Friday, December 14, 2007


Rich & Anne have a kitten that I've fallen in love with while staying here. Her name is Bandit and she is quite a bundle of energy and curiosity. The other day she really showed that she's a kitten after my own heart...

Allison and I woke up one morning and couldn't find Bandit anywhere. Rich had taken the car to go visit someone and Anne was gone at the church. We searched everywhere inside and outside in the enclosed courtyard.

When Anne came home a few hours later, we mentioned that we hadn't seen Bandit all morning. She immediately became worried because Bandit had showed a curiosity for the car and liked to climb up under the engine. She called Rich to let him know and tell him to check along the road on the way back. He searched all the way home for a flattened kitty or one hiding in the bushes.

Finally he got back to the gate and told his guard to be on the lookout. A lady standing nearby called out, "Oh, the cat is already found."

Apparently Bandit had climbed up under the car, rode out to the gate, jumped down outside and began exploring. A Tchadian woman caught her and took her home to her hut.

Rich finally convinced the woman at the gate to show him which home. Nobody was around, but he saw a bucket overturned, and soon Bandit was found, crouched underneath. Her collar was gone, showing that the woman had hoped to keep her, but now she is home, none worse for the wear except for a hoarse voice from crying for hours and a big appetite. A few days later, someone dropped off her's amazing how everyone knows everyone else's business here. You can't do anything without somebody seeing you.

I have ambitions for Bandit becoming a great adventurer...

Picture: Bandit and I


For Thanksgiving, we all gathered at Rich & Anne's house where I was staying while recovering. The 4 of us SMs, contributed with what we had received in packages. I made 2 pumpkin pies, yams, Jell-O, and donated a can of olives & cranberries. Liz & Sonya made a wonderful apple pie and Sarah made some special Danish gravy. Anne found 2 small chickens to bake in place of a turkey, made stuffing from whatever she could find, and ice cream! It was a feast complete with cold sodas with our dessert.

You can see everyone in the picture I'm sending (except for me since I took it). Rich & Anne are in front, James with the chicken in his mouth and blocking Sarah behind him, Allison at the back (a friend staying with Rich & Anne), and Liz, Sonya & Hans on the right. We also watched a tape of the Super Bowl from a few years ago that Rich had...have to have football on Thanksgiving! Hope you all had a great holiday as well.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Surgery - November 3

Sabbath morning...I was still feeling awful. Greg started me on antibiotics for the Typhoid fever. I threw up during the night and was still taking morphine as often as I was allowed.

Greg called James and Sarah over at the Koza Hospital in Cameroun to ask them to come with Gary in the plane, in case I needed to be evacuated. It was a long day. Liz stayed at the house with me during church while everyone went to listen to Hans preach.

James, Sarah, & Gary, the pilot, arrived in the evening in the plane. We could hear the whole village running to see the plane again. James came right in to assess me with Greg...lots of pressing and prodding. They left to discuss among themselves and soon reappeared to talk to me. They told me that if I was a local they would have already operated on me with the symptoms I was having. Clearly, the only thing holding them back was that I wasn't a local, the conditions at the hospital, and the possibility that I didn't even need to be operated on, since they can't do any tests hardly except an ultrasound.

They gave me 2 choices, stay in Bere and be operated on by them, or be flown out to Europe. I had one hour to decide to make the flight in time in N'djamena. Gary informed us that medivac would take a whole day to arrange with all the paperwork, so they told me that the plan would be for Cristina and I to fly to N'djamena, the capital, with Gary in his little plane. We would hopefully arrive in time for the one flight out to France at midnight. Cristina would load me up on antibiotics and pain meds. and somehow hide my IV under my shirt for the flight and then she'd help me to a hospital since she lives in France.

It sounded a bit iffy to me. Travel always seems to end in disaster in Africa. If I couldn't get on the flight to France, I'd be stuck in N'djamena. James told me that he wouldn't trust any of the other hospitals in Tchad.

I called my parents, talked it over, and still didn't know what to do. They, obviously, were more comfortable with me being in better conditions in France. But if I had a serious condition, it could be dangerous to try and go so far. My ultrasound didn't show much, just possibly something down in the pelvic area. My thoughts at the time were, "It's just stomach pain! Why do I have to be cut open?" James & Greg mentioned appendicitis a couple times which would mean I should be operated on immediately, but it didn't seem to match the pain I was having across my entire abdomen.

After praying a lot by myself and with the others and thinking through both choices, I made the more unlikely decision to stay here in Bere. One of my fears was just the likelihood that I would have to go home if I went to France instead of coming back to Tchad. I'd only been here 2 months so far. And I decided that I'd feel more comfortable around people I knew here than in some foreign country, especially if something went wrong.

Right away, everything started moving quickly towards preparing for the surgery. I talked to both of my parents briefly, informing them of my decision. Then I got online and quickly sent a short message out asking people to pray. Liz, Hans, and Cristina went over to prep the OR, dousing everything in bleach over and over. Audrey, Sarah, and Sonya helped me get ready. Right before we went over to the hospital, Greg asked to check me over one more time. The pain was worse and as I looked up into his eyes, he nodded to me and quietly said that he felt that this was right. The fear started to ebb away and I smiled back at him and told him I felt the same.

They had brought a stretcher to carry me over, but I begged to be allowed to walk. It hurt a lot as I shuffled along with Paul and Gary supporting me on both sides, but I felt a strange calmness around me as I glanced up at the stars and moon filtering through the mango trees.

I got to the OR and put on an old hospital gown. We gathered in one last circle for prayer, an all Caucasian staff for once, except for Anatole, my African father, who was faithfully waiting outside in case he needed to find blood for me.

Audrey, Liz, and Sarah went in with me and helped me climb up on the operating table. James & Greg came in to give me the spinal anesthesia (big needle!) and then left while I was covered with betadine and draped with blue sterile cloths. As I lay there, my arms getting tied down with the old ratty pieces of rope, I glanced up at the ceiling covered with nasty blotches and peeling, and thought, " O God, what am I getting myself into!" This is the room I've worked in, watching other people get cut open and now it's me! We had always just teased about how funny it would be if one of us had to be operated on...not so funny anymore. And have you ever been completely exposed and operated on by all your coworkers?!

James and Greg scrubbed in and got ready with the scalpel. They had planned on keeping me awake with just the spinal anesthesia, but it wasn't working fast enough, so Sarah gave me Ketamine and soon I was out cold.

The next thing I know, I'm awaking out of some weird dream trying to figure out where I am. Soon the blue haze clears and I can see that it's actually a mosquito net. Then the pain I mumble unintelligent words, Sonya and Liz's heads appear above me. I don't remember much except that I could only get one-word questions out at a time. They told me that I kept asking about one of the Tchadian patients I'd been taking care of before. I don't think I even remembered I'd had surgery in the beginning.

Sonya & Liz assured me that the surgery had gone well with no complications and that they had found a very angry, big appendix about to rupture. It had moved down under my uterus, causing the confusion of pain all over when they pressed my abdomen. I am so thankful that I stayed here since James is sure it would have ruptured mid-flight to N'djamena or France which could have caused worse problems.

