Friday, February 10, 2012

Africa: Second Week: Back on the Job

It's back to work on Monday.  I'm getting the hang of my job now, I've learned most of the common ophthalmology vocabulary for the common disorders here and how to arrange notes.  This makes the basic job a lot easier.  I also learn where most of the common medications are which saves a bit of time.  My other duties include being a messenger, photographer, assisting with eye drops and taking pressures (I'm not very good with the pressures), and handing out candy to the kids.

We're still getting swamped with patients.  The clinic director advertises our visits well in advance.  They advertise by signs, by radio, and most importantly by word of mouth.  News seems to travel pretty fast here by informal methods.

Despite the difficulty of traveling long distances in Zambia it really isn't surprising that we have so many patients.  In doing some research for an article I'm going to try to get published in our local paper I learn that as of 2005, the most recent year I could find data on, Zambia only has 15 ophthalmologists for a population of about 13 million.  Eleven of those ophthalmologists are in Lusaka.  Aside from the Lusaka University Hospital the only other major eye clinic is a pediatric eye clinic in Kitwe which is a little more than 600 miles from us (unfortunately we didn't know about this clinic while there, I learned about it after the trip).

Now that I'm settled into a fairly steady routine I can start trying to learn new things.  Our interpreter, Charity, prepares for me a brief English to Tonga translation sheet.  In spare moments I study this sheet and learn to give simple commands.  It's rather different vocabulary than what would be taught in a travel book, my first Tonga words are langa mujulu, meaning look up.  The staff has a tendency to wander around and disappear, sometimes at inconvenient moments, so it's handy to know some basic vocabulary.

On Monday we have a bit of a disaster.  The clinic computer decides to die.  Being moderately computer savvy I volunteer to take a look at it.  There are about ten error messages coming up, things like hard drive rotation speed exceeds system limits.  I've never seen anything like this before and advise the clinic director to take it to a professional.  Searching for it now it seems that this error is linked with a trojan, but unlike a trojan I didn't see anything asking for us to buy anything, so I don't know.  In any case, this means that what little internet access we had is basically gone.  Previously, all of us were sharing this one computer for internet access after hours.  It used an old dial up modem and was extremely slow.  It could easily take an hour to check e-mail.  I really began to appreciate the simpler pages of the past, if so much junk wasn't loaded along with e-mail accessing the internet wouldn't be so onerous.  It made it very apparent how much of a difference broadband makes to the web, without it simple tasks become very difficult.

Other than the computer failure the rest of the day is fairly uneventful.  Below the break is a picture of one of the exam rooms with Charity and Moses sitting by the slit-lamp.  I have also written down my Tonga-English translation sheet.

Good morning -- Kamwamba
Fine -- kabotu
sit -- ^kala
down -- aansi
open -- jula
close -- jala
straight -- kumbele
left -- kulumweshi
right -- kululyo (I have a lot of trouble pronouncing this for some reason)
go -- koya
come -- koza
sleep -- lala
wake up -- kuka
eat -- kolya
what is your name -- noluweni zyina
thank you -- twalumba
good -- chabota
bad -- chabija
eye -- liso
eyes -- meso
body -- mubili
mine -- changu
finger -- kamwe
foot -- tende
legs -- maulu
look -- langa
hands -- maanza
head -- mutwe
hair -- masusu
nose -- mpemo
ears --- matwi
mouth -- mulomo
teeth -- meno
chair -- chuuno
school -- chikolo
teacher -- mwiiyi
baby -- mwana
adult -- mupati
heart -- moyo
clothes -- chisani
up -- mujulu
doctor -- musilisi
hospital -- chiibbaddela
shoes -- mabbusu
senior (over 50) -- muchembele  (Tonga seems to include a lot of age distinctions that change sentence structure and pronunciation by adding honorifics, no one ever explains to me how to do this but commands I hear from our interpreters are often modified from what I have here and age seems to have something to do with it)
yes -- inzya
no -- pepe
again -- alimwi
blink -- laba
hold still -- ota puti
you're welcome -- mbubo
white person -- mukuwa (this gets explained to me by a laughing Charity after she asks a patient to fetch another doctor to ask a question.  The patient says he is too intimidated to speak to a white person.  While people from towns such as Zimba are comfortable with us some people from outlying villages have very little experience with outsiders and are intimidated by our presence).

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