Monday, May 28, 2012

More Daily Scenes and Random Weather Info

It's naptime, and both children are peacefully sleeping. Quite the opposite of yesterday's naptime. I'm thankful they're sleeping so well right now since I'm on my own with them this evening. Dan works the 2-9:30 shift today.

I thought I'd post a few more random pictures of things you'd see here most everyday we're at home.

Elena hanging out with Rebecca, our house help.

Elena in the high chair. She hangs out in here while we eat and while I'm cooking.

Tummy time!

Edwin playing with Chariot. 

Edwin is fascinated by the front loading washer. 

I've heard it's hot and humid in the mid-Atlantic region these days. I can't say I miss that humidity. The air is dry here, and that makes any heat so much more endurable (I am not a hot weather fan, can you tell?) It's going towards winter here, which means the mornings and evenings are quite cool. During the day, the sun is warm if you're standing in it, but because the air is dry, if you walk into the shade, you might feel cool.  It's warm enough that Edwin can run around barefoot during the day and I don't have to bundle him up most of the time. But when the sun goes down, we pull out the slippers and sweatshirts, and we've closed most of the windows in the house because it gets too cold in the house otherwise.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Intro to A&E

I've reached the halfway point, having just finished my 3rd week of work in the Accident & Emergency Department (A&E).  It's hard to believe I'll only be here for three more weeks, but I think it's high time I post something about my work here in Botswana! (By the way, this is Dan, not Amy.)  
A&E Entrance Doors

First of all, my schedule is pretty nice.  There are basically two shifts covered by the EM faculty here during the week: 7:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. and 2:00 p.m. to 9:30 p.m.  I work three or four shifts per week and none on the weekends!  The primary focus has become supervising and teaching EM residents ("registrars" in the master of medicine (MMed) - emergency medicine program) and medical students.  Most of the work in A&E is done by medical officers (physicians without formal specialty training) employed by the hospital (ministry of health).  The university employs the EM faculty (currently only 3 docs from the U.S. and Australia) and the registrars. The EM specialist faculty are generally available by phone when not working clinically in the ED.  
Left: Empty board = slow morning
Right: XRays on the PACS computers
(some days it works, some days it doesn't)
Around 30,000 patients per year are seen in A&E, so that's 80-90 patients per day on average.  Most of them are seen between the hours of 11 a.m. and midnight.  It's not uncommon for A&E to be empty, or nearly so, from the early morning hours until about 10 a.m. Things also pick up at month's end when people get paid.  

There are 10 bays in our ED and a two-bed resuscitation room.  Relatively stable patients waiting for tests or admission get moved to one of 7 "corridor" slots in either a bed or a chair.  Some patients who are suspected to have TB are kept in the "isolation" room next to the triage area for evaluation.  Most of the bays have a Philips monitors & wall oxygen units.  The university owns an ultrasound machine (SonoSite M-Turbo) that is kept in A&E.  You can also request an ultrasound with report from radiology.  Plain X-rays are available, but can take hours, even if you request a portable film.  There is a CT scanner that has been in and out of commission (supposedly because of problems with the doors containing its radiation) that can be used for head CT from A&E.  Apparently if you want an abdominal CT, the surgeon has to order it.  Labs are available but the reporting time is highly variable.
empty bays in A&E
It won't be long 'til these bays are full.

Resus Room
One side of "Resus".
Medication availability is somewhat variable (like in the U.S. these days!).  We have some antibiotics, but not a comprehensive selection. It seems like everyone either gets oral amoxicillin or IV cefotaxime.  It's on an open shelf in our med room alongside IV diazepam and ketamine.  Apparently normal saline solution is on short supply, or not available, but currently there is Ringer's Lactate and dextrose containing IV fluids.  

Around town there are plenty of fancy new buildings and shopping centers (this is not a remote part of Africa) and yet the hospital (and entire health care system) is lacking basic equipment, supplies and infrastructure.  
The new health sciences building at the university.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Airplane Adventures

I don't think I ever posted pictures of our airplane rides. Here are a few. Enjoy!

Edwin was fascinated by the TV screens that were stored in our arm rests.

He was pretty excited to watch some preschool programming, but he didn't watch it as much as I thought he might.

Can you guess where Elena is?

 There she is!

Relaxing in the hanging bassinet. A "must have" if you're flying with an infant, in my opinion. Hoping we're able to have them again on the way back.



 At the airport in Amsterdam.