As Liz went to get Greg while I woke up. Sonya told me later that she kept telling me, "you're so brave, so brave..." She says I looked back at her in my drugged state and mumbled out, "No, God's brave." So true!

I am now quite healed, over a month later, and am working again at the hospital. I stayed for a month with an Evangelical missionary couple down by the airstrip. They took great care of me and fed me wonderful food! I was amazed with the luxuries of butter & cheese, which I haven't had since I left the States. They have solar power set up allowing for fans, light, & a refrigerator!
I officially became the first white person to be operated on at the Bere Adventist Hospital! One Tchadian told me that he was amazed to hear I could be operated on here, he thought white people's insides were different than black people's, so they had to have surgery in Europe or the US. James says it has raised people's view of the hospital to know a white person lived through a surgery here. "God works all things for the good..."
Another thank you, a day later, the generator broke in the middle of a surgery, thankfully during the day. If it had happened during my surgery, at night....a bit of a disaster.
If you want to read a Drs. account of the surgery, James has written an account of it in his blog (Bere Hospital link on my blog). That way you can get a true picture of what my insides are like from his view :)

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Continued (Fri - Nov 2)

1440 - Finally made it to the post office! All my attempts to say post office in French didn't, postal, etc. My driver took me to the Kelo hospital thinking that I wanted to go there since I'm from a hospital...finally got the point across and learned that it is pronounced something like postAY. Liz and Sonya were there. We were all very relieved to see one another.

1500 - We now have all the mail and packages. Liz and Sonya made friends with the postman that we now call Papa Jacob so that he would be willing to come back when I arrived since the post office usually closes at noon. Liz gave him hydrocortisone cream for his itchy skin problem and a U.S. granola bar. He is happy and knows all of our faces now after seeing all our names on packages coming in.

1520 - We're on our way back home. All of us were too exhausted to do anything else in Sonya found two new moto drivers while we watched the stuff. They look like much better drivers with motos that look like new! I'm with Sonya on one moto. The driver (Jeremy) is sitting on my lap so that there is enough room. At least he's a nice older man, Liz's young driver keeps proposing to her.

1600 - I think I'm going to pass out from pain. I am straining my eyes to see the river so that I can get off and stretch for a few minutes while we cross. Besides the discomfort of not being able to move because of Jeremy on me, my stomach is killing me. Every bump on the road is torture. Sonya helps me try to forget about it, though, as she pretends to fly on the back, flapping her arms and cawing like a bird :) I don't think Jeremy has had this much entertainment from passengers before.

1700 - We are home! I'm so glad to be back in our small village of Bere. We took pictures with our wonderful moto drivers and got Jeremy's number for when we decide to go again. Now it's package time! We all opened them one at a time in front of everyone. I got a package from my school with peanut butter m&ms! Everyone is enjoying a handful of the luxury. I'm still feeling sick though.

1900 - I'm kind of confused, lying on the couch at the American house with an IV in me. I guess I passed out for 20 min. in which time they put an IV in, gave me a shot for pain, and put sugar in my mouth. There's no better place to pass out than in front of 2 doctors and 2 nurses. Greg and Audrey think I'm just worn out from the day and a little hypoglycemic from not eating hardly all day. Well, I'm not too worried...I've passed out before :) They're keeping me on IV fluids all night, so I'm staying at the American house tonight. Liz and Sonya are staying on the floor next to me.

2400 - Woke up with a fever and more pain. Greg came over and increased my dosage of morphine.

Friday, November 16, 2007

The Whole Story

November ??? (I don't know the date anymore)

I'm finally feeling well enough to write again...and what the stories to tell! I guess I'll just start from the beginning. Here is my missionaries log:

Friday, November 2

0530 - Rise and shine for....a day off from work! Plans underway for a trip to Kelo with Liz and Sonya to pick up mail, do some shopping, explore, etc. Moderate stomach cramps noted, nothing unusual, pain meds. taken.

0700 - Met up with Liz and Sonya at the house after picking up my beautiful reed mat made by one of the TB patients. Sunscreen applied and bags packed...we're on our way.

0800 - Found 2 motos near the market willing to take us to Kelo. One is in pieces on the ground, but the driver is adamant that it is safe after he puts it back together. Negotiations are underway as to price.

0830 - With the wind flying into my face, I'm plastered against my driver and the box strapped on behind me that we brought to put mail in. We just left Bere, with me yelling back at Liz and Sonya that I can't remember the name for post office in French. They didn't have time to answer. I'm on the broken moto...oh well, I always like a little excitement.

0900 - We've arrived at the river. Instead of taking the ferry, my driver headed for the little dugout canoes. I sat on the end of the canoe and watched the muddy water swirl up to within an inch of the top as we slowly were paddled across, the moto barely fitting in the center. I see Liz and Sonya arrive on the other side with the other driver and wave quickly as we speed off again.

0930 - The back wheel of the moto broke. Thankfully we were going slow through a herd of cows, horns brushing my shoulders as we passed. We've walked half a mile to a small village with some men who think they can fix it. I've been given a chair in the shade with 30 kids in a circle staring at me.

0945 - The moto was fixed for about 10 ft. until the wheel started fishtailing again and we realized that the brake wasn't working now. I clutched the moto tightly as we started to increase speed down the dirt road at a bumpy rate until the driver turned the key and we gradually coasted to a stop. I am back to sitting on my chair under a mango tree as they take the wheel back off.

1000 - I'm stranded alone now with the broken moto. The driver handed me his keys, told me "Tu attente asi!" and jumped on a truck going back towards Bere with the wheel under his arm for repair. Liz and Sonya still haven't shown up...I wonder what happened to them.

1040 - Liz and Sonya just passed on two different motos? I don't know what happened to make them an hour behind me. I waved wildly at them. Sonya saw me, smiled, waved back...and continued on.

1130 - Still stranded, I'm conserving water, little sips at a time. Stomach pains are getting worse so I took more meds. I think all my experiences earlier in life have been preparing me for Africa. All the times I've gotten lost hiking, stranded with my car in the middle of the night, etc. It is all a battle of the mind. I could go into a panic over the fact that I'm in a 3rd-world country all alone on a road, barely able to communicate in French (which 3/4 of the country can't speak), running out of water with just a couple granola bars for who knows how long...Or I can just say, as I've learned with all my other experiences, "What an adventure!" and make the best of it.

1230 - Sweat is dripping down my back. Men are trying to hit birds out of the tree with a slingshot. A man across the street is pumping a sewing machine with his foot as he creates a Tchadian dress. School just got out in the village. I now have 74 kids in a circle around me, watching every move I make...I've been here long enough to count them. The two teachers have come to practice their limited English with me. It will help pass the time.

1330 - Hallelujah! My driver has returned with the repaired wheel! They have put it on and we are back on our way to Kelo! Thank you God! Now I'm just praying with every bump that it stays together. I won't even complain about the close quarters, my nose in the drivers ear, and my chin getting bruised from hitting his shoulder with each pothole...and these stomach cramps that just don't seem to be going away.

