From Larry Kieft

November 5, 2008

It is Wednesday evening and I found a computer. I am alive and well and sending the e-mail by a small night light. The guest house is much more basic than I had in Mali. Sporatic electricity, bucket showers shared rooms. I think this is a more realistic view of Africa and the basic services available to the population.

The journey here was very uneventful. I flew early Sunday morning from Denver to Detroit. I joined several members of the team at the airport but the introductions were brief as we needed to board the overnight flight to Amsterdam. I was seated in an area separate from the team but had a very normal seat mate who actually read, slept and was generally quiet – my kind of guy with minimal pleasant conversation and then retreating into my own space. I needed the time to decompress and leave the pace of catch up call and a “normal life” of six weeks back from Mali. Amsterdam airport was a little visit to the “Motherland”. There were stores selling tulip bulbs and wooden shoes, a Rijks Museum mini gallery, and cheese, sausage rolls, and meat pastries. There were Delft pottery and Dutch liqueurs and a lot of people who looked like me. It also involved a hired shower and six hours of walking to stay awake before the next flight to Abuja, Nigeria. It was an additional seven hour flight and was uneventful except that I had the opportunity to sit with a team member from Denver. . She is a retired school nurse and had traveled to Paraguay for a Habitat build and had been in China for a table tennis tournament last summer. It was a Good introduction to a very diverse team – two family physicians, an internist, an anesthesia resident, two retired school nurses, a public health nurse, a neurosurgery nurse, a trauma nurse, and an O.R. nurse, a pharmacist, and an OB/Gyn guy searching for the meaning of life (among other things).

The arrival was marked by great celebration as all luggage and multidutinous boxes arrived without a hitch. Custom checks were aided by Dr. Chris Isichei meeting us after passport checks and talking earnestly with a security guard who let us bypass the usual harassment. It’s all in who you know! We boarded a small bus brimming over with boxes and bags and thirteen wide eyed white folks. It was dark but the ride into the city already made the huge disparities evident – a bustling modern city with construction cranes dominating the sky line and dark roadside areas with trucks and cars pulled over in the rural landscape and women outlined by smoky lamps plying their desperate trade. We were not in the country an hour and the very real visions of HIV/AIDS was evident in billboards warning about the disease and roadside sex workers offering favors and the very real possibility of getting the disease.

We slept in a very comfortable guest with take out pizza waiting for us at night anld a hot shower in the morning. We had a quick breakfast on the road and drove four hours on a remarkably good road (half on divided highway and the rest of good two lane roads. The scenery was not particularly engaging and so I spent time dozing and wondering what lay ahead. The afternoon was spent in orientation and basic survival skills in Nigeria. We met a rep from Faith Alive Hospital and the host couple, Brenda and Mark, from Mennonite Central Committee(MCC). We had our first communal meal prepared by our Nigerian cooks. We will be experiencing much more ethnic foods this trip. The evening was spent getting to know each other better by telling a little about ourselves and what motivated us to be on this trip. It was a very necessary step before we began the external stimulation which our hospital/project visits would provide. We each had a unique journey that brought us to this place. We are dissimilar in many ways – single/married, grandchildren/grand cats, Mennonite/four Philistines but each searching for something while not being sure what. I think it will be a great shared adventure with each of us choosing to experience medicine and the delivery of care in a different fashion. More about options later.

The battery is getting low and I am in danger of drifting off to sleep in the semi-darkness. The time is flying by already and tomorrow holds more sight visits for possibilities for service. Faith Alive Hospital and Evangel Hospital today and VOM Hospital tomorrow. My bed beckons and I can’t say no. Hope to communicate with you soon.

Larry Kieft, Fort Collins, Colorado

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