Monday, 28 November 2016

A typical day

I thought people may be interested to read, and see a bit of, what a typical day here at G2 looks like for me.  Here is a typical Wednesday for me during the past month.

5.45am: the alarm goes off and I hazily hit the snooze button multiple times before relenting and realising I really *do* have to get up and get ready.

6.40am: Tabitha, my lovely house-helper, arrives.  She comes to my house three mornings a week to do my laundry (all by hand), clean the house and sweep the floors (a never-ending task with all the dust).  Here’s a picture of Tabitha arriving at my house in one of her pretty lafayes.  You may notice something jutting out from her back – that’s her 4-month old daughter, Lea!

The lovely Tabitha
6.45am: I leave the house, with my work bag and a 1.5 litre bottle of cool (ish) water in its insulated carrier, to go and join some of the other staff for our morning devotions.  No picture of me at this time of the morning…..I wonder why?!

7am: The working day starts.  At present, the pharmacy also doubles-up as the payment window for patients who need to pay for their lab tests, or to attend some of the clinics.  One of the Chadian pharmacy staff is currently on holiday, so in order to practice my slowly-improving Chadian Arabic, I am running this payment window until the end of November.  It’s a great way of meeting the local people and they find it hilarious that the white woman is speaking a bit of Arabic.  Some of them understand my accent, some don’t!  Everything goes ok with regards to me being able to carry out the functions of this payment window, as long as the patient doesn’t go off-script!  As soon as they ask me something that’s not to do with the price they need to pay, or where to go after paying, I get a bit stuck.  Fortunately there’s always a member of Chadian staff nearby who I can call on to help me out with some translation into French.  They’re all very patient with me which I’m grateful for.  Just to prove that I really am doing this, here’s a picture of yours truly working in the payment window:

Can you spot me?!
8am: a member of Chadian staff from the operating theatre comes to the pharmacy with a request for medical supplies.  The pharmacy doesn’t just stock medications but also a whole variety of medical stock that no UK pharmacist would ever need (want?!) to know about.  It’s been a steep learning curve of needle gauges, NG tube sizes and aperture fittings, plaster of Paris and suture material.  The last one I’m still getting my head around.  Do they want absorbable or non-absorbable stiches?!  What the hec is the difference between size 3-0 and size 0?!  What does reverse cutting mean?!  I’m getting there, albeit with many questions.

What?!  These are all sutures?!
What's the difference between them all?!
9.30am: the payment window is starting to quieten down for a bit whilst the patients wait to see the nurse or doctor.  Audrey, my Chadian pharmacist colleague, brings me his monthly order for the government-run wholesaler in town, for to check over.  He’s very organised which is a blessing and any alterations I make are usually fairly minor.  It will take at least two weeks, and about three trips into town for Audrey, before we get the supplies he’s ordering.  If we get half of what we need from the main wholesaler, we’re doing well.  The rest we have to try and get from elsewhere (at a higher price).

10am: one of the expat workers comes to the pharmacy to ask me a question.  They ask in English because it’s easier and quicker.  When they arrive I’m part-way though talking about the monthly order with Audrey (in French) and a patient comes to pay for their lab tests, who speaks Arabic.  It’s not uncommon to speak English, French and Arabic in the space of 5 minutes!

11am: Djiddo, a local guy with a private pharmaceutical wholesale business, arrives with a small order we’ve had to make because the government-run wholesaler didn’t have this item.  Here we are posing in the pharmacy with the item he’s brought: boxes of latex gloves.  Yes, we really are posing with boxes of gloves……

Djiddo (left) arrives with some much-needed boxes of gloves.
Audrey (Chadian pharmacist) is on the right, Cleopas (pharmacy assistant) is in the front
11.30am: My 1.5 litres of water has run out (it’s cooler now so it lasts longer, in hot season I’ve drunk it all by 10am).  So I quickly head back to my house to restock with another one.

12pm: Chad is a mostly cash-society.  There’s only one shop in town (that I know of) that accepts card payments.  So the money gets handled a LOT.  Working on the payment desk, I get handed a lot of money and 99% of it is paper notes (I nearly wrote paper bills there……can you tell I’m surrounded by Americans now?!).  You can imagine the state of them after they’ve been in circulation for a while.  The Chadian pharmacy staff have become very adept at resurrecting worn out (read: falling apart) money.  Most days I get given at least one or two, which I pass over to my Chadian colleagues to clean up so we can put it back into circulation.

Stage one: clean the money with some washing powder
and water and then allow to dry
Stage two: using a stick of glue, piece the broken note back together,
carefully making sure that the join is not visible.  Allow to dry
12.30pm: I head back to the house for some lunch, the second 1.5 litre bottle of water now having been consumed.

1.30pm: I check that the pharmacy is ticking over ok and head back to the house again to do some paperwork for BMS, accompanied by my third 1.5 litre bottle of water of the day.

3.30pm: Time for our Chadian Arabic lesson with our long-suffering and very patient teacher, Abakar!  I can’t believe I’ve been learning it for 9 months now.  I still feel like I know nothing but as I know from learning French, I will get there, eventually.

Mid Chadian Arabic lesson with Abakar
5pm: Arabic lesson is finished and I water the garden.  Trying to keep plants alive here is a lot of work when it’s not rainy season.  Given that it’s now not rained for 6 weeks (and won’t again until next June), it means watering by hand for the next 8 months.  Every now and then though, you’re rewarded with a splash of colour, like I was when this lovely lily bloomed a few weeks ago:

Beautiful, colourful lily amongst the brown of the dust
6pm: Time to make some dinner.  One this particular evening, I decided to make my Chadian version of egg, chips and beans!  Cue a couple of eggs with pale yellow yolks (the chickens don’t have a great diet here), plantains instead of potatoes, and a can of baked beans imported from France, that I have to add ketchup to in order to make them taste remotely tomato-ey.  Guavas for pudding, yum yum!

All the ingredients for my eggs,
plantains and beans, followed by guava
7 – 8.30pm: Time to relax in front of a dvd, usually an episode or two of a box set.  I’ve watched all four series’ of Ugly Betty, so now I’m onto Gilmore Girls!

9pm: Time for bed.  Early for me who used to go to bed around 11.30pm in the UK, but given the early start and the heat (despite it now being ‘cool’ season it’s still 35C in the middle of the day), you’re tired much more quickly here.  I tuck myself in under my mosi net and drift off, waiting for the next 5.45am alarm….


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