Airplane silliness. This was on our 2nd, and longest flight.

I had packed a bunch of snacks for Edwin, and I'm glad I did. He didn't eat much of the airplane meals, so it was good to have snacks on hand in case he got hungry between meals.

 We had a little less than 2 hours to go on our last flight when I heard Edwin say:
"Ned all done. Get off plane."

Laundry and Pretzels

Monday is laundry day. The washer is in the kitchen here (compared to in the basement - which is the case at home), and it's surprised me how much quicker I seem to get the laundry done. I'm even line drying here. This house is also only one level, whereas our home in DE is two stories with a basement. I guess the only downside about not having stairs here is that I'm getting less exercise throughout the day. Oh well.

In between doing loads of laundry (which will not be folded until tomorrow at the earliest - our house help was not here today, and I don't usually fold laundry the same day it's washed, especially if it's line-dried) I baked some soft pretzel for lunch.

I like them so much I thought I'd share the recipe. You can find it HERE.  The two darker pretzels have cinnamon and sugar on them.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Most Likely Something Venomous

As most of you probably know (thanks to facebook), we saw a snake this past weekend. It was my first snake-sighting in southern Africa, and I think it was my first venomous snake sighting ever.

I didn't even see very much of it either. Here's the story Dan didn't tell on facebook.

We went to the Botswana Botanical Garden here in Gaborone. It's small and not very exciting. There were a bunch of cute monkeys running around and wrestling that were fun to watch. Some of the plants and trees were labeled so we learned a few names of native plants.

We decided to stroll down the paved path and see what there was to see. Edwin ran ahead in front of us. I was carrying Elena in the moby wrap and Dan was pushing the empty stroller. Suddenly we heard some rustling to our left and there was a snake slithering off a rock into the leaves. It wasn't very close to us, but it was close enough - and sudden enough - to make my heart start racing. We told Edwin he needed to come back to where we were and ride in the stroller at that point. I still can't believe we hadn't even thought about the possibility of snakes being near the path.

After that we continued walking along the path (no, we didn't turn around - are we crazy?!). I would stomp my feet so that any snakes ahead would feel the vibration and leave. Thankfully, most snakes don't want to come into contact with people and they'll leave if they sense some one coming. (However, some one told me today that puff adders are not that way. They'll stay put.)

We didn't see any more snakes and we made it back to where the buildings were. After watching the monkeys a bit more and looking at the 4 stuffed animals (two birds, a crocodile and a buck of some sort) in the "museum", Dan decided he wanted to stroll back down the path and see if he'd catch sight of the snake again. The kids and I didn't go with him (although I would've gone if we hadn't had the kids with us).

Voila! He saw the snake near the path and got to watch it slither across to the other side. Since then he's spent some time online trying to identify it. At this point, he thinks it's a cobra, partly because of the black band near it's head.

I don't mind snakes in general, but when I know that they can kill me (or Dan or the kids) with their venom, then I'm happy to not see them. I must admit, however, there is a part of me that is thrilled by the fact that I saw a snake here. Since we weren't in any direct harm, I can contentedly add it to my list of exciting animals (and reptiles) that I've seen in southern Africa.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Daily Scenes

We've been having an "art and creativity" time each morning while Elena is napping. I brought along a few supplies, and Edwin enjoys using them. He's definitely creative with the supplies and doesn't necessarily use them the "correct" way (using colored pencils to poke holes in the cardboard, painting the watercolor box instead of paper, coloring on his hands with markers, etc.). Oh well. He hasn't tried painting or coloring on the walls yet, at least.

See that cardboard beneath the paper? This has saved me a lot of clean up. I was at the Main Mall one day last week and I happened to see some broken down cardboard boxes sitting behind a trash can. I decided I needed some of that cardboard for this exact reason, so I walked over, ripped off a piece and carried it home with me. I'm sure the people standing around thought I was bit odd. If they said anything to each other, I couldn't understand them!

The tent below was loaned to us by a friend from my moms group (thanks, Emily!). It has been wonderful. We've encountered a fair amount of mosquitoes but Elena has been protected from them at night due to this nifty tent. If you know of anyone trying to decide whether to get a pack n play or something like this, I'd get this instead. It packs up so much easier than a pack n play and works really, really well.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012


My brain is a bit fuzzy right now thanks to my very interrupted night of sleep. Elena woke up crying about 2 hours after I'd gone to bed and then woke up to eat at 6:15. Edwin woke up crying two times in between Elena. If Edwin actually falls asleep during nap time (that would be now), I might take a nap. If not, I'll just go to bed early after he's gone to bed early.

