hand. Inevitably, my time was limited. Earlier this week, I realized that I had spent the majority of multiple days solely on a sewing project. Dan was working late, so I didn't worry about making supper and I could just work. No rush. I'm finding it to be lots of fun. I think I need to enjoy it while it lasts. As you'll see from a later post, I won't always have such large chunks of disposable time...

But for now, a few photo explanations.

1&2. A new footstool. I bought this at a thrift store with the original red cover. After using the flowered fabric for another project, I thought it would be fun to recover our footstool. It makes me smile when I look at it.

3&4. My new, snazzy apron, made from scraps from other projects. I've been using a "plain" apron which belonged to my plain Mennonite step great-grandmother. Functional and sentimental, but not the most attractive (should I be embarrassed to show the plain apron?). I think the new one is better, don't you?

5&6. This is Julie's chair. The red plush is how she found it at Goodwill, and the flowered fabric is how it is now. This is where I got the flowered fabric for my footstool. This was my first reupholstery project, and it went well. It's a messy job, but incredibly rewarding. It was a good chair to start on because it didn't have so much to recover. Maybe next time I'll try a chair that is completely fabric.

Friday, August 7, 2009


I realize is over a month since we've written anything, so I thought I'd take some time to give an update on life in Wilmington.

I just returned this week from a weekend in Lancaster where I spent some time taking care of my nephews and niece, visiting friends and getting fresh produce. I brought back a car full of things and have been busy taking care of them.

First I spent some time canning peaches and then tomatoes. After that I decided I might as well get started on taking apart my sister's chair - it's my first attempt at reupholstery. Cross your fingers, Julie.

I also brought back a very exciting project - an old, very large rug that needs some TLC. I hope to give it some attention in the next week or so - after I take care of this chair.

You're wondering about Dan? Well, he's become very busy this month, working in the cardiac ICU. I see him briefly each day. After he gets home, we have just enough time to catch up and then the day's over.

We're looking forward to his weekend off tomorrow and Sunday.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Strand by Strand

After Match Day, when we learned we were moving to Delaware, I thought it was ironic that we'd chosen to name our blog "The Braided Rug" and how we mentioned our life being woven from different strands, just like a braided rug. Usually when I braid rugs, I have specific colors in mind in the beginning. I put the color swatches or material together just to see how well they coordinate and make a general plan for what kind of pattern to create. Sometimes I end up using the color scheme I'd planned on. Sometimes it changes mid-rug. I might decide that a certain color really doesn't go well or I might throw in a random color - just because it feels right - and I'm often surprised at how well unique colors can go together and feel right.

That's how this move feels. It's like I've been braiding a rug with colors and a pattern I picked out at the beginning and planned on using for the whole project. But suddenly, I picked up a different color, threw it in and have been amazed that this is the color I'm using. And now I wonder what colors and pattern will come next. I had an idea of how the rug might be, but now it's unknown and just going to unfold, strand by strand.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

End of Life?

It's the last day before my residency officially begins. I spent part of the morning relaxing in our new living room where the clutter of our recent move is less prominent. A cup of coffee, the last chapters of Tuesdays With Morrie and an unusually cool June breeze accompanied me on the couch. I didn't really know what this book was about when I picked it up the other week, sparing it from the boxes to which our other books were relegated. On the surface it is about dying, but really, it's about living. Although our "Western" (or American) culture attempts to divorce aging and death from the journey of life, the story of Morrie Schwartz calls for a counter-cultural view of life and death. I have always thought that a quick and painless death would be ideal, but Morrie's long ordeal with ALS gave him time to face death head on, reflecting on what his life had meant and, most importantly, living fully despite his physically crippling illness. His conversations with the author are a powerful challenge to live life thoughtfully, with love and purpose. Some see residency training, particularly intern year (that is, the first year), as a figurative end of life. I'm taking a more optimistic view, but check in with me in a few months.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009


As Dan posted a few weeks ago, we found out that some changes are in store for us in the next number of months. I (Amy) feel like life has been a blur since then. When returning from Zambia, I imagined getting settled back into life here in Baltimore and just chugging along smoothly. We knew we might have to move, but I didn't really comprehend what all that means. I have never packed up a household of stuff and moved. Moving into our current home was gradual - we filled one room at a time as we rehabbed each one. Needless to say, it's all a bit overwhelming. The teacher in me wants to map out how many boxes I need and when I should start packing and how many boxes I should pack a day. Realistically, I probably won't get to all of that.

