Monday, September 7, 2015

Botswana recap 1: everyday life.

I'm thankful for this long weekend. I got to sleep in, stock up my fridge, and have a little breather before this semester begins in full throttle. It's a strange feeling knowing I'm nine months away from graduation. A lot is going to happen in those nine months though: residency interviews, ADEX NERBS, Match day!

First, the dental bits in my life:
1. How many times can you take a PVS impression of the same prep? I believe I set a new record for number of impressions taken last week. I'm extremely lucky to have a teacher who holds me to a high standards and lets me fail... all the while having my back.
2. The importance of 47 degrees: My biggest role in operating theatre was irrigation with saline solution. Pronounced sah-LINE in Botswana. As I learned during studying for boards, bone starts to necrotize at 47 degrees, making the use of irrigation essential during drills.

About my dental externship: I'm still processing my Botswana experience. The dental clinic, my travels, patients and surgeries I saw, HIV-related pathologies, being different from everyone else, life without wifi or hot water...  I wrote briefly before here about my life in Botswana, but now I have pictures whoop!

I stayed in the Penn flats- hosted through a partnership between UPenn and University of Botswana. The house also houses medical students doing elective internal medicine rotations, residents working in various specialty clinics, and physicians. For the majority of my time, there were six students staying in one unit, with various doctors going in and out of the other unit. This entire unit sits on a "plot" (addresses are given as plot numbers) and surrounded by a wall with an electric fence.

The students were amazing: adventurous, positive, compassionate, open-minded... Best part of my experience was living with the students going through similar experience and emotions. Oh! And Zumba in the evenings at the school across the street.

The final E's are long in Setswana, making Pilane "pill-LAH-ni" and Gaborone "Hah-bo-RO-ni".

Princess Marina Hospital was a 15 minute walk from our flats. Most days I was at the hospital by 7:30AM. On way to the hospital was Main Mall, a sprawling strip mall with an outdoor market. Main Mall also had the grocery store Spar, Nando's (a fast food chicken place every Motswana was obsessed with!), and cheap lunch vendor options.

This is inside Spar. Botswana's official language is English. People mix up Setswana and English in conversation, but newspapers and hospital documents were in English. Grocery stores had everything an American could want, including peanut butter, yogurt, and TUBS of vaseline. Vaseline is the chapstick in Botswana. There were tons of produce: tiny apples, cheap avocados (less than 50 cents each), and oranges/nectarines/naartjies. Much more than I expected for a country in drought.

Botswana has great beef: this is Seswaa, the traditional marinated dish. 

The country is in a severe drought, with the dam at 4-5% of full capacity as of this summer. The med students and I went running at the yacht club on Wednesdays where the lake is now a dry dusty bowl.

We often didn't leave the flats after dark. As foreigners we definitely stood out and attracted a lot of attention. We had a handful of stories about people getting mugged after dark, getting phones and cash stolen. Instead, we stayed inside to cook (or went out to dinners in a cab), read (there were tons of books around the flats), and sleep at 9PM. On weekends I traveled- which is another post altogether- but during the days, especially if the power was out, I went to sleep when the sun went down. On the days clinic ended early, I explored places around Gaborone, including this cute outdoor coffee shop in the Village named after Alexander McCall Smith's book: No. 1 Ladies Coffee House. I got the red latte with rooibos tea, another extremely popular Botswana thing.

This photo is the last one that got uploaded before my phone was stolen. A friend from Baylor med (thanks Kathryn for connecting us!!!) and I went to Sanita's, a nursery with beautiful greens and yummy lunches. The place reminded me of my other favorite nursery: Tiny Boxwoods in Houston. I almost cried upon seeing so much greenery in one place, because rest of Gaborone is dusty, cactus-ey, and lawn-less.

It is bizarre and strange to be home in Philadelphia writing this, because I can walk around at night, I don't attract stares everywhere I go, and I'm spending dollars. Botswana's currency is called Pula, which tellingly means rain. Sometimes the entire August feels like a dream then I remember waking up to the sunlight coming in through the curtains, roosters crowing in the background, the metal gate to our flats clanking open and shut...


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