As time goes on I am getting more responsibilities in the clinic. As of late, I have been working with a Zambian dentist named Ba Ian (Ba means Mr. or Mrs.). He is a wonderfully kind and patient man that is very good at explaining his work. A small skinny man in stature but hold tremendous respect with his patients; always keeping a smile on his facem, he whistles and tells his patients jokes to keep them at ease. There is much you can take from his patient-provider interaction.
He allowed me to assist him in his work, which sadly in Zambia is very simple. If you have a tooth ache, 9 times out of 10 it a cavity (which gets marked down as chronic pulpitis), and a cavity equals extraction. So needless to say, Ba Ian often refers to himself as a butcher since he mostly pulls teeth. In helping him, I have actually pulled some as well. He likes it if I have a rounded view of the job. It’s actually no where near as difficult as it sounds (as apposed to the old cliché). Teeth come out rather easily once you know how to pull; granted Ba Ian only gives me the “easy patients.”
My chief job in his office is to write down the chief complaint with diagnosis as he goes around checking the patients in the room. Generally he has four to five patients at a time and interacts with them all at once. As you can guess privacy isn’t as big for everyone here as it is in the states. Once he has diagnosed everyone, he gives them each a shot of local anesthetic (generally benzocaine or lidocaine) and has them all wait outside. He calls them in one by one and does what needs to be done, then has them all wait together again as I collect the medicine they need post-op (which is simply and antibiotic and Panadol, what they call Tylenol). The biggest reason for me collecting there meds (because they could simply walk to the pharmacy themselves) is that he wants to minimize their overall wait time so they can quickly get home without feeling so dizzy or sick. Since I have instant access to the dispensary and know exactly what he needs, things go much faster and we can council the patients then and there and send them home knowing they got what they needed.
Besides the clinic, I was able to look in on a rare experience that few Americans get to see. Sadly, the mother of Ba Leonard (the head cook, but also essentially main person in charge of the estate when the Hamby’s aren’t here) passed while we were here. It wasn’t a complete shock since she was very old, but the parting was still difficult for the family. Leonard’s son Harold took over in his stead for awhile. He is doing a magnificent job. There is no doubt that we are well fed.
We were invited to the funeral service the following Monday after her passing. As with many things in Zambia, this service took a long portion of the day. Throughout the entire time, both in the viewing of the body, traveling to the burial site, and finally laying her to rest, the Kasibi choir (whom I have mentioned in an earlier blog) stayed by her casket and sang church songs in Tonga. Once the viewing had ended everyone packed into every car available and rode a long way down a rough dirt road to the grave site. Once we got out (and stretched, since we where in the back of a ford ranger with 9 other Zambians) we walked through a grove of trees and say a large crowd already gathered there singing. It was simply beautiful. I’ve said before, everyone in this country was born able to sing and nothing could be more true. All the men gathered on one side and the women on the other and they formed a large circle around the site. Every song was in Tonga and in each a four part African harmony. I’ll never hear the likes of such music again!
Once the body was buried, which was a task in and of itself since concrete and tin had to be laid upon the casket to prevent any animals from digging anything up, they began speaking in turns. There was a translator there for our benefit. The most striking thing said was from one of the church elders. As he spoke, he said, “Her spirit will not remain on earth as a ghost to haunt us as our grandfathers have taught us. No, she will go to the place where all spirits go, and that is to heaven with Jesus! Here at this time you have the choice to accept this or not; accept the truth or choose to believe your grandfathers!” I was deeply moved at the display of the man’s faith and that here on the other side of the world, God’s people can still be found.
Once everyone has spoken they began to call those in the family and others that were close family friends to come up and place flowers on the grave. I was honored to have my named called with the rest of the Americans staying at the mission. Once the flowers had been placed, a truck (lorry) pulled up carrying a good number of Zambians. They instantly ran for the grave and began wailing and falling to the earth beating it with their fists. Some in the crowd joined them. I had never seen the likes but certainly wasn’t offended by the gesture. Just as in all other things, it shows the outward expression of emotion that these people display. I wish more people could be more like that. It gives great peace of mind to see how someone is feeling so clearly.
After all the wailers stopped, a few personal effects of the deceased were placed amongst the flowers and we parted. The rest of the day was rather somber. I was exhausted emotionally along with everyone else and turned in early that night. I was able to still take in the words the elder said which comforted me greatly.
The more I see into the lives of these people, the more I find that I love them. From the kind jokes to cheer a patient to the broken hearted cries in the middle of an African savannah, these people show you sincerely who they are and welcome you into their lives to share in their struggles and joys. God has greatly touched me with this opportunity to know people so open and kind. Again, as always, I pray I can do my best to play a role in His great works.