Monday, January 25, 2010

Up most mornings by 6, this morning 5:30, the sky just starting to lighten with a faint pink blush. Clear view of Lake Tanganyika and the Congo this morning although there is a moist haze over all. Days are equal length as we are so close to the equator. This is the rainy season, so it rains at some point pretty much every day. The good news is that there are also periods of sunshine as well. Very humid, my hair is curly.

Went to pick up the 5 babies and one adult that we had sent to a nearby (two hour drive) hospital for blood transfusions. Unlike most hospitals in the states it is not just one big building but several small wards, most with the doors to the patient rooms opening to the outdoors. The maternity ward being the exception which had an inner corridor with patient rooms on either side. The buildings are made of concrete and metal bars and are in obvious disrepair. As we (Elvis, one of our translators, and I) were walking down the corridors heading towards the pediatric ward I saw one of the moms of one of the babies. She saw me as well and came running towards me giving me a big hug. Very excited to see me knowing that I had come to get her, and very anxious to leave. Elvis said that they did not like the hospital. Getting out turned out to be a three hour process. It was Sunday and the doctor who had to discharge them was no where to be found. After asking several people we found out where he lived, drove there, found out he was in church got his phone number, which he didn't answer for an hour, and met him at a hotel for coffee to ask him to discharge the pts. He drove back with us, by now it is pouring down rain. He discharged the babies, and because they were all under 5 years old, we did not have to pay any bill for them...however none of the moms/fathers/parents/grandparents had any sort of documentation to that fact but with the promise that they would get that in the near future we were given permission to take them. The adult woman was another story. She did not have proper documentation saying she was indigent (if she had she (actually we meaning VHW...she has no money) would have only been responsible for 20% of her bill) so I ended up paying the full amount to get her released. If I had not had the money she would have had to stay. If patients can't pay they can't leave...! The billing process seemed pretty random, not sure how they came up with the final price but I paid $38,700 Burundian francs =about $26.00US for her 5 day hospital stay which included 3 units of blood...and that was considered expensive!
On the way back stopped at a market in Rumonge and bought 50 lbs of flour. We have a hot pot (a solar cooker) that I want to try out...baking, so wanted to have enough flour to experiment.
I ended up making banana bread and it turned out great. Took about 2 hours to bake and was delicious.
There is somewhat of a food focus here....because of the lack of variety. We usually get chipatis for breakfast (1 each) coffee or tea with sugar, lunch is rice, beans, sometimes, french fries or boiled potatoes, cooked cabbage or some sort of cooked greens and water, then dinner a repeat of lunch....everyday. So the banana bread was a welcome addition. It is good food, filling and I am thankful but I have to admit, I miss salads and fresh fruit. We can on occasion get mangoes, bananas and pineapples, so that helps. Oh and one night we had chicken. OK enough food talk. We have it good compared to the Burundians. Their staple food is cassava....and it is pretty much void of nutritional value. The do eat rice and beans but the fact that cassava is their main source of food is very telling in their state of health or lack there of. There is a food program in the works here to really concentrate on teaching the people other choices of nutritional food to grow. An agronomist from the states, Will, arrived recently, and is busy getting it organized. There is a large two acre garden already in place but the things planted in it are not plants that the Burundians are familiar with or necessarily want to eat. So the goal is to have some staple crops that grow well here, have high nutritional value and that people will grow and eat. The need for better nutrition is vital.

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