Tuesday, January 31, 2012

My Official Welcome to Angola 28/1/12 I've started volunteering my time at the small school Sam's cousin, Helena, has started. It's so nice to feel useful again after many many months of low productivity. On Wednesday afternoon I went to the school at Mitcha. I helped Mattheus with the final editing of his history paper and he sent it off to the online teacher for grading. He seemed pleased with it, and I think it's a pretty decent paper, especially for his first attempt at writing an essay! Towards the end of the afternoon, I started to feel not particularly well. Not awful. But not right. I was feeling hot and having stomach cramps and just started to think I should probably start back home since getting back required a 10 min walk, a short taxi ride, and another 20 min walk, and if things got worse, that would be an infinitely less pleasant experience. I left around 4:15 and prayed that I'd stay well enough to get back. The first walk and taxi ride went ok, but by the time I got out of the taxi and started walking, I knew that I wasn't going to be able to complete the final 20 min walk back to the house. Thankfully I was able to catch a taxi from where I was, to a point very close to the house. I signaled quick greetings to Julina and made a beeline for the bathroom in time for some rather unpleasant South Korea. I'm sure those of you who aren't familiar with the lingo of the Fabiano household can use the powers of deductive reasoning and take a wild guess. I was suddenly feeling extremely feverish and had such chills that I was still cold, even under a duvet. And don't forget it is summer here. My temp was about 101.5F, (38.5C) I texted Sam. I slept a bit. By the time Sam came home I was feeling a little better, though still had the intestinal issues, but my temp had come down to just under 100F (37.5C). Things seemed to be improving. We had our regular dinner of tea and bread. The South Korea issues persisted, but I didn't feel too awful. We turned in for the night, then things went downhill. I started feeling feverish and having chills again. My temp was back up to 101.5 F. Suddenly I felt queasy and vomited twice. By this time Sam and I knew something was up and decided I should go the hospital the next morning for some tests. On a regular day that would be so easy, considering he works there. But this next morning, he happened to be flying to the bush hospital for the next 4 days for consultations. At around 6am Thursday morning, Sam was packing his bag and told me to call him when I was at CEML. We said goodbye and I dragged myself out of bed and tried to look presentable. I made an attempt at breakfast but the nausea was making it impossible to get anything past my lips. Eventually I found that I could drink tea and that seemed to help. Around 8:30 Eduardo took Julina to work and I rode along to get dropped off at the hospital. I began to feel a bit better. And I wondered if maybe it was just a 24 hour thing and if it was really unnecessary to be going to the hospital after all. However, we arrived at CEML and Eduardo helped with getting me registered since my Portuguese is still rather lacking, then told me to call when I was ready to be picked up. Thankfully there was at least one doctor at the hospital that day, an English-speaker, who could see me. Everyone knew I was Sam's wife and was so congenial and helpful to me. They got me in to see the doctor quickly and she ordered a range of tests. From there I went to the lab to have my blood drawn and then it was time for urine and stool samples. If you have ever tried to give a stool sample when everything you have eaten has been vomited up, I feel for you, because it's near impossible. (If you are easily offended or easily grossed out, feel free to skip to the next paragraph.) I have never, ever before seen stool that looked like snot. But I did that day. Clear, mucus-like snot. If I had been dubious about whether or not going to the hospital was the right decision, at that moment I knew I was in the right place. After some waiting for test results, I was back in the doctor's office for the verdict. As I sat in the chair across from her desk she looked up from my test results and said, “Well...you have a whole slew of things going on with you.” She proceeded to tell me that I have malaria, amoebas, and I tested positive for typhoid. (Welcome to Angola!) However, since the test for typhoid measures antibodies, and I have just recently had a vaccination against typhoid, it is likely a false positive, as it is very unlikely that I have contracted typhoid having had the vaccination, though not impossible. However, because of the presence of fever, she decided to treat for all three things. After receiving prescriptions for numerous medications and a quick trip to the pharmacy and the supermarket for bottled water, I was back at the house feeling hungry and tired. I ate some lunch, which went fairly well and laid down for a nap. Thursday afternoon was uneventful and I thought the worst of it was over, but later that night things took a turn for the worse and again it was the fever roller coaster, vomiting, etc. But as I sit here on Saturday morning, I think I can safely say that I am on the mend. The medications are working wonders, I ate solid food and kept it down, I had a full night's sleep last night and I feel human again. Praise the Lord Almighty, the Great Physician. Thank You, God, for doctors and all their hard work, for giving them the intelligence and the dedication to do what they do, and for the people who created Coartem, Metronidazole, and Cipro. And thank You so very much for the gift of health. =)
