Saturday, November 19, 2011

...and then I found my camera.

One of these days I will write my story in narrative form. Until then, here's a little snipit.

After being told that I was leaving my country to be med evac'd to Dakar, Senegal, I had a few moments to decide what to bring with and what to leave. When I packed my small backpack to leave site for Kombo the day before, I had zero plans of being in the city for more than a few days, let alone another country for a week. Fortunately, I had stashed some things in my wooden locker at the PC Transit House. Driver John swung by the med unit to check on me (as he had declared me as wife #74), and I convinced him to drive me the normal walking distance to pick up those clothes. In my state of deliriousness, I chose to pack clothes over computer and electronics. Later, on second thought, I even stashed some personal belongings in a dresser drawer back in the med unit. I had a return plane flight for a week later, anyway.

When it became clear that I would be in Dakar, Senegal for more than a week, I became increasingly upset that I had left my computer and camera in The Gambia. I made instant friends with most PCVs that traipsed in and out of the med hut in Dakar. My team of doctors in Dakar will forever be a special part of my life. Visiting with Miss Amy Bei was a once-in-a-lifetime experience. But mostly, not having pictures with my Lebanese family in Dakar is the most saddening thought.

When I arrived in Washington, DC, my sister brought me a device with a camera on it. Thus, I was able to take low-quality snapshots of noteworthy (and not-so-noteworthy) things there. I was ever thankful for the ability to document life (and life-changing) experiences through visuals again. However, this gap of no visual documentation still annoys me to no end.

While I was in DC, the other med evacs and I got wind of a volunteer in who was in the hospital at Georgetown. Christy, my DC roommate, was able to correspond with this particular PCV and we arranged a time to visit her in the hospital. Three of us girls walked through beautiful Georgetown on a fresh, fall day, ready to encourage and visit with the mystery wounded PCV. We walked into the hospital, found the room, and were intimidated by the signs demanding that her particular room be kept sterile at all times. As we quietly crept in, there was Meghan. My site mate. One of the last people I was with in The Gambia, now in a hospital bed with her entire right leg wrapped in bandages, complete with a vacuum attached. IV medications dripped into her as she sat further up, looked at me and said, "I know I know you from somewhere...."
"Meghan! I'm your site mate!" I thought she had suffered brain injury on top of whatever was going on with her leg.
"Kate! I thought you were in Dakar!"
"I was! But I came here two weeks ago!"
There were introductions between other med evac's, exchange of health stories, rants about PC politics, and an overall shock factor. It was a very nice visit, given the circumstances. We left her with the promise to bring Chipotle the next day for lunch.

And then I found my camera. I was actually shuffling through my faithful little backpack looking for my passport when I opened up a discreet pocket, and the shiny silver casing of the electronic shone up at me with a mocking glimmer. I yelled at the sight, not really sure of relief or devastation. Regardless, I immediately turned it on to see what picture was taken last on it, and this is what glared on the screen:


That's Meghan. My site mate. She and my other site mate, Catherine (taking the picture) were introducing me to "cafe toubib," a type of coffee that Senegalese people brew. It's like the coffee form of bush tea, for all you seasoned Gambians. We are sitting at the weekly market near Catherine's village. And yes, there is a camera-shy Senegalese man hiding behind Meghan. (Note: Our villages are very close to the southern border of The Gambia; therefore, Senegalese merchants were common in our weekly markets.)

I left Meghan's hospital room with an entirely new perspective on being a PC med evac. This picture only ties in the ironies of the whole experience. Someday, I'll write about the rest of it.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

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