One nice thing about having to identify how much we've accumulated is that it's now a great time to downsize and get rid of those things that we just don't need. I've started that process already and it feels good!

Monday, March 23, 2009


On Thursday I found out that I matched to the combined Emergency Medicine/Internal Medicine (EM/IM) residency at Christiana Care Health System in Delaware. Amy and I are now in the beginning stages of planning a move to Delaware! We will miss Baltimore, but are excited about what lies ahead.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Photos Updated

More photos from South Africa, Swaziland and Zambia have been posted here:

Monday, March 16, 2009

Return Reflections

We're back in Baltimore. Every time I travel by air, I can never quite wrap my mind around the distance of where I've just flown from. Air travel seems so deceptive. We traveled part of the way around the world in just over 24 hours. Can Macha, Zambia really be that far from here?

I've composed a list of what I've missed from life in the States followed by a list of what I'll miss about Macha, Zambia.

What I've Missed in the States:

Talking with my family members on the phone and in person
The NCHS FACS department
Sitting on the love seat by the window while reading
Resources within easy reach
Milk and ice cream
The variety of food and groceries available
The Mount/Wilkens/Gilmore Dinner Club
My dance classes
Having a house to ourselves
Hot showers
Our washing machine
Spending time with U.S. friends
Afternoon walks and talks with Bekah

What I'll Miss About Macha:

Riding bike down a dirt road and path early in the morning on the way to school
Priscilla's nchima and relish
Visits at the homes of other ex-Pats in Macha
Hearing my students say in unison: "Good morning, Mrs. Hess!"
Laughing and chatting with Beverly
The warmth and friendliness of the people in Macha
Seeing women carrying babies on their backs
The beautiful night sky - I've never seen anything like it here!
My students who would randomly stop by the house in the afternoons
Eating lunch with Dan every day
The calm, peaceful, relaxing pace of life
The singing of the students at Macha Girls Secondary School

It's been good for me to reflect and create these lists. Hope you enjoyed reading them!

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Reflections Before Flying

Today is the day we leave Africa. In many ways it feels as though we've already left. Nonetheless we know we have not yet arrived at home. It remains to be seen how this experience has affected and changed us. Although we are very ready to be home, there is some apprehension about the transitions ahead. Perhaps that is a good sign, evidence that we were really here and engaged in life.

Leaving Macha seemed a bit unreal, as though, after a couple of days we'd surely find ourselves on a bumpy ride up the Macha road once more. Even though our time there was only about six weeks we had grown used to being there. As we were preparing to leave many friends asked us when we would be coming back. One friend taught us a Tonga phrase appropriate for this transition: "Akabwenene taabuli kuswangana." Loosely it means, "Those we have met we will meet again."

Thursday, March 12, 2009

The Match

Match Day is one week away! It's amazing how much seems to hang on just one day and how great the anticipation can be. I will certainly not miss having this question mark looming overhead.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009


Today was my last day working at Macha Mission Hospital. It was a pretty busy day, but it went well. It's hard to believe that my time here has already come to an end. To mark the occasion, here's a reflective quote from Elaine Wynne, a Canadian physician who makes regular working visits to Macha: "At home I take care of the worried well, but here it's the unworried sick."

Monday, March 9, 2009

Sew What?

In the States we don't teach FACS at the elementary level. It's too bad, really. I've enjoyed teaching some sewing and crocheting to children grades K - 5. And you should see how proud of their bags they are! Last Friday was "open house" for the parents and caregivers of the students, and I had all their bags displayed. Not all the bags were finished but the parents/caregivers were able to see their child's progress. I'm proud of the students for all their hard work, and I'm so glad they enjoyed the project. When Mrs. Krause and I first discussed what "home ec" skills I could teach, we talked about crocheting. Due to some difficulty procuring the hooks, I decided to teach some basic sewing skills that would enable the children to sew a bag. In retrospect, I really think it all worked out for the best. I've begun teaching some crocheting to students who have completed their bags, and it's more difficult for some of them to get the hang of it. I'm very glad we didn't start out with crocheting. Now it's a fun, challenging addition to sewing bags. Pictures to come later!

