There is a lot to tell, so I am not sure where to begin. Work at the hospital is going very well. I think at first people were worried that I would not be able to understand anything, and therefor not be very helpful, but I worked hard to show everyone that I am a fast and eager student and now I am invited all over the place to observe and assist. I am often complimented on my French, but I still miss quite a lot, and ask often for explinations. People are great at explaining a word with other words, and I have been taking frenzied notes that help me remember.
As I learn French, I am also learning Morré, one of the local languages. Most of the patients who come to the hospital know little or no French, so I have learned some key words so that I can at least greet them when I show up in their room. One of my favorite things here is the greeting process. If you smile and shake hands, say uunh huh! alot and snap, everything will be okay. People love to do the shake and snap with me because it always makes me laugh and then they poke their fingers into my dimples. I should add that this is a very physical culture, so being touched all the time (and pinched) is something I've had to become accustomed to.
The hospital itself has two maternities within its walls. One is officially the hospital maternity, and the other officially belongs to a clinic on the edge of town. Niether are well equipped, and both have festive clocks on the wall forever telling one obscure time, still sporting their store tags. My guess is that these, like the tiny refrigerator in the guesthouse, were well-meant gifts from someone with constant access to electricity and batteries.
So far, I have split my time as equally as I can between the two maternities, because I am often teased that I favor one doctor over the other. There are three Sage Femme Hommes (or male midwives) who work the hospital maternity and several Birth Assistants (who are closer to my usual definition of midwives) who work the clinic maternity. I love hanging out at the clinic maternity because there are only women there, and these women (when not in the presence of men) are awesome. I get more technical experience at the hospital maternity (for example, I have inserted an IUD, given breast exams, and done a lot of palpating under their careful observation) but I am not fond of the patient-doctor relationship there.
There have been a lot of things that are both shocking and upsetting about the hospital conditions and the care given there, and though I'm sure that sharing them would be informative and interesting, I feel that the raw manner I may share them in now is not how it should be written. I am taking pictures and writing extensive notes, so I hope you will excuse the absence of these details now.
I am loving the children here. Not only are they possibly the most beautiful in the world, but they are full of joy even as they suffer poverty and illness. It may seem strange to see it written like this, but it seems very much to me that the love and light that comes from them is directly from God or the spirit or whatever it is that may be Truth for you. I am much humbled by their shy handshakes and happy smiles.
I am in Ouagadougou just for this afternoon, having come to watch Obama's inauguration live from the US embassy's recreation center (it's 1,000 CFA or about 2 dollars to hang out there for the day). It was very exciting and the place was packed full of Peace Corps people. It was a bit of a shock to find myself surrounded by Americans all of a sudden, and I felt a certain amount of relief as I returned to the dusty street of the city outside the walls.
There is a blatant line between the rich and the poor in this country and it is green and red like the flag. The green side is of the wealthy, their palm trees providing shade for their manicured lawns. The red side is of the poor, their bike tires pounding out winding paths between their red clay houses. For a while now, I have harbored a distaste for lawns, but it has grown and turned into a deep desire to gorilla plant vegetable and fruit seeds in every one I see.
I return to Saponé in the morning, and look forward to taking a night shift at the hospital. As yet, I have not been to any births, but I have had the opportunity to attend a few women in labor and help at some post partum check ups with very tiny babies. Cute toes, let me tell you!
I hope your heart is as happy as the many Africans' who dance and clap and celebrate across the continent for the inauguration of the U.S.'s new president. Let us hope that this is just one step of many for turning our way of life upside-down and then right-side up, on which ever side that may be.