Thursday, September 29, 2011

The Tampon Incident

         Last Tuesday, instead of having us work at the clinic in town, Dr. Fekede assigned us to help clean and organized the medical supply closet at the clinic on the compound. So after breakfast, Ileah and I made our way to the clinic and joined the other 3 medical workers in figuring out what supplies were in that closet so we could update the inventory. We also needed to figure out what supplies the clinic wasn’t using and transfer those ones to the clinic in town. So as we started taking things off the sheaves, bring them out into the hall way, and opening boxes, one of the doctors came across a small tube like device wrapped in a pastel yellow plastic covering. Puzzled by this object, the doctor asked me if I knew what it was. I looked at Ileah and we tried our best to suppress the urge to explode with laughter. Thinking that it could not be possible for a medical doctor to be ignorant of products used during menstruation, I joked that this device is used for nose bleeds and all you have to do is put it up your nostrils to absorb blood. By now, the commotion we were causing draw the attention of the male nurse who was working with us and he came over to look at this “nose bleed absorption apparatus.” The two men were bewildered as they took apart the wrapping and pushed the cotton stuffing out of the tube all the while asking “What is this? Do you use this? Is it a secret?” I couldn’t help it any longer and just exploded with laughter. When it dawned on us that their ignorance of tampons was real and not just a joke, me and Ileah awkwardly explained the best we could what tampons are and how it is used.  The expressions worn on all of our faces were truly priceless. It was than explain to us that women in this country don’t use tampons, only sanitary napkins.  

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

So these are hives, not spiders out for revenge?

Tuesday, 9-27-2011
About the third day that I spent on the compound I started noticing a few itchy red bumps around my feet and ankles. Thinking it was just mosquito bites, I applied some itch cream and though nothing of it. But after two or three days, the red bumps were still there and new ones had appeared that were just as itchy as the previous ones. The itchiness intensified with every new “bite” I would get. “Man, African mosquitoes are vicious!” I thought to myself. Later, I inquired with Dr. Fekede about my bug bites and asked if it could be mosquitoes or spiders that are the cause. He informed me that there are no mosquitoes in Addis Ababa since the elevation is too high for them and that since I am in Africa, I should expect a few bug bites every now and then. So, I tried to deal with them the best I could and tried several treatments including Benadryl itch cream, tea tree oil, tea tree soap, charcoal, and even drinking oregano oil in water (it was difficult to swallow but I was so desperate, I'd try anything). I was getting new ones everyday and they were traveling up my legs, on my back, abdomen, neck, and wrist. That evening, I counted over 47 red dots! By the next morning I had over 50 and that’s where I just gave up counting.
I talked to Dr. Fekede once more, and this time I showed him how serious the condition was. He decided it would be best to get a professional to look at it and took me to see a dermatologist friend of his. She inspected my lesions and asked me about my symptoms. She than told me I had urticaria, a superficial skin inflammation caused by an allergic reaction to something. What that something is, is hard to pin point. She then prescribed me an antihistamine medication and told me to see her again in 1 week. I came back and googled “urticaria” to find out more about it. Urticaria is just a fancy term for hives. I was actually quite relieved that these red dots were the result of an allergic reaction and not hoards of angry spiders out to avenge their dead. In the mean time, I’ll keep taking my medication and hope for the best.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Holidays, holidays, so many holidays

Last Sabbath was the first Sabbath I’ve spent at Kalaala (the one prior was spent at the US embassy) and it was very enjoyable. The children put on a special program for church and the entire service was conducted by them. They performed songs, preached a sermon, put on a play and although the entire service was in Amharic, their sincerity could be heard in any language.  After church, Ileah and I joined Dr. Fekede and his sister (Mama Hareg) for lunch of injera (refer to first post) which was prepared by Tsigay (an excellent cook on the compound). As I entered the dining room, I noticed that there were yellow flowers and fragrant leaves scattered on the floor. Mama Hareg informed us that they do this during the holidays. Since I’ve arrived, there’s been already 3 holidays celebrated. The first was Ethiopian New Years which goes by the Ethiopian calendar. The funny thing about the Ethiopian calendar is that it happens to be 6 years behind the Gregorian calendar! The year in Ethiopia is 2004 and the New Year starts on September 12. So in Ethiopia, I’m only 16! Lol, it doesn’t really work out that way.
Today also happens to be a holiday call Flag Day in celebration of Ethiopia’s independence from Italian rule and celebrate they did! There were students marching on the streets, helicopters flying around with Ethiopian flags hanging from them, flags hung from almost every building, and the street where oh so crowded! I’ve been told that another holiday is coming up soon in celebration of the cross. The legend goes that a piece of the original cross (that Jesus was crucified on) was brought to Ethiopia. The longer I stay in this country, the more interesting it becomes!