Working Man 24/1/12 Sam is now a working man. He began as an intern at CEML on Monday a week ago. He is learning a lot and finally putting into practice all the theory he got in medical school. At the end of the long days I know he is tired but grateful. Instead of one parting shot for today, here are a few photos of the medical center and the surrounding area:
Say it Ain't So 19/1/12 So I've been having this weird reaction on my lips, particularly my upper lip. Some of you who know me well, may know that once when I was in college my upper lip seriously swelled to gigantic proportions which led to a late-night emergency room visit, a shot of adrenaline, and some steroids to bring my lip back to normal human-sized proportions. I never did figure out what caused it. Well, two weeks ago in the evening, my lip started to feel really dry and slightly strange – kind of like the feeling of having flour on your lips from some freshly baked bread. I didn't think much of it, because we have been eating a lot of said bread with flour dusted on it, and I thought perhaps my lips were just irritated from too much contact. The next morning however, I woke up with a tingling, slightly swollen upper lip. I immediately flashed back to my college-days reaction and took some Benadryl to help curb the inflammation. Well, to my relief, the lip didn't swell to epic proportions, but later on in the day I could feel a rash forming on my top lip. It was nearly invisible to see, but just made my lips look sort of puffy and the best way I describe the feel is that of the flour dusted on your lip that you can't get off. For the next 4 or 5 days my lip felt extremely dry – imagine the worst chapped lips you have ever experienced – dry and burning, and after a while, even itchy, and nothing seemed to make it better, though I bought some Vaseline and this seemed to make me a little more comfortable. Then, after about a week, it got better and went away. Mysterious. So maybe 4 or 5 days went without problems, when all of the sudden I awoke one morning with the same tingling swollen lip. Back again, Round two. So here I am on day 3 of the process and trying to decide whether or not to go to the medical center with Sam some morning to go have a consultation to figure out what's going on. It's just...I feel weird about going to see a doctor when even Sam can barely see anything wrong with my lip, other than slight swelling. Even if they FEEL like they look awful. So I did the next best thing and decided to do a little research on my own first. Googling “itchy rash on lips” yielded surprising numerous results and after a little reading I found a number of people describing similar symptoms to mine. Several people who described the most similar symptoms mentioned mangoes as the culprit. “Mangoes?” I thought. Now, if you know me, you know that I love mangoes! I have eaten plenty of mangoes before and never had such a reaction. But upon a little further sleuthing, I discovered that the mango tree is in the sumac family and the peel of the mango can cause poison ivy-like symptoms in some people. Personally, I have never had poison ivy before, and certainly not on my lips, but if I had to guess what it would feel like I'd say that's a good way to describe what it might be like. So I have been thinking about the number of mangoes I have eaten here; when, and how I ate them. See, in the past, as I have said, I have eaten plenty of mangoes. Typically I wash, peel them, then cut up the fruit and eat it. The majority of these mangoes have been previously washed, and shipped from somewhere else before getting to me. I've touched the skins with my hands and never had a reaction before. Now, the mangoes I have eaten here are straight off the tree to my hands. We wash them, but often in order to eat them, instead of peeling them, because the skins are rather tender and thin, people usually bite into the end and tear the peel with their teeth; eating the inside like an apple, but discarding the peel. With some of the mangoes, though not all I have had here, I have taken this approach – meaning my lips have come into direct contact with the mango peel. And looking back, it's very possible that I had eaten a mango in this manner prior to my lip episodes. I'm not sure yet how or if I'm going to test my theory. I may just go back to eating mangoes only by peeling them completely first. It would be a terrible, terrible day to have to ward off mangoes completely, especially now - being surrounded by them ripening right before my eyes. Pure torture. Parting Shot: “Say it Ain't So, Mr. Mango!”
Mission Impossible 17/1/12 Dear Ladies, You have one bucket of hot water, one bucket of cold water and a lighted candle as your sole source of light. Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to successfully bathe, wash your hair, and shave your legs. Did I mention it's COLD and you're covered in goosebumps? Have fun, try not to nick yourself and don't miss a spot! Sincerely Yours, Amanda They say candlelight is forgiving. It's hides all the imperfections and casts everything is a warm, gauzy glow. That's rather desirable for first dates, but not exactly the top lighting choice when it comes to shaving one's legs. I've had the pleasure of the above experience twice now since moving to Lubango and let's just say it's not my favorite activity in the world. I do, however, appear to be quite talented at it, even if I do say so myself. No cuts, and I smell clean. Though, I must say it does take me like an hour to complete the whole ritual of bathing, washing hair and shaving. That being said, as you can imagine, the latter is done on a purely 'as needed' basis. Parting Shot for today: “Isn't it Romantic?”
