Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Africa Chronicles: This is from a week ago

Well, the vacation had to end some time. The time was Sunday, when we had our orientation.

Our group: 1 resident, 4 med students, 3 PA students.
Our task: Learn stuff. Most especially HIV/AIDS stuff.
Our location: Various hospitals, clinics, hospice centers and orphanages in Durban.

The PA students have actually been in Capetown for the last month doing another similar elective, so are well acquainted with the South African way of doing things. We've taken to quoting the movie Blood Diamond. Whenever something goes amiss or a plan doesn't seem to make any sense to us, we simply say TIA. This Is Africa. There's not really any point in getting upset or frustrated, you just roll with it.

So today, when we found ourselves receiving a lecture on condom usage in Zulu, we just said TIA. When we arrived at our assigned physician, see one patient and then break for 30 minutes for tea, TIA.

But despite some poor timing and very unclear objectives, I'd consider today a success. We saw several patients with TB (we wore masks, but I'm content to contract tuberculosis if I successful avoid HIV) including a tubercular meningitis case. We saw lots of patients with HIV, but most of their treatment wasn't terribly noteworthy.

Sorry, this is a bit haphazard, but that's just the way it's going to be today. TIA.

We are now staying with our host family. It's a single mother and her 3 daughters, and we live in what is more or less a suburb of Durban. It's a little inconvenient for getting the most out of the downtown scene, but there's a much better chance of us avoiding a stabbing, so it's a good tradeoff. Our only guarantee was running water, which we do indeed have. We also have electricity, and even cable, so it's not exactly roughing it. Though the tv is nearly always on the Style Channel, so that's roughing it a bit. The biggest burden is a lack of air conditioning. Which makes for some sticky evenings and restless nights. I'm a horrible temperature estimator, but I'd say it's been in the mid 90s for much of the time here.

We have our own room, so again, not exactly roughing it. The room is entirely orange which is a little disconcerting. With all the heat and the orange I feel like I'm living in a curry box.

No curry to eat yet, apart from searching it out myself in a bunny chow. We've yet to have any meals from our host family that are strange or noteworthy, but I'll definitely note them if they arise. They do make too much food for us, so my hopes of returning to America thin and tan will only be half fulfilled. In fact twice in the last 2 days people have made us meals after we'd directly told them that we weren't hungry. You know those starving kids in Africa that your parents reprimand you about? I'm not one of them.

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