Sunday, May 12, 2013

Africa Mercy - Goodbye Guinea: One Nurse's Journey

Another email from my friend on the Africa Mercy ship!  This is a running post about her work in Africa as a nurse. Click here to learn more about the nurses and doctors on board the Africa Mercy. 

  

9 May, 2013
Goodbye, Guinea

Greetings...one of my last greetings...from Guinea, anyway.  This field service is so quickly coming to an end.  There is excitment in the air for the impending sail (well, we use diesel, but they call it "sail").

There are already lots of goodbyes, with many more to come in the next two weeks.

Some of the hardest goodbyes will be with the day workers.  Wherever we go, Mercy Ships hires several hundred day workers, giving them employment for the ten months we are in their country.  Many serve as translators; others work in support services in various capacities.  We have four who work with us in the admissions tent, translating into French, Susu, Pular, Malinke, and sometimes Creole.  Each of them speak several languages--but it's all Greek to me!  Today, I had a patient who actually spoke good English--what a thrill, to be able to talk directly to a patient!  On the other hand, I also had one for whom my translator had to conscript a bystander to do a three-way translation.

Communication is, and always will be, a big challenge.

Because the economy of Guinea is not strong, many people are unable to find work.  We ask survey questions during the admission process, and by far the majority say that they are "traders."  They work every single day, trying to sell whatever wares they have to sell.  I keep wondering, if everyone is selling something and no one is manufacturing anything, how does anyone have money to buy what the traders are selling? It's a bit mysterious...  But, our day workers will face this dirth of jobs once Mercy Ships leaves.  Some looked for a job for more than a year before we came, and even with French and English skills, they hadn't been able to find employment.  It certainly makes our goodbyes difficult, knowing what difficulties they will face when we leave.

There continues to be some level of unrest in Conakry.  It does occasionally get violent enough to cause a few deaths, but for the most part it is peaceful marching, maybe some rock throwing and window breaking.  The president has been delaying the elections--they are now rescheduled for sometime in June--and the opposition is showing some muscle.  At least, that's my best understanding.  They schedule demonstrations every Thursday, and "dead city" (work stoppages) most Fridays.  Not that I've seen any hint of trouble myself--Mercy Ships imposes travel restrictions when trouble is expected, to keep us out of danger.  The day workers and patients seem to know how to navigate through the city to avoid the trouble, although sometimes it comes pretty close to home for them, depending on where they live.  Rumor has it that UN peacekeeping forces have arrived in Conakry, and peace has broken out.  Travel restrictions were lifted today.  Guinea has never had a civil war, which is a tradition certainly worth perpetuating.

I'll be glad for this country if the elections go well; perhaps then they will be able to attract investors and get the economy moving.

Rainy season is upon us.  It has been raining at night, sometimes quite forcefully.  Not that I can hear it at all, coocooned in the ship as I am.  Soon, however, it will be raining cats and dogs both day and night (or does it rain giraffes and elephants here?).  We are hoping it will hold off long enough to get things packed up for the sail, a process that starts a week from now.

One of our day workers is a Christian woman planning a big wedding a week from now.  Her family, however, is Muslim, and they are not happy.

Her father has canceled her wedding twice already, and is threatening to cancel it again.  The word today is that the wedding is still on...but we're on tenderhooks for her until the deed is done.  Everyone in admissions is invited to the wedding, so next time I write, perhaps I'll have wedding stories to tell.  Meanwhile, the bride has chosen material, and everyone coming to the wedding is supposed to have a dress made for the occasion.  Several of us had a tailor come for measurements last Sunday.  If the dress arrives in time, will it fit?  And will I have occasion to wear it?  Stay tuned...


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