Friday, March 6, 2009

What's in a Name?

Tonight we had dinner at the MIAM cafeteria and got into a discussion about local names. Some of our favorites have been: Hairness, Loveness, Sameness etc. I've always liked my name and checking my email after dinner I found out that I will actually be allowed to have it printed on my med school diploma. Apparently there was a policy against first initials on diplomas (not middle initials). But now, after several trans-Atlantic emails and "a lot of deliberation and several conversations with other campuses around the system" the policy is (apparently) a thing of the past. It will read: J. Daniel Hess.

Monday, March 2, 2009


Last week was one of the busiest weeks I've had here in Macha. Part of the busyness was because several visitors came to Macha. First was a Nobel Laureate named Peter Agre who is the head of the Johns Hopkins Malaria Research Institute (JHMRI) with which Malaria Institute at Macha (MIAM) is affiliated. On Monday afternoon we were all invited to a lecture at the MIAM campus and enjoyed Dr. Agre's lighthearted account of his humble roots in North Dakota and his serendipitous discovery of the "Aquaporin" water channel molecules which lead to a momentous call from Stockholm. Woven throughout was a message of the importance of education, research and discovery and a call to young Zambian researchers to work hard and make the most of opportunities they have.

Wednesday evening I was called to assist with a C-section at 1:30 in the morning. Because the woman was somewhat unstable it took a while. The baby (2nd twin) was not alive when delivered, but the mother eventually recovered and has been doing fine. I went back to bed around 4am.

Later in the week a team, led by the British orthopaedic surgeon Allan Norrish (Cure International), came to evaluate and treat the patients we thought could most benefit from such a specialist. Thursday afternoon they saw at least 50 patients and scheduled ten relatively major operations and about the same number of minor procedures for the next day. Some were asked to travel to Lusaka where they would undergo free hip replacements or other procedures. On Friday more patients were added to the list as needs arose (e.g. patients from OPD) and a fairly solid 14 hours were spent in the operating theatre. (The day also included a laparotomy and bowel resection by Dr. Spurrier for a man with necrotic bowel and a symphysiotomy for a woman in labor whose pelvis was too small for the baby's head). It was a busy end to a busy week, but I felt like I saw and learned a lot. I'll try to post some pictures soon.

Sunday, March 1, 2009


A couple of weeks ago I was on call with Elaine Wynne, a Canadian physician volunteering here for a couple of months. At the start of our evening rounds we found the clinical officer absent (delayed) and a queue of children waiting to be evaluated for admission. When I was calling the next child back, a man waiting with a child wrapped onto his back (as mothers typically do) said, "No doctor, take this one. This baby is very sick." We walked back to the waiting room and the child he laid on the table frightened me - sunken eyes, emaciated face. Its body was warm, but it was not breathing and there was no heart beat or pulse; it was too late.

During the rainy season there are often shortages of food. They have outlived the previous harvest. The number of children we see here at the hospital with severe protein energy malnutrition (PEM) is disheartening. It's even worse if you hear that the fathers are well fed, or that the mother believes maize porridge is enough for children (never mind that the family has beans, groundnuts or even chicken). Money and years have been spent on rural nutrition education, and yet marasmic children are still brought to the hospital. But what good is nutrition education if there truly just isn't enough?

Today, on Sunday morning rounds, I saw a patient admitted two days ago for PEM and gastroenteritis (namely, bloody diarrhea). When I saw it this morning at 9:00 the child seemed no worse than at Dr. Thuma's evaluation yesterday. It was now getting fluids (ReSoMal) via a naso-gastric (NG) tube instead of the initial IV fluids and had been started on the hospital's severe PEM protocol. I didn't think there was much else to do at the moment. However, upon returning less than two hours later to evaluate a different patient, the nurse asked me to review this child. She said, "It seems to be collapsing." The child was not breathing. There was no pulse. I felt helpless.

The child may have died because of some electrolyte abnormalities caused by the infusion of IV fluids. You could also blame the pathogen causing the bloody gastroenteritis. But the bottom line is, this child died hungry.

