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?)