“If something isn’t growing, it’s dead.”This is why I’m constantly striving to better and improve myself, to continue to grow and learn. Whether it be mentally- how I think about things, about other people, about the world around me or my environment, how I let myself react to challenging situations, what stressors I allow to bother me; physically- improving my heart and entire cardiovascular system by running, feeding myself more nutritious, varied, whole meals, or making my muscles stronger, faster, more able; socially- the things I say to people, how I portray America, how I portray Zambia, how I represent the Peace Corps, the things I say about people when their around, trying to add more positives and take away gossip or rumors; environmentally- from planting trees, picking up trash, and choosing to ride my bike long distances rather than take vehicular transport. I’ll constantly be growing, and changing who I am, so I’ll constantly be reintroducing myself to my friends, my family, my world. Every time you meet me I’ll hopefully have changed a bit, and hopefully it’s for the better each time. By improving myself, I’m improving the world.
I’m not trying to prove myself to anyone, or boast about what I’m doing with my life so that people will think I’m a good person. I’m happy that I have so much more access to internet/facebook then I thought I would, and while I originally wanted to go off the grid, and didn’t think I’d be posting at all, I find myself posting a status maybe every day. I’m glad I get that chance to constantly share my story, share the random things that happen in my day here, and share my life here in Africa with others. What I do inspires people, and although I do what I do because I truly enjoy it, if I inspire people along the way, that’s wonderful. Maybe they’ll look at their world, or country, or life, or personal situations differently because of the things they learn about life in another place completely unalike anything they’ve ever known. Maybe they’ll go out and volunteer, and be filled with the satisfaction that serving others in the name of good, and help, and peace, fills you with. Maybe they’ll learn acceptance. Maybe they’ll learn more about health issues, or food security issues, or political issues, or foreign policy in another country, and get involved in some way.
Almost every time I go into my health clinic, it stresses me out. In the beginning it stressed me out because there were so many people, and as I approached, or wherever I walked, I could feel the stare of a hundred pair of eyes beading into my head. That still happens, because I’m the out of ordinary thing to see, but it no longer intimidates me. Now what stresses me out is the inner workings of my clinic, the inefficiencies, and how completely unorganized mostly everything is. I go to my clinic mostly on Tuesdays and Fridays, because I help out a lot with Ante-Natal bookings. Most days when I get there, not a single other staff member shows up, and I’m left running it by myself. Now, we’re out of the booking cards that the mothers get and that I fill out all of their information on, so for each mother I have to hand make the card. We have a storage room full of old exercise booklets that patients had used in past years, so I have to use those. It means I rip out the first few pages with old patients information on them, cross out the old filing numbers, and start from scratch. For each card I write “Kapichila Rural Health Center- Safe Motherhood No. 3050-23-xxxx” and then fill out their name, age, village, neighborhood, husbands name, last menstrual period, estimated date of delivery, what number pregnancy it is, how many births they’ve had, how many children they have, and other past medical history. On the next page, I create rows and columns, and write in the date, gestation in weeks, presentation of the baby, lie of the baby, if they baby is engaged, if I can hear a fetal heart rate, their blood pressure, their weight, their urinalysis with glucose and alb levels, then how many iron, ferrous and malaria profylaxis drugs they’re given, the date of their next visit, the date that they’re given their tetanus shots, and the results of their HIV test. And then I get to copy all of this same information into our record book. It’s really annoying to have to write this out constantly, twice a week because we don’t have supplies. And then something else will go wrong, like information wasn’t entered in our record books correctly, or the order is messed up. The mothers are responsible for keeping their cards, which often ruins them because they live in the village and the cards get dirty, or wet, or eaten, or lost. Then we no longer have records. It would be SO nice for my clinic to get solar panels, a computer, and electronic booking systems.
Sometimes I get stressed there because we are severely under staffed, especially with the passing of our nurse. When I first arrived, we had 4 of the required 5 paid and trained staff members, the rest were community health volunteers. Now, my EHT has left to return to college, and my nurse has fallen dead from malaria. My volunteers are rarely showing up, only when it’s convenient for them…but that makes sense, because they’re volunteers. I only show up when I don’t have other things going on. I’m constantly running around the clinic, looking for things that are misplaced because they don’t really have a home. I’m constantly trying to find someone to translate something for me, because patients come at me and rapid-fire questions in Tumbuka and I have no idea what they’re asking. Sometimes my nurses send patients to me, and the patients tell me I’m supposed to give them a shot or diagnose them, and I have to send them right back to my nurse, then stop what I’m doing, and explain to him, yet again, that I’m not allowed to give shots, or do HIV tests, or administer medication. There’s so much that can be done to become better organized or efficient, but it’s not something I can do by myself. And at this point, its not something I’m really motivated to do or arrange, because I’m focusing on other things. So I drudgingly go to the clinic twice a week, help out more when I can, and then leave in a grumpy mood.A few days ago, I started asking the other staff if these same things frustrate them, if they ever get stressed out at work. My In-Charge, my nurse, and my midwife all told me that, yes, they are constantly stressed. But I’ve never seen them show it. I rarely see them snap at a patient, be rude, or crumble under the overwhelming pressure that is hundreds of people and crying babies waiting for treatment or a program. They are always so happy, so energized, so friendly. And that really teaches me a lot. That I don’t need to get angry at them, or be grumpy and rude because the lack of organization and staff and supplies is frustrating me, because I’m not in it alone. Plus, at the end of the day I always go to the dam near my clinic, and sit there under a tree reading for a few hours and relaxing with a snack. And as I look out at the beauty that surrounds me, I’m reminded of how amazing this country is in other ways, and how lucky I am to be here. I fall in love with Zambia all over again, and I forget, at least until the next Ante-Natal day, that I was even stressed out in the first place. Patience, patience, patience :)