Sunday, January 6, 2008

Day 26 and on: Sharing is Caring

Here is a long over-due wrap-up post (in picture form) to describe what we were up to during our final days in Ghana..

As a part of our INMED course, Amara and I were tasked to give an educational presentation on a topic for the medical staff. We chose to speak about hypertension, explaining what causes high blood pressure, mentioning the long-term consequences of uncontrolled hypertension, highlighting some of the alarm ymptoms, and briefly mentioning pharmacologic and non-pharmacologic treatments.

On our final day in Nalerigu, we were invited to share a message/lesson with students at 3 different schools. Originally, we were only aware of going to one classroom to help pick-up some penpal letters that would be going to some 5th-graders in the U.S., but as it turns out, we had the opportunity to speak to 2 different classrooms of children and even one entire student body! It was a wonderful blessing to be able to share about the meaning/significance of Christmas, highlighting aspects and miracles of Jesus Christ's life, and proclaiming the gospel to these attentive ears. To reach the schools, we traveled on the backs of motorcycles:

Here is Amara sharing the gospel with all of the students of Sheriga-Naa JHS gathered in a big circle:

Another sharing experience:

Post-sharing at another school:

Our final meal in Nalerigu was specially prepared because it was one of our favorite Ghanaian dishes -- ground nut stew.. mmm mmm!

Our flight for Accra from Tamale left quite early in the morning, so we were graciously hosted overnight by the Ozments, who are missionaries at the Baptist Seminary in Tamale. Peggy cooked us up a delicious meal, and we were able to hear interesting stories from Pat while enjoying the nighttime air on their porch:

When we got back to Accra, we had the desire to travel to the coast since we were so close to it. Traveling by tro-tro (a type of bus) was the most economical way, so we headed to the bus station. This is what we found:

There was no central area and no real guidance to which bus to take. We ended up having to walk around for about an hour and a half before we found a bus that was going in the right direction to where we wanted to go. That bus dropped us off, allowing us to take a taxi to our final destination, which was the African Academy of Music and Arts:

Amara had read in multiple sources about the fun drumming and dance show that would take place on Saturday and Sunday afternoons. We planned to get to the site early enough for the Saturday show. However, like many things in Africa, it didn't turn out quite as we had imagined. The Saturday show had been cancelled, but a Sunday show was available. Unfortunately, we wouldn't be able to attend since we had to make it back to Accra in time to catch our outbound flight back to the U.S. Fortunately, we had the chance to spend time in the beautiful resort and go swimming and body-surfing in the private beach area:

Even though this was a pretty nice resort, interestingly, our rooms did not have running water. So, featured below is the source of our toilet flushing. It also turns out to be the source of our drinking water (after purification with iodine tablets, of course):

Back in Accra, we enjoyed our last Ghanaian meal at the Country Kitchen:

Here we are with the Huey's, who are missionaries that run the guesthouse in Accra. They were very friendly and a whole lot of help!

Back on the plane, heading home..

The presence of wintery flakes of ice served as a reminder of where we were going, a place so very different from where we had just been..

It was an amazing trip.. God blessed us richly and allowed us to see his works, to serve his people, and to stretch ourselves. =)

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Days 22-25: Familiar, Fresh, Frenzy, Forward, Freaky

Something Familiar

On Saturday, we had a nice evening at the Faile's. They invited us over for some yummy, homemade pizza that Mrs. Faile made and to play games. While I really do enjoy the Ghanaian food we've had, a good pizza is hard to beat and it really hit the spot. After dinner, we learned how to play the game Chickenfoot, a board game played with tiles and similar to dominoes. It was a relaxing and fun time.

