Sunday, 19 January 2014

Extraordinary pharmacy

Now that I’ve been here for a few months, things that once were a bit weird are now oddly beginning to feel almost ‘normal’!  I thought it would be good to document four things that have happened whilst I’ve been at work in the pharmacy here, that would never happen at home in UK.

A stitch up?!

This week Dr Mark needed a fresh batch of sutures for a specific operation scheduled for the next day.  He’d already done a bit of a search at the pharmaceutical depot in town (who also sell some surgical bits and bobs) but really needed these sutures to be purchased.  As it’s the pharmaceutical depot that sells them, and I work in the pharmacy, it was down to my Chadian co-worker Elisabeth and I to source them.  Another example of having to work outside a pharmacist’s usual remit!  Yours truly has absolutely no clue about sutures – it’s just a bit of nylon thread isn’t it, to sew someone up after their operation?!?!  After a crash course from Dr Mark about suture material & size, and the different needle sizes & points, we were ready to try and find the correct boxes from the depot!  Fortunately we came back with the right ones after a bit of searching and a twenty minute debate with the secretary about which product they should charge us with on the computer system!

Who knew I’d take my haggling skills from the market and take them into the pharmacy?!  Apart from going to the two main medical suppliers in town (see previous blog entry) we also use a couple of salesmen who come us at the hospital with certain medicines.  They are independent businessmen and their prices are a bit higher, but also flexible.  So I’ve bartered on the price of such things as antibiotic injections, gloves, antimalarial tablets, infusion fluids!!  I honestly didn’t think it would work but thought it was worth a try to save the hospital a bit of money and he dropped the price quickly.  So now I barter with him every time he visits!  It was a bit surreal at first standing in the pharmacy with a box of medicines, haggling over the price but now it’s a semi-frequent occurrence!
Small visitors

On Friday we had a little visitor into the stock room.  Our usual visitors are small spiders and that’s about it, it’s fairly secure so we don’t have problems with larger animal visitors, which is a blessing.  Anyway on Friday a small lizard decided to have a little siesta amongst the boxes of tablets! 

Our little visitor!
Treats and snacks
In most workplaces in the UK, people bring in treats every now and then for the rest of the staff.  Biscuits & cakes are often the order of the day.  Not in Chad!  Sometimes it is something like bananas or a baguette, but one day Elisabeth brought in crickets!  Yep, fried crickets are a regular snack here and so I was invited to try them.  I can’t say I was relishing the thought but ‘when in Chad’ and all that!  Below is a picture of the crickets carefully arranged on the plate to make them look appealing.  I actually ended up eating two as I wanted a photo taken as evidence and I forgot on the first one!


They didn’t actually taste of anything much I have to say, just crunchy.  Anyway at least I can now say I’ve tried them!

Other things that appear in the pharmacy are ‘savonier’, which are a strange nut-looking food. You take the shell off and inside is a stone covered with a sweet-ish thick substance. You suck the stone until none of the thick substance is left and throw the stone away. It tastes kind of sweet, it’s an odd taste really. Elisabeth told me that if you eat too many ‘ils sont comme bisacodyl’ – ‘they are like bisacodyl’ (a laxative!). Useful to know!!!

Outside of the hospital several people have set up little stalls selling drinks and snacks.  It appears that two of the pharmacy staff have commissioned one of these ladies to bring them ‘bouille’, as two large beakers of it arrive at the hatch each morning!  I tasted it the other day; it’s a thick white liquid, apparently made from a random collection of things but mainly flour, peanut butter and heads of wheat.  It’s a really odd taste, fairly bland and thick given that it’s effectively liquid flour, but it does have a kind-of sweet after taste.  There’s probably sugar in it too, Chadian’s like to add sugar to a lot of dishes.

It’s good to document these now-seemingly normal occurrences, as it’s not until I think about them that I realise exactly how different life can be here sometimes.  When you’re living it day-to-day it becomes standard!

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