Saturday, February 28, 2009

Tired on Saturday

Lying down on a Saturday afternoon
Distant singing wafts into the open window
On the tail of a wasp looking for a new home
Alongside the broken-record calling of African doves
And chirping song of winged others
From the trees beneath which children giggle.
There is also the far off horn of a truck honking
Someone riding by on a bicycle or walking by on foot
And the memory of last night's rain on the roof
Which dropped two inches in an hour and carried me
Off to sleep.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Zambian Textiles 101

Another week in Zambia is almost over for us. Twice this week, I had to ride home after a very heavy downpour. It was quite the adventure. The dirt roads and paths suddenly have streams or mini lakes, and all the sand turns to mud. Needless to say, I arrived home yesterday and Tuesday with muddy feet and legs. Fortunately, I didn't slip and fall over while riding, it didn't start to downpour again, and I had remembered my chitengi, so I was able to wrap that over top of my skirt, and my skirt stayed clean. Well, mostly clean.

A chitengi is a patterned piece of woven cloth worn as a wrap-around skirt. It's similar to a sarong except the fabric is not quite as soft and filmy as a sarong. I've purchased one since I've been here, and it's been very handy. I've even learned the Zambian way of wrapping and securing it. Women use them often. They wear them over top of another skirt or slip. Sometimes it serves as the main skirt, but other times it serves as dust and mud protection. Women wear them or take them along when traveling. When riding in the back of a truck numerous women were wearing them over top of their skirts or pants. When traveling on one of the big busses (picture a coach bus) women might carry them with them when the bus stops for a toilet break. There are no public toilets along the side of the road, so a chitengi is very convient to give yourself some privacy while doing your business. Chitengis also serve as loungewear. You may see some women who wear western clothes to work relaxing at the end of the day in a t-shirt and a chitengi.

And, of course, I cannot forget one of the most practical uses of a chitengi: a baby-carrier! Who needs fancy baby carries with metal frames and all kinds of straps and snaps? A simple piece of cloth works very well. In Swaziland and here in Zambia, we've seen scores of women carrying their babies on their backs. They bend over, swing the baby up on their back, the baby holds on (if it's old enough), and the woman takes a chitengi and wraps it around herself and the baby and ties the two ends together over one shoulder (in Swaziland they tie the pieces together in front, not over the shoulder). Voila! The babies look snug and safe and the woman's hands are free for whatever task she has next.

For you textiles buffs out there, the cotton fabric is a one up, one down fairly open basic weave,the threads are yarn-dyed a base color and then a pattern is printed on, from what I can tell.

Hope you enjoyed your textiles lesson!

Tuesday, February 24, 2009


To mark the midpoint of our time in Macha and to renew the stamps in our passports we made a trip to the Chobe game reserve in Botswana last weekend. We traveled with Mary Westfall, one of the other med students, spending Friday night camping in the park. The highlight of the trip was seeing lions on Saturday morning before we headed back to Zambia. We've uploaded some pictures (no small feat considering our connectivity!) from the trip that you can check out here. We also got to enjoy two nights in Livingstone again along with some relaxing by the pool at Fawlty Towers Backpacker's Lodge. Believe it or not, we only have a little over two weeks left here in Macha and about three weeks or so until Match Day!

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Daily Life in Macha

Perhaps you're wondering what our our life is like day to day in Macha. To help with the illustration, we've included some of the differences in everyday terminology below. We both report to work at 7:30 in the morning. Amy rides her borrowed pink bicycle to school about 10 minutes away (20-30 by foot) and Dan walks 5 minutes to the hospital.

Amy's day at MICS begins with a staff prayer meeting before the students arrive. This is followed by a chapel service with all the students and staff and then classes are underway by 8. There are six grades at MICS - Reception (Kindergarten) through grade 5. Amy teaches sewing (FACS!) to each grade and language arts (spelling & phonics) to grade 3. She also helps with library and art on Thursdays and Fridays. From 12 - 1 she has some planning time, but she's found she often has planning to do at home too. Her school day is over at 13hrs (that is, 1pm).

Dan's day starts with a morning report of sorts with the other students, physicians and medical officers. Then it's off to round on the wards where you're assigned (Maternity, Paediatrics, Male, Female). On Tuesdays and Fridays, rounds are brief and problem focused allowing time to get to the operating theatre (that is, the OR) for the bulk of the morning. There the "major room" is kept busy with exploratory laparotomies, bilateral tubal ligations, hernia repairs, etc, while the two minor rooms are a flurry of dressing changes, wound debridement, incision & drainage, dilation & currettage, casting, etc.