Something Fresh

On Sunday, we went with the evangelist Tommy out into the villages. Nalerigu is the main town in the area, but it is surrounded by lots of smaller villages. There are more than 20 different languages spoken in the nearby villages. We drove for about an hour and a half to get to an open school area where Tommy shares the Word of God with local people. His message this Sunday was talking about being a light to the world, just as Jesus was, and allowing that light to shine on others. Here are some pictures from our trip:

Pretty much everybody in the villages lives in mud huts with straw roofs:

As we drive by, people love greeting/waving to foreigners:

A nice view of the savannah grasslands during the dry season.. it looks quite different during the wet season:

Riding along in Tommy's truck:

Amara had a lot of fun playing with the kids and chasing them around to tickle them..

Here is Tommy sharing his message to the people:

Frenzies of People

It's pretty amazing how many crowds of people we have encountered. Here in Nalerigu, every third day is market day, which means that people from near and far come into town to sell their goods (be it produce, clothing, wares, and whatnot). The scene at the market is like a tightly packed flea market. Dr. Hewitt brought us into market on Sunday afternoon to buy a few items. Here he is being swarmed by people while trying to get some rice for his dogs:

Amara and I have made some progress in the number of patients we've been seeing. On Monday, which was particularly busy for the clinic because last Friday was a holiday, we saw 98 patients between the two of us. Dr. Faile saw well over a hundred patients by himself. The pharmacy people are especially busy since all of the patients go through the pharmacy to pick up medications and pay their bills. There were so many people yesterday that the pharmacy people were working until 11:30pm, and they still had a large number of people to see this morning that they had sent home for the night to return today. This is a picture taken outside of the hospital on a typical clinic day (which are Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays). While this already seems like a lot of people, keep in mind that it is early morning around 7:30am and the doctors generally don't start seeing patients until 9:00am.. the crowd only grows from here!

Driving Forward

During this trip, Amara's had the chance to learn and practice how to drive a stick-shift truck. She's done great and only stalled once!

Freaky Bugs

There are a lot of interesting bugs here, many that end up in places not as welcome as others. Here's one that I found crawling into my sandal this morning at the hospital.

Here's another fun flying bug that kept following us while we were walking outside. It hovered in front of our feet for a while, as if it wanted us to take its picture. In fact, right after it landed and we snapped a shot of it, it took off and left. I guess it got its wish..

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Days 19-21: Winding Down and Climbing Up

Winding Down

On Thursday, we attended our weekly station meeting, which is a fellowship gathering of the missionaries here. Since we will be leaving next Thursday afternoon, this was our last one. Dr. Faile asked us if we could lead the discussion, so Amara delightedly agreed to do so (since she had already wanted to). I picked a few songs to sing for worship, a couple which were familiar to people and a couple which were new. I had trouble getting the guitar we had here in tune, so we ended up singing acapella, which was nice. Amara led the discussion on the topic of sacrifice. She opened by talking about how she celebrates/recognizes Advent in her family. We then read a few passages and an excerpt from an Advent book, and then people shared about what sacrifice meant to them and how they had seen sacrifice play out in their lives. We closed the evening with a a couple more worship songs, a time of prayer, and refreshments (Elisabeth Faile made some yummy cookies and popcorn).

At the end of the night, we were each also given a nice picture of the Baptist Medical Centre as a keepsake. Here we are with Dr. Faile and Dr. Hewitt, the two extraordinary missionary doctors here:

Amara and Elisabeth Faile with an Advent star:

Climbing Up

Yesterday happened to be Farmer's Day, a holiday here. This day allows farmer's to be recognized for their exceptional crops and get awards for them. Since we didn't have clinic, our afternoon was free to relax. With our free-time, Dr. Hewitt picked us up and took us out to a couple of scenic short hiking/climbing areas. The fields nearby had been burned down, so there was plenty of ash all around us (and eventually on us, too). It was quite fun to get out and hop around on the rocks and such. Here are some pictures from our excursion.

Amara making her way up the rocks:

Amara is queen of the world!

She's a ballet dancer on the edge of reason..

Riding a "whale" of a rock..

Peering into the future..