Addendum to My Taxi Tribute 16/1/12 Something I neglected to mention...there are additional options when it comes to taxi-ing in Lubango. One of them I was party to experiencing this morning....motorcycle taxis! Today we went o CEML for the first time. The location is pretty far on the outside edge of town and up the mountain on the way towards Christo Rei. From where we're currently staying, the trip there involves two typical taxis (as described above) – one from our side of town to the other, and a second one from there further up the mountain. Where the second taxi leaves you off is still a few kilometers from the hospital, so you either hoof it or climb on board one of the waiting motorcycle taxis. On a warm sunny day, breezing along on a motorcycle might be downright picturesque. This morning, however, was cold and RAINING. Motorcycle + Rain = very wet knees and head. Thankfully, the driver blocks the brunt of the deluge to your trunk, but still, not an experience I am looking forward to repeating. So, until that warm sunny day ride appears, the jury is still out on the motorcycle taxi. Parting Shot: “Moto-Taxi”
A Word About Taxis 13/1/12 I won't claim to have an extensive knowledge of taxis around the world by any means, but I've had the chance to experience a few different sorts in the countries in which I've lived, so I thought I'd give my humble observations about this typical type of city transportation. Let's begin with my home country, the USA. In the States, my experience with taxis is limited to New York City, and I'm not an aficionado on the particulars, so forgive me any small mistakes. In my recollection, in the USA, you flag down a taxi, which is often a car or maybe a mini van, designated as a taxi usually by a lighted sign on the roof and/or writing on the door. You tell the the driver where you want to go and he'll take you there. As far as I know, they can't refuse a fare, they don't have set routes per se, and you pay according to the length of the trip, as counted out by a meter on the dashboard of the car. The driver won't pick up another fare until you are dropped off at your destination, or you have agreed to share the taxi. In Namibia taxis are also cars and they are denoted by writing on the side doors and/of numbers on the windows of the vehicle. You flag one down or the driver comes to you and offers his services by calling "taxi?" if you happen to be near a taxi rank and/or coming out of a shop or perhaps you just look like you're looking for a ride. You tell the driver where you want to go and he decides if he wants to take you there based on the benefit to him, how long it will take to get there, how many others he might find or has already found to go to the same general area, and how likely he can find fares on a return trip. If he doesn't think it's a good deal for him, he can refuse you and so you start over again. Prices are generally set. One price for typical in-town trips, another price for going all the way across town. Long trips are generally negotiated with the driver on a case-by-case basis. Taxi drivers try to get as many fares as possible, which means sometimes sitting and waiting in the car until he has decided it is sufficiently full. This also means you may find yourself pressed between two rather large sweaty people in the backseat with shopping bags and all. In Russia there are three options that I noted while in Saint Petersburg. Option #1 is like the taxis in NYC, the are run by official taxi companies, are designated by signs, and take individual fares where they want to go. This is the most expensive option in the city, often over-priced, but probably the safest choice. Option #2 is to ride by flagging down a regular car, unmarked, either driven by regular driver or someone using their own car to work as an unofficial taxi driver. It's kind of like hitchhiking for a price. With this option when you flag down a car, you negotiate the price with the driver. If you are both satisfied, you get in and he'll take you to your destination. Option #3 is to take marshrutka. This is a minibus which is designated by numbers on the vehicle. They have set routes which are listed on the side windows. Marshrutkas work much like buses because they have set routes, but they don't have particular set stops. When you get inside, you take a seat (if there is a seat available) and pass your money up to the driver, who often makes change while zipping through the busy streets. The drivers aren't known for their careful driving, but they do generally try to follow basic rules of the road. Marshrutkas also try to get as many fares are possible during a trip, so you may find all of the seats occupied, but there still may be space to stand in the aisle or near the door. When you near your destination, simply yell up to the driver to inform him where he needs to stop. In my opinion, Angola has the most interesting taxis so far. They are similar to marshrutkas, in that they are also minibuses and and have set routes. But there are some particularities which make them specifically Angolan. Unlike the Russian marshrutkas, which have numbers and their routes labeled on the side of the vehicle, the way