1400 - Almost to Kelo, we just played chicken with another moto. I felt the woman's skirt whip my legs as we passed.

1420 - We're in Kelo! ....except now my driver doesn't understand that I need to go to the post office.

Stay tuned for the rest of the story....

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Thank You!!!

November 9

This is just a short note out to everyone to let you all know that I'm doing ok. I want to write a blog about everything that happened because it is all quite the story and your prayers I believe really helped work things out. I can't describe the support and love I've felt from everyone, it has just amazed me how many people have been praying...pretty much all around the world. I am recovering, slower than I'd like, but that could be because of the fact that I found out I have malaria again. I can't even try to distinguish between all the symptoms now, but I am starting to eat a little, and it is staying down for now. And I can sit up for about 20 minutes before the awful spinal headache comes. I'll write more when I can, right now it is still hard to focus that much and I keep falling asleep or feeling too nauseated to try to type. I love you all and thank you deeply for your prayers! Every day I read through all the comments sent to me to help me feel like I can make it through everything.

Friday, November 9, 2007

Please continue to Pray for Sarah

Sorry you have to wait longer to get a personal message from Sarah. Thankyou all for the prayers and notes of encouragement, we all know the power of the Great Physician. I talked to her on the phone and she is still very tired and in recovery. Sarah is on antibiotics for the Typhoid Fever and has a hurendous headache from the anesthesia during the apendicites surgery last Saturday night. She also was informed Wednesday that she has Malaria again (a triple wammy).

Satin is trying hard to knock her down, but with all the support she is receiving from all of you with prayers and emails from all over the world, she wil get through this. She has been staying in the American house since last Friday, but has just moved in with the Evangelical Missionaries. The older couple (wife a nurse) will be able to watch over her and provide great meals to strengthen her. Sarah was looking forward to the cooling fans provided by the solar power at their house. With temperatures currently in the upper 90's and all the sicknesses in her body, it will be a little relief.

Pray, Pray Pray... Continue to post comments (she receives all of them almost daily)...Thanks, Terry (dad)

Saturday, November 3, 2007

Sarah is very sick: Pray

Please pray for Sarah. She has an unknown sickness or disease which is causing a lot of abdominal pain. Pray for her doctors (Greg & Audrey Shank from Koza Adventist Hospital) that they will have the wisdom from God to cure her. Your prayers and notes of encouragement mean a lot to Sarah. She will receive your comments posted here by automatic email (almost daily now).

Tuesday, October 30, 2007


October 26

Another 17 hr. night shift at pediatrics with Liz...

We finish giving all the meds by the light of our headlamps, bugs crawling down our shirts. All the kids are doing well, no worries. We each open our dinners provided by our families. Liz has a bowl of pasta with tomato powder seasoning, and I have a bowl of the thick rice drink. Liz takes a bite, hands me the spoon, I take a bite, and hand it back. Back and forth we eat, occasionally stopping to pick out bugs.

Babies are quiet, families are sleeping on mats between the rusty hospital beds. Liz and I prepare our twin-sized bed, tucking the mosquito netting around. Soon we're both laying side by side, sharing a pillow and hoping to get an hours sleep before 12 o'clock meds.

At 11:30, a dad wakes us up. Liz tells me to go back to sleep while she checks on the baby. A few minutes later I hear her calling for me. Stumbling out of bed, I start looking for my headlamp and shoes.

"Esther!" I hear the urgency behind her voice this time, and hurry over to bed 3 where I see her light.

It's a little baby with palu (malaria) that we'd been treating for a few days already. He had been doing well, and we'd started him on pills the day before. Now his eyes were rolled back into his head and Liz was doing chest compressions on his tiny body.

"Go get the bag!" Liz cried.

I ran over the maternity ward and frantically scanned the room for the bag. Not seeing it anywhere, I ran through the wards looking for Simeon, the other nurse on duty. Finally I gave up and ran back, determined to just start mouth-to-mouth on the baby without the bag. When I got there, I saw Liz closing the baby's eyes, and the mom silently crying.

"He's gone," she whispered to me. I stared at the baby, so confused. He had been so alive just an hour ago, yelling loudly at us, when we gave him medicine. There was no warning.

People crowded around the bed and Liz and I stood there not knowing what to do. We couldn't explain what had happened even if there was no language barrier. We didn't know how to comfort the mom - what is acceptable in their culture? What do they do when someone dies? The dad left to find a moto to take them home and Liz & I finally left, feeling helpless.

We walked out away from the buildings and sat under the stars, each silent in our own thought. Eventually we talked, cried, prayed and held each other, and then went back to finish our shift.

That baby's death has bothered me a lot the last couple of days. I wish that I would have checked his pulse and airway myself after Liz told me he was dead, just to give myself some closure. I wonder what else we should have done. I've asked the Drs. for explanations, and even they are perplexed by the suddenness of it.

The only explanation I give is that it's malaria. A vicious disease that comes & goes, tricking people into thinking they're ok, and then striking them down. Everyone gets different symptoms, making it hard to recognize at times, and half the kids in Chad have it at one time. When you ask women here how many children they have, they always answer..."I birthed , and have living."

I ask God how these experiences have anything good come out of them. Well, I have an awareness now, what am I going to do with it? When I go back to the States, will I just remember the sad effects of malaria, a disease so common here, that it is easy to forget the seriousness of it. Or will I get involved and do something to change? I feel driven now to study everything about it.

Another thought, I've just made you aware of it. Will you brush it off as another sad missionary story, pleading for the usual, or will you allow yourself to feel for people you've never seen or met, and do something? It's your choice.


So my French is coming along -- slower than I'd like -- but it's coming. I can understand a lot more than I can speak, and most of my vocabulary is from working at the hospital. I'm sure it sounds awful, but most of the time, patients can still understand me.

Sometimes I can hardly wait to study and learn more so I can communicate. But other times it just seems useless. French is their second language also, so only those who are educated speak it. Most of the women speak just their tribal language. So far I can greet people in Arabic, Nangere, & Gumbi, and ask if their baby has been vomiting :) But there are a multitude of more languages that I can't even recognize when they speak, like Lai Lai, Mafa, and Sara.

Then we get short-term missionaries and people visiting from countries all over the world that add to it all, Danish, Portuguese, Australian English (it's a lang. of its own), and my personal favorite, Spanish. I still find myself answering in Spanish when I mean for French to come out. Sometimes they actually understand, though, because of the similarity. So my motto is --- when in doubt, speak Spanish!

In the end, there's nothing better than just speaking good old English. I've never appreciated my native language more.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Obsession with Guavas

October 21

My toes grip the smooth brown bark as I shrewdly scan each branch of the tree. Eyes widening and mouth watering, I see the first one...a plump, juicy guava! Within moments, I've climbed within arms reach and snatch it. Guava after guava I pick with the delight of finding a treasure behind each leafy branch.

From the ground I hear Liz call that we have enough, and I yell back, "Just one more"...which turns into 2...and 3...4...5,6,7...

"Esther! We have plenty for a fruit salad. Come down!"