By 11am much of the cases are finished and some of us head off to the Outpatient Department (OPD) to see patients there (OPD is open daily at 11 except for Sunday). If all goes well we can break for lunch at around 13hrs and resume our duties in OPD at 15hrs (3pm) working until there are no more patients to be seen (usually not too much later than 17hrs). If there are other things to take care of on the wards, then the late morning or afternoon is a good time to get that done, OPD will go on without you. Saturdays start with rounds at 8 and are followed by OPD until lunchtime (i.e. whenever all the patients are seen).

Lunch, of late, has been nsima (the Tonga word for cooked maize mealie meal) and relish (sides of veggies or meat). We've hired a local woman to help with some things around the house, namely lunch prep and some laundry here and there. After lunch Dan heads back to OPD while Amy rests from her tiring day (or plans for up-coming lessons), or goes to buy bread, eggs or vegetables from a shop or the market. She can also sometimes be found at the local library - a small library housed inside a large shipping container.

There used to be four med students here, so we established a Q4 (every fourth day) call schedule. Now there are just three of us, but we've kept the schedule. We have a cell phone that gets passed around so that we can be reached if necessary. Being on call means helping the main person on call with evening rounds at 20hrs (again problem focused) and being available if anything (e.g. a C-section) comes up overnight. Sundays the on-call folks make morning and evening rounds and take care of anything urgent in between.

After "knocking off" (finishing) at work the evenings are our own. They are usually filled with cooking, reading, watching a borrowed movie or perhaps visiting some others in the area.

Monday, February 9, 2009


Well, it's official - I'm teaching some sewing to the chidlren at MICS. Today I introduced the "unit of study" and tomorrow they'll begin learning to sew a button. After that I'll teach them some hand-sewing. Once they have that down, they'll get to hand sew a small bag. It's only hand-sewing here because we don't have sewing machines. However, I think hand sewing will be more manageable to supervise.

In addition to teaching "home ec" classes (I know, I know - it's "Family and Consumer Sciences!" - everyone here still calls it Home Ec), I'm teaching language arts for grade 3. This includes spelling words, writing and phonics.

On Thursdays I'll help with the art activity and on Fridays I'm helping with the library lessons. I work with some Zambian teachers to determine what the library lesson is, and they'll be helping with the sewing classes.

There is a total of 42 students at the school, and I'll work with each of them.
I'm hoping to take my camera to school one of these days and finally take some pictures so you can get an idea of how things are.

Saturday, February 7, 2009


(late entry)

Perhaps the most important part of my orientation to the maternity ward was omitted - the women in the labour suite have a little bell beside their bed. They ring it when they need help - like when the baby is coming. Dr. Spurrier walked in for evening rounds to find me and the other med student chatting at the nurses station about the woman in labour with twins. He noticed the midwife, alone this shift, scrambling to put away some medicines in the main ward and get back to the labour suite. The bell was ringing! We all arrived at about the same time to find the first twin (who presented in the breech position) delivered on its own lying on the bed. At first it looked a bit blue, but was just fine with a little coaxing. I examined Mom and determined that twin #2 was coming out the proper way - head first and a few minutes later with out much help from me the second child was born. As this baby was entering the world, the midwife, noting that the membranes were covering its head, warned me that sometimes they tear and can splatter you. Unsure of what she meant for me to do with her warning, I backed away a bit and out it came. It too was just fine. Of course this story provided a good laugh for everyone at our morning meeting the next day.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Safe in Macha

After a 3 hour bus ride and a bone-jarring 3 hour ride on the back of a truck, we are safely in Macha. We are settling into our home for the next 6 weeks - a guest house run by the hospital that is perhaps not in the best of shape. So far it seems like we'll be able to make due and will sleep comfortably.

Today was my first day at the hospital - I am currently one of 4 other students here. Amy will make her way over to the Macha Innovative Christian School (MICS or "mix") tomorrow. More later...

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Hello, Zambia!

