Friday, August 6, 2010

The World Turned Upside-Down

So, another day, another entry/post. I think at this point that I have decided to ditch the idea of an formal written journal and stay with typing up my shenanigans and thoughts…I mean, for me, the idea of keeping a journal is for the following purposes:

A) To keep a memory of what happened, since my memory is terrible once something is more than a few months old (thank you very much medical school, you have obliterated my long-term memory, and if I had had my neurology lectures more recently I'd curse you for the specific region of my brain that you've destroyed…in any case, I don't feel bad about the poor memory because I think it's normal for medical students…take Doogie Howser, for example: he had to type on his computer to keep his thoughts and feelings in his memory…the only differences are that I'll be typing way faster than he did, the rest of the world will read this via blog instead of via circa 1990 television, and in the end I won't forget to be attracted to women like he apparently did.)

Oh yes, reasons for blogging:

2) To allow Ali to read about what I've been up to and to be sure that I indeed have not forgotten to be attracted to a woman (love you, babe); and

D) "We live on the most boring street in the country where nothing REMOTELY dangerous will ever happen. Period." (Points to you if you picked up on not just the quote but the other reference to it in the above).

So in any case, electronic journal it is. I just don't have the time to sit and journal like I did on the long bus and train rides in Italy, so I've gotta either go to a faster option or just give it up entirely. Fast it is…lucky youJ.

Okay, so since yesterday not too much has happened. The night essentially consisted of me leaving the BBCCOE (pronounced Bi-bi-Co-A, emphasis on the third syllable and short for Botswana-Baylor Children's Center of Excellence) and ran across the street next to the House on Phiri Crescent to get some cash from the ATM. I was essentially sick of not having cash in case I wanted to get a cab, but a piece of questionable fruit or candy from one of the numerous table vendors EVERYWHERE, etc. After getting about $100 in Pula and putting the colorful money in my wallet, I headed back home.

Essentially the rest of the night was uneventful, consisting of listening to music while deciding to cook pretty much everything I bought the night before. In the end, I ended up with tri-color spiral pasta with sautéed onions, green bell peppers, fresh garlic, and tomatoes, along with oil, Italian herbs, and salt and pepper). I decided to dub it "Pasta a la Gaborone."

Pasta a la Gaborone needs a bit of work. Don't get me wrong it tasted good, but I think I didn't have quite enough vegetables and seasoning to get it quite right, and it needed some salt. However, after cooking the entire bag of pasta at one time, I have about 3 or 4 meals worth of "Just add salt!" instant Pasta a la Gaborone.

Okay so that wasn't too exciting of a story…but that's stream of consciousness for you, and sometimes my consciousness is boring…don't act like yours isn't.

In either case, speaking of boring, I spent the rest of the night reading about diagnosis and staging of HIV in kids, and then it was time for some Night Prayer and off to sleep reading the wonderful bedtime story of Mark Levine's Liberty and Tyranny. This morning was pretty typical, with a few notes to well, note. I was able to rush getting dressed, stuff 1.57 bowls of Corn Flakes and "Full Cream Milk" down my esophagus, and get to the clinic by 7:30. Which, by the way, brings up the point of this full cream milk. I am starting to wonder if it's all just a lie. I mean, of course it's full cream, but what I mean is, if the carton says full cream, then that implies that there must be something less than full cream, right? Not so fast, Mr. Milk Fat Hater…I'm sure it must exist, but as of 6 days, 2 shopping trips, and extensive searching, no such fraction of cream yet exists.

Anyhoo, once to the clinic, I was blessed to see my lovely wife and John-Paul the Babe! He was wide awake following his midnight snack, and whilst (yes whilst) Mommy and I talked, he stared straight at the screen looking at me. He even talked to me a couple of times! I can already tell that he is getting sooooo big, and am sad that I'm missing him grow. However, he left me a note in my suitcase saying that he's saving a bunch of big burps just for me (of course he is…burping is Daddy's job…Mommy does imports, Daddy handles exports…TMI? Well, again, stream of consciousness…deal.)

Today's clinic was a blast! I was able to work with one of the Medical Officers (here, people who have finished med school are called the above, or MO's until completing the equivalent of residency, at which point they become "Specialists" if I understand correctly). And boy was he efficient. Out of 45 or so patients divvied up between the three docs in the Pedi Clinic today, he/we saw 21! It was great…and I got to do 21 physical exams, just reporting what I found to him without any real questioning from him at all…which is kinda scary. However, the big deal in this clinic is to catch anything obvious, which should be apparent before the exam, and to ensure that the patient is doing well on treatment. Even still, it was nice to actually feel like I contributed somewhat to the patient's care without having to be overlooked and double-checked by someone else. They trusted me!!! And to make me feel even more doctor-ly, while standing in the hall waiting for the next patient to come back, random Botswana kid (let's call him, to have some chance of being accurate, Luke) runs down the hallway towards where I am. I think "Okay, he's running to get to his exam room, etc." Instead he runs up to strange white doctor-looking guy (let's call him, me) and throws his arm out around my waist for a big hug! How awesome is that?!?! And then about ten minutes later I saw him in the hallway again and, yep…another random hug.

Clinic is always fun, but truly, it's also at times saddening. The idea that every kid has an as of yet incurable disease is somewhat defeating. Some look wonderful, some look thin and malnourished, some look sick, and some are in bad situations such that you go to listen to their lungs and find healing wounds and scars from apparent lashings only to hear from Grandma "Her older brother was beating on her." It's not your typical pediatrics clinic. But despite everything, when you think about what medicine is all about, it is truly not about saving lives and preventing death in the end. HIV is incurable. Death is incurable, though. It's something we will all experience, and as doctors it is the disease that will never be "cured." Instead, medicine is about caring for someone who cannot otherwise care for themselves in the way that is needed, about improving someone's life, and about loving a stranger through the work that you are blessed to do.

Okay, so that was kinda deep, but now back to earth at the end. What, you say? Oh yes! The title of the blog post. I agree, I haven't covered it yet…it's something that I hope to add to as I go on here in Gaborone.

Reasons why Gaborone is "My world turned upside-down":

  1. Literally, my world is upside-down. I have never been to the Southern Hemisphere before. If you think about it, I am literally standing upside down. So when you think about me saying hello to you from here, imagine me standing on the ceiling and waving upside-down from 9000 miles away…that oughta be about right.
  2. It is WINTER here. Sun setting at 5:30, stores closed by then, and pitch black by 6:30. And it's seriously like 10 degrees in the morning (no really, they use Celsius here…9/5C + 32 = F). Don't use a calculator, it's cheating.
  3. Light switches…yeah, flip them down to turn on the light…again, upside-down
  4. They drive on the LEFT side of the road. And they pass on the right! Crazy…
  5. Lastly, the center lines of the road…yep, they're white. And the lines on the shoulder…of couse they are yellow! Wouldn't have it any other way.:-P

That's it for now. Time for my first weekend night in Gaborone. After the outdoor concert at the Hotel kept me awake last night for a bit, I am ready to see what this city has to offer…or at least I'll see a movie:-P


  1. hahaha :) i liked the last part the most about how the your world is upside down. it made me laugh a lot. hope you had a good day! i can't tell if this blog is from yesterday or today. love you!

  2. Hey Babe, The part about the random hugs made me tear up a bit. Thank you for giving of your time, tallent, and treasure to be in Africa away from friends, family, and all that is normal to help those little ones who don't have the medical opportunities we have. We love you soo much and are soo proud of you!!! XOXO