Sporting and pointing to her "hard hat":

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Days 16, 17, and 18: More New and Wonderous Things

We gave a presentation on Tuesday about diabetes and hypertension. It was fun, I think it went well, and the people were genuinely interested. :-) Albert made some great visual aids for the talk too. Here is Amara at the chalkboard.

On Monday, we were short-staffed. Albert and I saw 76 patients together in clinic that day! Whew! On Tuesday I got to help perform a surgery that was supposed to be a "simple" inguinal hernia repair. Instead it ended up being a cystostomy (we opened up the bladder) and took out a large stone about the size of a half dollar coin except much thicker. Then we found and emptied a hydrocele (fluid filling up and swelling the scrotum) and then also did the hernia repair that we had originally planned on. It seems that we are always finding surprises when we open someone up. It is a good lesson in "expecting the unexpected" when it comes to medicine and surgery. We have some more pictures from work at the hospital as well, but some are not for those with weak stomachs and we may just keep them for medical-type presentations at home or for those who are interested. :-)

Last night, we were invited to join Yisau and his family for dinner to have a local meal; it was a great way to experience their culture more. Here is Issah's wife and brother pounding yams with a giant mortar and pistol to make fufu. (Note: Yams and sweet potatoes are two different foods, although frequently confused in the United States. Yams are white; sweet potatoes are orange.) They use the same process with their corn (which is apparently different than our corn) to make koko and teza. As an aside, I was quite intrigued at first that everyone seemed to give their children cocoa as a staple item. "What a fun place," I thought to myself, "everyone gets to have chocolate all the time!" But I haven't seen any local chocoate since I arrived. . . and then I realized that it was not cocoa, but koko--a type of porridge made out of corn. :-)

Here is Yisau with his children; aren't they cute! By the way, Yisau is one of three men who help to cook lunch and dinner for us while we are here; usually the prepare "American" dishes they think the visiting missionaries will like and mostly it is pretty good. It is fun to try the Ghanian food though and we were excited to have the opportunity to have some.

Here is our dinner. The white stuff is the fufu and it is sitting in a soup of spiced tomato-y liquid and goat meat. I avoided the bone and intestine. . .the meal was quite yummy! Plus, kind of like that Morrocan restaurant we like in Portland (the Marrakesh), we dip our hands in water to clean them before eating and then eat with our hands--even soup!

Here we are with some local boys walking on a portion of what is left of the "slave wall." I think the story goes that the king or tribal chief built it a long time ago, around the entire city of Nalerigu, to protect the people from the slave traders who might come to capture them. The boys said the wall is still protecting their city today.

Here is Albert holding some randomly-found puppies; they are quite cute (Albert, the boys and the puppies. . . but especially Albert). :-)

To our family and friends:
We love and miss you and are so thankful for all your prayers; they are felt. Please continue to pray that Albert and Amara will have great attitudes, get adequate rest, encourage one another with our words and actions, and glorify the Lord in all we do. Please pray also for Dr. Faile and Dr. Hewitt, the 2 missionary doctors who work so very hard here; pray for strength for each day, for rest enough to meet all their needs, and for a renewed sense of encouragement and purpose in their work. May we be a help to them just as they are teaching us so much by allowing us to come here and join them. Also please pray for Heidi, the other medical student here. She works hard together with us and has a little toddler here also that she sees mostly at night. Her husband William is great too; he is away travelling right now doing other missionary work stuff.

Love, blessings, and Sweet dreams from Nalerigu, Ghana, West Africa,
A & A :-)

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Days 12-15: Working, Walking, and Wildlife


While here at the Baptist Medical Centre, both Amara and I have had the chance to get our hands wet and perform more procedures than we would have at our level of training in the U.S. We have plenty opportunity for doing ultrasounds, excising small masses, suturing lacerations, and helping with skin grafts.

