After a general hiatus, I have decided to write a posting . Lindsey tells me that I shouldn't write about too much medical stuff, so I will begin with an update on some recent interests and hobbies.
Today we went to the market and we bought some meat. In the past I would simply tell the butcher what meat I wanted and he would cut it. Today I decided I would do it myself. Lindsey was sure that they wouldn't let me do it. I understand, however, that being a crazy white man allows me some special liberties. I also have the right nickname. I am known locally as "Chinja-chinja" which means something like "Cut cut". So we showed up at the market and headed for the meat stall. I generally kick off the interaction by pointing at the beef carcass and asking what animal it is. I think this is kind of funny, but it never really gets much of a laugh. After haggling over a price, I asked if I could cut my own meat. They really didn't seem to mind and they let me go for it. The meat is sold in two basic cuts. One is called "melange" and is a mix of muscles, fat, ligaments and bone shards. They hack this stuff up with a machete. This is to be avoided. What they call "filet" is actual meat, but they don't really seem to distinguish between the various cuts of meat. Armed with a sharp knife and a diagram of cuts (downloaded from the internet), I started my work. Truth be told, it has some similarities with surgery. A knowledge of anatomy is helpful. The most tender cut of meat is the tenderloin (the psoas muscle, actually) which runs along the inside of the flank. In this general region is found the sirloin as well. You want to stay away from muscles that the cow uses for locomotion. Anyway, I divested two cows of their psoas muscles and we walked away with about 6 kilos of some very fine meat. Cleaning the meat is much simpler when you harvest it yourself. Cutting your own meat is just one of the perks of living in a place like Nyankunde.
I am trying to raise bees. I've got some protective equipment, a smoker and a nice hand-made mahogany hive. The only thing I'm lacking is bees. I've been enticing them into the hive with honey, sugar water and leaves from a lemon tree. This works until the sugar water runs out, and then they leave. How do I convince them to stay? I've been racking my brains for the past month. I have visited a long of wacky internet sites. Everyone assures me that they will eventually set up shop in the hive, but I may not have the necessary patience. Yesterday I went to the radio station and asked them to announce that the doctor was looking for a swarm of bees. So far, no luck. Why bees? Why not? Bees are amazing creatures. Honey is somewhat miraculous. We've been actually using it at the hospital to care for difficult wounds. It would be fun to make our own candles. Mostly I just enjoy having these little hobbies. It helps to pass the time, and it's always a learning experience.
I've been working on constructing a solar food dehydrator. It is nothing fancy; just a box with a glass lid. I have painted the inside black and cut holes in the ends to increase air flow. Lately we have not had much sun. I haven't succeeded in drying anything, but I've managed to grow some fairly impressive mold on some tomatoes and plantains. This week I'm going to try drying (or molding, depending on the weather), some mangoes. The alternative is that they start rotting on our front lawn.
Our peanut field is almost ready to harvest. We have a huge field of peanuts! I have no idea how much peanuts we will harvest, but I'm hoping for a lot! We use a lot of peanuts. We eat them, we make peanut butter, the parrots eat them. Actually we only have one parrot now. The more interactive of the two flew away. This has been a bit of sore topic. It involved me making a bad decision regarding sitting outside on the porch with a parrot on my shoulder. Yes, I had been warned that the bird might fly away, and sure enough, it did! I guess it didn't like me quite as much as I thought. Anyway... peanuts! Hopefully we will harvest them this next week. The whole farming thing just blows me away. You just put this stuff in the ground, and it grows.
Also growing on our little estate, is passion fruit, corn, tomatoes, beans, carrots, greens, chard, spinach, lettuce and peas. And yes, coffee! I have about twenty coffee plants which are just starting to grow beans. I'm not sure whether this will provide enough coffee to keep us caffeinated in the morning, but I'm sure going to try. It may not be good coffee, but you better believe that I'm going to drink it. We've been planting fruit trees. So far we've got lemon, orange, pomegranate and papaya. Unfortunately it seems that all the papaya trees are male. Who knew that a papaya tree could be male or female! Did we just have some incredibly bad luck, or did someone intentionally sell us a bunch of male papayas? It's not such a big deal. Truthfully neither one of us actually like papayas. Maybe they are better dried. Anyway, these are all years away from producing fruit, but one of these days this place is going to be like the garden of Eden!
I could go on about various hobbies, but I need to at least say something about my patients. Recently I have started to understand something about the darkness. A few examples. A young girl was attacked at night in her own home. Her throat was cut, nearly down to the trachea, and she was thrown down the latrine. No one seems to have any idea why. She seems to be a single mom, and has a cute little baby but not enough milk to feed it. Far as I can tell, they are feeding it dilute corn porridge. Another example. An old lady came in after being burned in a fire. Apparently they had some beans stored up in the roof and it caused the house to collapse, then ignite on a cooking fire. Her husband was killed in the fire. She was very badly burned. For several days I tried in vain to get her family to give blood, or at least to help her eat, as she could not feed herself. Later on I was informed that she was suspected of being as sorcerer and that everyone was just waiting for her to die. Eventually she did die. Another example. A young mother was abandoned with her newborn baby who had spina bifida and required a big operation. Lindsey has a ward full of malnourished children, and nearly each one comes with its own tragic family situation. It makes me understand that there is some terrible stuff going on here. There is breakdown of the family structure, substance abuse, violence, abuse, abandonment and evil of every kind. Sometimes it just makes me not want to ask, because when I do the stories are so heartbreaking that I can hardly bear it. I probably don't even know the half of it.
Medical care is needed, but the problems go so much deeper. Something is definitely rotten in the state of Denmark. I could call it societal breakdown, dissolution of traditional family values, but in my darker moments it just seems like evil. Maybe we're seeing a skewed population in the hospital, but this is a society with some serious problems. My prayer is that the hospital can be an agent of transformation. There are profound spiritual problems here and I hope that we can be a source of spiritual as well as physical healing.
On another note, we're in the final lap of this whole pregnancy business. We are looking forward to the arrival of a little person with excitement, joy and perhaps a little trepidation. Feel free to pray for us!