I know I don't have too
Day 57 in Tanzania
After a long time of waiting and praying today was finally the day for me!
We received our working visas a week and a half ago and the hospital wanted us to come start work right away... so we did! But the fact that we are a large group of students (16) it would have been too much for all of us to go at once. So a group of us (including myself) stayed back on base and continued working in the clinic. And although it was a very quiet week I still enjoyed building relationships, caring for women and learning bits of Swahili. Now this week starts a whole new set of adventures, because I am working in the labor ward at a "large" hospital! Monday morning - I awoke at 6:30 and enjoyed some hang out time with God before heading to our daily breakfast of maandazis (fried dough). After having worship with the team I ran to my room to make sure I had everything ready. "Name tag? ...Check! Uniform? ...Check! Stethoscope? ...Check! Big blue gum drop boots to wear in the labor ward? ...Check!" Once everything was packed and ready we climbed into the dala dala (big van) that had just arrived for us. Then we were off to the hospital! And after nearly an hour of dirt roads, traffic jams and trying not to run over people in the street, we arrived! By now we are well use to the stares of people as a large group of monzoongoos (travelers), but now we don't just walk around here... we work here! It wasn't long before we found ourselves inside getting dressed in our uniforms and filling our pockets to the max with everything we would need on hand from gloves to baby hats. We had a little meeting, prayed and then got to work! Now being the first day there for some of us we were to manly observe and call for Marchien (one of our staff) in case a women was about to deliver. So we entered the old plain room full of beds that held laboring women, when all of a sudden... "MARCHIEN! Here comes a head!" As students we all would have loved to stand and watch the birth, but as soon as we looked back over our shoulders... "MARCHIEN! Quick I see another head is coming!"...... well 20 min and four births later, we now all had our arms full of newborn babies and a new line of moms just waiting for when their baby will be out next.
Trying to decide what mother you should run to and help was like trying to pick a child to adopt, but I guess our choices on who to "adopt" were most often made on who was about to "pop"! But even in the midst of constantly caring for these women it's impossible to forget the situation you are sitting in. A building with walls that have already gone yellow long ago and windows that have been spray painted so that people can not see inside. The row of plastic covered foam beds held by metal frames on each side of the certain divided room hold nightmares of germs underneath but the tops of them are only left empty long enough to hopefully have a quick wipe down before the next women jumps on. As you try to shoo the fly's away from the women you can't help but notice the cockroach that just ran across a trail of ants crawling up the window next to the mom's head as you try to fan her with her with her own pregnancy record paper. And although there are shaky fans hanging from the ceiling spinning around and around with all there might it hardly does justice for the pools of sweat we attempt to wipe away with our uniform sleeve so that it doesn't drip from our noses again only to add to what is already covering the mothers face.random bug I liked
When delivering a baby you can only hope the mother brought everything she was asked too. The hospital doesn't have very many supplies so it's up to the mom to bring it for them. A few of things she needs to have for us are, 1. a razor blade to cut the baby's cord, which may also be used for an episiotomy. 2. gloves 3. a clap for the umbilical cord 4. a big roll of cotton, it will be used to clean her (inside and out), hospital tools and even her bed once she gets off. 5. a lot of kangas. (large pieces of fabric) to catch and clean the baby along with catching all of the fluids/solids that come out along with the baby. Than 6. a plastic bag, to carry all of her kangas home in so that she can then wash and continue to use them. (as they are often what the women wear here). If a mother forgets any of these things we have to make due with anything we have (such as a rubber glove lining to tie the umbilical cord) or we try to see if any was left over from another mom.
On top of all this the mothers have never had any education on labor. They don't know when they should be pushing or how long it should last (unless they have had kids before) and contractions are seen as something bad. For some the only way they know how to deal with them, is to scream. In between jobs we often hold their hands and with the little Swahili we know we tell them not to push yet but rather to breath. At times they latch their arms around you with all their might in hopes you don't leave them alone in their pain for the other women who are reaching their arms out to us with big eyes crying out in Swahili "Nurse... Nurse! Come! It hurts!"