The kids and I took our first independent outing this morning. I've walked to a local shopping area called the "Main Mall", located in downtown Gaborone, but I haven't taken the kids. Either Dan has been home and stayed with them or I left them with our house help, Rebecca.

Today I called a taxi and we went to a local Tea Garden called Sanita's. We all went there on Sunday for a Mother's Day lunch, and I decided we'd have to go back. There is a play ground and sand pit in the Tea Garden. I was hoping there would be other kids there (there were lots and lots on Sunday) but no such luck today. However, Edwin still enjoyed playing on the wooden jungle gym and sitting on an old, broken down tractor that is there also. We drank their lemonade (I think it's the best homemade lemonade I've ever had) and ate a snack of scones with jam and cream.

Sanita's is situated in a Nursery and Garden store, so we also walked around there a bit and Edwin enjoyed splashing in some of the decorative water fountains. It's lush, green and full of beautiful plants. Very refreshing.

It felt good to make myself take the kids out. But I did have to make myself do it. It would've been easy to just stay home and not go anywhere, but I'm beginning to feel the need to go places and feel a bit independent.If we had a car, it would feel similar to being back home and going here and there would feel pretty easy - aside from having learn my way around. But it was new and strange to take a cab. I don't like to do things that are different, where I might look like I don't know what I'm doing (and just now I met some one and messed up the greeting in seTswana!), and I do have to push myself to do something different. I like it when things are comfortable and familiar, and of course they aren't in a new place.  That's one of the hard parts about going somewhere new. In a few weeks, all will be much more familiar and easier and then the things that were uncomfortable in the beginning will just be small memories that I can laugh about.

Some good news is we're going to be car-sitting for one of Dan's colleagues for a couple days next week and a couple days the following week. That will make it easier to get groceries and also to go on some outings.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

One Family, Two Weeks, Three Countries

We spent almost the first two weeks here in Africa traveling around. Let me tell you, that's a lot of traveling with a toddler and a baby. It's a lot of traveling for me in general, and I was pretty worn out about halfway through our travels from place to place. It can be tiresome going away for a weekend when we're in the US because of all that needs to be packed and organized, and so it was definitely tiring here too. Thankfully, we were visiting family and friends and we had time to relax and catch up on sleep.

(It's nap time here now, and I can hear Edwin talking to himself in his room. He'll most likely eventually fall asleep. If not, early bedtime!)

After arriving in South Africa (country #1), we stayed with some good friends of ours. Dan originally met them in Swaziland, and we've been able to see them on a yearly basis for the past number of years. Dana, Sibongile and their boys hosted us for the first few days. The Friday after we arrived we hopped in our rental car and drove about 4-5 hours to Swaziland (country #2). Unfortunately for us it was a holiday weekend, which meant we waited over an hour at the border. We finally got through, and drove to the Swazi homestead Dan had lived at during his SALT year.

( 1.5 hour interlude during which Dan returns, Edwin finally falls asleep and I get supper started. Tonight's menu: homemade pizza)

We spent Friday night through Sunday morning at the homestead. Edwin met Make (pronounced "MA-gay) and Babe (BA-bay), his Swazi grandparents, Dan's host brothers and one of Dan's host sisters, plus her two boys. It was nice that Edwin had some other kids to play with while we were there. Did you know Dan has a Swazi name? It was given to him shortly after his arrival in Swaziland. Now the kids and I have Swazi names too. I felt honored to be given one. :)

Make and Elena in Swaziland

On Sunday we left the homestead and drove to the capitol city of Mbabane and stayed with another friend named Carla, who teaches at an IB school called Waterford. It's high up on a hill, so the view was great. (Driving to Swaziland and being in Mbabane was beautiful b/c of the mountains there!) She wasn't staying in her home right then, so we actually had some time to ourselves (although she came and cooked for us!!!), to catch up on laundry and e-mail and so on.

Dan spent that Monday visiting some other friends in Swaziland while I hung out with the kids at the house. It felt like a very normal day for me because I did laundry, made meals, cleaned up, and took care of the kids. In the midst of visiting people and driving here and there, this down time was just what I needed that day.

On Tuesday we left Swaziland and returned to South Africa where we stayed at a Guest House for a few days. We spent time with Dana and Sibongile's family again, but didn't invade their house this time around.  Edwin was fascinated by the water fountain outside our room and we found a sand "box" there that was perfect. He was also really fascinated by the pool vacuums in the two swimming pools. I think he could've watched them all day.

