Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Impfondo- Top 10 list- Medical version

  1. You measure a patient’s labor progress by the amount of time she snaps her fingers and how much clothing she is wearing instead of using other monitors.
  2. The “golden hour” of resuscitation becomes the “wooden week” of surviving just to get to the hospital.
  3. Pineapples can serve as a copay

  4. Your consultants never refuse to see the patient……you are the consultant
  5. Your patients refuse to leave the hospital because they have 24hour electricity and water which they don’t have at their house
    A patient's house made out of mud and sticks with a thatch roof,
    no running water or electricity.

  6. No lawyers
    No lawyers, but we do have lots of other wonderful workers!
  7. Your presurgery checklist includes prayer and checking the fuel level in the diesel generator
    Ian helping with the generator
  8. Patient family members ask to see and pose with the removed body part after surgery
  9. Surgery is often an open book test
    Happy after a successful surgery
  10. You teach CPR to the Bee Gees “Stayin Alive”

    But we couldn't just stop at 10!  Here are a few more:

  11. You have weight gain competitions in the pediatric ward
  12. You have to write out and coach parents on how to pronounce your name when they want to name their child after you
    Baby Anna: that's easier to say and spell than Stephen
  13. Placing IVS, nasogastric tubes, suturing, bedside ultrasounds are all spectator sports.
  14. You hear patient surgery testimony in Sunday chapels.

Friday, October 16, 2015

Top 10- marketing in Impfondo, pt 2

6. Locally sourced, seasonally available
All of the fruit and vegetables are locally sourced and organic. You can walk down the "produce" aisle and pick and choose what different ladies have to sale.
There's no searching for labels to certify this, but with no preservatives and no refrigeration, it's the only way to do things.  This also means that you eat according to the things that are in season.  A few things- like bananas- are available all year long.  Other things have one or two seasons each year, ranging from a very short mango season once a year, to things like pineapple and papaya that are available most of the time.
Mama Claire sells onion and garlic every day.  She sometimes has eggs, potatoes, or dried beans for sale, too.  She would always watch my bike for me while I shopped.

7. No refrigeration
With no refrigeration or preservatives, you only buy what you need for that day, or the next few days.  For example, the one type of bread available is made locally with no preservatives.  If you don't eat it that day, the humidity will cause mold to grow overnight.

It is possible to buy some fish salted or smoked to make it last longer.  I never quite trusted this option!

8. One stop shopping
Even though there is no supermarket, you can get just about anything you need from the various stores in the market- at least anything available in town.
In addition to food, there are other household goods, hardware, paint, medicine, and office supplies.
There is fabric for sale, and tailors who will take your measurements and sew clothes.

9. Time and Conversations
The culture is very relational, and it is important to take the time for conversations.  I'm always kindly greeted and welcomed, and people ask about my family's health and well-being and other things about our family or the hospital.  It is more important to talk to people than to buy something from them, and I have certain people that I converse with on every trip to the market.

This does mean that you can't take a quick "in and out" trip to the market.  Sometimes, what should be a simple search becomes complicated.  Other times, people are in the mood for long extended conversations, and it would be rude to rush past them.  As long as you know to expect your trip to take some time, you can enjoy the conversation and building relationships.

Part of the openness in communication also means that it is OK to people watch, one of my favorite things.  There is nothing unusual about standing and watching the world go by.  You can comment on what people are buying and doing, and it's all part of the relational aspect of the culture.  Sometimes, I would get a cold drink at one of the few stores that had a cooler, and stand and drink it while watching (and sometimes photographing) the action on the street and in the stores across the street.

10. Relationships
My favorite part of the market is the people.  The market is fairly small, and there were many people who knew my name- sometimes my actual name, sometimes by things like "mama of Isabelle" or "the giant's wife."
This meant that in addition to making friends, I knew there was a community watching out for me.  On the rare occasion that someone spoke in a threatening way, there were people who stepped in and chastised them.  I could leave my bike or my purchases with one of the vendors to pick up later.
I also had a chance to get to know a little about some of the different people, their stories, their joys and heartaches.  In a few cases, I made some close friends that I will always remember and treasure.
The couple in the last picture got to know our family pretty well, and they came by and spent our last evening in Impfondo with us.
I hope you have enjoyed this little glimpse into the market in Impfondo!

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Top 10- marketing in Impfondo, pt 1

Marketing in Impfondo

After I saw this post about grocery shopping in Djibouti, I knew I needed to do one about shopping in Impfondo.  It's a little different than shopping in the US... OK, make that A LOT different.

