16 August, 11:30pm GMT – Kato, Brong Ahafo Region
Today is day one of our two-day overnight outreach, the last outreach visit for Shreya, Roxane, Ricarda, and me. This is hands-down the worst hotel I’ve seen so far this trip. Out of the three rooms the volunteers are staying in, only one of them has a bathroom with both a working sink and a working lightbulb. The ceilings have serious water damage, which is because there is no roof. Exposed stairs lead to a second floor that never quite got finished. In the corner of one room, the walls look like someone was murdered. The air inside the hotel is thick with freshly-sprayed pesticides, and the air outside the hotel is thick with smoke from tires burning nearby.
Now that I’ve gotten to know the volunteers better, it’s high time I give them a more detailed introduction. They’ve been my obruni company for two weeks now, and I wouldn’t have experienced as much as I have without them as my guide.
Brian is the most experienced. He’s traveled in Africa before and both his parents did medical work in Africa, so he adjusted in no time. He’s also been working with an ophthalmologist, so knew everything about the clinic stations (like what each medication was) and told us stories about laser eye surgery. He’s told us dozens of hilarious stories about growing up in Iowa that the rest of us city-dwellers had never dreamed of. He kept us grounded with his laid-back attitude and kept us going, since he knew how to get what he wanted, be it a difficult-to-hail taxi or the best hot street food. Brian also started giving nicknames, and calls Shreya Canada when he's annoyed (specifically, "Dammit, Canada!") and India when he's happy (as in, "Good job, India!"). I call Brian Iowa, and in return he calls me Barbie.
Lianna is kind and actively seeks ways to help out. When she gets a translator, she always strikes up a conversation with them before asking, then continues to chat with them about their lives between patient interviews. She took photos of things I didn’t even think to photograph, yet wish I had. When Roxane and Shreya got sick, she tended to them. When I first contracted a sinus infection and spent most of the outreach visit useless, knocked out from Benadryl in the van or on the floor of the village church, Lianna came to check up on me, got me food, and took care of my station for me.
Roxane is the silliest. She and Brian spend the van rides joking and swapping stories. At the clinic, she was eager to help out wherever she could. She is also a tough cookie, going to clinic even when her malaria hadn’t yet subsided. For days, she could barely keep food down, but that didn’t stop her from making the most of her time here.
Ricarda puts the most into experiencing the culture. During the eye health talks, you will find Ricarda talking with the locals and playing with the children. When Kate went in to the salon, Ricarda went with her to get her hair braided as well. For Mills’ funeral, Ricarda had funeral attire tailored and attended one of the funeral celebrations with Eric.
Shreya can be quiet at times, but when it comes to bargaining, she is a lean, mean, negotiating machine. I made sure I went to artist’s stalls only after Shreya had been there and negotiated the price down. Whenever we needed a taxi and the driver didn’t accept our price, we pushed Shreya up to the window so she could handle it. She also has a bad case of estrogen in Africa. Shreya always found one little boy at each outreach that was her favorite, usually a toddler waddling about with big, curious eyes. If Shreya had had her way, she would have gone home with one of them. Someday, Shreya. Just try adoption before you resort to abduction.