Thursday, July 1, 2010


Since the school session has now finished I have more time on my hands and for me I don't do well when I have lots of free time because I am actually more unproductive. So I decided to work in the hospital in the town of Ariwara which is 50km north of Aru. It runs parallel with the Ugandan border and is 65km southwest of the Sudan border. I left behind my community in Aru which was a big sacrifice for me since I have such a great group of people I live with. I am here in Ariwara living with the Sisters and will be working at the hospital doing ¨physiotherapy¨, yes I am a real Physio here in Africa, haha.
The hospital is respectable hospital for African standards. There is a maternity ward, surgical ward, internal medicine and pediatrics. Here it only took 1 day to prepare a room for me which is double the size of my room in Aru. The nurses here are very helpful and kind and I believe this is going to be a great experience for me. I will be here all of July and August. In August 8 volunteers from Italy will come to do a short term mission project here involving building, painting etc. So I am at present trying to learn more and more Lingala each day so I can communicate better with the sick (many of them come from outside villages where they only speak Lingala or other languages), as well as learning some Italian. Lots of learning here in Ariwara and lots of challenges! There are many sad sights I have seen for example one mamma who was bitten by a dog in one of the villages which wasn't vaccinated for Rabies. Here at the hospital they don't have serum to treat Rabies so she will basically die. She is already showing signs of rage. Her eyes were the most frightening eyes, almost like they could see right through you. She was just sitting on her bed when I saw her and I was afraid that she might just jump out of her bed and attack me. It is sad to see people suffering when you know that back at home there are treatments for these diseases and here it is not possible.

Here are a few descriptions of my first patients here
The smell of fish, peroxide and fresh wounds fills the room. As I approach the bedside of my patient who is lying on his stomach my foot touches the roots of a stack of sweet potatoes underneath the bed. My eyes then meet face to face with the the fish I have been smelling which are wedged between some plastic bottles in a basin by the bed. I then realize that my patient is also sleeping with his baby next to him who is breathing heavily curled up in a little ball. My patient suffered extreme external wounds in an accident with his bicycle. Road accidents involving bikes, motorcycles and trucks is very common here. He cannot rest on his back due to the wounds and his spine suffered a slight fracture.
Another one of my patients is very difficult for me. Imagine first of all this young man speaks Lingala and a little bit of French. Second he suffered a motorcycle accident and damaged the part of the brain in charge of language resulting in aphasia. Therefore he can barely speak and explain anything even in Lingala. It is quite a challenge working with him. He is a hemiplegic so he can only move his left side of the body and also suffers external wounds.

My first experience in Ariwara
The church is packed and people are left to sit outside on logs lined up around the church. The bamboo sticks making up the roof sag downwards with streams of sunshine flowing in. A bright array of colours fills the church but not one white person. The ¨dancing girls and boys¨ are the cutest I’ve seen but I do have to admit they looked a little retarded bouncing up and down and swinging their heads around during the mass. The ushers here don’t wear neon traffic uniforms with Boboto (Peace) written on them but instead wear khaki uniforms with boyties and green hats that could have been worn by WWI veterans. During the consecration they all lined up with one man in the middle carrying a white flag and they saluted Jesus with their 3 fingers forward representing the Trinity. Then during the Our Father, which took about 5 minutes to sing, they did what I would call a ¨Brownie¨ salut. This was just an ordinary Sunday mass and it took 2 hours. The people here could sing all day and all night. It is amazing! The music here is so joyful and everyone sings with so much passion with their arms in the air, swaying and dancing. I am really going to miss this when I go home. At the end of the mass when the priest usually says announcements, one of the Sisters tells me that the priest is introducing me right now and that I need to go up onto the stage. I step up onto the altar and the priest asks me to say a few words to the people. I look out at a vast of black faces, probably 400 or so. I say ¨Mbote¨ which is how you greet people in Lingala, and everyone just went crazy cheering and clapping their hands. I wanted to say more things in Lingala but I was a little nervous and unprepared. After the Sisters said the people LOVED how you spoke their language and that their respect for me has increased dramatically. After this experience I really felt that God wants me here. The people here show so much love and care for their neighbours.
The next day I went with two of the Sisters to visit a woman who is dying of colon cancer. We walked through the village trying to find their house, which is really difficult here since none of the houses have numbers and streets here don’t have names. When we finally found her house we entered into the little round hut which was pitch black. The lady was lying on her bed in the darkness with her family all around her. It was rather frightening for me because it seemed as though she was already dead lying there in the darkness no saying a word. The mother said she hadn’t eaten anything for 4 days and had not spoken in days also. When the mother said the Sisters were there she finally starting talking which made the mother very happy. All I heard her say was, ¨I am just living right now.¨ Then when we left the mother escorted us all the way home which was about a 15 minute walk and talked with us with so much joyfulness in her voice that you would have idea her daughter was on her death bed. The people here never cease to amaze me with their strength and courage. Admist their suffering they can find joy. Their hearts are always open and free. They have no care for time, disturbances don’t bother them, setbacks, death, war, suffering and hunger does not extinguish the fire within them.

1 comment:

  1. Lydia
    Your stories are very moving.
    God Bless you and all the people of Ariwara.