Sighing, I start to reach for the branch below, when I suddenly see it. The most beautiful guava I've seen yet, hanging perfectly in all its glory, sun reflecting off the sheen of its yellowish-green skin. Liz's voice becomes faint as I climb higher and higher, trying to get closer. I pull my skirt up to just below my knees so I can spread my legs apart enough to climb.

It is hanging at the very end of the branch and I try jiggling it off. After practically jumping up and down on the branch, the stubborn guava is still hanging strong. I walk out a few inches and try to reach out, quickly realizing that it is much too far for my arms. Grabbing a stick I try to poke it. Each poke sends it swinging back and forth, but not down.

Ignoring Liz's pleas to leave it, I grab the rake. Nothing is going to stop me from getting that guava. Being hard to get makes me want it all the more. Again and again I reach out with the rake trying to catch it on the stem, until my wrist is swelling from the weight. I sit on the branch for a minute, resting as sweat runs down my face and neck. I'm just not close enough! I study my scratched arms and the small skinny branch...thinking...Physics class. I imagine Mr. Byers standing at the black board drawing an elephant's foot and showing how the heel of a woman's shoe has more pressure than an elephant's foot. So I could be as heavy as an elephant and still stand at the smallest part of the branch as long as my weight is distributed over a large enough area...Never underestimate the importance of school! You never know when you might need it, like when trying to pick a guava.

Gathering my courage, I slowly lay my whole body down flat on the branch and start scooting out farther and farther, inch by inch, my eyes riveted on the guava, imagining the first juicy bite. Every muscle taut, holding my balance, I am close enough to reach out. Carefully, with my legs wound tightly around the bending branch, I let go with one hand and go for it. I feel a rush of exhilaration as my fingers close around the smooth round fruit and yank it off, almost falling from the movement. Looking at the guava, I feel a grin spread across my sweaty face, eyes sparkling with excitement. There's nothing better than a guava....

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

In the OR with Dr. James Bond…

October 19

We had a visiting doctor here for a couple weeks, Dr. Bond. He is from Deer Park, CA, right next to PUC, and has been to Bere a few times before. It amazes me that he is able to survive visiting places like Africa with such an obsessive-compulsive attitude towards germs and parasites…but within a couple days, we were all very used to his demands for cleanliness.

James had a whole line of surgeries for Dr. Bond to do, and within a few days, we all found ourselves in the OR helping. I think he could easily have done surgeries with the usual 2 nurses that helped James, but he made us feel needed. So without having set foot in the OR, I was suddenly in there for hours every day, circulating and watching the surgeries. Even Sonja, a social work major, was pulled into handing out compresses and sutures with the rest of us. Liz & Christina got to try being the anesthesiologist a couple times, but whenever I’d venture their way to listen in and learn the anesthetics, Dr. Bond’s booming voice would exclaim, “No Esther! Leave all that to the nurses; you’re the EMT. Come look at what I’m doing…Closer, closer!”

So I’d watch over his & Abel’s shoulders as they worked miracles, taking out spleens, appendixes, prostates, hysterectomies, and Dr. Bond would gladly explain it all. It made me more tired, working all night sometimes, and then only sleeping an hour before going to the OR all day, but it was worth it.

One day, Dr. Bond strode up to me and proclaimed, “Esther, today you are going to scrub in and assist me.” I looked at him in surprise. “You would like that, wouldn’t you?” he said, watching me in amusement as I quickly nodded my head up and down.

A little bit later, Abel was teaching me the scrub in procedure and before I knew it, I was standing over a patient, across from Dr. Bond, handing him scalpels and clamps for a bilateral hernia. I was so hot, covered in all the scrub clothes, sweat trickling down my neck and back, and I held forceps pulling the skin apart until my arms were shaking from exertion. But whenever he would ask me if I was tired, I’d quickly deny it, wanting so bad to stay there and help him.

He let me help with 2 more hernias the next couple of days, since they were simple operations…but after he left to go back to the States this week, I haven’t been back into the OR. The good news is, though, that he’s coming back for a longer time in February!

The doctors from the Koza hospital in Cameroon are here now and James & Sarah flew over to their hospital for a month. There isn’t an airport here in Bere, but there’s an old airstrip in a field that they used. Greg, a pilot associated with Gospel Outreach, flew the drs. here and James & Sarah out in a small 5-person plane. I was taking my bath early in the morning when I heard a big commotion. I realized that it was the plane taking off, the whole village was watching it, as Greg circled a couple times before heading off. I was hoping they couldn’t see me bathing, since it’s entirely open on top. And white skin kind of stands out! It was amazing, though, to think that most of these people never see airplanes. The kids in my family were telling me it was such a big plane, so I was trying to explain that I came in a plane that held a few hundred people! They didn’t believe me…

My Life Has Never Been this Clear

October 7 (here are 2 posts lost in ciberspace & re sent)

Squinting at the patient report in front of me, I try to make out the horrible handwriting as a new entrant walks in. The mother folds back cloths to reveal her baby, and I stare in horror at a child so malnourished that its skin is peeling and falling off all over. Its head is so big compared to its skeleton body that I almost feel like I'm looking at something other than a human...

A little girl is rushed in on a cart after falling in a water hole. I look into her frightened eyes as another nurse checks her over. After consulting a couple others, the nurse turns to me and tells me that the girl appears to be fine, just a little in shock. I'm not convinced, however, and do my own exam. She has a little water in her lungs and a swollen stomach, but that is not unusual since half the kids here have swollen bellies from malnutrition, malaria, TB, etc. Some of my EMT instructor's advice starts ringing in my head, "Trust your instincts. Don't just rely on outward appearance and test results. If the patient doesn't look good, watch him a little longer." As I look at the girl, she doesn't appear to be just under the weather, whimpering in her mother's arms. I can see Avery in my mind again, pounding on the table and saying over and over, "Mechanism of injury plus index of suspicion always equals internal bleeding!" Quickly I ask the parents if they're willing to pay for an ultrasound and 10 min. later, the girl is being prepped for surgery after finding out she has a ruptured spleen...

An 18-yr.-old girl is giving birth to her first baby. No painkiller, and no privacy. Her pelvis is too small. The baby comes out deformed and is put into my arms to resuscitate. Within 10 minutes, the baby is dead. Her 50-yr.-old husband comes in, yelling that she'd better give him children soon or he'll have to marry a 3rd wife...

I peer around the corner of the isolation ward and see little Ramadan asleep on his reed mat. His stomach is swollen huge from TB, and his clothes are like rags on him with his little behind hanging out a big hole. Quietly I creep closer and when I'm right above him, I yell, "Ramadan!" and squirt him with a syringe full of water. In a flash, he is up and chasing me across the hospital compound with his own homemade watergun, chubby cheeks grinning wide...

I go to give medicine to an acute malaria patient, only to find out that she hasn't had it for 2 days because her family says they don't have money to buy it. A few hours later, I see the hospital chaplain, an interesting man who used to be a trained terrorist/killer for Russia, heading over to her bed. She died and he tries to comfort the mother. I go to tell James, only to hear him say, "Why are you telling me? I can't do anything for her once she's dead. Go take care of the people that actually need you!"....

