Thursday, October 30, 2008

Student file updates, laying stone, and more creepy-crawlies. Eek!

We usually update student files and photos for the sponsorship program much earlier in the year, but this year somehow, some of our work went astray over the thousands of kilometers between Mozambique and Canada. So we’ve had to play catch-up over the past few weeks in an attempt to get all the school kids’ individual photos and information updated. Taking their pictures is definitely the fun part for me since the kids always ham it up nicely for the camera and I get lots of photos of their goofy antics and beautiful smiles.

My least favourite part of the task is definitely the database update--row upon row, column upon column of names and more names, numbers and more numbers. After awhile my eyes go crossed and I have to abandon the task until I can focus again!

Speaking of names though, there are some very unique ones especially if you translate them from Portuguese into English: Respect, Teacher, Notice, Towel, Onion, Twenty, Varnish, Soap, Seven, and others. I like these names because they’re much easier for me to remember, spell, and keep track of than names like: Hazvinei, Muzanenhamo, Muchaibande or Nhamupimbe. ☺

I had a rather grueling morning today. I laid stone, in the hot sun, for a sidewalk by our house.

Okay, I admit, I didn’t do the serious chain-gang-type-killer-sized-stone lifting-thing…I left that to the men. I did lift some smaller ones though, and helped nudge the killer-sized ones into position. The most challenging part was the leveling so I was very glad when Dwight got back from town in time to help me do that.
(Peter pouring cement between the stone.)

And in case you’re wondering why I was given this task, well, it’s because I happened to comment on the fact that stone should be laid in cement a “certain way”, not just any old way. My husband took me up on my "offer" :) Next time I think I’ll keep my big mouth shut!

And this brings me to the last paragraph (or more), which is reserved for stories of creepy things on weeks when we are visited by creepy things. That's been every week lately.

Kim and I got to witness something the other night that I’ve never seen in all my life of living around Cicadas (or Christmas beetles). These are the beetles that come to life as soon as our weather heats up in September or October and keep us company for a good 4 months or more. The thing I like about them is that they’re clumsy, cute in a Yoda sort of way and, well, not real smart. The annoying part is that they scream “zweeeeeeeee” all day long. It can be quite deafening! Anyway, what we discovered last night was a Cicada hatching out of its shell (Click here for a link that describes how they “morph”).

This is amazing colouring considering how dark they go shortly after emerging.

The creepiest story though is how I was on my way into the bedroom near bedtime last week and saw this:

Sorry about the poor exposure.

That would be a smallish black snake on his way into our room. Question: why are snakes never headed OUT of my house when I see them??

Dwight tried to finish up the business call he was on at the time while I watched the snake very closely to see where he was going. What’s worse than seeing a snake in your house is not seeing him but knowing he’s there, somewhere--especially if it’s Spitting Cobra. They have deadly aim. My sense of urgency rose sharply when he decided to head under the bed, so when the timing was just right I trapped him against the wall with a piece of wood. I tried to do this and shield my eyes at the same time, just in case. Funny sight, I’m sure. Funnier still was when Dwight managed to come to the rescue armed with a broom and wearing sunglasses. At night. He needed eye protection and they were the closest thing. Oh well, better funny and safe than sorry!

I better run for now. Stay safe. And funny too :D

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Challenges and scary stuff

Some weeks start off with a bang and then just keep going. This has been one of those!

On Monday, after devotions, a couple approached the socorristas (health post workers) and I with a sick 1-year-old child. The child had been sick for 6 days already and had been seen both at the health post and the nearest hospital where he was given Tylenol (paracetamol) and worm medicine for “stomach ache”, since that is what the father stated was wrong with him. When I asked the dad what the child’s symptoms were, he said, “He has a stomach ache”. A quick glance at the child told me his problem was more likely a raging pneumonia though. “Does he have a cough too?” I asked the dad. “Oh, yes, he does.” It was a great teaching opportunity, so we did a quick list of his symptoms: fever, rapid respirations, grunting, listlessness, cough.

“What do you think this looks like, guys?” I asked the socorristas.

They thought for a moment, then, “Pneumonia” one of them said tentatively.

“Yep. I think so too. Sometimes you can get thrown off by what someone says, so don’t ever forget use your powers of observation.”

I was glad we could send them on their way with prayer, some good antibiotics, Tylenol syrup and rehydration mix.

