I have finally arrived in Koza, Cameroon, or as I've quickly come to refer to it as, home.
The culture shock, the jet lag, the constant pinchces and reminders that I am indeed here, the many months of anticipation are beginning to fade. I find myself already slipping into a pattern of how the following nine months will unfold...
Awake and in a cold shower by 6:30, breakfast of oats by 7:00, at the hospital by 7:30 for daily worship and updates on the previous nights happenings. In the hospital (so far switching between a pre-natal clinic, shadowing Audrey in the Pediatric Ward, shadowing Greg in the Open Clinic, Maternity Ward, Emergency Room and Operating Room, fetching meds from the stock room, delivering urine/blood/stools to the Lab, and attempting to translate when needed (or possible) by 8:00 and home for lunch by 3:00. Run, read, do yoga, take pictures, wander to the market, play pick up soccer with local school boys, or explore the surrounding area until about 8:30-9:00, when I happily crawl into bed to dream about doing the same thing the following day.
I am still a little unclear as to what my specific job or role will be at the hospital but am soaking up the all-around exposure as it presents itself. I have already learned more about malaria, typhoid fever, worms, STDs, pregnancies, infections, anesthesia, sutures, general medical terms in both English and French, and cultural norms in a week then I did in four years of college. The questions never stop streaming from my mouth as the amount of things I don't know here is never-ending. Luckily, Greg and Audrey are great mentors and encourage me to ask about anything when I am lost, and offer helpful advice on cultural, medical and general life inquiries. I've already been lucky enough to head to the OR twice (with many more times soon to come...) with Greg and am constantly amazed by the drastic differences between practicing medicine here compared to the small amounts I've been exposed to in the States. Here, you do what you can with what you have, compromise when you don't have something, and make the most of the things you are fortunate enough to have.
Its incredibly hot here: sticky, humid, and we're all constantly sweaty. The days are often over a hundred degrees, the nights a cool 80, and fans are more of a luxury and necessity than one would think. However this heat is nothing compared to what we have to look forward to in March, as all of the local hospital workers frequently like to remind me of when I mention just how hot I am midday.
Apparently March-June is unbearable for even the most acclimated of native Cameroonians, challenging human tolerance by reaching 130 degrees during the day and only cooling to around 100 while we all try our hardest to fall asleep. Oh how nice the spring will be....
The people here are very friendly, welcoming, and excited to have some many white people in Koza.... there are now six of us. Some stare quizzically, others shy away; some feel personally honored when spoken to or visited by a "Nasara" (white person in Mafa, the local tribal language), others cry and scream. They are hard workers and are beginning harvest, primarily of their staple food, millet; also have large harvests of peanut fields, tomatoes, potatoes, eggplants, and guavas. Cows, goats, sheep and chickens are often seen making their way through the market, our backyard, the soccer fields and anywhere there is greenery. French is spoken almost fluently by all, and English is a rare luxury to hear. Polygamy is practiced and accepted nonchalantly, STD's and pregnancies widespread. Local accidents and burns make for interesting medical cases but offer a heart-breaking view of frequent and casual misfortunes that happen daily. Death is viewed as unfortunate, but a readily accepted and expected part of life.
In short....Bush Africa... mud huts with straw roofs, women who amazingly carry everything on their heads, children who are delighted for hours by nothing but bare feet and a deflated soccer ball, miles upon miles of millet fields, nauseating heat, mosquito nets that nightly aid in the perpetually silent battle against diseases, broken rules of cookbook medicine, smiles that could cure the world.