Smiling wide and holding out my hand, I greet one of the HIV patients, a skinny man with no strength left even to walk or sit up on his own. Although we can only say "hello" to each other in Nangere, our eyes and sign language speak a lot more. After holding his hand for a few minutes, I start a new dose of metronadizole into his IV and try to find a way to tie it above him on a tree with a piece of string I picked up off the ground...

Liz, Sonja, and I like to say, we can't help feeling alive in Africa with so much going on around us. It is constant ups and downs, and when I lay on my cot at night, overwhelmed by it all, I have a song I like to listen to. I hadn't heard this song before I came, but it encompasses my feelings and experiences so well. After some of these days, all I do is go to my hut, lay on my cot, and listen to it over and over, until I fall asleep.

"I Would Die for You"
by Mercyme

And I know that I can find you here
'Cause you've promised me you'll always be there.
In times like these, it's so hard to see
but somehow I have a peace you're near.

And I pray that you will use my life
In whatever way your name is glorified.
Even if surrendering means leaving everything behind.

And my life, has never been this clear
Now I know, the reason why I'm here
You never know why you're alive,
until you know what you would die for
and I would die for You

And I know I don't have much to give,
but I promise you I'll give you all there is
I cannot possibly do less,
when through your own death I live

And my life, has never been this clear
Now I know, the reason why I'm here
You never know why you're alive,
until you know what you would die for
and I would die for You

A Day of Nursing

October 5

James has moved me to work in the Adult ward all week so that I will learn more French with the Chadian nurses. I don't know if I actually learned more French yet, but I've moved to doing more and more nursing as I learn from observing. It has probably been the most challenging week so far and today was crazy!

As I arrived at work this morning, I spent forever organizing all the paperwork that is always a complete mess. They don't see the value in writing things down, but anybody who knows me, knows that I have to have everything just right and organized. So after entering in all the new patients and getting the #s to add up right in all the wards, I headed off to take vitals on all the patients.

My coworker for the day was David, a nurse that I'd never worked with before. He grabbed all the patients' papers from me and started walking around randomly, snapping his fingers at me to take blood pressures of certain patients. By the time James arrived to do rounds, we hadn't even done half of the vitals and all the papers were in a jumbled mess again in David's hands. I used the distraction of James yelling at a patient who didn't buy meds. to take the papers and put them in order again. As we went around, I tried to work on my humbleness as David kept grabbing my pen, stethoscope, clipboard... snapping his fingers in my face and yelling, "Come!" "This patient needs this...!" I already wanted to say that I already knew since I'd been taking care of these patients for 5 days now and probably knew more than he did about them! But thankfully, sometimes the language barrier is a blessing so my anger doesn't pour out. It is teaching me to bite my tongue and calm down before speaking since it'll take me 10 min. to figure out a sentence to say.

After I finished with all the discharges and set out all the papers for 12:00 meds, I went over to the American house to try & send/receive my email. It hadn't been working for a week, so when it actually went through, I decided to wait for it to finish even though it was 12. I'm still just, supposedly in training, helping wherever James puts me. So I figured it wouldn't be a problem to let David do the meds by himself, which he would be doing anyway if I wasn't there.

I went back over to the hospital a little after 12. David was nowhere to by found with nothing done. I ran around crazily trying to find patients to give them their meds. Many of them go outside to lay around with their family. I tried to do everything like I'd watched others do it.
The last med. I went to give was for a TB patient in the isolation ward. Just as I walked up, I heard the wailing start. She had just died a minute ago.

Four new surgery patients poured in one after another. I finally found each of them an empty bed and started their paperwork. Lab reports came in for many patients, diagnosing them with malaria so I was prescribing Quinine and Doxy, left and right, trying to explain the importance of buying meds, otherwise they won't buy it. I just tell them they'll die without treatment and it usually works with adult patients. With pediatrics, it's harder because the parents have to decide if their kid's life is worth more than the meds cost, which half the time it isn't, according to them. We don't treat or give anything until they pay, which may seem harsh, but it is really possible for most anybody to pay. The hospital allows donations so they just have to give a bike or even just a cooking pot to be put in the garage until they pay their debt.

Anyways, I finally started 1:00 meds a little late, but Dr. Bond came in interrupting me. Dr. James Bond is a volunteer surgeon here for a while...a very interesting, eccentric man. I don't know how anyone so obsessive-compulsive could end up in Africa! :) He checked on all his surgery patients and barked out orders for me, handing me meds to give them and special instructions. I was so overwhelmed and nervous giving meds I'd never heard of before. Somehow I finished everything by the time work ended at 3. David came around ever once in a while. He'd see me giving an injection and run over to grab it from me, yelling "What are you doing?" I'd explain and show him what was supposed to be given. He'd grudgingly say ok and then leave again.

At least, after today, I have much more confidence in being able to take over and do things instead of just sitting back and watching. And patience is a keep working on...
I can't help still wondering about the woman that died. If I had been there to give her meds an hour earlier when it was supposed to be given, would it had made a difference? Or if I had been around to attempt resuscitation?...She probably still would have died, but I can't help wondering...

Friday, October 19, 2007

What you all have been waiting to hear...

October 17

Sonja, Liz, and Christina walked into the American house today and started singing to me, "Happy malaria to you..." Yes, I have the dreaded disease, although I am quite perplexed by the fact that I haven't been sick. I've been really tired, but that could easily be explained by all the work and stress at the hospital. Anyways, I decided to just get tested and found out that I have 0.10%! Liz, Sonja, and Hans have all had half that, .05%, and were throwing up, having fevers, headaches...And all I've had is a little fatigue. I'm not complaining, but I'm a little worried that it is suddenly going to hit me hard; I'm just holding my breath and waiting. When I go to work this evening, I'll prescribe myself some medicine. Until then, I've been reading the wonderful National Geographic "Malaria" article that Sonja brought. I don't think it does much more than scare us. :) Now I'm worried that I have the strain that suddenly hits, goes cerebral, and can kill you in a day...but hopefully I can just treat it and get rid of it before I ever get even a headache. Blessings to you all and don't worry...everyone shudders at the word malaria in the States, but here it's as common as rice.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

I'm in Africa

October 13

The excuse for everything around here is just, "I'm in Africa." So whenever bizarre things happen and I look at myself in disbelief, I just repeat it over and over.

I'm on a walk and find that I need a bathroom. No worries, I'm in Africa, and just go squat in the middle of a field.

I see 2 goats, 5 chickens, and 3 people on a moto going by, and I just shrug my shoulders and say, "I'm in Africa."

The nurse I'm working with takes the syringe he just used to give a medication and uses it to put a Foley in a different patient...I'm in Africa.

While getting a blood transfusion started, I get blood all over my bare hands. I go to wash at a dirty sink with brown homemade soap that has grits of dirt cooked into it...I'm in Africa.

I'm sitting outside at morning worship under a tree and feel cool droplets rain down on my head and shoulders. Regretfully I know that it's not rain, but pee from a lizard...I'm in Africa.

