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Last days in Mali

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Hi everybody,

We made it back to Bamako after 2 weeks back in the bush with the Brydens, Joe, and Dr. DeVore. All in all, we had a really great time in Nana Kenieba and the other villages. We hope to be back next summer, or maybe even sooner..! During the past couple weeks we've done many things. We wrapped up our mosquito net program by visiting all of the villages again and checking to see if they'd sold their nets. 2 villages, Nana Kenieba and Saguele, required 2 followup visits to get them motivated to sell, but as of now, the women have sold all 20 nets in each village! So the program was a success. The next step is collecting the buyers' payments every week and eventually they will generate enough money to buy more nets in Bamako. It's all in their hands now; it will be interesting to see if the program has continued on our next trip over.

Another highlight was accompanying Dr. DeVore on a few medical cases. Mariel learned a lot about asking the right questions to patients in order to make a correct diagnosis. He even did a surgery on our friend and host, Kany Diarra (who Mariel is named after). She had an infected, swollen thumb and DeVore cut out the infection, which was quite deep, and stitched her back up. For one reason or another, Mariel had a near-fainting experience while holding the flashlight during surgery which we chalked up to being a friend of Kany's. In any case, she recovered quickly and most assuredly does not have a phobia of blood or other bodily fluids. There were a couple more interesting cases: a little girl with a staph infection on the skin all over her body, an abcess on the eyebrow of a young girl, a lady with a dangerously swollen and infected hand, and a woman who found out she was pregnant unexpectedly were among them.

We also traveled to a village called Sandama, which is up in the mountains near Nana Kenieba. It has big redwood trees and is very interesting because it's a village that Medicine for Mali hasn't worked in yet (they are planning to install a water system soon though). It was very obvious that MFM hasn't been there, though. The water supply is just plain gross, we looked in one of the wells and pulled out water that was off-color and opalescent, as if it had oil on top. The children were in general in much worse shape. We saw a girl teetering around on stick legs with a swollen belly who was truly the poster child for malnutrition. Hopefully this village's health will improve drastically once their water system is improved and they receive some health education; these things have done wonders in the other villages.

Another interesting couple of experiences happened when the whole village came to our compound with a group of drummers to play for us and dance. People predictably pulled us in to dance in the middle of the circle one by one, and we all took our turns trying to make our American bodies move to African beats. We many not have succeeded in that, but we definitely had a lot of fun, and the Malians got a good laugh out of it. You can see some pictures of us dancing on the webshots page, which there should be a link to in the last entry.

We have many stories, plus there is plenty to tell that seems mundane to us now. For example, it is common for children under the age of 10 to drive donkey carts alone for miles, even the nurse's children wear witch doctor snake charms, and hissing is a sound that means children are calling you. We really internalized a lot; for example, in the restaurant where we sit now writing this, a waiter is named Moussa and his name keeps being called, and every time, Ben looks up - Moussa is his Malian name. We responded to Kany and Moussa for 6 weeks, so it feels pretty natural now. We made a lot of friends in Nana Kenieba and learned more than we can say. The experience certainly confirmed to us that working as physicians in places like this is really what we want to do for the rest of our lives.

As for the rest of our trip, we will be leaving Bamako tomorrow night, or Monday morning at 2:30am, rather. We land in Casablanca, then make our way to Marrakesh and spend a night there. On the 8th of August, we fly from there to Barcelona, then we have 8 days there before making our way to Madrid and flying out of there on Aug 16. We fly back to Casablanca on that trip, then the next day fly to JFK in New York. After taxi-ing to La Guardia and making a few connections, we arrive in the Quad Cities on August 18. For the information of anybody interested in coming, Ben's big White Coat ceremony is on Friday the 24th of August. This is the induction to the medical profession where the entering class receives their official white coats and takes the Hippocratic Oath. School starts up shortly after, and our lives will be crazy yet again.

So that's all for now, see everyone soon!

Love,
Ben and mariel

Posted by vagabundos 09:06 Archived in Mali

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