This past week has been interesting. The labor ward has been slow recently so Monday I went to help out at the well-baby clinic. My job ended up being weighing all the babies, who all looked at me smiled (no joke, I really mean every one) – I think it probably had to do with me being white and smiling silly at them. They were so precious! Tuesday was slow as well so I took pictures on the labor ward (look for them soon on Facebook) and read a Labor & Delivery textbook.
Wednesday I lectured on first aid with another American during the BIU (Benson Idahosa University) student leader’s orientation. That was pretty intimidating, but I think it went well and it was kind of nostalgic to be among college kids again getting ready to start a new year. Matthew is the other American; he’s here starting his freshman year at BIU. He had never been out of the US and never been on a plane before coming here – whoa – but he plans on going to BIU for all 4 years of college and then going on to medical school. He worked as an ER tech and an EMT in the US so that’s why he joined me for the lecture.
Thursday was Nigerian Independence Day and I went to help out at a local church, Church Plus, outreach. It was a medical outreach that saw about 400 people in Benin City. It was cool because they had an ophthalmologist and a dentist on-site and they are even helping people get some small surgeries after the event. I took a lot of blood pressures and helped figure out what complaints each person had and who they needed to see. I learned some new “Pigeon” phrases and definitely had some practice at understanding the local accents. Pigeon is the language that everyone speaks here although I don’t know if you could officially call it a language. It’s kind of like pig-latin English. Instead of saying “How are you today?” you say “How you day?” and then the response is “I day fine” instead of “I’m doing fine today.” That’s pretty much the only phrase I’ve got down, but I’m getting better at understanding other people’s conversations.
Friday I was back at the hospital where the only patient in the labor ward was a woman with preeclampsia (really high blood pressure) who was admitted for management of her blood pressure. We then later discovered she was 5cm dilated and had been having contractions all day (she was only 34 weeks along). There was talk of taking her for a c-section but then no one could find a fetal heartbeat. The baby ended up being stillborn after I left for the day. While I was there, the whole situation was pretty stressful and I struggled to follow what was going on.
The communication on the labor ward between the nurses themselves and to the patients is often hard for me to understand. Maybe that’s because there isn’t much of it and sometimes there’s only one nurse working the ward. I’m learning that I have to ask questions – even about simple, important stuff like how many cm dilated a woman is because the nurse will examine a woman and just walk away without saying anything. I struggle to know the balance between not being irritating to the nurses with constant questions but also doing what is best for the patients and taking advantage of learning opportunities for myself.
Saturday I went to a birthday party for a one-year-old and was forced to dance in a dance competition. I lost – but I almost won because the kids cheered for me because I’m “Ohebo” (I’m white). By the way, the kids here can get their groove on! Most of the 5 year-olds there could break it down way better than I can – shaking their hips and everything!
Sunday I visited Church Plus. I REALLY enjoyed it because I met lots of new people and the church service was refreshing because it was practical and there was lots of humor mixed in. I also ate a meal outside of the compound and got to just sit and relax and talk with some new people! Let me just use this day as an example to explain how crazy I’m treated here sometimes. Everyday I am escorted by a driver and a police in a SUV (washed every day) to the hospital and then I’m escorted back to the compound in the afternoon. (Yesterday, though, I drove with the pastor and his wife to Church in a regular car with no police to a new part of town– I really enjoyed it!) Everywhere I go I sit in the front row (church, BIU, even the birthday party). Some people, especially little kids, curtsy/bow when they see me because that’s what you do here to people of honor or respectable elders (it’s crazy to be curtsied at). They don’t see very many white people here in Benin City, so when people see me I think they assume I am someone important. A lot of it also has to with my hosts, Feb and Laurie, since they are well known and well respected here. At Church Plus, the pastor asked me to say a word to the congregation, pray for those at an altar call, and say a word to the church leaders after service. It was pretty overwhelming, but I tried to just take a deep breath and say “Okay, Lord, whatever you want me to do…” It was an honor, though, to be involved in a body of believers I had just met. But anyway, as a person who usually likes to lay low and work behind the scenes, this part of my time here definitely challenges me.