Liz receives some packages from the States and we all scream as if we've won a million dollars, as we eat cherished Wheat thins and a piece of gum...I'm in Africa.

I walk home at night in a thunderstorm and feel my sandaled feet splash in puddles that I know are filled with human & animal waste and trash from the streets. Oh well...I'm in Africa.

I share my shower with a little brown goat on the mud wall, the neighbors big black pig, and a hen with 5 chicks...I'm in Africa.

In surgery, the doctor and his assistant have boots on. Everyone else is barefoot to be the most sanitary...I'm in Africa.

Christina and I go to the market, and by the end, we have a crowd of 50 people following us and laughing at everything we do & say. I feel like a movie star...I'm in Africa.

The kids in my family bring me a guava that they all have taken a bite off of with their teeth that have never seen a toothbrush. I smile and eat it...I'm in Africa.

Just from one bad tooth, a woman's entire face is swollen from infection. I try to just breathe through my mouth as I give my opinion on how to do some dentist work on her, since none of us are dentists. Smelly pus is pouring out her ear all over my hands as I hold her airway open...I'm in Africa.

I figure out how to make a loaf of bread over open coals and feel like I've just conquered the world as I delightfully eat a slice...I'm in Africa.

Hans, another SM, moves in with a new Chadian family. He has to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night and does the classic squat on a mound out by the edge of the courtyard away from everything. The next morning, his new host approaches him to inform him, "You defecated on my mother's grave." Who would guess...I'm in Africa

No one can get an IV into a 4-day-old baby, so I watch, perplexed, as Liz follows James instructions and sticks the needle under the skin on the back of the baby. A few minutes later, the fluid dripping in, is a big bubble on the baby's back that will supposedly soak in...I'm in Africa.

Working at the hospital in the early morning hours, there is a woman in a diabetic coma. All I can do is instruct the family to keep putting cubes of sugar in her mouth to dissolve, until someone with a key comes later to get some dextrose soln. for her. And it works...I'm in Africa.

At the hottest time of day, everyone sits around and drinks steaming hot tea as sweat drips down our faces...I'm in Africa.

Coming back from a walk in the fields, I come across a couple young boys herding a few cows home. I ask for a ride and soon I'm perched on the back of one of the lumbering beasts, grinning at the boys and wearing a skirt...I'm in Africa.

It is so hot, I long to wear a pair of shorts, but that would be completely scandalous, letting people see my knees. So then I'm almost tempted to go topless like the local women...I'm in Africa.

Walking back from the market, I pass a group of boys playing soccer. They ask me my name and then excitedly try to pull me in to play with them. Apparently this whole side of the village knows that a white girl named Esther likes to play soccer...I'm in Africa. (By the way, Esther is my new name given by my African father so that there isn't so much confusion with 2 Sarahs)

As I write this, I'm perched in a tree out in a field. Before climbing, I carefully checked for snakes and the huge tree spiders I despise. I can tell it's time for church to start, not because of church bells ringing or an organ playing, but from the drumming starting, because of course, I'm in Africa!

Thursday, October 11, 2007


October 11
I just wanted to thank all of you who have been commenting on my blogs. I've just received them all, and it means more than I can say to hear from you all. Even the smallest note makes my day! It is nice also, to know that my blogs are being read. Sometimes it seems like I'm just blindly writing...If any of you want me to write directly back to you, you can send me your email address.
Thank you again. I love and miss you all!

Saturday, October 6, 2007

Mischievous Girls

September 28

After having a vespers this evening with the other Americans, I headed to my hut, hoping the gate to the courtyard was open. As I approached, I realized there was no reason to worry, as it sounded like my family was having a party. The huge crowd of people, however, was standing around my hut. I slowly walked closer and noticed a girl stuck trying to crawl out of my window. Everybody was yelling and it just got worse as I arrived. I got the picture of what was happening as Anatorle told me to go inseide and check all of my things. My bags were in a mess, but I wasn't too concerned because I knew what the kids had been looking for. When I first arrived I gave a piece of candy to the kids in my family as a gift. I've been saving the rest for kids at the hospital as we give shots and such, but Kristel, Anatole's oldest daughter constantly asks me for more even though I tell her I have no more. Tonight, Kristel and 2 of her friends tried to crawl in and find some candy while I was gone, after her parents went to bed.

Poor Anatole was scandalized by what his daughter had done even though I tried to tell him it wasn't that important. The perpetrators were just three 10-yr.-old girls and as I looked at the 3 of them kneeling on the ground, tears streaming down their faces and a crowd of adults surrounding them, it immediately made me think of me and my 2 friends in academy, Lisa and Steph. These girls had to have been pretty daring to try and get into the "white girl's" hut, through the window bars about 8 in. wide and a foot tall, standing on each others shoulders. It gave me flashbacks of trying to sneak out of the dorm at night with Steph & Lisa. Getting stuck in a window sounds just like something that would have happened to us.

We got off a little easier on the punishment, though. These poor girls got quite the thrashing in front of everyone and Kristel is still being lectured by Anatole almost an hour later. The whole neighborhood is still in an uproar, and by morning, I wouldn't be surprised if the whold village knew.

I've finished cleaning up the mess and I think I'll just stay up now until I need to go to the hospital to help give meds at midnight. In just a day, the hospital is overflowing and we've started putting 2 kids to a bed for more room and patients in with the TB isolation patients. I'm so happy it's Sabbath, though, even if it's not always much of a rest. Maybe we'll ride the horses to the river tomorrow...

My God is More Powerful than Your God

September 27

Most nights here are hot & clear. I usualy try to fall asleep listening to music, but when my ipod needs charging, I end up awake a lot laer because of all the noise outside. There are always a lot of drums being played loudly along with singing and kids running around wildly until late. I never minded the drums too much until james told us that most of the time, they are worshipping spirits & such at that time. The people here still hold on to their traditional beliefs and periodically I come across special ground roots and cuts on patients at the hospital to purge them of their sickness. James even had a demon-possessed woman come in one night last week.
So now when I hear the drums and singing, it gives me kind of an ominous feeling, especially since some people say they can actually see demons walking around.

Tonight as I was finishing up emailing at the American house, and dreading going to bed and listening to the drumming, it started to rain lightly. It got windier and windier, and I began to wonder if I should wait it out before going home. Usually the rain only lasts a few minutes. I decided to just run through it and soon realized that this wasn't just a regular rainstorm.
It was pure black outside as I dodged puddles, winding around the path to my hut. Usually i don't need light because the moon is so bright. The only way I could see tonight was from the lightning flashing, making it seem like daytime for a few moments. I cringed every time the thunder was so deafening i thought my eardrums might pop and I could feel the power of it coursing through my whole body. In between the thundering, it was quiet enough to whisper and I thought the wind was going to knock me into a guava tree.

