This past week has been incredibly busy. I was actually worried about being bored because a lot of my close friends were in Zanzibar and I had an entire week without classes or finals. I have found that the key to avoiding homesickness is keeping busy, so I made sure to find things to do this week! It has actually turned out to be one of my most fun and memorable weeks in Gabs.
On Monday, I had the opportunity to shadow a pediatric HIV/AIDS doctor at one of the local clinics (thank you Claire!). Because Dr. Meyerstein is from America, English was used in all of the consultations. It was such a relief to finally understand what was going on. There was also a resident from Canada, so that was pretty cool! My hours at Baylor clinic were some of the most educational and enjoyable I’ve had in Botswana, and most of the things I observed left me in complete shock. We saw five patients over the course of four hours and each case was surprisingly complex. The physical exams yielded good results minus some major growth stunting (a 12 year old who I had guessed was 6) and hearing loss in almost all of the patients. The majority of the patients were virally suppressed, but I was shocked to see so many social issues the doctor had to deal with. One father kept forgetting to give medication to his son and when being lectured on the importance of strict adherence, he just kept laughing. In several of the cases, the person responsible for the child’s medicine was a sibling- 18-year-old girls in two cases. I couldn’t believe they were dealing with such a large responsibility at such a young age, especially when the mothers were still alive. There were also some issues with disclosure. At a certain age, the doctors try to explain HIV/AIDS to the children. The doctor told the kids they had a “bad guy” fighting their body and their medicines were the “soldiers” to keep their body strong. Several of the children failed to understand or were trying not to because the idea of HIV/AIDS as it is portrayed in the media here is not pleasant. I could tell Dr. Meyerstein was getting frustrated. He was acting like a psychologist too! On top of that, there was a LARGE language barrier, so he kept having to call in a translator. Many of the kids had other medical issues that were being ignored, taking the backseat to their AIDS diagnosis. One young boy had several cavities and his parents had been told to take him to the dentist several times, but they just kept ignoring the recommendation.
The most heartbreaking case was the last patient we saw, a 4-year-old boy. His AIDS/HIV was actually under control, but he had a whole list of other issues. He was almost five and couldn’t speak a word. He obviously suffered from some type of developmental disability, but his mother had failed to have him screened or helped. He was running around the room, hiding in cabinets, biting and hitting me, and his mother couldn’t even get control of him. Both of his membranes in his ears had been burst for years, oozing liquid, yet his mother hadn’t taken him to an ENT. He had a disgusting fungal toe infection (probably because he didn’t wear shoes) and he also had a huge hernia on his abdomen. My heart broke for this little boy and all the other kids, born with AIDS and required to deal with it the rest of their lives when they did absolutely nothing to contract it. The mother of this kid was clearly fed up with his difficult behavior and at one point, she slapped him hard on his head. The doctor yelled at her about how harmful that is and threatened to call the police for child abuse and all she did was laugh. I had to bite my lip to keep back tears. I could go on and on about all the crazy things I saw at Baylor, but that was a summary of the things that most stick in my mind. Though it was awfully sad, I am thankful I had the opportunity to shadow Dr. Meyerstein. It made me think about international medicine and that I may want to spend some part of my career in a developing country. It’s hard to really imagine the great need until you see it firsthand.
Tuesday and Wednesday, I knocked out my last paper at a local café. With some good food, I was quite productive. Tuesday night, I experienced my first lengthy power cut. I’m used to the power cutting out for an hour or so, but this government power cut lasted for almost five hours! Frankly, it sucked. I didn’t think anything could be worse than the weekly water cuts! Without a fan, I thought I might die of heat exhaustion. Until my host mom got home and set out some candles, I walked around with my headlamp on. Without the Internet to distract me, all I could do was lie there. And I couldn’t even heat up any food for dinner! At that point, I was just incredibly miserable. But looking back, I couldn’t have really gotten the full Botswana experience without it.
Thursday night, the movie Catching Fire was released and I got to go see it! I still can’t believe it was actually released here, when movies normally come weeks after. And I even got to see it hours before anyone back home! That’s irony, if I’ve ever seen it. I LOVED it. Friday night, we celebrated my friend Adela’s birthday at a fancy restaurant. A new bar had just opened on the rooftop of a tall building, so we decided to check it out. The view of Gabs from the 19th floor was gorgeous. It somehow looked like a real city and the view made me a tad bit upset about leaving this place that I’ve learned to call home. It was incredibly windy and cold, which was actually a welcome change! The drinks were overpriced and the service was poor, but we danced and made it into a fun night. When we were leaving, we had some issues with the bill not adding up and found out the waitresses had pocked our cash. We fought them for about an hour, trying to get it worked out, but we had no proof we had paid. Every time I start to think Gabs isn’t so bad after all, things like this happen. I still can’t believe they got away with stealing our money. I definitely will not being going back to the Sky Lounge. Saturday night, we had a big end of the program celebration at the same club I went to in the beginning of the semester and hated. I was nervous about going, but it was the last big hoorah so my friends dragged me there. With so many of us there, the locals had a hard time getting near me, so it was much more enjoyable. I danced the night away in great company and spent the night at UB.
I am officially finished with school! I turned in my last paper and took my two finals yesterday and today. Taking finals here was a totally new experience for me. Compared to the carelessness the professors show with lectures and assignments, final exams were taken extremely seriously. I took both finals in a large room with several proctors watching us at all times. We had a reading period, time warnings, and a formal exam booklet, similar to an AP test. My first exam in Toxicology was extremely difficult and some of the questions were about things we had never covered. On top of that, it was worth 50% of my grade, so I’m now a little worried. On the other hand, my second exam was so easy, I had to laugh a little. I’m just grateful to be finished with this school. I’ve never been so thankful for my WKU professors and peers. Now that I’m finished with school, I can enjoy the rest of my time here. I leave tomorrow for a trip to Victoria Falls (I’m bungee jumping!!). I’ll be back for a few days to pack and then I’m off again to the Okavango Delta for the ultimate safari. When I return, I’ll be boarding my plane home. I can’t believe how soon I’ll be back in the ville. 16 days to be exact. The countdown begins. While I mostly can’t wait to be home to see my family and friends, there is still a small part of me that knows I’ll miss it here. Not so much the harassment or the food or the heat, but I know I’ll miss my friends so much. This past weekend was incredible and it made me realize how lucky I’ve been to be surrounded by such a great group of people these past few months. I honestly can’t imagine life without them and that makes coming home seem just a little bit less wonderful. While I feel like I’ve been in Botswana for quite a long time, I still can’t believe my study abroad experience is coming to end. I’ve imagined studying abroad in college as long as I can remember and now my experience is nearly over. At least I can say it’s been a wonderful one!