And we've made it safely to Zambia! We arrived in Livingstone, Zambia yesterday afternoon. We're staying in a back-packers' hostel in the town for two nights before leaving for our final destination early tomorrow morning. No trip to Zambia is complete without a stop at Victoria Falls - one of the seven wonders of the world - so we made sure to visit them today. What a sight!! It's the rainy season here in Zambia, so the falls are flowing heavily compared to later in the year, and it's typical to get drenched while viewing them. After visiting the falls in the morning, we took a dinner cruise on the Zambezi River where we saw some wildlife and a beautiful sunset.

Tomorrow we'll leave the tourist attractions behind and head to Choma, Zambia by bus. We've heard part of the road from here to Choma is not so good, so we may have an interesting trip. From Choma we'll catch a ride to Macha. We hope to arrive in Macha sometime in the afternoon or early evening.

That's all the logistical information for now. What interesting experiences have we had? What sticks out to me most is how persistent people are when they want to sell us something. We're obviously tourists, and being a tourist equals having some amount of money, and so people are determined to convince us to purchase what they have. Even after telling some one multiple times that you don't plan to buy anything, they may still walk with you and keep trying to convince you why you should buy it. It's an exercise in patience. I (Amy) am not very patient.

We'll write again once we've arrived in Macha. Hopefully we'll post some more pictures then - the photo upload didn't work so well this evening.

(So who won the superbowl?)

Thursday, January 29, 2009

See you later, Swaziland

Sesihambile – we have gone. There were times during our visit to Swaziland when it seemed as if we were attempting to fit a year’s experiences into a one-week visit. Most of our nights were spent with my Swazi host family in Mbikwakhe. In the middle of our week there, we also spent two nights with a friend in Mbabane and were treated by my Swazi sisters to a night to in a (modified) traditional Swazi beehive hut at Mlilwane Wildlife Sanctuary. Amy and I thoroughly enjoyed our visit kaNgwane (Swaziland, that is). I was surprised at how easy it was to reconnect with people and engage in the rhythms of Swazi culture and language; I suppose spending a year in a place plants a seed deeply. Now we are back in South Africa preparing for our journey onward to Zambia on Saturday.

Monday, January 26, 2009


This afternoon afforded a rest from a busy schedule of meeting and reconnecting with friends in Swaziland. Malolotja Nature Reserve is situated along the northwest border of the country and offers awe-inspiring views of the relatively untouched grassland mountains of the region. Although our visit was brief, the silence and the summer beauty of the grasslands were a welcome change from the hustle and bustle of the cities of Manzini and Mbabane.

Our time in Swaziland is unfortunately drawing to a close. For me it has been an exciting time of renewing relationships and reconnecting with the life I had here six years ago. Amy has also enjoyed a personal glimpse of the people and places that she had heard about only in letters while I was here. Nonetheless, she is looking forward to when we head to Zambia where we both will be newcomers more or less.

Where to find photos

The photos we've been able to upload can be found here:

Monday, January 19, 2009

Jet Lag

After fifteen-and-a-half hours on the plane, we arrived safely in Johannesburg. Our good friend Dana Mahan was waiting for us once we got our bags and we have enjoyed a relaxing evening with Dana, Sibongile and their family in their home in Pretoria. We are planning on some more relaxing and some touring in this area during the next two days. Later in the week we plan to drive to Swaziland, hopefully by then our sleep patterns will be more normal.

Saturday, January 17, 2009


If I thought that two weeks was "soon" for flying, then I'm not sure what to say now that our flight is about 18 hrs away. They're calling for snow flurries outside tomorrow but there's been a flurry of packing in our house today. Thanks for checking in; we'll post more after we arrive in Jo'burg.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Flying Soon

In just fourteen days we will be headed to southern Africa for a two month stay. Our first two weeks will be spent visiting friends in South Africa & Swaziland before heading to Zambia for the remaining six weeks. There, Dan will be working at the Macha Mission Hospital, a Brethren in Christ hospital in rural southern Zambia about 70km (44miles) from a town called Choma. Amy will be volunteering at a school called Macha Innovative Christian School (MICS) nearby. Our travel is being made possible through the Mennonite Medical Association's Student Elective Term (SET) and Dan is also receiving credit towards some graduation requirements at school.

We are excited about this opportunity and hope to share some of our experiences here on this blog (and in person when we return).