Here is Amara with a man receiving a split thickness skin graft. In this procedure, a piece of skin is harvested from a part of the body such as the thigh, but only a thin part of it, which is done using a tool that looks and works sort of like a large potato peeler (that's how William, husband of another med student here described it). Then, that piece of skin is run through a mesher, which cuts it fancily into a mesh (imagine criss-cut fries at Carl's Jr). This makes a skin graft which can be stretched into a larger size than what was taken from the thigh to cover a bigger area (in the case below, an area on the top of this man's foot and front part of his lower leg which had to be debrided/cleaned off since he had a non-healing ulcer there that spread and caused a lot of the skin around his foot to necrose/die):

To learn how to perform a skin graft yourself, click here (courtesy of William Haun).

One night, a man was brought in who had just been in a motorcycle accident. He had multiple cuts on his forehead, some gashes on his foot, but the biggest/deepest cut was actually running across his lower eyelid, right below his eye! Essentially, his lower eyelid had been split open fairly deeply. He was very lucky not to have damaged his eye, but the suturing was very tricky since this was a delicate area, the tissue was soft (and kept moving around), and also because the patient kept shifting and blinking.

I've had a large number of insect bites on both of my legs while being here. At first, we thought they were mosquito bites, which would be bad considering the prevalence of malaria here. But after looking at the pattern and reading a little in an African dermatology atlas and a tropical infectious diseases textbook, we have concluded that they are more likely to be bedbug bites. The pattern is more clustered, kind of like flea bites, and they tend to happen at night. The bed bugs (Cimex lectularius) come out of old mattresses when it is dark at night and munch on human blood. At latest count, I had 35 bites on my left leg and 46 on my right. I have since started to wear long pants and socks to bed, after which I have not noticd any more bites of this type. Reaffirms the old adage, to "not let the bed bugs bite."

Amara and I walk to work every day and pass a nutrition resource center. On the ground in front one day we saw this:

Nothing's more nutritious than a bowl of blankets and baby!


Yesterday, we went for a nice little exploratory walk in the grasslands behind the hospital grounds. We were accompanied by several Ghanaian children (who seem to cling to foreigners whenever they see them) and Dr. Hewitt's amazing dog Sandy, which just joined us incidentally when we walked past it on our way out. This dog actually used to belong to someone else who used to work at the hospital, but then that person left, and the dog was given to someone else to take care of. That family moved far away (like many miles). One day, the dog was missing. About 3-4 weeks later, the dog was found back on the hospital property. In any case, it was a very cool dog. The dog would stop every once in a while and seem to mark where we were. When we would get to forks in the road, he would stop and wait for us to make sure we went the same direction. Anyway, we hiked in the grasslands for about two hours, which included passing by the creek here:

There are two Japanese medical students visiting the hospital this week. We played cards with them last night. First, we taught them how to play Hearts, and then they taught us how to play Sichinarabe (a very famous Japanese card game):


We visited the Catholic church of a boy named Prosper here (his father is a nurse at the hospital and he comes around to our house fairly often). The service had some traditional aspects of Catholic masses, but it also had some pretty lively singing/dancing. Here is Amara worshiping "wildly":

This little piggy didn't go to market but instead was just sniffing around on the ground on our walk back from church (featured because some of our audience happen to like pigs):

Today, Dr. Hewitt drove a group of us to a scenic area about 40 minutes away called the Escarpment. Here is a view of the picturesque bluffs from afar (the rocks on the top of the edges on the right are where we were climbing/standing atop, shown later):

Me, Amara, Dr. Kirby, Shinthke, Dr. Hewitt, Dr. Burgoyne, and Twyla Burgoyne on the bridge near the river:

The next two pictures were taken at the home of John and Deniesce, who have worked to help reforest the area. Amara with a horse.. she loves horses..

Me with a babboon.. I love babboons.. just kidding..

We hiked through tall (itchy) grasses to get to the nice view..

Here we are standing on top of the rocks that I mentioned earlier:

Sitting pose:

Posing between rocks:

Hanging from a tree:

Amara took this pretty picture of the setting African sun to signal the end of our fun day trip: