I’m on a porch in the cool evening. The last orange embers of the cooking coals smolder in the distance – light without illumination – their glow does not penetrate the black. The lightening has subsided. What had been an amazing show of God and nature, flashing streaks of white against purple in the curiously cloudy “dry season” sky, has dispersed leaving only thick clouds to veil the stars and almost full moon.

I’m in Handii. Handii is still in Bong County but you have to drive to Kakata (Margibi County) and then backtrack to get here. We drove through Bong Mines (our stop for tomorrow) and continued into the setting that pushed the Lord of the Flies boys to forsake their humanity-thick brush and tall trees crowding for space. The road is narrow, obscured by felled trees and ruts of mud that hardened in the shape of stalled vehicles. The greenery is almost obscene. Rubber trees fight for space, banana and paw paw trees vie for sunlight, mangos ripen slowly on heavy branches. And the foliage is intensified by the ominously gray sky bearing down on us – throwing curtains of rain in the distance and inching closer to us as we drive closer to it.

It isn’t supposed to be raining, and yet we splashed through puddles and our windshield wipers frantically cleared space for us to see into the gray as we drove to Handii clinic – where I did my survey and Eric confirmed the clinic’s numbers-all the numbers.

My reality as of late – the thing that provides form and substance to my days – is clinic visits. Working on behalf of Africare, I’ve created and begun conducting a waste management survey for their 14 clinics. In order to conduct these surveys I hitch rides with whoever is heading into the interior. Sis Mary, Leo, Eric…I’ve been lucky to see a much larger swath of Bong County and simultaneously gotten to know my colleagues. I’ve also been privy to meeting the amazing folks that do the work of the clinics.

Broken Kpelle on my tongue, I’ve been befriended by staff and community members at a few clinics I’ve made multiple visits to. At others, I’ve been part of the services provided. Sis Mary and I walked into the CM’s (certified midwife’s) office without realizing she was with a patient. The mother-to-be, clearly pregnant and lying on the examination table, looked nonplussed by our arrival. I prepared to step outside but Sis Mary, a midwife for years began to take over the examination. And, equal parts midwife and trainer, she began to talk to me about the examination.

“put your hand here…no right here where my fingers are. That is the head,” she said. “now listen,” she held a tiny aluminum cone to the woman’s belly and motioned for me to put my ear next to it. It took a moment but then I could hear it, faint as new hope, a tiny heartbeat. We measured her belly and then I was shown how Sis Mary teaches her traditional midwives – who don’t get measuring tapes – how to calculate how far along a mother is. And all the while the mother looked as if this was the most natural thing in the world while I gently touched her arm and tried to be as unobtrusive –as if that is possible with my ear pressed against her belly and my hand on the head of her unborn child – as possible.

Today’s trip to Handii was tamer. I took my usual pictures of waste disposal pits and asked questions about changing sheets and sterilizing equipment. But the interesting thing about this trip is that it is overnight.

We arrived as the sun was fighting the iron curtains of rain and the dispenser and CM were busy cooking dinner over multiple coal pots. Country rice, palava sauce, and fried plantains…a delicious meal. And then we chatted as the utter darkness of the night embraced us – only the glow from my laptop and eric’s flashlight as he poured over numbers intermittently piercing the black.

Tomorrow we head to Bong Mines to visit their Outpatient Department before heading home – backtracking through the narrow muddy strip parading as road.

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1 Comment on clinics

  1. rachel says:

    yeah! i’m glad you’re enjoying your trips to the clinics. that’s my favorite part of being here, and i’m so happy you’re getting a chance to see them!

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