Recently, some new drugs (cotrimoxazole (antibiotic), nystatin suspension (antifungal) and albendazole (worm medicine)) have been added to the socorristas’ essential drugs kit which they receive from the health department each month.
They went for an orientation to these new drugs last week, but there was a glitch in the system and the training never happened. They had a quick introduction to them, then were sent back with the meds and told "You have a Canadian nurse there in the bush who can give you very good training on these meds!" Hence, an extra duty was added to my "to do" list and soon, so they could begin to use the new supplies! I had to put a few other jobs on the back burner that day, but it is sure nice to have access to more meds since we deal with such sick people who often don’t have the option of going to bigger hospitals.

As for those items that went on the back burner…well, they sort of stayed there for the remainder of the week because other more urgent needs kept cropping up, like getting photos of the feeding program, a visit to an orphan home, a trip to town to pick up renewed work permits (which weren’t even ready), minor work injuries to treat, and so on. Oh yes, there was another fire on the property this week as well, though I’m glad I didn’t have to go help put it out.

But we’re not ALL about work here. Sometimes we have fun too. I wasn’t sure if these photos of the ongoing weekly darts competition between the guys should go in here under “challenges” or “scary stuff”. Both categories apply, so I’m putting them here at the tail end of the week’s challenges and right before the scarier stuff.

The Dart Challenge


To get your darts to go to a very specific section on the dart board. (You need to do this with greater accuracy than your competitors if you expect to walk away with a shiny trophy for the week.)

Game Rules:

1. You have to stand behind the line (drawn with white chalk so you can't possibly miss it).

2. You have to hit the board, accurately--preferably, whilst standing behind the line. (This part really messes with my accuracy. From a foot way, I'm good. Much further though and my wayward darts aren’t healthy for the walls or anything/anyone else nearby. That's why I’m just a spectator.)

Helpful Hints:

1. Intimidate opponents (well, at least the camera) by making faces.

2. Line up that dart in front of your eye just so before throwing it. This increases accuracy.

3. Lean into your throw (to make this effective you will need to stick a foot out behind you for balance).

4. Hold your mouth just right while your dart sails to its rightful target.

Take that fine trophy home. If you didn’t win the trophy, challenge your opponents to another blistering game next week!

Moving along here (long post). For those of you who don’t like creepy crawlies you will want to skip the next few photos. I will, however, be putting cute-kid photos from our feeding program right at the end of this post, so don’t close your eyes for too long.

Scary Stuff:

I found this guy on my kitchen counter (!) the other night when I went to turn off the light before going to bed. Usually I’ll just smack a spider with my shoe if he’s somewhere he shouldn’t be, but this guy was too big to smack. So I grabbed a large glass mug instead to trap him under. The mouth of this glass has a diameter of 3 1/4 inches if that helps place things in perspective.

(A face only a mother could love :()

Once I was finished taking pictures, I had to figure out what to do with him. For some odd reason, I felt rather sorry for him so decided to let him go—in the direction AWAY from Kim’s tent...on the OTHER side of the house.

In the morning I showed one of the local staff the pictures I took. “Oh,” he said, “those spiders bite like crazy! They can even leave their ‘teeth’ in you. Their bite is like the bite of a snake, very painful and you can even die from it.” Nice. Good to know. (Aaaaagggghhhh! I should have killed it!) Here’s hoping he doesn’t find his way back and if he does, that he’ll remember my kindness to him. Of course, I was only kind because I was ignorant, but he doesn’t know that. :)

Okay, it's safe to open your eyes now for the cute kids!

Hamming it up for the camera...

They love having their photos taken, even if only their hands get in the shot!

Faces, well, all the better!
Fernando the Great Cook
Do they come any cuter than this?
Or this?

"Running water" at Mucombeze Interior Primary School

Preschooler who fell asleep while waiting for lunch. I like the MCEL (cell phone company) sticker on his forehead.
Get me, get me!

Smiling even though his friend is teasingly pulling his sideburns.

That's it!

Tips of the week:

1. Trust your powers of observation.
2. If you observe a large spider, consider killing him.
3. Love people...especially the little ones!


