Saturday, July 26, 2008

Road Signs

Recently we made a road trip from our town, which is located atop a 4,500 foot plateau, to the capital city of Abuja. The view during rainy season is breathtaking. The rolling horizon stretches for miles, the green hills growing darker until they meet the huge African sky. The hills are pocked with grazing cattle, hosting endless fields of towering corn stalks, sugar cane, and the elephant ears formed by the casava tuber. Driving through village after remote village composed of mud huts and thatched rooves, there are no big cities along the 4 hour journey. No tall buildings, no restrooms, no fast food places to grab a burger. No Discount Tire in case of a flat, no WalMart if the kids forget a toothbrush. No gaudy bill boards boasting a national obsession with aquistion. But there ARE a few Road Signs.
The two-lane road winding down the plateau is treacherous to say the least. Mini-bus taxis overstuffed with travellers speed down the sharp inclines. Ancient lorries belch exhaust as they struggle to climb the narrow road. A few modern sedans and SUV's race around these lorries, unwilling to wait in the long line that crawls behind the smokey, sputtering contraptions. Every corner of the road is a blind curve with no shoulder, and the carcasses of victim vehicles are a frank reminder to the wary that patience is a lifesaving virtue. Every kilometer is marked with past wreckage, stripped of anything valuable, but left as a planter for weeds. If the old cars were not enough of an eye-opener, the government has posted many road signs, reminding the travellers to drive carefully. Although there is nothing jocular about the frequent loss of life on the highway, I am very amused by the bluntness with which the people are cautioned. Here are a few:
"Have a friendly day and don't die."
"Many have died on these bends. Only the living can celebrate."
"You have been warned: Slow your driver down before he kills you."
In Texas, the law states that a defensive driving course may be taken once a year to exsponge a moving violation from a driver's record. I used to be ashamed to admit that I took Defensive Driving every year of my life from the time I received my license at 16 until moving to Nigeria in 2004. Now I know that nothing is ever wasted, and that the Omniscient God was preparing me for a life in the land of offensive driving!

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Just A Quickie

Whew....we have been busy little bees this summer! I am happily typing on my resurrected Mac, completely restored after our lightening disaster last month. I wrote nary a word since the laptop was Medivac'ed back to Texas for a little surgery, and the stories are piling up in my brain like so much firewood! So as soon as I find a few minutes to write - OR the children return to school - I will fill this page with tale after happy tale. (One is actually not-so-happy.) So stay tuned.....

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Wee Village Babies

Last week, one of my ladies in the village delivered her baby early, at 33 weeks. For several months I have been concerned about this young girl. When her family discovered that she had become pregnant out of wedlock, they beat her as punishment. Fortunately her unborn baby was unaffected. On Thursday, I went to Ladi’s home to visit her new arrival. As I entered the family compound, I was greeted with ululation and escorted into a tiny room where the new grandmother was cutting goat intestines for dinner. Many well wishers were ushered out of the only bedroom to allow me entrance. Ladi, clad in a Texas A&M sweatshirt, and tiny baby Jummai were snuggled into the lone bed, the room warmed with a charcoal oven. I asked if I might take the infant to the clinic for a weight check and her vaccines, a request to which the family easily complied.
In the light of the clinic, I could see that the 3 day old premie had been decorated in the traditional coal-eyeliner, with her eyebrows penciled in black and a tiny red dot painted between her eyes. She was wearing about 10 layers of clothing to protect her against the frigid 80 degree weather, with gaping trousers that were marked size 9-12 months. Weighing in at 2 kilograms, little Jummai appeared alert and thriving. I administered vaccines, re-dressed her (this took 15 minutes), and bundled her back to her mother. After instructions of care for the fragile infant, I left, praying that the Lord would watch over this precious package.
I am always amazed at the tenacity of these tiny premies. Last month one of my patients delivered her baby at 27 weeks, 3 months ahead of schedule. During that home-visit, I interrupted the Mommy while she was harvesting crops (2 days post partum), and instructed her to feed her baby every 2 hours and keep her warm. No incubators, pulse oximeters, umbilical lines, IV drips, heart monitors, or apnea machines. All of those gadgets are incredible life savers, but I am so thankful that in their absence, we have The Real Lifesaver!