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Shawnda: Boseja 1 and “What What”

July 7, 2011

Sorry for the delay in my commentary on Mochudi’s clinics, but fret not!  Here is my patchy synopsis of our four days spent in Boseja 1 clinic (aka “Brocedure” because we would rather say that).

Boseja 1 is located just down the road from Borakanelo (the now famous restaurant graced by the presence of first lady Michelle Obama, aka “mma obama”).  Located in what seemed to be the middle of a sand dune, Boseja was laid out on a small square plot with three main buildings: a kitchen, HIV clinic, and main clinic.  There was also a small but neglected garden in the back of the clinic, dried and needing attention.  The main clinic was square with a pharmacy, maternity room, family planning room, TB room (with an outside dispensary), injection/dressing room, dispensary, and a consultation room. 

Unfortunately due to the strike, the clinic staff was halved to only 5 workers, three of which who actually interacted with patients.  The staff began their day with song and prayer, which were both beautiful and a positive sign of improvement from Extension 2.  Brenda, the head nurse, seemed strained and overworked, seeing all of the patients the first day excluding the children being weighed.  I don’t think our arrival could have been more perfectly timed and needed.  I honestly felt as if our help and presence were both appreciated and wanted.  The clinic was without a pharmacist, doctor and HIV test kits.  Due to the lack of kits, it didn’t seem as if Mampo, the counselor, had much work to do.  June, the male nurse, arrived the second day which divided the work and wait time.  Sophie, a local favorite, spent the majority of her time helping mothers with their children or sitting in the sun. 

The four of us were quickly welcomed and incorporated into the shorted staff, helping wherever we were needed.  We would spend our mornings taking blood pressure, baby weights, and observing until lunch at 12:45.  The afternoons were a welcomed contrast from Gaborone clinics; almost no patients arrived after the clinic reopened at 2pm.  The afternoons were spent counting pills and talking with the nurses who soon became close friends.  Brenda and Sophie soon became our entertainment.  I could honestly see a difference in their countenance, turning from stress to relief and warmth.  The clinic turned into something we all looked forward to and dreaded leaving at the end of the week. 

It still had similar deficits to Extension 2, including staff shortages and lack of sanitation.  I think many of the patients should be more educated on hygiene, especially when in public.  If you haven’t noticed from my comments yet, personal space is everyone’s space.  When you aren’t covering your mouth when you sneeze and cough, or don’t wash your hands, the spread of disease is inevitable.  “Biohazard” doesn’t seem to have the same effect on these patients either.  I saw multiple patients set their medical folders directly on biohazard covers, which were just covered in blood and pus from someone’s infected wound.  Hopefully my quick gesture to remove the folder and worried look served as a hint of caution.  Additionally, the scale was never cleaned. Considering the amount of sand alone, I don’t think many people’s feet are very clean.  Many of these issues simply need education and set standards to be solved.

Luckily, my time was not spent on being preoccupied with these hygienic woes.  It was rather spent listening to Sophie and her incredible rants and “what what.”  A famous phrase of hers, “what what,” first used when she explained to us the meaning of their prayer: “we are asking Jesus for blessings and what what.”  Sophie was a large, loud, and often late woman who none of us will forget.  She quickly made us feel welcome and was a continual source of good humor and admiration.  She was kind enough to invite us to her Massimo, which is here cattle post/farm.  We met her on Friday, their First President’s Birthday, at her house in Mochudi. We were given what seemed to be a mix of a lime and orange, which was just taken from a tree in her front yard.  We then drove to her farm, only 30km from the South African border; you could see its mountains along the horizon. 

Her farm was quiet and peaceful, with a large amount of land and a small two bedroom home and a kitchen.  There were two skinny puppies, an outdoor kitchen, outhouse, and watermelon patch.  We spent an hour wandering and sitting in the sun with our new father until Sophie showed with her daughter.  We helped cut pumpkin, kill and slaughter a chicken, and cook soup.  We had what was by far the best meal I have had in Botswana yet.  The pumpkin had no seasonings added, and was honestly breathtaking; I can’t think of another word to describe it.  The chicken and the large portion of rice were enough to keep us full and satisfied for a week.  We finished the meal with juice and cookies, and ended the day walking around their farmland taking pictures and picking corn.  We sat along the interstate waiting for a bus for about 40 minutes, talking and throwing around our oranges given as parting gifts, hoping to avoid the cow pies in the sand.  

As the bus approached, I was smothered with hugs and pleas to never forget that moment from Sophie.  All I can remember her saying is “never forget this, promise me!” and “I’m keeping images of this in my mind until you all send me pictures and what what!”  I left with a full stomach but an aching heart.  It is so odd how I felt as if I was leaving yet again another family.  Since we left Sophie has called to say hello, and I cannot wait until I can see her again.  I never say goodbye to people here or “it was nice meeting you”, it’s always, “I’ll see you soon.”  When meeting people like Sophie, you can never turn your back on such a beautiful place; I’ll return again someday.  My description cannot possibly explain how beautiful her farm and family were, and how absolutely amazing the experience was.  This is by far something I will never forget.

Brenda and Sophie have our addresses and numbers, and I can’t wait for them to visit, call, and write. I’m looking forward to the many hellos to come and am counting the days until I come back before I’ve even had a chance to leave. 

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