Thursday, October 16, 2008

The Roof, Bug Stories, Other News and A Snake

I’m starting this post with a picture of the roof on our house because it is SUCH a momentous occasion! We were just getting the foundation walls up on this site about year ago, so although progress hasn’t been lightning-fast (life’s just too busy with the other top 20 work priorities), it’s nice to see things coming together. We here all agree…NOW it feels like a house! In fact, I’m tempted to have a celebratory “sleep-over” now that the roof is up. Notice I said “tempted”. The layers of cement dust, mounds of wood shavings, and free-and-easy access to all manner of creepy crawlies right now will undoubtedly help me resist that temptation. It’s not a home quite yet.

Dwight and Rick just getting started with the tiles.

Roof assembly line.
And speaking of home, apparently the one I live in now is quite appealing to some rather curious folk.

The other night while I was turning lights off before going to bed, I came across this fellow on the front room floor. We’d had the doors open for awhile that evening to cool the house down and he must have taken that as an open invitation to come inside. The frog and I just looked at each other for few moments. I was thinking of how to get him out of my house. He was probably thinking that I was much too large a bug to eat. I didn’t have a box handy to capture him in so decided to fling a towel over him to trap him, then I could scoop him up and put him outside. It must have been a funny sight—him leaping from pillar to post while my towel trailed him, always landing on bare concrete. Finally, with one of his escape moves, he headed toward the door so it seemed logical that I use the towel to herd him rather than net him! It worked very well, I’m glad to say, and he hopped quite happily outside again.

The next species to try to make my home his own was this cicada.
I was listening to music last night, trying to unwind from the day’s activities, and he decided to come perch on my lap. Actually, that would make a cicada’s landing seem well planned. Usually they slam into things. This one was no different. The room was dark at the time and he was drawn like a magnet to the light on my laptop’s screen. He missed the screen, but when I heard the "thump" of a big bug landing on the couch beside me, I knew exactly what it was. Then he got bold and crawled ON me then looked at me for awhile before flying off again. Very clumsily. God definitely has a sense of humour.

And last but not least on the homes theme is this odd sight. I grabbed this garden shovel yesterday, which is stored on a shelf on the veranda, and along came this cap too. The clump of mud between them is a mud-wasp nest.

See all these little mud balls? This is what the whole thing is made of. What an amazing amount of work that little wasp went to in order to build its house (maybe even more work than went into ours)! Pulling the nest off the cap revealed many hollow sections where wasp larvae were at different stages of development.
Cool, huh? So that’s your science lesson for the week :P This is what used to make home schooling fun.

The little boy who was burned last week got to come home after a week in hospital. I know the family is happy to be together again. Here is his older brother, arms full of toys, on his way to visit the hospital earlier in the week.
Other news:

A load of stone being delivered to begin construction on the training centre—one of those other top 20 priorities. This stone was crushed by hand by monitors and pastors with our church leadership program so they could earn money to help pay for their studies and help support their families. Now that is hard work!

Kim putting hard copies of chapters from the health manual I’m working on back into electronic format (after the loss of my laptop in September). Kim’s motto for the week: Type Til You Drop (…then have some ice cream).

Celestino translating a Newborn Assessment guide for the socorristas to use. We had to be real creative with some words so they would be understood in the local context, like “skin turgor” became “strong meat” and “flaky skin” became “skin like a shedding snake”☺. Yeah, you know you’re in the African bush when your descriptions are better understood when they refer to snake characteristics!

This is the last paragraph so I’ll close with a short snake story:

This morning while Raimundo and Dwight were walking down the path to our house, Dwight spotted a Twig Snake. It was very near the path, but Raimundo was on a mission and didn’t seem to take note of the snake at all. Dwight called to him, “Raimundo! Watch out! Didn’t you see the snake?? You nearly stepped on it!” To which a very surprised Raimundo swung around and responded, “Aaaaaayyyy! Yes, but I thought it was a twig!” Yikes.

I better run for now. Have a good weekend and whatever you do, keep a close eye on the twigs in your path!

