Monday, April 27, 2009

No good deed goes unpunished

For some weeks now we've been wanting to see the ocean. It's about 200 km due west from here. With call and other excitements we've been doing other things, but this weekend, we went. Sat morning 8 am (Mark finished call) we went west. Picked up some young chap, dropped him at his farm, and picked up a young kid there, about 11 yrs old, who'd fallen from a donkey cart and scrapped his foot. It looked a bit dirty and so on, but not too bad. His dad wanted to take him to the clinic in Bersig where there was a nurse, about 30 km along our route. So we did. The dad pointed out some elephant droppings and was able to tell us how many had gone by, and in which direction. Really neat (and I was thinking: no good deed goes unrewarded...)

But when we got to Bersig there was no nurse, she'd gone to Khorixas for the weekend! It was really annoying, what were we to do? Drop him, to wait for the nurse (and the wound to get septic?) Take him with us (there is a clinic in Terrace Bay, about 100 km further on) but what if that nurse was away as well? How would he get back? Would he be waiting for us? while we were sightseeing? UUURGH! How did it become our problem! Well, it became our problem when we picked them up... Soooooo we drove them back to Khorixas, at the hospital gates, and started again. 4 hours later...

We spent the night at Springbokwasser gate, at a campsite, for free. This is the Gate for the Skeleton coast national park. It was incredibly remote. A small group of buildings for managing the access to the park, surrounded by nothingness. We explored the river bed, took loads of pictures of Welwitchia (the miracle plant that grows in the desert... About 1 cm per year). Baked potatoes on the fire, slept, woke at sunrise. Wow, what an amazing sunrise. I don't see many sunrises, just not that kind of person, but I've seen more in Namibia than anywhere else. Mark took some amazing pics (we'll upload them later).

The seaside was cool, you could feel the air changing as we approached it. The seasonal campsite (only open Dec and Jan) was eerie with cormorants. Just beautifull. The water was too cold for me. (And I'd been looking forward to swimming in it.) Mark immersed himself, and I paddled.

We stayed for a few hours, and there was an enormous dune just back from the ocean which we climed. Very desert, very Laurence of Arabia.

Who knows? Was our good deed punished? We had a fantastic weekend, no matter if it was because or despite giving a lift to that child...

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Are the blogs becoming less frequent? I somehow think so. Probably becsuse things are becoming "as they are", rather than quite so strange and different. We are settling, a bit. To be honest it was a difficult week despite that!

On Wednesday I treated 2 girls who had taken their grandmothers' diabetic treatment. They live about 80 km away on a farm. I'm not sure why, but they had to wait till the morning to even start the trek to the hospital. First a donkey cart to the road, then wait for a lift from a passing car (of which there are not many!) So I fear it was just too late for one of them. She has spent too long without sugar for her brain. She was very unwell and unstable in hospital. We were able to stablise her, but transport to Windhoek was very difficult, as both our ambulances and drivers were out, and would be too tired by the time they returned. Mark and I and a nurse and the aunty and the sister who was ok went in our car to the next town where an ambulance took all of them (without me, I was exhausted, Mark went) to Windhoek. She needed oxygen and monitoring. The oxygen ran out half way to Okahanja, and the monitor's battery the hospital in Okanhanja gave them both and she made it to Windhoek in much the same state as she left Khorixas, which is all we could have asked for. The hospitals in Outjo and Okahanja were fantastically helpfull. We don't know how she is doing, yet.

I think the stress of that day took about 3 days to pass.
It's a bit strange what we can and can't offer here. In some ways, if we were more "in the middle of the bush" and couldn't even think of transfering her, we could cope with that. And certaintly patient expectations aren't high, people are quite fatalistic, used to not knowing what caused an illness or a death. I struggle with that. Many doctors do struggle with uncertainty.

Monday, April 13, 2009


Frustratingly, Easter is a 4 day weekend, and we are working 3 out of 4 days of it. It is the life of a doctor, and we should be used to it, but somehow, being a volunteer, I find it a bit more annoying. But we did have Friday off together, which was nice.

Last week we met a Spaniard who is cycling in Namibia, scouting it to see if it's suitable for guiding a cycling holiday. I ran into him again Friday morning in the shop and he came by for a chat, some water and to use the internet. He's tired of cycling and taking a few days off, to do more typical safari type stuff, so we're storing his bike for him. I showed him Margo and Chris' blog. He cycles about 100km a day, carrying 8 liters of water with him. That's to last 2 days, in case he doesn't get to a campsite that night. It is so hot and dusty here and the roads are so straight, I can't imagine doing what he's doing. I don't think he's planning on taking tourists here either, as he keeps saying that the scenery is so "boring". Daniel, be warned. By the way, for potential visitors, I think the scenery is only boring if you're travelling slowly...

