Hello from Nimba again

I am back in Nimba now, back with my adopted family here. The work is hard (even just one day has already presented a terrifying array of problems), but I am really happy to be back with the team and in my “own” bed. I brought back a new expat from Monrovia with me. Pierre is a Frenchman, an architect who worked in San Francisco for several years, and returned to France, then quit his job to work on real problems, instead of the somewhat unreal ones that architecture offered. He said that it annoyed him that people designed buildings that they do not know how to make. I don’t know yet if he knows how to make buildings, but I really like him and I think he will do well. His job is to build the replacement building for the pole and plastic sheeting hospital that I am supposed to keep limping along.

I gave him the logistics briefing today. I gave him the security guideline to read, since the fieldco is not here, and then gave him some editorial comments, telling him which parts to memorize and which parts are generally ignored (or not really important in the current context of Liberia). When the fieldco gets back, he’ll get the full deal, but from me he got just enough not to get in trouble this week. I also taught him the rules for who rides in the cars, etc. And what things drivers are in charge of, and what things he is in charge of. Finally I taught him about our radios. It took a little longer than the 15 minutes I promised it would take, but not too much.

One of the interesting things about being a log I didn’t consider is that I am the hotelier for the staff. It is my job to have a comfortable room waiting for them (but not too comfortable… this is MSF). In Pierre’s case, we had two rooms ready. I sold him on the best one, but he went and took the other one. Then he had the temerity to ask me to make some furniture that was missing in the crappy room, but present in the other room. I think I am going to like this guy. Temerity is a required asset for an MSFer!

Hanging out with medical people is interesting. I have long since ignored minor interruptions during dinner with snippets like “does the patient have discharge from her vagina?” and “the patient has no urine output”. I just smile and ask for more beer, thankful that I will later have plenty of urine output. But things have ratcheted up a notch because the HIV nurse found a new collection of photographs on one of the CDs she got in Geneva. The pictures of posters from around the world educating people on condom use were interesting. The worst ones are the genital skin lesions caused by the combination of STIs and AIDS. Yuck. At least it was only after dinner that I came to the office and found her looking at those.

Quiplu the dog is happy to have me back, I think. At least he was eager to have my chicken bone tonight after dinner. He is excitable, by which I mean by jumping and acting like a maniac you can get him into a serious puppy mood, where he careens around the compound narrowly missing palm trees. Tonight I got him really spun up and running in circles around me. We were having a great time, and then he came straight at me. I was a little worried I’d finally pushed him too far and he was going to attack me, but what happened instead was even more surprising. He ran into me at full speed, bruising my shins painfully. I can only imagine what a terrible headache he got from it! He bounced off with a “yip!” and then stood still a while looking at me trying to figure out how and why I had put him so much pain. We made friends again within a few minutes (amnesia?) and he has no lasting effects that I can tell, not even a bruised ego.

The other new sensation that is sweeping the MSF compound in Nimba is Oware. This is the Ghanian name for the African game played with cups and balls. You pick up the balls and put them into the cups one at a time in a clockwise manner. If you land in a the opponent’s cup, and it has one or two balls, you get to keep their pieces. My grandparents have a board game up on the wall in their house that they picked up someplace in their travels, maybe in Morocco. (Later, I found out the game was from their time in the Philippines.) I bought an Oware game in Ghana, and brought it back, complete with an instruction booklet. So I have been teaching everyone, and they have been beating me soundly ever since. MSF attracts very, very smart people, despite what it make look like when a bunch of people forsake good jobs for snake hunting and cockroach-infested bucket showers.

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