Wednesday, November 27, 2013

in case you were wondering: sickness

I haven’t written in a while mostly because I’ve been either too busy or too sick to put time into my beloved bush baby blog. For whatever reason, I seem to have been stuck on this recurring sickness cycle for the last two months. Sick for two weeks, healthy for one, sick for two weeks, healthy for one. Finally, one of my sick periods coincided with a trip to Lusaka and Jeremy agreed to I should get some blood work done to try and figure out what was going on with me.

Well, I can officially tell you that I do not have the following ailments:

Tick bite fever
Morning sickness

Actually, I’m only assuming that I do not have tick bit fever, mostly because I’m feeling fine now, even though the lab never delivered the results for that test. I still am not sure what has caused the various bouts of illness, but I’ve basically been told to go forward and hope for the best, which I will certainly do. I was thinking though that this might be a good opportunity to share a bit about how we deal with sickness, just in case anyone was wondering. Here are some of the main features of our available health care facilities and what we do in terms of sickness management.
(note: these are details of the upcountry facilities; there are better facilities in Lusaka, if you can get there. also, photo credit to Denise, a super stealth photographer in an otherwise not-to-be-photographed place.)

* There is no such thing as an emergency here. If you are dying, the Doctor will still be in at 9 o’clock.

* The hospital may shut down completely for things like cocroach fumigation.

* Medical professionals are referred to as doctors even if they are not actually doctors. They “doctor” diagnosing you may an MD, or a nurse, or, in worst case scenarios, the janitor.

* Many medical professionals would rather be wrong than admit they do not know.

* It is culturally frowned upon to ask too many questions or question the doctor’s authority.

* Diagnostic services are severely limited to the extent that the lab can tell you your iron count, HIV status or Malaria parasite levels. And that’s it.

* But it doesn’t matter that the labs can’t tell you more, because if you have a headache, a fever, body aches, nausea or vomiting, you obviously have malaria. Even if you just tested negative for malaria.

* It is most common for doctors to diagnose only things for which they have medicine… which is another reason why you obviously have malaria.

* There are no appointments. All doctors visits are established through a first come, first serve, stand in line for hours sort of basis.

* If the doctor decides you need to be admitted for observation (Jeremy, bless his heart, has been admitted three times) you have to source your own mosquito net, wash your own blankets if you puke on them, and bring your own clean drinking water because whatever comes out of the taps in the hospital is likely to make you sicker.

* Most of the time, we just try not to get sick, self diagnose when we feel crummy, and try to “hold off till Lusaka” when something just isn’t right.

I know that a fair number of Americans are frustrated with the health care system in the US right now. I’ve been reading the facebook rants. I'm sorry if you are paying out the nose for doctors visits. I’ll try and say this as gently as possible and with an abundance of sympathy…

Consider just how much you choose to complain, because it could be a whole lot worse.”

(Aren’t you glad you asked about what its like to be sick in Zambia?!?!?!)

Please know that I’m not trying to start a game of comparisons. Missionaries and Peace Corps volunteers and expats LOVE to play the "my life is harder than your life" game. It's obnoxious (at best) and toxic (at worst), and we would all do well to stay far, far away from that mentality.

Furthermore, the fact of the matter is that Jeremy and I know all too well that we have it way better than many other people in this country, who have it way better than many other people in this region who have it way better than many other people in this world. The fact that I can google my symptoms and purchase fuel to drive myself to Lusaka or even buy a ticket to fly home to America puts me in a soberingly privileged category and I don’t take that lightly. I don’t throw around words like schistosomiasis to sound all hard-core or to elicit sympathy. I’m just sharing for sharing sake – answering questions that we certainly do get asked, because after all, the title of this post is in case you were wondering… And now you know!

I’d actually like to do a whole series of ‘in case you were wondering’ posts to answer readers' questions about what life is like in our little corner of the world called Fimpulu. If you have a question, something you might have been wondering, leave a comment or send me an e-mail or fb message and I’ll dedicate a post to answering it!

Saturday, November 9, 2013

iwe things

Iwe – pronounced ee-way – means “you” in Bemba. It’s the informal “you,” lacking an “m” and therefore lacking respect in the Bemba language. Most children (and some ornery adults) get called “iwe” by their elders.

Iwe, bring me the pot.” “Iwe, stop making noise!” “Iwe, what are you doing?” These are the things that moms say all day every day. (Kids names do get thrown in there too, sometimes. “Iwe, Winnie, what’s the problem?”)

More than just a word, iwe signifies a position in life, a specific (low) spot on the social ladder and sometimes just a goofy use of informality when the speaker is trying to make a point.

I used to find the use of iwe to be not very nice and (pre-motherhood) swore that I would never call my child iwe. After all, she’s a human being, worthy of dignity and respect – an image bearer of God! I can’t call my child “you.” But, as I’ve become one with all the mothers of all of the iwes, my mind has changed on that point. Despite lacking any form of honor, iwe can also be a term of endearment, acknowledging ones youth – similar to calling a small child baby even when they are no longer a baby. Furthermore, as Bronwyn does more and more iwe-like things (including responding to whoever calls her iwe) it just seems fitting that she join the ranks of the little people who bear this title for this season of her life.

As I scrolled through some recent pictures, I kept laughing and calling to Jeremy, “Come look at her – she’s such an iwe!” And I’ve found her iwe-ness so irresistibly sweet that I thought I’d share it here: a compilation of iwe things my kid does.

I realize that some of these things may not make any sense to anyone who has not visited or lived in Zambia, and so if that’s you, just trust me that these things make Bronwyn the sweetest white iwe that ever was. 

And so without further ado…

She assumes that everyone wants to hold her, play with her etc. and is rarely put off by being picked up by a stranger.

The bottoms of her feet are turning to leather, not to mention her insistence on being half naked more than half of the time. 

She knows to put her hands together and hold them up to anything hot – including cooking fires, candles and (haha) the sun.

She thinks she’s a footballer and thinks she can play with the big boys.

She “fetches water” like its her job, because she has gathered that it is.  (before you call cps, I do not ask my toddler to draw water. please know that she can’t pick up one of those buckets when there’s water in it, and I wouldn’t even let her try for like five more years. She is, however, obsessed with going out to the well and tries to act all big-girl taking the empty buckets out there.)

She also sweeps like it’s her job. Again, because she has gathered that it is. 

She screams at the top of her lungs at kids/bicyclists/goats that are impossibly far away, just like everyone else. 

She rolls all of her food like its nshima. Even if its rice and beans, or spaghetti. 

She has her own tribe of sure fire trouble makers.

She assumes all food is communal and insists on sharing.

She is training to be a professional goat wrangler.

She plays with dull knives and cuts things the exact way the Bamayos do it. That specific fist hold... its just so very iwe.

She eats amasuko, a kind of bush fruit.

She is studying the art of killing and plucking chickens.

She often grabs the closest chitenge and takes it to the nearest woman as her way of saying “put me on your back and take me somewhere because I’m bored here with mom.” 

It's an action thing, so it's hard to capture, but she does the respectful curtsy when handing something over to someone.

She loves her make-shift, local, home-made toys.

She will do (almost) anything for a packet of ama jiggys. It might not get any more iwe than that.

Be still my heart, I have the most precious little iwe on the planet. The fact that she is going to be crazy socially awkward whenever we go to America is not yet a concern because these things are so darling to me I don’t want her to change. Her iwe-ness also is a big part of her normal-ness. For as long as possible, I want her to avoid the awkward of being "the white kid," and instead enjoy the carefree pleasures of being a run of the mill iwe.

 Nalikutemwa iwe ka Winne, umwana wandi. I love you little Winnie, my child.