Thursday, January 8, 2009

More fun at the hospital

OK, so this is Holly's other half, Kenneth. I would like to say better half, but that would open a whole new discussion, both at home and, I'm sure on this blog about the merits of my claim. I'm a virgin blogger, that is to say that I've never "blogged" before. I've typed before, and I'm not positive what the difference now starts the I really a virgin or not? Anyway....

Thursday morning was another experience with the Ethiopian culture. Let me say first of all that I love Ethiopia....and Ethiopians. I have tried relentlessly to get Holly to move here. The lifestyle is simple and the people are so friendly. I'm thinking about trading my return plane ticket for a year's supply of injera...did I mention how much I love the food?

There is something very unique about the culture here. It seems to me that the people are always yelling at each other over the smallest things or blowing their horns at each other incessantly, however, they never actually fight. If I blew my horn in traffic in Texas the way they do here, I would need to be prepared to take a life in self-defense or lose mine (as most of you know, we Texans all carry loaded firearms under our ten gallon hats). Also, when a tourist (faringe) is present, everyone acts like they are in the presence of royalty.....just really great people.

One thing I have found here that really gets under my skin is that no one just comes out and admits that they don't understand what you are saying. They just nod and say "OK". Such was the fiasco with Maritu's phantom TB disease. Yesterday, at the hospital, everything was perfect. I obtained the gastric washing and went to the lab with Tsadaye, the nurse, and Ayele, our driver. We brought in the order, Tsadaye spoke with the lab tech, they took the specimen, nodded and said, "OK", and we left.

Today was a different story. I obtained the specimen and immediately removed the tube from Maritu's nose/esophagus/stomach so that she wouldn't have to deal with that for a minute longer. We were then on our way to the hospital again. When we arrived at the lab, Tsadaye again gave the specimen and the order to the lab tech (a different person today) there was a verbal exchange in Amharic (did I mention that from the perspective of a third party observer, two people speaking Amharic appear to be having a good ol' fashioned feud?) Tsadaye then told me that the tech had told her that the order was for only one specimen to be tested, not a series of three as we had expected. It is very possible that the two of them actually had been less than cordial, because two other people had come out from the back part of the lab to see what was going on. There was a man who looked to be in charge who spoke to the tech that we had been talking to. There was also a woman who spoke English. She asked us what was going on. I told her what we had been through and that I was a doctor. I wondered out loud if ever in the history of the world (and Ethiopians would know because they were here before the rest of least according to Lucy) gastric washings for TB testing had been ordered in any combination other than three. The lady talked to the man in Amharic. The lady talked to Tsadaye in Amharic. Tsadaye tried to talk to me in English. I talked to the lady in English. She nodded and said, "OK", and Tsadaye walked out of the lab like we were done. I asked Tsadaye the biggest question of the day....if the order was for only one specimen, and today's specimen was the third, did they still have yesterday's specimen? Because at this point, we were out of days and I had pulled out Maritu's tube. If yesterday's specimen was discarded....we were screwed. Again, I got a nod and "OK". Go figure.

We then went to the ER and Tsadaye spoke to a clerk there to try to get the results from the previous day. Guess what? There were no results in the computer! Tsadaye and Ayele and the clerk then engaged in a three-way Amharic battle royal. The clerk made a phone call and said something else. Tsadaye then told me "It was negative." Then we left the hospital. I asked Tsadaye if she was sure that all of the results would get there on time....and guess what she said?

The rest of the day was basically uneventful, filled with shopping and know, last minute cramming of all of the things we don't want to regret missing. Oh yeah, uneventful except for one small snafu....involving miscommunication....

Let me go into some very recent history. Shimeliss had asked us to bring a package to give to a very close friend and business contact of his. He had written the man's name and phone number on the package. For the last 8 days, we have tried to contact this man. His cell phone keeps ringing busy. I finally gave the package to Rahel to forward. Shimeliss had wanted me to meet this guy to discuss a business venture or something....I'm not sure. Now let me again stress....and I mean stress.....the week that we have had. And not just Holly and myself, but the other two families also. Between illnesses and visiting our new children and performing invasive procedures on our new children and jetlag and cell phones that don't work and language barriers and the story changing every day and walking to our third floor room in the thin air (altitude 8500 feet) and trying to stay up late to talk to our kids back home and being awakened early by the chanting from the Ethiopian Orthodox Church across the street and eating sheep for Christmas (yes, Holly ate sheep, but don't tell her....she doesn't know) and trying to remember not to rinse my toothbrush under the faucet and trying to remember how much 20 birr is worth in US$ get the picture......the last and I mean LAST thing we needed was something else to worry about or do at this point.

Somewhere between the Haile Selassie Market and the Hilton, Ayele's phone rang. He handed it to me and told me it was Shimeliss' friend. I said "hello" and was asked in very broken English to "go to dinner" tonight. I think he wanted to meet all three families. I tried to tell him that we were very tired and that I would have to talk to the other families. I had a hard time understanding, so I handed the phone back to Ayele. He finished the call and told me "He will pick all of you up at seven."

When we got back to the transitional home, we had a pow-wow with the other families. They were equally as exhausted as we were, but agreed that the polite thing to do would be to go ahead and go to dinner. Because of our difficulties with Maritu's health and the possibility that Mamush had been exposed also, we are waiting to bring our children with us until we get the results back tomorrow. The other two families have taken their babies from the home and will need to find a babysitter or bring them along. This problem is two-fold. We asked at the home if a babysitter could be provided. We got the ceremonial "OK". This is a good place to mention that we have all been told by Grace that under no circumstances are we to take our new children in public until we are on our way to the airport. Apparently, this is a big no-no. I don't know why, I'm just the husband along for the ride...if you really want to know, you will have to ask Holly (this doesn't help my argument that I am actually the better half). This is especially important to one of the other families who still have another child to pick up later. They really don't want to step on any toes. Remember from above that we were asked to "go" to dinner and we are thinking "go out" to dinner.

The decision to decline the invitation was unanimous. There were still at least two of us that were ill and the other families were scared to take their babies in public and we had no idea if the babysitter request had been processed correctly. I called Ayele (the only person who I trust to take my English and translate it to Amharic and get the same general idea that I hoped to convey) and asked him to call Rahel, who had the contact information for this man, and get the message to him that we would not be able to go to dinner. This was at least three hours prior to when he was supposed to pick us up. What a relief! We finally had nothing left to do but go to the Embassy and sign some papers and then spend 20+ hours in airplanes and airports and customs holding areas with two babies that probably think we are kidnappers......before finally getting home! We all went down to the hotel restaurant and had a nice meal and retired to our rooms. Holly should have never checked her email......

We had a short note from Shimeliss that said that his friend was very angry that we had stood him up. He said that the man's wife had spent all afternoon cooking for six guests and that he had waited for us for more than a half-hour after the time he was supposed to pick us up.

I'm learning Amharic before the next trip.....which will probably be worse.


Bennett said...

I could not do anything but laugh out really summed up your trip...........I love it.

Thanks again, for spending that precious time w/my girls!!! I heard one even let you sit her on your lap.


Mendy Twigg said...

For someone who has never blogged before, that was priceless. Holly, thanks for letting your husband share. You are a brave woman.