The few doctors and nurses who are there are already stretched to the max, and well worn out. To most of them the women are just part of a long convair belt of women and if they can't ignore them they will do whatever it takes to get them out asap. If a baby is stuck that simply means that the nurse should pull harder and cut more. if the baby is still not coming that simply means another nurse should get on the bed at the moms head and push her fist into the mothers belly. If the mother screams from the pain she is told to hush up. And so it goes.
Now this is a glimpse of how it is, and has been. What on earth are we going to do?Help the doctors deliver some babies to take the stress off them in the short time we are here and then leave them to deal with all of it again as soon as we leave? Or did I think I would save a bunch of women by preaching to them in between contractions and then that be that? I can't even speak the language! Well I was praying a few weeks back about what it looked like to share the gospel with these women and doctors, and how I was going to do that. God answered me with Galatians 4:14 - "But even though my condition tempted you to reject me, you did not despise me or turn away. No you took me in and cared for me as though I were an angel from God or even Christ Jesus himself." That is the point... God sent me here to do! I am here to take action, to DO something! At times when I felt like I couldn't do what the doctors were doing, I realized I was doing everything they weren't doing! I was being there for the women, I was holding there hands, breathing with them, giving them water, and most of all constantly praying out loud over them declaring the love of God our father over them and their child. When their child is born we welcome them with open arms and declare God's love over them as well. -Once I was holding the hand of a mother in pain and praying over her as a doctor was suturing a tear, the doctor looked up at me with a sarcastic smile and said "You don't have to hold her hand, she can discipline herself to deal with the pain." I simply smiled and said "I know I don't have to." With that said I went back to praying and continued to hold her hand.
Some of the workers find it amusing that we like to build relationships with the women that are in and out so fast and that we come eager the next day to check on them, but behind there chuckles you can see they can't help but be influenced to consider to joys of doing the same. I mean to think of the fact that 100 years ago many white people looked down on them, and now we are here to serve and love them... I know it's all an answer to prayer.
So yes, that is how my Monday morning went. I can only imagine what Tuesday holds!
What is not in the city
Day 29 - Maasai
Isn’t it funny how we don't think were cool in America unless we have a big house, nice cars and all the latest name brands of fashion. Well here you’re cool... if you have the least amount of stuff! Yes most people here still try to gather all kinds of things to look cool and rich. None the less in the midst of all this commotion, every now and again you would see something different amongst the crowd of people, someone who was wearing just a red kanga wrapped around them with some simple sandals and carrying a stick or knife.... a Maasai! They are known for living among the lions, way out in the bush. They don't work or wear normal clothes, they just live life. They raise their own livestock and build mud huts in the middle of nowhere. They enjoy not doing much of anything at all other than growing old, yet they seem to be the "coolest" people ever. You can tell just by the way they hold themselves high when they walk that they are comfortable in their own skin.
We don't often see them in the city, so we left the city and went into the bush guided by one of the base staff. A small group had already been to visit them and they were excited to know that a larger group of us were coming back. As soon as we arrived we were welcomed in. I don't really know how to sum up our experience there other to say it was amazing. We sat around on mats under the trees and talked through a translator while drinking chi. We talked to the midwives of the village and listened in awe of how they bring babies out of the womb with no "technology". We had many questions for them as they had for us and we exchanged knowledge and laughs.
In the misted of talking a little girl’s hand bumped my head as I was sitting down and suddenly she just stared in shock, she tried to be inconspicuous in touching it again but she couldn't help but whisper to the girls around her about my hair... in a matter of minuets I was unable to count the number of little hands on my head. It was then that I realized, being the fact that they all had shaved heads and rough hair, we brought something new! When I turned around to look they all pulled their hands away quite quickly wondering what my reaction would be, so I reached back and pulled my pony tail out, then I put it back in so they could see how I did it, then I took my pony tail out again, and handed it to one of the girls and motioned to her that she could try. I soon had a line of little girls ready to try their hand at putting my hair up. Sometimes it felt good, other times not so much, but we all had fun.
