Sunday was the most beautiful day here yet. We woke up to clear skies, the sun shining, and birds chirping. At 7:30am we went to church. It was busy! The kids sat two to a chair, and even then there weren’t enough seats, so they gathered in back during the worship time. Like typical kids, they chatted and tackled each other, but nonetheless, I was amazed to see how the children looked out for each other. Most of the children looked between the ages of two and twelve. The big brothers and sisters held the hands of their little siblings, or held them on their backs or hips to watch out for them. What a precious thing to see. They all danced and sang during worship, and held up their hands during prayer as they stared at us and smiled at us. After worship, the kids went to Sunday school.
After the service, we gathered in the courtyard area right outside of the church building where the kids were eating and running around playing. I went to go take some pictures, and was immediately surrounded by a swarm of children. They sure love having their photo taken. After every shot they gathered around to see the picture on my phone and then immediately after they made their next pose. They also loved my hair. Their smiles and laughter bring me so much joy! I really just want to pick them all up and squeeze them. I could sit there all day with them. We took pictures for fifteen to twenty minutes and then headed back to Maji.
On our way back, we stopped at this amazing bakery, only a short ways down the road from the hospital and church. The pastry items were incredible. I got a chocolate croissant, which I’m pretty sure I could live off of if I had to. Seriously, so delicious! We sat outside on the deck as we ate, talked, and enjoyed the beautiful day.
|Le Bon Pain|
By the time we got back to Maji it was only 10:30am. Many of us rested or spent time reading and working on projects. I decided it would be a really good idea to sit out in the warm sunshine and heat (which I have been so deprived of for the past few months), close to the equator and at 5,000 feet above sea level for the next three hours. My body thanked me with a lovely sunburn. Thankfully I had put some sunscreen on so it’s not too horrible, but hurts just enough. By this point, the lake was beckoning us. Everybody on our team joined in on the most refreshing afternoon swim and after, some of us napped. I napped for two hours and boy was it great. At 6pm we walked over to a restaurant called Le Chalet for drinks and to meet up with some other people who were there earlier for a meeting. It’s so pretty there! I’m told you can tell where the best restaurants and bars are based on the number of UN peacekeeper cars parked outside; there were already four or five. Many times the parking lot fills up with them there when it gets late.
We left Le Chalet and walked back down the road to Maji and then had dinner. Most nights we eat dinner down by the water at one long table with a fire nearby. If the weather isn't good, then we eat inside the guest house. We visited for a while and ended the night with a movie.
On Monday it was back to the OR and time for my second case! This time I got to operate with my dad in the plastics room. We removed a chest keloid probably about 6cm long and 5cm wide. It was so cool for me to be able to do a case with my dad. Dr. Jo Lusi is now convinced that God’s plan for me is to be a plastic surgeon. He went on and on about it and pretty much has my future in plastics planned out. He told me he’d be praying for me to become a plastic surgeon so that when my dad gets older I can come to the Congo and take his place. I guess we’ll see!
|Dr. Jo and I|
Late morning Dr. Erickson and I ran over to the bakery again to get some drinks and some treats for all of us. I’m pretty sure I would never survive walking around the streets of the Congo alone. Not necessarily because of violence, but because of the drivers. Like I said in an earlier post, the roads are a free for all. Everybody has the right of way, the painted lines on the paved roads are merely a suggestion, and the car horn could be their national instrument. It’s pure chaos and I don’t know if I would trust myself at this point to try and cross the road alone.
We brought the treats back to the hospital and ate them with our lunch of samosas, which have a deep fried shell filled with meat and veggies. This time, we found an unexpected surprise in them. Dr. Erickson pulled one out, took a bite, and there was a hardboiled egg in it. I thought it was an accident at first until I looked and realized that they all had a full hardboiled egg in them. None of us were too sure about the mysterious eggs so we all took them out with the exception of my dad who ate his. Adventurous guy I tell ya!
|Dr. Ekbom and Dr. Erickson with the mystery egg|
When we were done operating, we left to return to Maji for the night. Monday was an unusually clear day and we could see a lot farther than usual. This made it the perfect weather for getting a picture of the volcano, Nyiragongo. It was so visible that it felt even closer than usual. I was determined to get a good picture. When we were stopped, I had my cellphone slightly out of the window so I could get a clear picture. I got some, but I wasn’t completely happy with them. So, I made the brilliant decision to hold my phone out the window as we turned the corner and the volcano became perfectly centered down the street ahead. I had the perfect shot. And I got the shot. And then the before I know it I’m flying forward into Dr. Ekbom as the driver slams on the brakes….and my phone flies out of the car window onto the busy street. I was in slight panic mode. The car began to move again and everyone yelled for it to stop. I quickly pointed out the window to my phone in the middle of the street and looked at a man standing on the side of the road. Seriously, what a great guy. He quickly stepped out into the street, stopped a crowd of motorcycles, picked up my phone, and handed it to me through the window. It’s amazing he didn’t run off with it! I was so in shock by everything that had just happened that I couldn’t remember how to thank him in French, so he got an English “thank you!!”. What a crazy and embarrassing forty-five seconds.
We finally returned to Maji, took a quick swim, ate dinner, and I called it a night. I was exhausted and fell asleep within minutes. Weirdly, I haven’t had any problems with sleeping and jetlag.
On Tuesday, we did more operating. Most of the doctors finished up with their cases around 2pm, but my dad didn’t finish until around 5:30pm. He finished a cleft palate at that time and was supposed to have one more case after, but Dr. Wilson and Dr. Ekbom so graciously started it before my dad was finished with the cleft palate and they were able to finish around 6pm. In the afternoon, Dr. Wilson, Dr. Ekbom, Dr. Erickson, and I all went back to the bakery for coffee and treats and left my dad to labor away in the OR. Sorry Dad! Of course, I got the chocolate croissant again and three of us got wonderful lattes. It was so nice to have a good cup of coffee after all this time.
We got back to Maji about 6:45pm, just in time for dinner. I don’t think I’ve ever had so many carbs in my entire life. I usually eat fruit for breakfast and sometimes they’ll make eggs, but for lunch it’s usually bread or samosas, and for dinner it’s usually some sort of meat and vegetable with rice or potatoes. I’m very picky about my meat so I mostly will just eat the potatoes or rice with the meat sauce. Good thing I love rice!
I’ll try to post probably one or two more times before we leave on Friday night.
I’m so not ready to leave.
Here are a few pictures of what we see driving to and from the hospital: