* And yes, I realize the chance to see, touch, pet, hold Lemurs is definitely in the "amazing" category!
In the last year I have moved from the beauties of home: (I took this picture last spring a few hours from home)
Life in Madagascar is lived in seasons, not as I grew up with (spring/summer/fall/winter), but rather dry season and rainy season. Converse to everything I tend to expect, the rainy season is the hotter of the two seasons. We are currently in the rainy (and cyclone) season. The other day it was so hot outside that as the rain started, we had a thick mist/fog rising at our feet because the rain was instantly evaporating off the scorching hot ground. The wind kicks up and it's a hot wind, not cooling in the least. And that confuses me. I'm not complaining, it makes a walk in the rain almost pleasant, and the ship kids love to play in the rain here.
I made the most of an opportunity to make a little extra cash on the ship when we had a festive day in December called "winter wonderland." Crew members could sell crafts or food to other crew, and it was a fun time to mingle and browse. I made Ginger cookies and Chai tea, which sold out half way through the night. This brought in enough spare cash to allow me to go on a short (4 night) trip to a local island with some friends and enjoy time on the beach in hammocks, snorkelling in the ocean and just generally relaxing away from the ship. The owner of the place gave discounts to all local missionaries, which was a great blessing. Oh, he also had the cutest little bamboo lemur that he has raised since it was a few weeks old. Mikey (the lemur) is very comfortable around people and takes every opportunity to steal food off of our plates, or uses people as jumping off points as he rockets around the room!
But enough about the beauty of Madagascar (for now) what about the work we do?
Sadly, my timing (or that of the photographers) is horrible, and I have NO pictures of me at work. Far too busy for that, I suppose.
In the hospital, there are seasons as well. We go from specialty to specialty, balancing to fit the patients in the bed spaces onboard. Because we made such a last-minute choice to come to Madagascar, the influx of patients has been slow, as we spread the word and search for those on the outskirts of the country who need help the most. And little by little we are filling to capacity. We have just now finally overflowed all of our regularly open wards, and have started to fill E ward as well.
The hospital opened in November, but before we could open we needed to screen (find and assess) people. This year is a different set-up than the last few years. This year we had almost a month of screening days in the city we are in. The hope was to give more people a chance to make it here, and decrease the size of the crowds. I got the opportunity to help as security on the first day, when about 2000 people showed up. The numbers were down to between 200-600 a day (in line) during the next few weeks. I must say, I'm impressed at the calmness of the people here. There was never any upset or problems in line, and stepping out of line to grab food and water was respected by those around you who would save your space and welcome you back to where you came from! Since December, the screening team has moved from one area to another across Madagascar, spending at least 3-5 days seeing local people and picking those we can help. Here are a few pictures from the local screening days:
Orthopedics, General surgery and Maxillofacial surgery were the specialties that we started with.
B ward was full of beautiful children and their smiling faces!
To be fully honest, they didn't all smile right away, they don't like most of us the first few days while everything hurts. A few games of Memory, Jenga, and Connect 4 can go a long way towards making friends though. A majority of the children we helped in orthopaedics had club feet, as it's a very common condition worldwide, and when it's neglected as an infant then surgery is necessary to repair it.
These children in their casts are back and forth on the dock for months, and our rehab team (physio and occupational therapy) are still seeing them regularly. We have some beautifully straight legs and feet walking around down on the dock these days.
The patients from A ward are beautiful too, but I have less pictures of them. As per usual, they are often in and out so fast that it's harder to build relationships and we get far fewer pictures of them. One little beauty that stayed for a few weeks until she was well enough to go home:
This beautiful girl rarely slowed down! And she had a smile for everyone. Happily, she's not in hospital anymore and should be returning home soon.
That's it for now.
Please remember to pray for healing for our patients. And for calm seas as the cyclone season has just started and every week we've had cyclones brushing just close enough that we need to keep an eye on them. No emergency sails yet, but they are always a possibility here.
And finally, pray for me as I make choices in the next few days/weeks about when to return home this summer, and what kind of challenges to take on next year (on the ship).