Sunday, September 30, 2012

Sunday, 9/30/12

We saw the full moon once again on Friday, 9/28. When we flew from Chicago to Rwanda, the full moon came with us. It's a pleasant marker of our time here. Two moons.

This entry is full of photos and items of interest. On Thursday and Friday, 9/27-28, Jerome and I struck out to visit some health centers where our students and clinical faculty are doing clinical work. Jerome had rented a four-wheel vehicle. We drove about one mile down the road from Byumba and took off on a two-lane dirt road. For over two hours of driving time, my poor body was bounced and jerked every which-way. Soon after we were on two-lanes the road quickly became one-lane and remained that way till we returned. So, imagine, we were on one lane with vehicles coming the other way and all sorts of people walking, or biking, or pushing bikes on the road. Somehow, we all got past each other. Jerome is fond of giving rides to people: we picked up and dropped off about 7 people along the way from a brother and sister going back to school after lunch to an elderly gentleman trying to get to his village. All the children try to get rides; the universal sign for hitchhiking here is just an outstretched, waving hand.
    This gentleman agreed to a photo. If the roads are really steep, people put their loads onto a bicycle and just push the bicycle along instead of riding it. I can't tell what he is carrying. Potatoes are a dead giveaway. This bag may contain food for cows.
 The first set of photos are those I took along the way to the first health center. A health center here is very much like a neighborhood community health center in the U.S. with the addition of a small hospital in which women can give birth. The local women who have normal pregnancies are encouraged to come to the center to have their babies. Since they do not have health insurance, they all do come to the health center. If they have complications, they are swiftly transferred to a district hospital (like ours in Byumba). After the birth they must stay for three days postpartum to make sure they are well. (I know women in the U.S. who would think three days was luxurious!) Anyway, the road to the health center basically wound up and down the mountains that have all the terracing. None of these photos really does the scenery justice, but I was able to get up closer to the terracing than I had been before.

 This photo is about as close as I got to a little terraced farm. You can see two buildings toward the left and if you enlarge the photo you'll see a man in a white hat working in his "field".

In most cases the terracing goes from the top of the mountain right down to the very bottom. Some of the terracing just holds the soil in place. The remainder really creates flat beds in which to grow crops. In some of these photos you may spot some houses where people live. As we were driving along the dirt road, every once in a while I would spot a little break in the growth at the side of the road. Going down from that opening would be a steep path leading to a house with maybe a shed for animals and the farmer's own growing area.

We were given a grand welcome when we arrive at the first health center. Our students and faculty were there. I cannot place the photo here of kids that were at the health center. We cannot show any faces in our photos of happenings at the hospitals or health centers. We have to protect their privacy.

 And here is a photo I've been trying to capture; a mother with her baby tied onto her back. She also gave permission. They just use a long piece of cloth, it seems most anything will do. They make sure the baby's bottom is well supported in the back with the cloth, then tuck the ends of the cloth into the front of their clothing. The babies mostly sleep back there. When they are hungry they cry and the mother stops wherever she is and nurses the baby. The women carry the babies until they are well into toddlerhood. Sometimes it is funny to walk toward a woman head-on and see a good sized pair of tennis shoes sticking out at her sides! If it is a bright, sunny day they carry an umbrella to protect the baby or wrap a piece of white cloth on top of the baby. If it is a newborn, they seem to carry the baby in the front of their dress.

The above three photos are all I can post of one of the main activities for the day. This student is shaving the head of the little boy. It is common practice when children are heavily infested with lice. So they got a shave, haircut, and a good head scrub (but no two bits).

The other activity I enjoyed watching was one of the twice weekly servings of "porridge" to any child who came to the Health Center. I do not know what kind of grain they used. A woman cooked it over a wood stove and made it fairly thin so they could drink it easily. Then the health workers passed out cups which were quickly filled and emptied! These children were really hungry and no one complained that they "didn't like it!"

I received a response to my blog today from HARERIMANA Alexis  who was writing from South Africa where she is studying. She didn't tell me how she got the link to the blog. She used to work here at the Byumba School of Nursing and Midwifery. She said my blog reminds her of "the good old days" here in Byumba. I hope to correspond further with her as she said she will return here soon.

I cannot believe the blog is being read by someone in South Africa! Where will it go next????

This coming week will be interesting. Tomorrow I'll go back to Kigali for more Health Center interviews. I'll be at home Tues. and Wed. as Jerome must go to meetings. Then, Thurs. and Friday we'll be going to some sites quite a bit further away. I am trying to be very careful at the sites since the steps and footing are always a challenge. And at one setting last week we arrived just as there was a huge rainstorm. I always ask for help when I am unsure of the terrain. Some friends took me out to a very well-known restaurant in Kigali on Friday night. The car was a good way out in the parking area and it was quite dark. A young man appeared just as I was getting out of the car, took my hand, and guided me the entire way into the restaurant. Very nice attention for the old lady!!!

I'd better go. I don't think it will be too long before I can blog again, esp. since I'll be back here mid-week. And in Kigali tomorrow we won't have to drive on those bone-jarring roads!

I miss everyone of you, but I am not pining away for the U.S. There is so much to do here.


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  2. Good afternoon Caroll, It is a great pleasure to read your blog, as it keep me updated. You can't imagine how happy i was to see someone write about Byumba school of Nursing and Midwifery. As I said i used to work there, and I miss the place so much. I started working there in 2005 and felt in 2009 for studies in South Africa and I am doing nursing nursing. I am completing my studies this year, if it goes well. In your earlier post You referred to me as a female....I am a male and Alexis is French name (Alex in English). You may view my pictures on Facebook. Invite me and I will confirm the invitation (use my name and surname, or my e-mail: It will be a great honor to correspond with you and get the news from Byumba. Have a good evening

  3. So glad you have been able to post while you are traveling. It is one of the bright spots of my day to check to see if you have posted some news. The photos of the terracing were fascinating & beautiful.

  4. Really enjoying your adventures! I especially liked the pictures of the terraced landscape! I can use these in my elementary science methods courses, if it is okay with you. As you are adjusting to your new surroundings, so am I. I am loving the Midwest and enjoying all of the people I'm working with there. Keep the journaling coming...
    Take care,