IT problems and difficulty with internet access in Maroua meant a lean month in June for the blog. Here goes for July.
Work Still trying to raise funds for the four schools although there are fewer meetings now as the priority for everyone is planting their food for next year. The weather is conspiring against them though, as there has been no significant rain for thre weeks. Seedlings are dying and no further sowing can take place until there has been good rainfall.
Have started a different kind of work in the hospital as Shona's assistant. I translate her English into French which is then translated into Fulfulde or Mofou by a member of staff. I am really enjoying my involvement with the patients and seeing Shona at her work.
Shona & Andy arrived here on 4th June after the horrendous train and bus journey. The flight we had booked for them from Yaoundé to Maroua was cancelled. The next event after their arrival was Hamish's 60th birthday. It was great to have some family with us for that. It was a fairly low key event though, as the birthday boy was on call overnight. We made up for it in Maroua the following weekend before Andy's return to Scotland on 15th June.
Our Christmas parcels from Heather, Wendy and Martin arrived in June; one posted 2/12/07 & the other 14/1/08 - Heather works on the Chinese calendar, but tried to cover several events by including Easter eggs.
There has been no electricity in half the house for the last two weeks. Shona has had no light in her bedroom since her arrival a month ago. My new cooker is rubbish; if the flame throwing oven is on, we can't use any burners. Of the 6 burners, no more than 2 can be lit at any one time. The hospital secretary
tells me that is the way it is meant to be. I feel another tantrum coming on!
The new fridge, however, is wonderful even if it uses a bottle of gas every 10-15 days. We have made ice cream with evaporated milk & icing sugar. Not prize winning stuff, but a nice change.
Godam His wife is pregnant - they have caved in to famiy pressure after all!
On a sadder note, his father-in-law's brother drowned trying to bring his cattle home in torrential rain. We think he must have fallen and landed in a pool of rain water.
Market Mangoes & onions still predominate although the number of mangoes is diminishing. Tomatoes, lemons and small bitter aubergines are arriving in small quantities along with manioc, a good substitute for potatoes.
New recipes:- mango pie, mango curry,
mango & chicken curry, mango & avocado with a vinagraitte dressing. (Spot the common theme- H!).
We are on the hunt for real cheese produced by a very active women's group near Maroua. They invited someone from Switzerland to Cameroon for a month to train them in cheese making and now have the beginnings of a very successful business. We have ordered cheese for this weekend and some pasteurised milk. What a treat! We have only had fresh milk once since our arrival and had to pasteurise it ourselves.
Random Thoughts Bought a one year old goat now called Godfrey. Shona refuses to eat him!
Saw a young woman taking a bowl of live termites into the hospital for dinner.
The malaria season is under way and we are seeing more kids arriving really ill
with anaemia & a high concentration of parasites in their blood. I am told it will get worse! The mozzies are abundant and invasive. Despite our best efforts, all three of us have been bitten frequently. As far as I can gather, anyone who spends some time in Africa will succumb to malaria. It happened to Anne nearly three weeks ago. Fortunately the Lariam she was taking for prevention did its job and it was a mild attack, but even so she was out of action for a couple of days. The Quinine she was on for a week caused hearing problems so Shona & I could see anything we like with impunity! She has recovered fully from the malaria and her hearing came back very quickly after she stopped the Quinine so Shona & I have to be careful again!
The locals are beginning to talk of the possibility of a famine this year as the rainfall has not been adequate. We've become much more aware of the importance of the weather and find ourselves looking to the sky for clouds
and welcoming the sound of thunder followed by the very strong wind which precedes heavy rain. We made find ourselves living in an area which needs food aid although we, as "rich" Europeans, will still be able to buy what we need in Maroua. It emphasises how tenuous a hold on life the villager in the "bush" have.
On the medical front, we have had two kids with disastrous outcomes from treatment for broken arms by traditional healers. One had a fracture of the humerus (upper arm bone), but the splint applied by the healer had been too tight and when we got the child two weeks later, the arm was gangrenous. The second child arrived two days later with an open fracture of radius and ulna (forearm bones). Even after just a week, the arm was horrendously infected with the infection extending to above the elbow. Both required amputation.
I have read in obstetric textbooks of the need to perform destructive operations to deliver dead babies but never thought I'd see it.
Last Sunday a patient arrived after 2 (or more) days in obstructed labour with the baby already dead. Our chief obstetric nurse, Zra, who is extremely competent and experienced was unable to deliver the baby so he posed the question, should it be a section or should we do a craniotomy (piercing the baby's skull to reduce its size)? If possible, we want to avoid sections because of the risks post operatively and for future pregnancies, so we agreed on craniotomy. Zra did the necessary and delivered a baby who was already showing signs of decomposition. It's the closest I've been to vomiting for a long time! On a cheerier note, I performed my first section with the nurse acting as my assistant (and keeping a watchful eye on what I was doing). I'm glad to say mother & daughter are both alive & well!
We have a third doctor in Zidim. She is Cameroonian but trained in Europe. My initial reaction is that Zidim is not the place for her, and I think she may have health
problems, but we'll wait & see. Dr Jemba, the retired Cameroonian, and I seem to be getting along fine and have a good working relationship.
I am really enjoying having Shona with us. Her contribution to the hospital is terrific and I've enjoyed accompanying her occasionally when she's working with patients. It has given me a new insight into the patients' lives and into the value of good physiotherapy. Her next challenge is to devise a training programme for the nurses.
We have just taken delivery of (another!) charger for the laptop, so I hope we can post some photos soon. This weekend we visited the "Gorge du Kola" a spectacular local beauty spot.