It is HOT! The generator quit working last night about 1am and I woke up drenched in sweat. I’d had the foresight to bring a bottle of water to bed with me so I took a long drink and then just closed my eyes again, certain that I’d never be able to go back to sleep. That was my last thought until six hours later when I woke up to bright sunshine feeling rested and pretty darn good although still drenched in sweat. As it turns out air-conditioning isn’t absolutely essential to survival.
The water pressure was very low this morning so I followed the advice of one of the MSF people who’s been here for a while and filled up the big bucket that was sitting in the shower. It took about 15 minutes for it to fill up but then I just held it over my head, drenched myself with cold water (and it felt GREAT once I caught my breath), lathered up, and then rinsed off the same way. I also had to fill the water bucket to fill the toilet tank so it would flush. It added about 20 minutes to my morning routine but for about five minutes there I didn’t feel sticky and hot. Nice while it lasted.
Yesterday I took a car with the ObGYN I’m replacing through downtown, along the ocean, and through the slum area, a huge area filled with shacks and teeming with people. The driver, who works for MSF, told us that the area tends to flood during the heavy rains but that people always manage to persist and return. Women were washing clothes at the small stream of water that ran through the area. There were piles of trash along the road at pretty regular intervals. Streams of young and old men and women and children congregate along the sides of the road, some of the women dressed in beautifully colorful outfits with elaborate hats. Everywhere are women as well as men carrying fruit or drinks or food on their heads, perfectly balanced. Once I saw a young girl reach a hand up to the basket on her head to keep it in balance when she had to sidestep a fast moving motorbike but other than that everyone kept their head loads balanced without an assist. I haven’t really been able to discern any definite traffic rules. The rule seems to be to do whatever you can get away with. But I haven’t seen any accidents yet. All the dogs in the streets seem to sidestep the cars at the last minute but never look stressed. The chickens seem a little more frantic but I’ve yet to see a dead animal on the road. Most of the roads, particularly in the areas with houses, are dirt roads that are full of deep potholes, the kind that make you hit your head on the roof if you don’t have your seatbelt on (I always keep my seatbelt on). The roads are usually just wide enough to let two cars squeeze past each other.
The road to Bo is supposed to be in pretty good shape most of the way. It’s about a five hour drive from Freetown. I’ll leave for there in the morning after meeting with a government official within the Ministry of Health. It sounds like the two remaining ObGyns there have been taking call every other day for the last four days so I figure there’s a good chance I’ll be on call Tuesday. I’m a little anxious but mostly excited to get to work.
And some good news: my predecessor tells me that just outside of the hospital there are some women who sell little balls of flour that they deep fry and then roll in sugar, close enough to a donut to make my mouth water just thinking about it. Oh yeah. He told me that he always bought plenty for the nurses and that it’s the best way to make a good impression with them. I guess some things are universal.