I made it to my hut right before the drenching rain hit. I kept trying to lock my window, but the wind was so strong, it was like watching an invisible hand that kept pulling the lock up out of the hole. I finally found a way to wedge it shut. Sitting on my cot listening,, I am just in total awe. I have never seen or heard such a storm before. (I hope Liz and Sonja are doing ok with their thatch roofs!) i could yell at the top of my lungs and never be heard over this roar. I was a little nervous at first as cockroaches and bugs seeked refuge with me, water seeped under my door, and my hut groaned so much i was sure it would collapse, but then I thought of who's in control of this storm.

God is powerful and I think every once in a while, he enjoys unleashing it in wondrous acts like this that just make me gasp in amazement.

There will be no drums tonight...and I can't help feeling like God is saying, "Do you really want to see some power? Just watch this!"

Thursday, September 27, 2007

A Struggle for Life

Sept. 22, 2007

Friday, the little girl who had the truck fall on her became my personal responsibility. I haven't really been working in a certain area since I'm still learning everything and watching other nurses.

So when James did his rounds and checked on her, he told me it would be my job to watch her for the day. Already earlier that morning she's had trouble breathing through the trach tube. Every time she started to come out of unconsciousness, she'd start to panic, breathing shallowly and bringing up mucous that would get caught and hinder her breathing. I sat next to her, checking vitals every 10 min. and helping her when she needed to get mucous out by suctioning until I had no breath left.

We had a couple close calls throughout the day, and when I got off work, she was too tired to breathe adequately by herself, so Sarah & Liz taught the family how to bag her through the night. She was constantly on my mind that evening & today at church. I had watched her for so long that her little face was imprinted on my mind and I could hear her labored breathing. She was doing well earlier today, and I think we were all thinking optimistically that if she just would wake up, it would be ok. The surgery had gone well and we kept telling the other little boy in the ward that soon he would have a new playmate.

Later today, Liz, Sonja, and I went on a walk and decided to stop by to see how she was doing. James was there and told us that her Oxygen sat. was still fine with the family bagging air into her, but he had noticed that her pupils were now fixed and dilated...meaning she was brain dead. I watched silently as he approached the family at her bedside and explained with someone translating in Nangere. He detached the bag and I quickly left, not wanting to see the life ebb out of her. I tried to control myself as I still had to smile at people and choke out greetings as we left the hospital.

The three of us walked out into the fields and rice paddies to watch the sunset and I cried for the young life that was so quickly gone. Some people say that I will become used to it and not be so emotionally attached, but I hope that never happens. Tears are cleansing and I will cry all year for these people because I love them. I will feel for them and just pray that God helps me to still give them the best care that I can with my limited abilities.

I stayed out with Sonja and Liz until it was dark, singing, praying, and talking. I had been praying and hoping before I came to Chad that I would get along well with them and I found out that they had been praying much the same about me. God answered our prayers even more than I had hoped. They are both filled with the same adventurous spirit as me and have an openness to God that is refreshing. We are going to have an amazing year together.

I am sitting on my cot right now, writing this as crickets chirp loudly and mosquitoes buzz on the other side of my netting. The drums and singing nearby has started to die down so that I can finally fall asleep...

Saturday, September 22, 2007


September 20, 2007

It has been a long day. I worked in the pediatrics ward today with Liz and we got to discharge 2 boys this morning, leaving a lot better than they came. They were very excited, especially the one that had been there over a month, but I will miss their smiles, laughter, and playing tic-tac-toe with bottlecaps.

Our main concern to watch over today was an 8 yr.-old girl who had just gotten out of surgery the day before. A truck had fallen on her breaking her right femur and left tibia. She looked so tiny with the huge cast splinted with a brook handle and big sandbag providing traction on her femur. The best part of my day was when she opened and blinked her eyes for a few moments. I hope she makes it; last night she stopped breathing and James had to do an emergency tracheotomy on her.

Right before I left the hospital, I got to watch James drain a huge abscess on the eye of a 4-wk.-old baby. I am learning and seeing so much here!

After work, I found out that the locals were going to play soccer behind the hospital. I was so excited, I practically ran home to change. My mere made me eat first like any good mother, and smiled as I ran off yelling “Je vair football!” I wasn’t sure if they would mind having girls play, but they just seemed a little surprised and motioned for Liz and I to join a team. It wasn’t much different than playing at Milo with all guys, and the kids thought it was hilarious to watch us run. I guess they don’t see women in their culture run, with the long skirts they wear. There were big cows with horns in the field that made me a little nervous, but everyone just ran around them with the ball. It was so wonderful being able to do something without having to speak French and we played until the sun set beautifully across the fields…

In Bere

September 18, 2007

I arrived at the hospital yesterday morning with Andre. We rode with the same moto drivers as the night before. Sonja, another student missionary here doing social work projects, welcomed me warmly and helped me move my bags to my hut. My African family lives very close to the hospital and they gave me a big hut to live in by myself! They have 5 kids who are very cute and Anatole, my African dad, works as a lab tech at the hospital. He is going next June to a medical equip. tech. program in western Africa and says that God sent me to him so that he can learn English well before he goes. It will be difficult for him because all his training and books will be in English.

Sonja took me to see the hospital after that and meet everyone. Soon I was running back to put on scrubs, grab my stethoscope, and start taking vitals as they admitted patients. The hospital is very primitive and they were very glad to see the supplies I brought, especially the casting and diabetic lancets to take blood tests. They had run out and were poking people with the same needles! James is the only doctor and he has to constantly operate even though he never studied to be a surgeon.

This morning I shadowed the nurses in the med-surg ward and maternity ward. I helped them change bandages, drain infections, and record medications. I wish I knew more French so I could talk to the patients more. Many of them are in a lot of pain and all I can do is somehow communicate that I am there to help them. When the babies see any of us with white skin, they cry! I guess we scare them. Liz, another SM who is doing nursing like me, came to get me this morning to see and help with a delivery. The mother was younger than me, about 15, and her pelvis was too small for the baby to fit through. James had to cut her to make a bigger opening. As I watched, I was doing my best to just keep thinking medically…giving James things as he asked for them and watching everything to learn as much as I could, but finally the other thoughts broke through. James kept suctioning the head to pull the baby out, but it still couldn’t fit, so he started cutting more where he hadn’t put anesthesia, trying to get the baby out quickly because it’s heartbeat had stopped. All I could think about was the mother yelling in pain as he cut, she was so young, and the baby that was probably already dead. I felt a tingly feeling creeping over me and knew that I had to get out of there fast. I excused myself and practically ran out to the little nurses room where there was a little bed to lay down on. As I tried to keep myself from passing out, tears ran down my face at the injustice of it all. Most of the people I had attended to all morning had serious problems, yet hardly adequate supplies to treat them. In the US, when people just have a simple sore throat, they go to see the doctor in an amazing clean facility where the doctors and nurses all have gloves and uniforms with nice music playing in the background. In Bere, the old beds have sticks tied to the corners to hold up mosquito netting, patients have to pay for each step of their care, including the bandages that the nurses put on them. Their families have to live outside the hospital to take care of them and feed them. When we change a dressing, someone has to stand over the wound and fan it to keep the dirty flies off of it. We use the same equipment for everyone and only wear gloves when we are in direct contact with a lot of blood…something my fellow EMTs would probably shudder at. I’ve forgotten all about BSI precautions J.

