I've been keeping a list with me that I add to when I want to remember something to put in the blog. I don't have much time today so I am just going to go through the list and explain each one. Sorry for the lack of flow :)
Driving to our outreach program today we say an interesting sight. Apparently the Minister of State was in Tamale so there was a HUGE police escort. Every police car in the area (about 30 cars) were following one another with their lights on. The point is that no one knows which on the Minister is in to avoid any attacks. It was interesting.
Marielle, Cu Ri and myself went out with someone we met the other night. We went to a bar downtown and it was crazy how dead it was. It made the poverty very apparent because the carts and shacks that are usually filled with colorful fruit and fabric and overwhelmed with the daily hustle and bustle were left barren. There was so much litter and you could see how delapitated the structures were. Most depressing, though, were the people sleeping on the streets or on little benches in front of the shops. Some of these were night guards and were being paid, but far too many were there because they had no other place to go. I asked if they were the owners and it was explained that it was more likely an uncle or other family member who wasn't doing well at the time and asked to crash there. It was sad to really see the poverty. Until now I have been under the impression that, while of course their standards are not what ours are in the States, people still seemed to be doing fine and taking care of themselves. I have also been more aware of the children's swollen bellys and protruding belly buttons, an obvious sign of undernourishment. It makes me sad to see.
A neat thing! One of the many things carried around on the women's heads are hug trays of hard boiled eggs. you buy one for a few Ghana peswas and they have a spoon to crack off the shell for you and you put the shells back on the tray and enjoy your complete protein :)
Dr. Wanye came over the other night and hung out for a bit. He told us the story of how the new eye clinic came to be and I thought it was neat, so I wanted to share the story. Four years ago the eye clinic was a single room with no AC and no fan. Dr. Wanye, still the only ophthalmologist, had only a pen light (which merely checks for constriction of pupils) and an ophthalmascope (which can only diagnose cataracts). The microscope he had was in horrible condition and he didn't have an area for sterile surgeries, anyway. The Swiss Red Cross stepped in and worked magic, along with a prestigious ophthalmologist from the Moran Eye Center in Salt Lake City, Dr. Tabin. (I am actually hoping to get in touch with Dr. Tabin upon my return to SLC and try to work with him doing research or volunteering for his organization, the Himalayan Project, which brought him out here in the first place.) The Swiss Red Cross renovated the one room clinic into a beautiful office with a pre-op room, and operation room, a waiting room, Dr. Wanye's office, a room for the optometric nurses, and a pharmacy. There is air conditioning in most all of the rooms. They also helped gain the support for Alcon to donate the prosthetic lenses used in the surgeries. Dr. Tabin donated a plethora of wonderful tools and microscopes. The eye clinic was transformed into a modern clinic suitable for sterile surgeries, routine eye checks, and dispensing medication and glasses. It's really great and inspiring. Furthermore, we touched upon politics and being a group of liberal students an anti-Bush comment was inevitable. I was surprised and happy to hear Dr. Wanye to step up and explain that, while of course the man has done a number of crappy things, his administration has actually done a lot of great things for public health in Africa, ranging from addressing the HIV crisis to improving the eye care system. I was really happy to hear that he had this credited to him because at least he has made one improvement in his despicable eight years in office. At least he has helped the health care in Africa be improved, I can now give him that.
The majority of the people here in Tamale have scars on their cheeks. Most have just one vertical scar on each cheek beneath their eye, but some have two or three and some have additional at different angles. It took us a while to gain the courage to ask what these scars were for. We finally asked and got the answer that some are the scars from administering medication while the person was younger, but most is just a sign of their clan or village they come from. As babies, cuts are made in a certain pattern to show where they come from. The other day I saw a kid who had about eight scars radiating from her belly button, kind of like a sun. If you look closely in the picture of me with the kids on my photo album, you can see these scars.
Yue, Cu Ri, and myself went to a village the other day while the other three went to see surgeries. It was a small village with tons and tons of animals. Upon arrival we went to say hello to the chief and thank him for having us to his village. We took off our sandles upon entrance to his hut and, out of respect, bowed down and sat with our knees bent to stay lower than him. The chief thanked us for coming and then gave us all names, which was an honor. Yue's name is Wombi, Cu Ri's name is Nepari, and my name is Katumi. Lydia, the nurse who we travel with every day, now only calls us by these names. She either loves me or my name because she always makes a point of calling out “Katumi!! Dasiba!?” (How is the day) She now introduces us to the villages by these names and it must be impressive to have been given these names because the locals always seem impressed by them.
We went to an Islamic private school yesterday called Al-Saadi Senior High School. It was clear that these kids were better off than other people we have seen. It was fun and screening was easier because they were all literate and spoke English well. All the kids love my RayBan aviators and kept asking if they could have them. I had to tell them that, unfortunately, I loved my glasses more and was unable to part with them. I should've thought of this ahead of time and realized that people would want “cool” sunglasses. If I had thought of this, I would've brought a number of cheap glasses so I could give them away as I wanted. Oh well, next time. I also got my second marriage proposal at the school by a handsome man who is 22. I gave him two stipulations: 1) I will be the only wife, I do not accept multiple wives. 2) I'm not getting married for 10 years, so he'll have to wait. He laughed and said he could deal with just one wife if she were white (here, one way your wealth is shown is by how many wives you have) and said he, too, would like to wait for marriage so he can accomplish his “dreams and aspirations.” We had a good laugh and I said we'll meet back up next decade.
Today we went to another small village with more baby animals I have seen the whole trip (Marielle and I was obnoxiously “awww”ing at every animal). Again, upon arriving, we went to see the chief and give him the first screening. We couldn't understand what was being said because they were speaking Dogbani, but it was clear Lydia was very upset. When we left the chief's hut she explained what was happening. Apparently it is very common for deceiving “doctors” to visit villages and offer “cataract surgeries.” What they are actually doing is just scamming the people for money and, in the process, blinding them with a horrible procedure. They simply stick a pin, which is rarely sterile, through the cornea into the pupil and push the lens back into the anterior cavity. This permanently blinds the individual, not to mention causes a lot of pain, and there is nothing the clinic can do about it. While screening the eye, you can see the scar tissue on the cornea and there is no lens to be found, only a black pupil. It's a horrible sight to see and really, really sad. I was astonished to hear that there are people so heartless and greedy!
Well that's all for the day! Tomorrow morning we are being picked up at the prime hour of FIVE AM to do the three hour drive up to Mole National Park!!! Mark and Jessica will continue up to Wa with Dr. Wanye to see surgeries and Cu Ri, Yue, Marielle and I are staying in the park for the weekend. I'll take truly epic pictures and post them as soon as I can. I won't be back on until after my birthday, though, so everyone take care!!!!
LOVE AND MISS YOU ALL!!!!