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Of spiders, lizards, and other creepy crawlies.

Thursday 9-22-2011
                For the last few days, Ileah and I have been helping out at the pharmacy. First, with labeling the prices and codes of various medications and lately we have been trying our best to update the inventory on the computer using excel. The inventory is basically a list of the medications the pharmacy holds in addition to all the various lab works available to the patients. Now I know this might sound exciting to some people but truth be told, I would rather be stitching people up, giving injections, or teaching the children at the compound English. Hopefully I will be able to do all the things mentioned above and more once the clinic gets busier and the children have had some time to settle into their school year. The school year has just started and every morning as I am leaving for the clinic, I see kids in their yellow and green uniform walking to school in groups, often being lead by their older siblings. They are so cute! And they get so excited if you pull out a camera to take pictures of them.
So lately we have been having some insect problems…at first it was just a few daddy long leg looking spiders in the bathroom, which I ended up killing pretty much right away but it seems the more spiders I kill, the more appear. I was on my way to the bathroom when I saw the first big, black, ugly, giant spider. This one was not the leggy kind but one of those fat spiders with substance. I was too much of a chicken to attempt smashing it so I attacked it with 3 different kinds of chemicals for about 5 minutes before it finally stopped moving. Then came the second spider which was even bigger than the first. I used the same method to kill it and later that night I found a third spider on the wall. This time I had to call in for reinforcements as the spider had crawl too high for me to spray it. Kidbret, one of the residents here came to our rescue. I’m sure that by now the whole village understands that if in the near future they wake up in the middle of the night to hear the foreigners screaming in their apartment, it’s just us freaking out about a spider.
                I have been given the responsibility of helping out with the children’s Sabbath school program but I still don’t know exactly what that entails. Bible stories? Singing songs? Crafts? Or letting them braid my hair? Lol, whatever it is, I’m excited to find out. Here are a few more Amharic words I have learned this week:
wu-sha: dog
a-beu-ba: flower
a-reun-gwa-de: green
kai: red
bi-cha: yellow

Sunday, September 18, 2011

A Sunday on the Compound

It's been almost a whole week now that I have been at The Learning Village in Kalaala and everyday has presented itself with new and exciting adventures. I have settled into my apartment and am starting to get familiar with my surroundings and happenings around the compound. Today we did our laundry and had an interesting time trying to figure out how to operate the laundry washer. You would think it’d be a simple task but the washers here aren’t like the washing machines back in the states where all you have to do is load it, put in detergent, and press a button to start. Thankfully there was a sheet of paper taped to the wall with instructions on how to wash your clothes. It involve filling up the washer with water by turning on the faucet behind the machine until you have your desired water level, putting in the detergent and your clothes, setting the cycle on wash and setting the timer to 9 minutes. When the wash cycle is done we have to switch the washer to the spin mode and change the setting to drain, then filling up the washer with more water and setting it on rinse mode with the timer at however many minutes we want, than once again drain it. Then removing the clothing and put it in another compartment that spins really fast and drains most of the water out of the clothes (kind of like the machines they have in locker rooms that help to dry swimsuits. Because they don’t have heat dryers, we had to hang dry our clothes.
After we did our laundry, we decided it would be a good idea to practice some Amharic. Ileah brought a helpful Amharic phrase book with her and we both tried our best to pronounce the Roman letter’s equivalent of Amharic words. Seu-lam (Hello). Se-me Ting no (My name is Ting). Se-mesh man no? (What is your name?). A-meu-seu-ge-nal-lo (Thank you).  Kidric (I think that’s how his name is spelled) one of the maintenance guys that live on the compound saw us practicing and came over to help us improve our pronunciation. Everyone here is so gracious and friendly that I feel very much at home and helps to cushion the fact that I am over six thousand miles away from my home in the US. Tsigay, the cook on the compound, brought us lunch of Ethiopian cuisine call injera which is composed of thin pancakes and various stews and paste that’s similar to Indian sauces. Later on in the afternoon, close to evening, we went on a walk with Dr. Fekede around the compound I got to see some spectacular views of the lush fields and wide open farmland. Tomorrow we are going to the clinic and hopefully be of help to somebody.