Nearly a year has passed since I left one remote village in the Sierra Nevadas for another remote village in the middle of Africa. Talking with friends last night, it finally hit me: I’ll be on a plane in less than 4 weeks now! There is so much to do!
But this morning, I looked outside, expecting (and hoping) for a bit of rain. Not a lot but just enough that I wouldn’t have to go teach sabbath school in the villages. I know, I’m a bad missionary. Instead, I look out and see fog. Instantly I am transported back to a time of simplicity and a place of nostalgia: my grandparents’ beach house on the Northern California Coast. Located right on Highway 1, we got fog regularly. One night we watched the God’s Must be Crazy. I was amazed at the end when he was higher than the cloads. Shortly after, We drove into the coastal mountains and as we reached the top, a fog bank came in and I saw what it was like to look out over the cloads.
Now I understand not only how cool cloads and fog are, but I see how the gods really must be crazy. There are things that I never thought I would understand and there are things that I thought I could never understand here. I saw how things were done and all I could do was wonder how in the world did they come up with that explaination. One example is snake bites:
On of our Traditional Birth Attendents describes to us this pain she is having. Now, let’s all remember that I am not a doctor and have no clinical training except for how to pull teeth (and that’s even a bit sketchy at times…). But I have had my fair share of normal ailments. She describes a pain that sounds just like a sinus infection. Sinuses are a hard topic to explain because it is difficult to show someone what they are. She asked me very seriously if her pain was caused from a snake bite 14 months ago. People told her that it probably was because she was helping people and the tradditional healer didn’t like that so he sent a snake to bite her.
If she had told this to me last fall, I would have probably laughed and told her not to worry about it. But even after 11 months here, I had to stiffle that laugh and seriously tell her not to worry about it. If the snake had truly been poisoness, she would have felt the effects long ago. She is in the clear and should try a saline sinus wash daily.
From the time of Adam and Eve, snakes have been seen as negative omens. This is shown in the anamistic beliefs here. If a snake bites you, you’ve pissed someone off. You don’t go to the doctor but you stay home with different leaves and mud. Theres not much else that can happen at the hospital but they can at least keep the fevers down and the patient hydrated.
Its fascinating to me to hear where modern medicine hits with ancient beliefs. This happens among the educated and the medically inclined. The frustrating part happens when they go to all the trouble of trying to fix something that can’t be fixed but won’t take quinine and tylenol for malaria. When health proffesionals here still believe that killing a chicken will stop a blood clot or that walking in the rain will cause malaria.
Some things are ingrained so deap, it is hard to even start to change a view. It brings up images of a dream within a dream: Inception. The best way we do this happens to be with farming metaphors. Thankfully, my grandparents are farmers and I have had my fair share of little gardens in the past. We ask what happens when you plant your crops too close together and they respond that they get a lower yield, they are sicker, and generally, its a bad thing. We then talk about family planning. There are lots of ooo’s and aaaaahhh’s as they see the importance of saving money by spacing out children. Then we recenly had to add a part about working the land and caring for it. They were all about it and when we said you have to take care of women the same way, there were several shouts of joy and a few looks of shock.
When it came to sleeping around, one man asked, “Well what else are we suppose to do if our wife won’t give us their vagina?” We then launched a mini topic on how sex works, how women take longer to get going, and how that if they made her feel extacy, that they would have no need to go look for other vaginas. A common phrase is “my penis won’t let me sleep” so it soon becomes an excuse for a man to whore around. This then, of course, spreads diesease, most commonly HIV/AIDS and yeast infections.
Litterally, it must be something in the water because everyone and their mother seems to have a yeast infection. Men included. Circumcised. Usually, yeast infections come from an unbalanced flora/fauna habitat in a woman’s body. This can be caused from too many antibiotics, hormone levels, and other contaminates. Men then contract it from the women and can spread it to other women. Of course, this also means that it can happen to even a women who is not sexually active. But for the man to get it, you have have plunged into an infection or two. There is no monosat (or whatever that drug is) here in Chad. Our translator, Naomi, has been trying to get a yeast infection clinic going but its been difficult to obtain large quantities of the vinigar and lime juice that she uses for treatments. Thankfully though, she is doing something to help her community. People come with their 3 wives or one night with their wife and the other night with their girlfriend. From people who work in the field to high poloticians, Naomi with treat them all.
So even though there is some crazy medicinal ideas, some natural remedies actually work. Naomi is using those to treat. We try to inception-ize people to understand that health is more than medicine. Its about a healthy community, good education, oppotunity, and an understanding of what makes up health. As I prepare to go home, I think about all the stuff I have to do, both here and once I’m home. I’ll have to do some fundrasing and some relaxing. If you have any ideas or want to help, just let me know: Nous sommes ensamble. We are together.
L’Hopital Adventiste de Béré
ATTN: Zachary Gately
52 Boîte Postal