Day 30 - Teaching... well at least we thought we were.
Our team has found a way to connect with a school nearby and they welcomed us to teach there... so we did. I went with a group to teach about malaria to a class of 12-14 year olds. We weren't sure how much they would know about it so we decided to be very basic. Upon arriving we found there to be 130+ students all sitting under a tree waiting for us to begin. We got all of our things ready, introduced ourselves, played a game and then asked "Do any of you know what malaria is?" Many students raised their hands and once one was pointed out she stood up and said "Malaria is a sickness caused by the female anopheles." Even though their knowledge on it was beyond what we thought it would be we went along with our teaching, drama and song ending it with a powerful testimony and praying for all of them. And they loved every bit of it!
Day 31 & 32 - first one, but not for me.
It wasn't my turn at the clinic either day so I wasn't there, but some of my teammates got to witness their very first births. There were three births over a 24 hour period that some students were able to take part in and it has been very exciting. I was even able to go to the clinic one evening and hold the little boy, Joshua, who was the first baby of the school year. The mom was only 15 years old. I'm not sure of the details of the other deliveries but I know it won't be long before I'm writing about being part of my own.
Day 33 - same but different
Baking cakes back home is a bit of a hobby for me so when the chance came to make a birthday cake of some of the team members I jumped on it! I must say it would have made me feel a bit more at home, but with no recipes, very few basic ingredients and a fire for an oven... it was quite different. None the less I was determined. It took a lot of adding, mixing, licking and even burning this and that, but in the end we found a way! We may have had to cut off the burnt bottom and cover it in flowers to try to hide our mistakes... but like I said, we found a way!
Day 18 - a life full of color
Evangelism: How do you do that when you can't speak the same language? I mean there are the times when we are giving small health care teachings in the clinic where we also share testimonies and pray over the women... but what about the women who are not at the clinic? How can we share the gospel when we are outside of the clinic and without a translator? Well you do the only thing you can do... you ask God for some crazy idea and you go for it!
While praying for the children during intercession nearly a week ago God gave me the idea to go back into the village I had already visited a few times, but instead of going with nothing, going with paper and crayons. What a grand idea God! There are many kids in the village. We had been told by Martha (a teacher that is also my roommate) that the children do not often have the chance to be very creative, even in school they learn only to copy what the teacher is doing. So the next day I teamed up with a few other girls and we set out for the village again. The village is just across the street, but it is rather large so I tend to go to a small area that has pretty much become my favorite stop since I have been able to build a relationship with a few of them. So this area is where we went, I also took a little translator book with us.
-I'm sorry there are not many pictures of everything going on here. Many people here believe that when we take a picture of them that we are also taking their spirits to unknown places. Even if they don't believe that, it temps some to steal and others to look at us only for money.-
It was great! We went over the hill and into the village and were welcomed right away! They brought out their sitting mats and we all sat down with them. Often time the kids are shy but they didn't hid behind their mothers too long once they saw all the colors we had, and we were holding out the colors for them. Their faces lite up and they all came and sat down and started coloring right alongside us. In the meantime I pulled out our translation book to see if I could get a bit of a conversation going, I showed them how the book took English words and told us the meaning in Swahili, and vise-versa. They thought it was amazing! I ended up with a crowd around me looking at the book. They would point at a word and tell me how to pronounce it in Swahili and then I would teach them how to say it in English. We didn't always pronounce things right, but we had fun. When it came time for us to go back to base we were able to tell them that we were going home but we would one day return... in Swahili!