1. Car... what car?
It is possible to drive the 1.5 miles to the market, but not really necessary.  I prefer to take my bike- with or without the cart, depending on how much I think I will buy on that trip.

Walking is always an option, too.  When you walk, you have a chance to see more of the people and neighborhood on the way.... and they have a chance to see you and talk to you.

2. Cash only.
There are no checks or credit cards, only cash.  But there is an ATM you can use to get cash from your bank.  Just remember that it is going to be a community event- no privacy.
The line at the ATM is watching the person at the front of the line use the ATM.  It is common to offer advice to the person using the machine.

3. Open air market
Supermarket?  There's no such thing.  Instead there is an open air market with some stores that are a single room attached to a row of similar stores.  They carry a small selection of canned goods and other household items.  There are usually the same things in most of the stores.

There are also stands and tables all throughout the market.  This means that when it rains, the market closes down until the rain is over.  Then it is necessary to wade through the mud puddles as you navigate the market.

4. Uniformity
There's not any uniformity in the appearance of stores- or in their height.  Stephen was too tall for many sections of the market, and even at 5'2", I often had to duck.

5. Packaging
Many things are not sold in packaging, and you can buy the amount you need.  You only need one egg?  That's fine, because you buy them individually.

 Things like dried beans are sold by the scoop.  Fruit and vegetables can be bought individually or by the small stack.  Unless you brought your own sack or container, your purchases will be wrapped in newspaper or banana leaves.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Impfondo- Top 10 list

You may have spent some time in Impfondo if...

1. You need a sweater, long pants, and socks when the temperature drops to 80F.

2. You can remove your shoe and kill a bug... or a bat... in one smooth move.

3. Candle light no longer makes you think of romance or mystery, but power outages.

4. You feel like it's Christmas when a letter or package arrives in the mail.

5. You're not afraid to have spirited discussions about whether or not someone can use your banana trees as an outhouse.

6. You say "No, thank you" politely when someone presents a snake at your front door instead of running and screaming.
I wasn't really calm and collected enough to get a picture of the snake, but the big lizard was another slightly scary thing we had to politely turn down.

7. Your children refuse to wear anything but flip flops on their feet.
Flipflops & machete... what could go wrong?

8. You think it's a good thing to match everyone around you.

9. Rainy days don't make you think of umbrellas, but of unplugging all your electronics, bringing the laundry in off the line, and putting out basins to catch the rain that leaks through the roof.

10.  You can keep a straight face when people compliment you on becoming fat, and reply with a kind, "Thanks, you too!"
I'm pretty sure this is how I look when someone tells me I'm fat. 

If you've lived overseas, what would your list include?

Sunday, October 4, 2015


Sunsets from Impfondo (top) and Montana (bottom)
Our last update was about a series of "good-byes" while we traveled from Impfondo to Brazzaville and back to the US.  We have continued to travel, but this time it has come with a series of "hellos" as we reconnect with family and friends.

We have been in a period of recovery and exploration: rest and recovery from our experience and exploration of our options for future ministry.  We are still trying to get used to speaking about our home in Impfondo in the past tense instead of the present tense.  In many ways, it still feels like home, and our hearts are with many of the people there.  We know that God has the situation in His control, and we can trust him with the hospital and people of Impfondo.

We have slowly traveled west, and we are now back in Montana.   There has been the opportunity for us to talk to people who are serving at some other hospitals in French speaking Africa.  There are four possible hospitals that we are considering, and we would appreciate prayers for God's guidance in the process.

The children are all doing well.  They would have all preferred to stay in Congo, which made the initial transition difficult.  While they still miss Impfondo, they are becoming excited about our next locations.  We started school on Labor Day (in Georgia), and we have been continuing to homeschool as we travel.  They have enjoyed catching up with their cousins and friends, and meeting some new friends.

Although in some ways we are eager to get back to ministry in Africa, we know that it is important to take the time to transition well.  We are still planning to spend around six months in the US.
We will be in Montana until we return to the east for our debriefing conference at the beginning of November.  After this, we hope to be able to share more details about the future.

We will still be posting a few things from our time in Impfondo on the blog throughout the fall and winter.  Thank you again for all of your encouragement and prayers for us.

Left: Hiking in Impfondo with Sarah Speer
Right: Hiking in Montana

Friday, September 18, 2015

At the river

This past March, we took a walk beside the river with Sarah Speer.
It was nice to get off the hospital compound and see some of the surrounding area. 

You can't see clearly, but there are 4 people on the motorcycle, and the person in the back is holding 2 chickens!

Fishermen working on the days catch