I have always enjoyed walking. It started back as a kid when I would ask my dad for a ride to school and he would say to me, “have Tom (pointing to my right leg) and Jerry (pointing to my left leg) take you.” He very rarely gave me a ride but instead instilled in me a solid dependence on my intrinsic mode of transport. That said, it stands to reason that I thoroughly enjoy our brisk 25 minute to walk to the hospital every morning. Yet, it’s not just the blood pumping frontal lobe to feet that I enjoy – but this week school is back in session. The morning street crowd has ballooned to include young kids in uniforms sporting backpacks and scrambling off to learn Rwandan geography. The greatest part is their eager excitement at being able to practice English with the mazungu’s.
Kid in uniform, “Good morning.”
Kristi, “Good morning, how are you?”
Kid in uniform, “Very fine, thank you.”
Kristi and kid in uniform – giggle, giggle, giggle.
That simple little interaction makes me so happy – and a great way to start our days. But then again, I’m easily amused. In fact, let me just share with you a few observations we have made in this country that amuse me. When we were driving to Butare last week we were pulled over by a police officer. Not followed in car with lights and sirens – but instead a guy standing in the middle of the road wearing a bright yellow vest so people could see him and not roll over him. He waved for us to pull over to the side. He just walked in front of the car, no words exchanged, and started making hand gestures that our driver Joseph new exactly the interpretation. The result was he checked our head lights, turn signal lights, hazard lights, windshield wipers, windshield cleaning fluid, and horn. After all those apparently met the officer’s satisfactory criteria – he motioned us to continue on. Apparently random stops happen all the time and if your car is not in adequate working condition, you can get pretty hefty fines, upwards of $200.
And speaking of the law – there is a law here that everyone has to wear shoes. When you think about it – it’s actually an extremely smart public health initiative since infection is a huge problem contributing to significant morbidity and mortality – but at face value – a law that everyone has to wear shoes at all times seems kind of comical. Most of the shoes and clothing everyone wears here is second hand. There is shop after shop on the street of “couture” but primarily all used stuff. It’s not uncommon to see someone sporting a sweatshirt that says, “Stanford basketball champions 2004”….or whatever. But probably the best used t-shirt we saw was a young boy wearing a black shirt with the easily recognized pink breast cancer awareness ribbon that said, “Save the ta-tas”. I couldn’t stop laughing – that poor boy has absolutely no idea what he is advertising.
We had a great teaching day today – we went through some cases and then held rounds in the ICU with all the residents instead of trying to crowd in to the OR with our Indian colleagues. The residents are responsive to our teaching – but are quite serious about anything we tell them. A perfect example is Marcel asked a multiple-choice question with one of the answers being, “poisonous hematomatoes”…which of course is absolutely nothing and just a joke. But the residents raised their hands and said, “we don’t understand answer D, what is a poisonous hematomato?” And even after explaining to them it was a joke – they just shake their heads and can’t figure out why we would be joking about things that could potentially end up on an exam.
Having some time this afternoon, we decided to take a tour of other parts of the hospital since we have primarily just been in the OR and ICU. We made a walk through the wards. There are 5-6 beds in an area, with a shelf in each area where family members can store the dishes and bags they use to bring the patient’s food in. But, if you have money you can opt to pay for a “private” room – which has only two beds. The cost difference is about 1,000 RWF ($1.50)/day in the general wards vs 8,000 RWF ($12)/day. But when you are in the private rooms, everything is more expensive. When they check your blood pressure, it costs more than when they check your blood pressure in the regular wards. Ahh, the luxury of being a VIP.