you know the route of a taxi here in Lubango is the young guy hanging out the side window of the van yelling the name of the destination. This guy's job is to alert people on the street to the direction/destination of the taxi, to collect the fares of the riders, to alert the driver of when to stop, and to open and close the door. For some reason, I'm fascinated with these guys. Something about the hanging halfway out the window or open door of a moving taxi as it weaves through traffic and dodges the rifts in the road says "adrenaline junkie", or maybe "stupid" depending on your interpretation. One last thing you need to know about the driving here is that the majority of intersections have no signage at all. No traffic lights, no stop signs, no one directing traffic, just approach the intersection, look for other cars coming into your path and try not to hit each other. In other words, pay attention and pray. Maybe now you understand my fixation on the guys hanging out the sides of the taxis. Today's parting shot - my tribute to the taxi callers: "All in a Day's Work"
A Hero Has Gone Home 12/1/12 My first week in Angola has been unusual and special. Sam and I happened to arrive just a few days before the passing of Dr. Bob Foster, a man with a tremendous legacy in Angola, especially here in Lubango and Kalukembe where he served for many years as missionary and doctor saving lives physically and spiritually; as well as in Zambia, where he was born and also served people who had no doctor at the time. I did not get the pleasure of meeting Dr. Bob, though Sam has, and has told me much about him and introduced me to the book written about his life, “The Sword and the Scalpel”, which I very much recommend. Today we attended his funeral, along with so many whose lives he touched.
He will be sorely missed here on Earth, but there is a sweet reunion going on in Heaven. Parting shot: “Ashes to Ashes, Dust to Dust”
A New Beginning 7/1/12 One more dawn, one more day, one day more. Well, here we are - Lubango, Angola. Welcome to the Portuguese language, to big rocky cliffs and Cristo Rei towering over the city, to women carrying anything and everything you could possibly imagine in buckets atop their heads, balancing as they navigate the busy streets. You'll quickly learn “A luz foi.”, and “A luz veio!” (“The lights are gone.” “The lights have come back!”), since the power goes out several times a day, yet there's still the same exuberant exclamation when they return. You'll eat fish and porridge, rice and beans; you'll pick guava, mangoes, avocados, bananas and papayas right off the trees in your back yard. The sights, the sounds, the smells are all new; and for me, it's Africa, all new, all over again.
And so, we begin again. We arrived separately, Sam and I. He, by mini bus early Thursday morning, and me by plane Thursday afternoon. Tomorrow marks one week in Angola. The week has been a whirlwind of greetings and meetings of Sam's family – cousins and uncles, aunts and friends from long ago. There is hardly a day where we walk on the street and aren't met by the call of “Oi, Sammy!” from a car or passerby on the street – an old friend or a woman who exclaims about how long it has been, how tall Sam has grown. It's a window for me into his history and I find myself connected to a much larger family, one who accepts me with opens arms, smiles, and kisses on both cheeks. Welcome. We are staying with Sam's cousin, Eduardo and his wife, Julina. Lovely people who have done everything to make me feel at home - even working at the little English they know and teaching me Portuguese. Julina tells me what I really need to learn is Umbundu – the local language of Sam's family. We've begun with a few phrases...so....maybe after I tackle Portuguese. The electricity is on again, off again. In the evenings if it happens to be off again, there's a petrol-powered generator. There's no running water where we're staying, so there's a large drum filled with water for flushing the toilet, and a basin to use for washing hands, and bathing. We boil water on the stove to warm the bathing water; and I'm thankful that it's currently summer. The days are warm, but not too hot. The mornings and evenings cool enough for long sleeves or a fleece. Most days in the afternoon there is rain, sometimes furious rain that pours forth from angry dark clouds that gather over the mountain. Sometimes it rains at night and the sound of it pounding the zinc roof blissfully drums you sleep. So here we are in Angola, waiting for God to show us the next step. The way is open for Sam to take an internship at CEML and there is excitement at the opportunity to learn from such a gifted and faith-filled doctor, like “Uncle Steve”. So we're seeking God to confirm if this is the way he should go. We're also praying for God to provide a place to live. God says we should pray specifically and tell Him our desires. Electricity and running water would be nice. So if you pray, you can pray that way, with us. =) We also need some form of transportation for Sam if he is to work at CEML. It is outside of town and requires a drive. I'll leave you with a parting shot for today - “Bem-vindo ao Lubango”