Wednesday, March 28, 2012

First Full Day in Lambaréné

I ended up staying two nights at the hotel in order to wait for the director of nursing and ride with her to the hospital. The ride was a little over four hours. The road was well paved (it’s a national “highway” I believe called route 1) except for the occasional potholes and such. I tried my best to stay awake but I’m a notorious car sleeper so add that to jet lag and I’m a goner. What I did see was beautiful though! I don’t know what it’s like here in the dry season, but right now it’s “la grande saison de pluie” (the big rainy season—there’s also a small season) so everything is incredibly lush and green. It’s exactly what I imagined a jungle would look like. I’m half expecting to see Mogli and Baloo. I got to the hospital in time for dinner in the réfectoire (cabbage salad, spaghetti with meat sauce, baguette, pineapple for dessert) and to get all settled in my room. Thankfully I slept pretty well (the ceiling fan helps immensely).

Animals/creatures start making noise around 4:30 am. Most of the noises I can’t identify as anything remotely familiar, except of course the rooster(s). And you know what? Popular culture has it all wrong. I blame Disney (yes this is the second Disney reference in one post) and maybe Old McDonald. Roosters do NOT only crow once, they do NOT only crow at dawn, and there is NOT only one of them. This is actually something I discovered in Haiti, but evidently it’s not just Haitian roosters. So needless to say I really didn’t sleep past 4:30, but the thought of actually getting up then was not too appealing. So I stayed in bed until about 6:30 and then started my day.

I did a full tour of the grounds, which are just beautiful. The hospital is a compound of sorts that has schools, housing facilities, a little restaurant and store, the cafeteria, and all the hospital related buildings (pediatrics, internal medicine, surgery, maternal/infant services, dentistry, art therapy/counseling etc). I basically live in a cabin so it feels very much like summer camp, except instead of rock climbing and horseback riding I do literature reviews and plan health interventions (actually the only camp I ever attended was for ballet so I think that’s what occurs at camp, but if this is akin to the rooster situation, I have NO idea what occurs at regular camps). Overall though today was all about meeting people, getting an idea of what projects have been done in the past, making plans for potential projects, and understanding the population and hospital’s needs. It looks as though my first project will be something along the lines of a survey of the community’s knowledge of family planning. This is bound to change or at least morph into something very different, but that’s the goal for now and I’m prepared to be flexible along the way.

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