Friday, October 10, 2008

Bush Nursing

Eleven years ago, and quite possibly close to the very day, I had to suture my own daughter's leg on the same table this child (below) is lying on. Amanda was swinging too close to farm machinery from a rope in a tree with her friends when the iron edge of a flat bed trailer "got in the way" of an otherwise graceful sail through the air. Back then, there wasn't much in terms of where to seek medical help since the only hospital was across the border in Zimbabwe. And at that time of the day, the border was closed. There was only one thing to do: suture the wound myself. I had everything I needed on hand, so drew up the local anesthetic and told her she could yell as much as she wanted, but please, please, please…sit very still. A few tear-streaked cheeks and frazzled-nerve minutes later, it was all done. It wasn’t the kindest introduction to bush nursing.
Last weekend that same table came in very handy again. A young widow who works here showed up at about 9pm with her youngest in her arms all bundled up. Apparently, he had partly fallen into a pot of hot water 3 hours earlier and sustained burns to his entire left arm and chest. People here have no stoves, so they cook in the open yard on the ground with big cooking pots within easy access of young ones. Since it was a weekend evening and I wasn’t sure what attendance we’d find at the closest hospital, I decided to dress the wounds myself and set about to help rehydrate him with fluids. In the morning we headed to the Vanduzi Hospital where they admitted him for observation and dressing changes.
While mom and child went to the emergency room for the initial assessment, I sat in the open waiting area. It was a Sunday, so I was surprised to find the hospital’s director, Mr. Paz (Peace) and “tecnico de medicina” (physician’s assistant), Mr. Santos (Saints) seated there as well. There had been a head-on collision just a few hours earlier and they had been busy treating the wounded (thankfully there were no fatalities). While we sat together, we talked about the social and health issues in the area.

I told them about a particularly frustrating case I’d been dealing with over the past few weeks. An elderly woman who receives monthly support (food, clothing, etc.) from the mission had a bad fall about a month back. An xray ruled out hip fracture so she was sent home with an assortment of pills in mysteriously labelled little ziplock baggies. After a few educated guesses and chicken-scratch-deciphering, I decided to tweak her meds to bring her roaring blood pressure down and get a handle on the leg pain she was having.
Socorrista (Health Care Worker) Celestino, Liria, and I studying the xray--bush style.

Over the next few weeks she could barely walk with a cane, never mind manage to collect firewood or carry her own 20L jugs of water every day. Her neighbour was very helpful, but she needed full-time help. I asked her about possible family members who would be willing to care for her. This is where the story gets very long, so I’ll try to be brief.

1. Over the years, leprosy has debilitated her and she was sent away from her husband’s home since she was unable to work and contribute to the home anymore.
2. Her husband is a “curandeiro” (witchdoctor) which has something now to do with it not being acceptable for her to go live with her married daughter.
3. She decided to go back to her husband (who has other wives) in hopes that maybe they would take care of her (or maybe to talk with hubby about permission to go to her daughter).
4. After 4 days of being largely neglected, she made the slow, painful journey with her walking stick,back to her own home.

Liria, her Christian neighbour, warmly welcomed her back. Liria is a widow who cares for 3 orphaned grandchildren (also supported by the mission). They have taken this elderly woman under their wing to help care for her but can’t provide 24 hour care. When I explained to Liria that we were trying to get help from the woman’s family Liria shook her head and said, “We are her family. She has no one else. We will help her as much as we can.”

When I finished my story, Mr. Santos told me about a case of their own at the Vanduzi Hospital. The young man who cleans their grounds does so in exchange for a hot meal every day. He is “simple” and any time he goes home he is teased until he begins to cry and scream, so he prefers to just live at the hospital where people are kind to him. “He is our family now. And we have others like him.” Mr. Santos said.

He then wondered how we were managing with the widespread food shortage this year. “Well,” I said, “it is a challenge. Our family is pretty big right now! We provide food for +/- 200 kids at the mission’s school, over 20 orphan/disabled homes, and we have new requests coming in all the time. We can provide work for food, but we do need to watch our stock for our longer-term commitments. Thankfully, God helps us. We can only do so much by ourselves, so we pray and trust God to multiply our efforts. We could certainly do nothing without Him!” Mr. Paz and Mr. Santos nodded quietly.

We’ve developed a good relationship with the Vanduzi Hospital over the past 2 years and have had great opportunities to partner with them in different activities. This week we helped provide transport for immunization blitzes to a number of the surrounding communities. And so, our network of friends and family grows.

Socorrista Ernesto: giving mission staff a spiel on HIV/AIDS. A different health topic is covered each Friday morning and it always makes for a very animated discussion time.

Socorrista/Preschool teacher Simon: In our “old” health post rendering a critical service to the local people.
Simon and I going over antiseptic dilution mixes and burn treatment procedure. We have seen many burn wounds in the last few weeks.

Every workday starts the way it should: with thanksgiving and prayer for God's protection, healing touch and abundant multiplication of our efforts!