Saturday, August 14, 2010

Pictures of Danja

The plane we flew in from Niamey to Maradi.

Alainie, Me, Lindsay and Ginger wearing our matching free bird head wraps.

The women waiting under the tree.

Camels are not as fun to ride as you would think!

Preparing for the dress ceremony.
Group hug!

Group picture.

The women in their taxi home.

The empty tree... until next time...

The new fistula center under construction!


I arrived home yesterday after being gone for seven months. Thank you Esther for picking me up! It was wonderful to be picked up by someone I had met in Togo on the ship.

The last few days in Niger our internet connection wasn't the greatest so I couldn't keep you all updated but everything wrapped up really well there. Ten amazing women had surgery and almost all went home dry! The final day we had a dress ceremony and the women looked amazing! Their smiles were infectious and it was bittersweet to walk them out to the end of the road for their ride home. It was amazing to see their lives transformed in such a short time. Women who showed up scared and frightened left laughing and smiling. One of the girls I had tried to reach all week came up behind me as we were walking out and held my hand out to the road. It was a beautiful sight to see them all pile into the back of a truck and drive away. It is my prayer that as they return home, they will continue on this path of joy. That they will be welcomed and accepted back with open arms and that the joy I saw radiating out of them will continue.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Yo Yo Yo

In hausa the word for leaking, dripping is yo yo. I wondered why when I walked up to the group of women and just said yo, they all laughed. I found this fun fact out yesterday and today I was reminded of a camp song in which the chorus is "Yo, yo, yo..." over and over. I sung it to a patient today and she just laughed. It's an easy word to remember when I ask the patients if they are wet or leaking.

The final patients had surgery today. Ten women in four days. When I took one of the young girls to the OR I could tell she was petrified. Her mother was there but they speak Twarg, a language not many people here speak so we had difficulty communicating. We walked across the sandy ground and when we got to the door she stopped. She started crying. The fear that must go through these women and girls. To be in this state where they are outcasts and then brought to a hospital where white nurses are telling you how to prepare and how to wash and how to sleep in a bed off the ground and then being led to an operating room which is freezing to your standards and we will put you in stirrups and make you vulnerable and a male doctor is going to do your surgery after we stick something into your vein and another man is going to poke you in your back so you can't move your legs...I took care of her after the surgery and it took a bit to get her to smile, but she did. Her and her mother have been here for over a week waiting for this day. She is dry and has so much to smile about. Please keep praying for her and her recovery.

After the final surgery of the day we heard they were here. They are the camels. We had all been wanting to ride a camel on this trip and the time had come. They were waiting outside our house. When we drove down the road and I spotted them I got really excited! They were so tall and had seats on them and I couldn't wait... until we got out of the car. Camels are not the most graceful of animals. The way they stand up and get down to the ground scares me. One of them was yelling and was hating life. There were three camels and six of us. I knew that if I waited until the second round I would chicken out so I got on one. Here in Niger we need to wear skirts down to the ground. I showed more leg today than I have in months. There was no way around it. When the camel stood I screamed. I don't know how this seat didn't slide off. It felt so awkward. As long as the camel was walking I felt ok but if it was stopped I just wanted to get off. I will fully admit this was not one of my highlights for the week. After our short walk, when it was time to get off, the camel did his same awkward movements to lay down and again, not a good moment in my life as a volunteer. I was thankful only my friends could understand what came out of my mouth. Would I ride a camel again? No, but I am glad I did it today. The men who brought them got the biggest laugh from us all.

It is raining like crazy outside right now! It's actually a good thing for the tadpoles. The day we got here, the four of us girls walked by a puddle full of frog eggs. Every day we check on them and a day or so after we found it they had hatched into tadpoles! It rains almost every night so the puddle fills up. Once we had to fill up the puddle because it was almost dry and many of the tadpoles lay dead on the sand. We drug an old wheelbarrow full of old water and dumped it in. They were happy. Last night it didn't rain and we all got busy and the puddle dried up and the tadpoles died. We hung onto hope that they found refuge in the mud and with the rain now they will come back out. We can hope... This is our nightly entertainment.
I wrote this post last night but because of the storm the internet cut out. Here's an update on the tadpoles...they all died BUT the puddle filled back up to overflowing and it is full again of frog eggs! We will try to be more on the ball this time around.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

The Urine Song

I finally found out the gist to the song the women sing:

I became wet.
My husband left me.
He took me to live with my parents.
No one wanted me.
I heard about this VVF hospital so I came.
There are nice nurses and doctors here.
Now I can be healed.

Only one day of surgeries left tomorrow. I had to fight back tears today more than once. Tears of happiness and tears of sorrow and tears of joy. Women and girls finding healing and others finding a longer road ahead. One needing to wait a little longer but in daya, biyu, uku (one, two, three) months she can come back for surgery.

How do these women and girls survive? I say girls because we have one here who is 14 who had her surgery the last time the clinic was running. 14! Wild. The youngest here now is 18 but looks younger. Only one more day then a week more of recovery and other things.

I can't post pictures on here because the connection is too slow. When I get home I'll post lots!

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Urine is the Oppressor

The first two VVF surgeries were done today and the women are doing well and are dry! The day started of rough, which you will read about later, but it is impossible to not laugh and smile when you are with these ladies. Oh, how I love them!

I told you in my previous post about “the tree”, the place the women congregate. They lay their mats out and eat there and talk there and spend their days at this tree until it is time to be seen or have surgery. After the first woman left for surgery this morning I went over to that tree, my small book in hand which I am scribbling down the hausa I am trying to learn and attempted to talk with the ladies. My name in hausa is Sarahtou. I love hearing them say my name. Inakwana was all I said when I walked up and they started laughing and claping. I learned to say goodmorning, a change from yesterday when all I could say was sanu, hello. I have already learned more hausa in the few days I have been here than all the ewe I learned in my six months in Togo. Ina sunauki, what is your name. I am really bad at remembering names, but as they started telling me theirs I realized I would only have a few names to remember: Aicha, Howa, Mariama...if I say one of those three I will have a good chance of getting the name right.

Singing. I needed to hear them sing. After church last sunday, I needed more. The singing isn’t like what I have heard in Liberia or Togo. It’s not accompanied by the chicken dance or any other form of wild dancing. It’s slow and almost monotone. It’s really beautiful. I started moving my feet and clapping and they got the hint. I’m still trying to find someone to translate the words to the song they sang for me, but it was glorious. I could sit and listen to them sing forever. If they aren’t singing or telling me their names, we just smile and laugh at each other.

I feel like I have so much more to share but don’t know where to start.

For those of you who follow my blog, I wanted to let you know too that I received an e-mail today from Michael, Lovelace’s father. She went home to be with the Lord last week. I don’t know any details or how they are coping, but the last time Jane and I went to visit we had talked a bit about this time. He told us that he was never angry at God but that he trusted Him and knew that if Lovelace was going to be healed it would be and if she wasn’t going to be healed, then that would be. He trusted fully in the hand of the Lord and never spoke of anger or bitterness. She was loved so dearly here on this earth and I picture her now, asleep in the hands of God, no pain, no more dressing changes, she was a small girl who knew nothing but Love.