Monday, May 7, 2012

Oh, home and native land.......

Long time no chat!!  I've been "up country" (which is code for anywhere outside of Freetown) for the last week and a half with a medical team from Canada.  We had a team of nurses and docs and boy...can those Canadians see some patients!! We kicked butt and took names (and by that of course I mean compassionately treated more than a thousand patients who came to see us).  Since the week was packed full, I'll give you the low down bullet point style.

1. I love getting to meet new people and see Sierra Leone through the eyes of first timers.  This was no exception.  Team Canada was great and I loved getting to know them and introduce them to the country I love.  Also, I learned the Canadian anthem while they were here so...I'm practically Canadian.  Just call me Amersalonian.  Definitely.

2. I love spending time with the Sierra Leoneans that always help me on these trips.  One of my favorite pastors here is...a little bit crazy...but awesome! I couldn't do these teams without him and I love hanging out with he and his wife!  He spends about 30% of the week going around snapping photos with his camera or ipod.  I spend 30% of the time trying to ruin whatever picture he's attempting to take.  It's a beautiful partnership....really.

3.  This year we had a doctor from Peru come join us.  Now, my dad has been building up this lady for....years.  "Emily, you need to meet this girl."  "Emily, you're really going to love this girl."  "Emily, she's like you....(which I interpreted to mean a little bit crazy).  Well, I spent the week with her and....well played Dad, well played.  She was great!!  We shared a room for a week and may or may not have literally spent hours giggling in the middle of the night.  Sorry third roommate!!  You didn't realize you were rooming with 2  ten year olds!

4.  There is a large population of Lebanese people living and working in Sierra Leone.  The hotel that we stayed at was run by a Lebanese woman and her son.  She and I hit it off and one day I was looking at pictures of her family and she was showing me pictures of hers in Lebanon.  It started to rain so I grabbed all my stuff from the table and took it to my room. A little while later she was looking all around and told me that she lost her key, and that her other key was locked in her room. I helped them look around some and then the maintenance man came to talk about breaking into her room.  All of the sudden I though, "Hmmm Emily, you wouldn't have taken her key would you?" Now, the only reason this even popped into my head is because....I'd already taken someone else's key earlier in the week.  I went to check in my room on the VERY unlikely chance that I'd taken it and...sure enough. There it was sitting on my bed with my camera, phone, etc.  Oops!! I tried to blame it on my roommate but....couldn't do it. It was my fault.  Fortunately she forgave me. :)  And REALLY fortunately, they didn't break into the room to get it.  Thank you Jesus!!

(Note: This is my Lebanese friend and I.  Apparently I took zero pictures this week, and the few pictures I did take wouldn't load....darn internet. So sorry for the essentially pictureless blog!!)

5.  I am constantly learning and re-learning things here.  One of the things that I've learned, is that the last day of the clinic is just....not easy.  All week when we see people outside and they beg to be seen, we can say "come tomorrow, come tomorrow, come tomorrow."  But the last more tomorrow.  And since I am the keeper of the cards (the ticket into the clinic), the buck essentially stops with me.  I hate being the bad guy that says no.  Yuck.  I was sensing that I was a little emotional as soon as we pulled up to the clinic, but I started off the day doing pretty good!!  One of my biggest fears was that I would get frustrated by not being able to see everyone and by everyone asking for their mother/sister/uncle/great, great, grandmother to be seen that I would get irritated and snap at someone.  I needed to balance firmness with gentleness.  Not my forte.   But I was doing ok.  We knew approximately how many patients we'd be able to see that day so we handed out a certain number of cards and then just kept handing them out 5 at a time, so we would keep good control on how many we could see.  Then I was brought a list of 16 elders in the community who hadn't been around all week, but wanted to be seen now.  Ugggghhhh.  I lost it a little bit and started crying.
One thing that I have a hard time with here are the power plays.  I've grown up in a culture that teaches that the best kinds of leaders are servants....placing those they're leading ahead of themselves.  But that is traditionally not the way it is here.  If you're a leader or have power, it means you get the best seat, you are served first, etc.  So the fact that the people who had been waiting outside in the hot sun all day, every day, for the last five days were going to be pushed aside so these men could waltz in and be seen....frustrating.  I expressed my frustration to my Sierra Leonean friend who I trust to help me navigate through the political things that I don't understand here, and he was empathetic.  He told me that he understood my frustration, but the fact is, we are leaving tomorrow and there is a church and a school that will remain behind and these leaders have the ability to make things very difficult for them if we disrespect them right now.  
I could see some of the community members standing around me, wondering if I was about to make their lives a lot harder, so I swallowed my indignation and gave them the cards.  I still don't like it. I don't think it's right.  But when I get frustrated by things like that, I remind myself that I CHOOSE to live here.  So suck it up Emily.  Suck it up.

6.  Beach day.  Of course beach day was awesome. It always it.  What a beautiful display of God's creation and creativity!  I love going to the beach! :)

The season of medical teams is done now, and I'm planning on heading back up to the hospital tomorrow (providing Boris (my car) is done getting his face lift by tonight).  Bring on the baby borning!

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