Saturday, April 25, 2009

The city and two friends

I am still in Niamey, buzzing around from one idea to the next, getting to know the city a little better each day. The doctors are gone, early, leaving me with a few days to look around the city (and the internet...) before I go on vacation next week.

Things that come to mind when I think of Niamey: wide dirt roads. bright sun. humid air. lines and lines of wooden tables along the streets, piled high with mangoes, melons, tomatoes, cabbage, onions, eggplants. meat- lamb, goat, beef- grilling on large open fires. people. large, healthy people wearing large healthy clothes in large healthy colors, redorangepinkgreenblue. skinny, bent over people wearing skinny, bent over clothes in shades of grey and brown. taxis and motorcycles careening all over the paved roads and getting stuck in the sandy ones. lots to seesmellhear here. I haven't taken my camera out in the city, but I bet you'd like to see some pictures so I'll try to remember tomorrow.

In a few hours I'll go back to the hospital to visit. I went two days ago, hung out with Joumare for awhile. She told me "Reading is great but one day you should get a husband. Marriage is good for you". Thank you, Joumare. Today when I see her again, I'll give her the 3 yards of thick, dark blue and white cloth that I bought at the big market yesterday, and she will embroider it for me with bright threads of yellow and pink. She's very proud of Fulani arts, and it's no wonder- they use color beautifully. Their embroidered fabric is like looking up at night and seeing flowers instead of stars.

A Fulani textile, without embroidery.

I want to tell you about one of the nurses here, because he is somewhat of an enigma- a marvelous enigma- given what I've seen in Niger so far. Souley is a male nurse anesthetist. He is young, probably in his twenties, and he interacted and cared about the fistula patients in a way that completely blindsided me. I guess, after seeing women as caretakers in this country for so long, and having zero precedents of men providing direct, compassionate care to women, I was not at all prepared to see Souley doing everything to make the women physically comfortable and emotionally at ease during their surgeries. Even when he didn't speak their language, he was tender, attentive, and always at the patient's side. One of the American doctors, an anesthesiologist, commented to me "Souley is a very fine nurse. I can't even get him to leave to take a lunch break." Even after 6 hours of surgery, he's there, checking on everything. I know this is his job, so you could say he's just doing it, but it's more than that somehow. Not all of the nurses are like that. Many of them are rough and distracted, and warranted many a gruff correction from the visiting staff. But Souley was perfect. A young guy, taking good care of women and girls in a place where women and girls are expected to take care of themselves. It caught me offguard. And I can say- even now, with a lump in my throat!- that watching Souley work was the only time that any tears made it out of my eyes during this whole thing. Just when I think I know what to expect from someone they go and blast me to outerspace. Here's to Souley!

1 comment:

John said...

That seems to be a lesson I need to learn over and over again; to see people as they are, without preconceptions, ready to be amazed by their beauty. Thanks for the wonderful reminder.