The sand "box" at Cornerstone Guest Lodge

(The baby is screeching from her little bed. I'd better go take care of her!)

(It's now two days since I wrote the first part of this blog entry. You'd think I'd have more time to write these days but it doesn't seem to be that way.)

After 3 days at the Cornerstone Guest Lodge we loaded up our rental car (Minus one suitcase because we were able to consolidate our things a bit more. Good thing too, since that last suitcase would not have fit in the car. We really did pack too much, I think.) and drove to Gaborone, Botswana (country #3).

We arrived in the evening and stayed at some self-catering flats (apartments) nearby until the house we're renting became available. There was a pool, and once again, Edwin was fascinated by the pool vacuum. (Did I mention that except for the guest lodge, each place we stayed in has had a broom, and Edwin wasted no time in finding it and using it.)

Sweeping at the Dlamini homestead in Swaziland

On Sunday of last week, we drove a short distance to the house we're now at. It feels so good to be staying in one place for a while. We were able to unpack our things from the suitcases, and Dan has delivered the medical supplies we brought along (that means one more suitcase is now empty!). I pulled out the cloth diapers I brought for Elena and have gotten back into using them. (For any interested, I'm using Flip covers with cotton prefold inserts. I brought 2 normal bumGenius diapers for bedtime, but I didn't bring any of the microfiber inserts b/c they need to be washed too many times.)

We did some grocery shopping, and I've been cooking meals again. I pretty much had a two week break from cooking. I'm not sure when that last happened!

 So here we are. Whew. Home Sweet Botswana Home.

Our home-away-from-home in Gaborone.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Greetings from Edwin

Edwin was talking about some of his friends this morning, so I decided to record him.

Here's a shout out to Leah and Isaac. (The "ck" sound is Edwin's version of Isaac.)


Tuesday, May 8, 2012

On the Other Hand...

The flip side of having house help (when you're not used to it and you don't have a job outside of the home and/or other time commitments, as is the case for me at the moment...) is that a stay-at-home-mom such as myself can suddenly find herself at loose ends because the normal work she would do during the day is already done or being done by some one else.

I do like to be productive and feel that I am contributing to our life.  I'm told my worth doesn't depend on my productivity, but a girl raised in a hard-working Mennonite community can't spend all day doing nothing.  Thankfully, I'll still be the one cooking the meals, changing diapers, feeding the baby and taking care of the toddler.

Monday, May 7, 2012

The Help

Have you read the book? It's a good one. I recommend it.

Growing up, we never had house help of any kind. It wasn't the Mennonite way (although it used to be back in the day, I think, before we had as many appliances and machines - and it is the Amish way of doing things). In the Mennonite community where I grew up, women take pride is managing their households and completing all the necessary tasks. Or else the stuff just doesn't get done. Our trip to Zambia a few years ago was my first experience with having house help on a regular basis.

We hired some one local to cook lunch for us since we were both working all morning, but would be back in time for a late lunch. She also did a few loads (all by hand!) of laundry for us each week as well as some light cleaning.

It was an expected part of our experience (as well as being very, very helpful!) as a way to help out the community we were living in.

I have worked as house help before, so it felt funny to be on the other side of the coin.

We also have some house help here in Gaborone. She comes with the house, so to speak, and we got to meet her today. The kitchen and dining rooms are clean, dishes are washed and laundry has been done, and I haven't had much to do with it. For some one used to doing all of it at home, it's kind of strange. But also very nice. I think I will be much less tired at the end of the day while we're here, and it may be hard to leave...

But don't worry, I didn't sit around all morning doing nothing. I cleaned and organized the toy area (there are a lot of toys here for Edwin to play with), cooked breakfast and lunch, fed and diapered the kids and now I need to go and unpack. Then it's time to cook dinner.

On a different note, I'm sure you're tired of these wordy posts. I will post some pictures soon so you can see a little of what the place looks like and what Edwin's been up to.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

New Place, New Normal

When remembering past travels, it's kind of hard to accurately remember the emotions in the very beginning of the trip, when everything feels new, strange and somewhat (or sometimes very) uncomfortable. Almost every time that I've traveled overseas, there has been an initial uneasiness and discomfort as I've had to learn my way around, learn some of the language (the greetings, if nothing else). It's definitely not my favorite part of the traveling, but the good news is that it always passes, and eventually life in whatever new location (Gaborone this time) resumes a sense of normalcy. Not the normal of being at home, but a normal for that place.