I had better get back to my hut for the night. I feel so incredibly blessed for where I’m staying. My hut has concrete instead of mud and a tin roof instead of thatching and it is big! My African mother warms water in a bucket for me to wash with every day even though I try to explain that I am fine with cold water…especially in this heat! This evening I ate a delicious meal of rice with mashed cassava leaves and I drink good water from a well. Life is good. And I must remember my blessings every night or I fear that I will become quickly overwhelmed by the poverty here.

What I’ve Learned from One Week in Africa

The art of tucking my mosquito netting in properly so that I don’t get the surprise of a cockroach stuck inside it…kind of an unpleasant night experience.
Saying “Lapia” and “Ce va” covers everything.
Everyone has malaria
Be careful around roosters
Check shoes before putting feet in them
There is no such thing as personal space…especially on a moto or bus
Chew carefully when eating to avoid breaking your jaw when you come across a few rocks
Guavas are the best thing created on God’s green earth!
The greatest honor you can bestow on someone is just to sit with or eat with them.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Please post comments

For those that don't know how to send messages to Sarah. Please select the comment button at the end of a posted message and write a note of ecouragement to Sarah. Thanks.

In Chad…on a crazy moto ride

September 16, 2007
I have finally arrived in Chad! It has been a long and interesting trip. After almost missing my flight to Paris and getting near to lost in the airports, I arrived in the capital, Ndjamena, on Thursday. Job, a pastor of one of the Adventist churches, picked me up and took me to his home to stay until I left for Beré. My bags never made it from France, so I had to wait for them. I was nervous at first, after being warned about a few things having to do with Pastor Job, but I am glad now that I had the chance to rest up in Ndjamena and see the city. I learned a lot in those few days about the people and culture that helped me be a lot more comfortable when traveling to Beré. I went to the markets and even got to visit Cameroon one day!

On Sunday, André, the administrator at the hospital, picked me up early to start our trip to the hospital. We went to catch a bus out of Ndjamena, and ended up waiting a couple hours because the bus drivers won’t leave until the bus is completely full. It was funny to watch all the bus drivers practically fight over each passenger as they came. They try to trick people into paying for their bus by stuffing a bunch of fake bags and strapping them on top to look like the bus is almost full. I felt very lucky, getting to sit in the front squished between the driver and André because the back was crammed with people. It was a 7-hr. trip to Kelo with a few stops along the way including government road blocks where they would try to get me to give them my passport. André was very stubborn about only giving them my copies to look at in his verrrrry slow methodical way. He said that they would make me pay them to get my passport back if I gave it to them.

When we finally made it to Kelo, it was too late to find a car to take us to Beré. André spent a whole hour negotiating and arguing with some moto (motorcycle taxis) drivers about taking us. They wanted more than the usual fare because it was late and the roads were really bad from all the rain. He kept refusing and I picked up a little bit of the French where he was trying to tell them I was a nurse for the hospital and had to get there that night to help people J A crowd gathered all around us to listen and stare at the white girl and interject their own advice. I kept trying to tell him that it didn’t matter, I would just pay it or we could go find a place to stay the night, but I’ve been learning that you can’t rush Africans. They take everything in their own time and will negotiate prices and such for ever! Finally he decided we would find a place to stay in Kelo because the roads were too bad and before I knew it, he jumped on one of the motos and motioned for me to do the same on a different one. I didn’t have time to say I’d never ridden on a motorcycle before and a few moments later I was crazily trying to keep my balance seated behind the driver holding onto my laptop, camera, and water bottle with one of my bags jammed on behind me.

It was dark by now and I started getting nervous about the thought that I was on this moto with some stranger who could easily take off in whatever direction he wanted. Just as I was telling myself that this was just another adventure, the headlight quit and the moto started puttering to a stop. André and his driver never noticed because they were ahead of us and soon they were out of sight. I guess the moto was running out of gas and my driver started walking it down the road looking for gas. We stopped next to a bunch of men smoking and he made me get off while he turned his moto upside down and shook it. I don’t know how that worked, but when he got back on it started again. We took off again, this time barely seeing people and goats in time to swerve around them since the headlight still didn’t work. He was going slower and looking down all the streets which gave me the feeling he didn’t know where we were supposed to go. I was getting more nervous and wishing I could speak French just for a minute to communicate with him since I might be lost in the town with him for awhile. Feeling very helpless, I happened to look up and was greeted by a sky brimming with stars and the moon. It was beautiful and somehow comforted me. I continued to look at them while we weaved through the dark town and thought of the verse in Psalms where David writes, “When I consider the heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, the son of man that you care for him?”

Before I knew it, the other moto miraculously found us and we found our way to a room for the night. I’m sitting there right now writing this, feeling incredibly cared for and loved by God…and all because of a few stars!

Tomorrow morning I will be in Beré (I hope) and I can post this as soon as I figure out how the internet works. Thank you for all the prayers while I traveled!

Friday, September 7, 2007

The date is set

My plane ticket is bought ~ I leave next Wednesday, the 12th at 1:20 PM! I can hardly wait, but I also have so much to do in just a few days...I have to pack, take 20 min. hot showers to make up for a whole year without them, cram some more French into my brain, take my EMT national registry test on Tuesday, hang out with a few more friends who I won't see for a long time, finish writing back to a bunch of my campers from this summer, and stock up on important foods like chocolate and dried cranberries :) Hopefully everything will fall together. Today I'm visiting all my grandparents one last time and saying for the millionth time, "No Grandma, I'm not going to get lost over there...yes, I'll eat a lot of good food..."

Thursday, August 23, 2007

No electricity for 10 months!!!

I've started communicating with James and Sarah Appel, the doctor of the Bere Hospital and his wife. The 60-bed hospital is run by James, the only doctor, and 2 nurses, one being Sarah. There are no paved roads which makes for lots of mud to get stuck in this time of year and no electricity except for running an occasional generator during a surgery. They are looking for a Chadian family for me to live with so that I will learn French quickly and learn more about the culture. I've started the visa process finally! Hopefully it won't take long since I'm just applying for a 1 month tourist visa until I get into the country. Sarah is happily answering all the questions I've been throwing at her. I can hardly wait!

Thursday, August 16, 2007

I've been accepted!

After planning for a long time to go to Cameroon, I found out while working at Big Lake this summer, that those plans fell through and I was no longer able to go. Just a few weeks later, though, I got an e-mail saying that I was voted and approved to go to the Bere Adventist Hospital in Tchad! God works in great ways, I'll be right next door to Cameroon, but I'll get to do medical the whole time which is what I've been hoping for a chance to do. I am in the process of waiting for my visa and insurance info. to go through, and then I'll be headed off shortly. It sounds like the doctor has already been expecting me. This call doesn't support me with any stipend to live off of, so I am supposed to raise an extra $100 per month I'm there. I need about $300 more to stay a total of 10 months. Thank you to all of you who have supported me already, and if you would like to help, there will soon be info. at the bottom of my blog on how to do so. Now I need to pack to go camping!

Late Summer blessings to you all!!!