Today. Today was the day that made it all worth it. It was our last academic day – the day we spend all hours (minus the 1.5 hr lunch that can not be interrupted) in a warm classroom giving lectures and discussing cases. This is one of the main functions of the CASIEF volunteers – is to provide the anesthesia curriculum through weekly lectures.
Adolphe, the chief resident, told us that after the academic day, it was tradition to meet at a local restaurant near our apartment for drinks and brochette (basically kabobs) to celebrate the end of the month. As we were walking home after the academic day, headed towards Capri, Marcel and I both commented on the fact that it was a bit of a challenging day. We wondered if what we were teaching them was getting through and if they were really getting it. Their understanding was good, yet their application of what we had been talking about seemed marginal.
We arrived at the restaurant, sat down and ordered drinks. Slowly, most of the residents trickled in to fill spots around the table. It was a warm evening, just breezy enough that the mosquitoes were not terribly pestilent. After a first round of drinks, everyone ordered a second round and the menu finally showed up.
Adolphe said fish brochette was the house specialty and the goat brochette was also great. Having eaten my fair share of brochette in Rwanda, and feeling quite confident that would be something I would never miss again – I told him I was going to order croque monsieur. He said, “Kristi, I think you will have fish brochette.” End of story. I guess I was eating fish brochette then. He proceeded to order fish and goat brochette for everyone. As the evening went on, a few small clues materialized that Marcel and I were the hosts of this little party. There was never any explanation or even asking us if it was ok, we were just told there would be a celebration dinner for everyone. From there we slowly figured out that we would be the ones ultimately footing the bill. Once it dawned on us, Marcel and I laughed across the table from each other, realizing that our experiences here are never short of little surprises. That made the fact that I couldn’t get croque monsieur even funnier – since I was paying for the whole meal, yet couldn’t decide what I would be eating. Writing this now, it sounds very authoritative and almost hostile. But it was really very sweet that Adolphe wanted us to have a good experience and have a good old-fashioned Rwandan delicacy.
In all, seven of the 11 residents showed up (one is in Canada whom we never met, and one is taking a leave of absence – so really 7 of 9). We laughed, told some jokes and ate brochette – which was actually quite delicious – all in the dark since the power went out just as the food arrived. When the evening was winding down, Adolphe stood and said he hadn’t prepared a speech for the occasion but wanted to say a few things.
He addressed Marcel (they always call him professor) and told him how grateful he was he had come, how grateful they all were for his teaching – especially his new methodology of using the ASQ’s, and how happy all the residents were to do them. He talked about how much they had learned and how hard they try. He then turned to me and thanked me for taking the time to come during my final year, he said they thought it was a huge sacrifice for me to come and they appreciated it. It was all so sweet and tender and really put our whole trip into context. The whole time we had been wondering whether our teaching has been useful for them, if they appreciate it or if they have been getting anything out of it. His few simple words made it come full circle and made the whole trip worth it.