I went shopping this morning for the first time. As I stood in the small produce section of the grocery store a few blocks away, I found myself unable to decide what to buy and how much. I had a list with me, but I experiences a strange inability to make a quick and sure decision. Eventually it passed and I bought what I think will work. But it is very strange to feel uncertain of what I'm doing - even when it's something as simple as grocery shopping.

I made a few other stops and by the time I was done, I felt fairly comfortable in the shopping area. I now know where the grocery store and bank are. I know where I can buy some meat pies (today it was a steak and kidney pie - yum!). I know I can buy sweet potatoes and dried beans and peanuts from outdoor stands. I can greet some one semi confidently in Setswana, but I still need to really learn how to say "thank you."

I ventured out on my own today so it will be different when I have to take the kids along. That will be its own challenge, but the great thing about having children in tow, is that everyone loves a baby (many people have already asked if they can take Elena home with them), so that just opens up doors of conversation and brings smiles.

We'll be meeting some of the doctors and residents Dan will work with today and tomorrow we move to the house were we'll be for the rest of our time here. I'm looking forward to staying in one place after our week and a half of traveling. It's time to settle in to a new normal.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Travel Recap

I'm sitting at a small table outside our room at a guest house in Pretoria, South Africa. We've just returned from weekend trip to Swaziland. The kids are sleeping and Dan is sitting across from me reading the first book in the Ladies No. 1 Detective Agency series.

We arrived in South Africa a week ago. It was 9 pm here (3 pm EDT) and we'd been traveling for over 24 hours counting the drive to the airport from home.

I had been nervous about flying with a toddler and an infant, but it really wasn't as bad as I thought it might be. The craziest parts were when we had to go through security and Edwin had to put "blankie bear" in a bin and let go of him. That's when he decided to show everyone in line just how upset he was by laying down on the floor (just when we also needed to take his sweatshirt off of him too) and screaming. Picture me with Elena in the moby, Dan with his hands full of stuff that needs to be put in bins to go through the security check and we're both down on the floor trying to get the sweatshirt off our screaming, crying toddler while reassuring him he will get blankie bear back if he would just cooperate. Logic and reason didn't really work then, so we had to manhandle Edwin through the gate and whip blankie bear out of the bin as soon as possible. I'm sure everyone in line was thinking: "I hope they're not on my flight."  Oh well.

The flights actually went really well. The first leg was about 7 hours and we all slept part of that time. The second leg was about 11 hours. Edwin watched a little bit of some video the airline had available, ate snacks, explored the workings of the food tray, drew on the magnadoodle, played with his small construction vehicles and napped. Elena slept in the wall-mounted bassinet much of the time, nursed and only had two fits of crying, which really didn't last long.Plus the hum of the airplane was so loud, most people couldn't have heard much. We were right near the bathrooms on both flights and had at least one bulkhead seat (that's where the bassinets can be used) and other seats near it. Both kids did fine during take off and landing - no ear problems whatsoever. I'm hoping our return flights will go just as well (crossing my fingers!).

We had a 3 hour layover in Amsterdam which started out a little frantically because I realized soon after we got off the plane that I had left my purse on the plane. In it were our passports, my credit cards and some money. Giant "whoops!" I left Dan with the kids and ran back to the gate to see if I could get back on the plane. No such luck. We had been the last passengers off and the crew had walked by us soon before I realized I didn't have my purse. After running through the airport looking for some one to help, a worker directed me to a certain airline counter. Another official looking guy who saw me running asked what was wrong, I told him and he quickly radioed some people and got permission to go back on the plane. I told him what seat he'd find my purse under and he found it. I could have hugged him. I've never done such a thing while traveling and I think I can blame it on never having traveled with kids before. But I can assure you that I didn't go anywhere from then on without counting our bags.

We arrived tired and thankful to be here. I was also kind of amazed at how well the kids did. Overall, in spite of the craziness of this past week, they have done well. The time change and all the new people and places has definitely taken it's toll on Edwin. Elena doesn't have a clue that we're on another continent and she's pretty much been the same as she was at home.

I'd say we've all adjusted to the time difference by now. Let me just say that it's hard to adjust and get over the tiredness on my own, but it's definitely tougher when there are also little children who need to adjust. I'm glad it's basically behind us for now.

More later! Now I need to go sleep.