Day 19 - Back with more than a book
We have been working on what we call "community profiling". We talk to as many women who are pregnant or have children as we can in order to find out what the needs of the community are and how we can better meet them. The only challenge we have is the language. We have a few friends from base that help us when they are free. So the very next day I went with another little group back to the village... but this time with someone who could translate more than the book could. We got to sit back down with the women and kids, but this time the focus was on the moms. We got to talk and laugh with them about all kinds of things! It was a true blessing and I can't wait to go back again.
Day 20 - Church without the building.
What are some of the first things that come to your mind when you think of church? Big building? Dressing up? Sitting in pews? Listening to the same man every week? But when God says he loves the church... does he mean a building? Clothes? Pews? One man? No! He thinks of all of his people... together! As one body. Everyone who knows God has a part of God to share. So rather than going to a church, we learned how to "make" a church right where we were. We got into small groups of five and we all offered to bring things like, Praise, prayer, word of God, communion, and "one another’s" (a way to encourage or listen to each other) and we were to simply let the Holy spirit lead it. We Praised God by coloring pictures of things we were thankful for, we prayed out simple prayers of thanks, we took turns reading a small passage out of Matthew and sharing what we learned from it, we ate almost a full meal for communion and wrote out things we liked about each other. It was more than likely one of the best services I had ever been to. We all took part in it and it was so simple that anyone could do it... even the people in the village!
Day 23 - Seeing for myself
Answer to my prayers! I had been falling behind on getting the required amount of community profiles done due to not being able to speak the language. But on this day I was given a translator all to my own as well as two others who could help me write out the answers (as we ask a list of questions). In one morning I was able to completely catch up by interviewing five women. One just next door, two on the other side of the market and two who ran a soda and chips (French-fries) shop. It's so nice to just sit and talk with the locals here. None the less it's hard to listen to the injustice their sometimes given and the hardships they have no way out of. The first lady I talked with had had four children... but only two living. Her 10 year old daughter had passed away just five months before due to a hole in her heart. She had been sick since the age of 2 and was in a long line to receive surgery, just as she was coming close to a date of operation, she passed away. The mom had a video of her on her phone, she was one of the most beautiful little girls I had ever seen, and in the video all she did was smile. It was impossible not to think of my own nieces and what I would have done had that been them. The other child she lost was due simply to a stressful labor. In the womb the child became distressed and ingested its own meconium and passed away just before being delivered. We could see the tears in her eyes as she told us about them, but not a tear fell. The women here have to be strong and accept that it is just life.
I realized that many of us can know the problems in the world; the difference in doing something is knowing the people.
Day 25 - A hard dream
Ah the clinic again! The clinic we are working in -until we get our working visa and go into the hospital- is rather small and there is rarely a woman in labor when we go there. Sometimes there is very little we can do. But we do small teachings when we can get a translator and take turns working in the different rooms. Back when I was only thinking about doing this school I knew would have hard days, but none the less I told myself I would be thankful because I was living my dream!
This day put that thinking to a little test. I was fumbling all over feeling like I was getting everything wrong, not by much, but none the less I was wrong. I know I'm just a student with a small bit of training trying to do what these women have been doing for years, as they watch me. The day was hot and I was sweating far more then I cared to. Information was slipping from my mind and I felt a bit lost wherever I was. I finally went into the injection room where I could simply watch and learn as needles were slipped into veins and muscles. I enjoy watching them do their job as watching one patient after another come in for something. After a half an hour I felt ringing in my ears and a heaviness come over me as the room started to spin. I knew I should not stay in there as I remembered one of the students describing this feeling just before fainting... the day before. So I left and sat in the empty labor room and drank a good amount of water. It was only a minuet before I was back on my feet watching injections. It wasn't much longer before we had to leave. Walking away from the clinic after a hard day... I was still thankful. I know I'm still learning and there will be many mistakes I'm sure, but in the midst I get to be guided by those with much more knowledge, and hopefully a good amount of patience.
Hi, I'm Kaitlin. I love traveling and working as a midwife. These are a few of my adventures and the lessons I've learned from them, as well as lessons I'm still learning.