Otherwise we were very quiet. Mark worked very hard on Sunday, tho' we did have time for supper, with another visitor, Pratap. Pratap is also VSO and he travels about 2 weeks every month, helping set up campsites, coordinating conservancies and generally knows everyone. When he visits it's like the outside world is coming in for a while. We had chicken, potatoes, cauliflower cheese, some Indian vegetable Dr Reddy's wife had given us, a green salad. And Chocolate cake. It was reminiscent of any Sunday dinner we've hosted in the past, and completely lovely.

And now I'm on today, and it's been really tough. I'm not sure I can write about it, but it is part of the things I anticipated might be hard, coming here. A few days ago I identified a few things that make the hard things more bearable. It's completely corny, but completely true. There are a couple of young girls who are struggling with HIV and Tb, and both are doing
well. The older one, M, I've been taking care of almost every day for 6 weeks, and she was always just flat, recumbent, apathetic. Our boss, Nkire, got the rehab person to come and see her, and I think he gave her (and the nurses) confidence to use the walking frame! What a difference. Big smiles and applause at her first jaunts up and down the ward, and now big smiles on my ward rounds. She's not out of the woods, maybe never will be. The younger one, E, was picked up by her aunt to be taken home for the long weekend. She usually wanders the hospital, with a serious face, rarely a smile, up and down and around. Her too, I saw today, smiling and waving at me.
These are the things that will sustain us.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Some more pics

So this is Mark and Alice with Brandberg in the background. I saw an arial pic of Brandberg, really cool, so if you have Google Earth, I think it would be worthwhile. Then Mark and Alice's Condor stuck in the sand. 4 hot sandy hours later, we were free... Then a pic of the "White Lady of Brandberg". Cave drawings, about 2000 yrs old, probably of a medicine man, surrounded by people, hallucinations and animals. There are more than 20 similar caves in this one valley of the Brandberg, probably by Khoi Khoi (not San, tho' the difference between these tribes still eludes me.) And some pretty rocks at sunset.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

My brother Stephen used to complain (when I was living in Bolivia, in the era of group emails) that I would just write long speils about the weekends, and all my adventures (this was his excuse for not replying...)

Anyhoo, we went with Sue to Brandberg this weekend. Sue kindly took pictures of us stuck in a sandy river bed- which will follow.

Sue is ex-VSO (her placement was in Nepal), a vet and has worked in the Shetlands, the Falklands, New Zealand, the Dominican Republic and now Windhoek. Oh and she's Canadian-British, super fit and enthusiastic. She joined us Friday night and we had a little goat (one of the nurses gave me the front quarter of a goat. The kitchen staff kindly cut it up into small peices, and I roasted it with thyme.) We set off Saturday morning and got to the campsite before noon. Then set off to the "river" which sounded like a nice place to have lunch, paddle, maybe walk up or down it... The staff repeatedly told us not to drive in the river. Which we interpreted to mean don't drive up or down the river. When we got there, the river was dry and baking. There were tracks across the river and Mark (usually the most risk-averse) thougth it was good for crossing in our 2WD condor. It wasn't, unfortunatly. Oh my word it was hot. Digging out our tires, putting brush and our firewood under the tires, reversing, repeating the same thing. Trying to get Sue's Rav4 (a small 4x4) to tow our car out, breaking the tow rope twice. Stopping and having lunch... Trying again. I was near heat exhaustion, I think. I was just too hot to do anything after a while. That's when Sue and I went back to the lodge and got a worker with a 6 liter ancient Nissan and a big peice of nylon rope, and hauled it out... Thank goodness.

It was a perfect place to "try out" our limitations, close to civilisation, with Sue and her car to help us. But it was 4 hours in the heat, really trying to get ourselves out.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

I just love these pictures. I bought Mark this camera about 3 years ago, it's ONLY 6 megapixels and the pics are massively reduced to go on the blog. But ANYWAY, the top one is a giraffe with Etosha pan in the background. Then that tree one: behind the tree, all in a row, are hundreds of springbok. It's amazing. Then the lilac breasted roller, which flashes blue in flight. Lovely. Then an Oryx (or Gemsbok) then an elephant. Did you know they walk silently?