Three Spice in Bangladesh

Bangladesh is now home to close to over half a million Rohingya refugees, fleeing violence in Myanmar. While the country has agreed to host the refugees, they do not have a warm attitude toward the stateless community, living in about 10 square miles of their land. 

Photo by the talented Nihab Rahmen (one of our interpreters) 

Photo by the talented Nihab Rahmen (one of our interpreters) 

I am here working in the Kutupalong camp near Cox's Bazaar, Bangladesh as a nurse in a primary health center. The center is located about 30 minute walk from the "entrance" to the camp, or the nearest drive-able road. It is a dusty, overstimulating walk from the van to the center. There are more people than you can possibly imagine. I have yet to see a smile. 

IMAGE.JPG

The field hospital is a medium-sized tent with several outbuildings. I am working with about 5-6 doctors and a several national nurses. The goal of the clinic is to see patients at the primary or urgent care level and refer the sicker patients to nearby hospitals such as MSF (Doctor's Without Borders and the Red Cross). 

On my second day, I was sent on a medical transport to take a TB patient to MSF. TUBERCULOSIS. "Just wear a mask and roll the windows down when you get to the van." I was the only English-speaker in the pack and had to hand off the patient to another person who barely spoke English. The man at MSF took out a card that said "TB" on it and told the patient to go sit in the waiting room with all the other patients. And then I left. What will happen to her? I have no idea. 

IMG_0373.JPG

I work with a fantastic team of national staff who are working so hard to help the refugees. The hours are long, the breaks are few, and everything involves lots of walking. They inspire me to keep going and have a good attitude!

Books I Read in 2016!

IMG_6341.JPG

I bought a kindle this year and it was the best thing I could've brought on my Africa trip. I get e-books from my library and it makes book-reading easy and cheap!  Here are my favorite books that I read this year. 

When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi. An autobiography written from the unique perspective of a neurosurgeon dying of lung cancer. I was weeping by the end, but definitely worth the read. 

All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr. It took me about a quarter of the book to appreciate the way it is written, but then I couldn't put it down. It is a slow, sad story of World War 2 as seen by a French blind girl and a German radio man. 

Daring Greatly and Rising Strong by Brene Brown. I read both of Brown's books on the ship. Her research and ideas on shame and vulnerability and the desire for human connection gave me many new ideas on how to interact with humans. The ship provided a great place to practice! 

The Meaning of Marriage by Tim Keller. My parents recommended I read this one. Keller's connection of marriage to the gospel is beautiful. It spoke to me, even as a single person. I will definitely read this again when closer to marriage. 

Mountains Beyond Mountains by Tracey Kidder. I read this book about Dr. Paul Farmer in preparation for my Haiti trip. An inspiring book about his determination to bring healthcare to rural Haiti and eradicate tuberculosis in the country and increasingly all over the world. A must-read for medical missions enthusiasts. 

Strength in What Remains by Tracey Kidder. Another incredibly inspiring true story of a Burundi refugee who survives genocide and homelessness to become an Ivy league-educated doctor. He returns to his home country to treat his own people because that is where his heart is, regardless of the condition of Burundi. 

Half the Sky by Nicholas Kristof. This book, also a documentary, is the summary of many years research into gender inequality and oppression of women worldwide. The chapters are dedicated to multiple issues seen mainly in the developing world, some of which I have seen in my travels this year. The author included interviews and stories of women all over the world to illustrate the issues and propose solutions. I learned so much about what my fellow sisters' lives are like overseas and also what I can do to help. 

Beautiful Battlefields by Bo Stern. I actually read this book a few years ago during a really hard time in my life, but it is so good, it's on this list. Stern's story of living with her husband's ALS diagnosis as a pastor, wife, and mother is truly inspiring. I learned so many tools for dealing with pain as a Christian that I utilized in that battle and others as well. 

The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah. A fictional story about 2 French sisters during World War Two had me reading late into the night in tears. 

An Unexpected Journey

There are no safe paths in this part of the world. Remember you are over the Edge of the Wild now, and in for all sorts of fun wherever you go.

- J. R. R. Tolkien from The Hobbit 

IMG_5848.JPG

My African adventure is over and I find myself sitting in an American coffee shop. I have a delicious Chai in hand, my computer, my iphone, my kindle, scarf, hat, new boots, Bon Iver setting my mood. I have everything I have been missing for the past 4 months (including my queen sized bed in a room that I sleep in all by myself!). And yet...I miss, so very much, miss my African adventure. 

IMG_6221.JPG

I'm shivering and scraping ice off my car; I miss the heat, the humidity and even sweating profusely. I can go to the refrigerator and grab food whenever I want, but I miss eating with 400 other people in a loud dining hall. I've started the hunt for a new job yet I wish I was back in a tiny crowded ward with screaming/laughing kids and singing/dancing mamas. 

IMG_4821.JPG

It is quite difficult to put my emotions into words, but in this moment, I'd go back in a heartbeat (with an extra $5K). Serving the Africans and living in community is incomparable to my comfortable Western life. It was a joy that I fear I didn't enjoy ENOUGH when I was there and now it's loss is acute. The lessons I learned there will forever be with me. 

Friends who became family

Friends who became family

IMG_5230.JPG

Porto Novo

It only takes an hour to get to Benin's capital city of Porto Novo. Kate and I got invited to visit one of our translators: Boris and his family. We took a motorcycle ride to the bus stop and were directed by our vigilant drivers to get into a shared taxi that would take us to the station in Porto Novo. 

Cassava root, plucked straight from the yard next door.  

Cassava root, plucked straight from the yard next door.  

Boris and his daddy picked us up on their motorbikes (yes, Boris calls his dad Daddy so we did too!). They took us to the agricultural center to tour the farm and grounds.  

Boris, me, Arince, Kate, and Daddy

Boris, me, Arince, Kate, and Daddy

Boris' older brother Arince joined us there. He also works as translator on Mercy Ship.  

Daddy and his youngest son's son, Eme.  

Daddy and his youngest son's son, Eme.  

After a quick and dirty ride through the city's well-known market (I was quick to point out that Kate and I are NOT market people and we need only drive through), we came to Boris' family home.  

IMG_5692.JPG

Their home did not have running water, but they did have electricity. We each took a turn pulling up a bucket of water from the well, like any curious Westerner.  

Kate is meeting the neighbors. 

Kate is meeting the neighbors. 

Boris and Daddy are both competitive bowlers. Bowling in Africa is more like Bochi ball. Boris plays on the national team and decided not to go to the World Cup in Madagascar so that he could work on the ship. 

IMG_5694.JPG

Kate and I get lessons on bowling (she was much better than I), but it was very fascinating to watch Boris and Daddy play each other. 

IMG_5693.JPG

Nothing like some refreshment to rehydrate after the profuse sweating that is taking place!  

IMG_5696.JPG

Boris' mum, Gabriella, cooked us cassava. It is a root vegetable that tastes like a dry yam but it's white in color.  

IMG_5698.JPG

On the way back to the bus station, we stopped by the statue of King Toffi in the city center.  

IMG_5699.JPG

Boris and Daddy put us in another taxi back to Cotonou and look who was our seat mate! He made us laugh all the way home.  

IMG_5635.JPG

Adventure can be really scary. This day had a lot of unknowns, but with a good friend and SIM card,  bravery is easy to find.