Posted by: jewelinthelotus | January 17, 2014

Taxis in Amman

My primary transportation to and from work as well as anywhere in Amman are taxis. Every ride is different than the last, but some are definitely more adventurous than others. The staccato blasts of a horn communicates to an unsuspecting pedestrian a taxi is available. The honking is helpful except when it is annoying and startling. My favorite is the smoke free taxi with gentle prayer music in the background or the one where the driver speaks a little English and is curious to know where I am from and what I am doing here. However, often their stories are far more interesting than mine. I’ve met a retired Social Worker who worked with war victims his entire career as well as an aspiring chef who specializes in sweets who lived in Italy for two years and England for three. Many of the taxi drivers are well educated and this is their second job to pay the bills. Then there are are the smoke filled taxis with Habibi music so loud making it impossible to think and I am convinced I hear a phone ringing, which reminds me of my dad saying to me and my brother when we were teenagers, “I don’t hear the phone ringing when I listen to my music.”  Is this another sign of age?  I’m amused by the drivers who pull out a super size bottle of cologne and begin spraying themselves. It is all I can do to resist the urge to roll down the window and hang my head out like a dog. Sadly, some windows don’t roll down leaving me trapped with the smells of stale cigarettes and cologne. The adventure begins when the taxi driver is texting, smoking, and shifting while speeding through traffic and slamming on the brakes at the red light. These taxi rides are like a boarding an amusement ride except there are no tracks or safety harness as we barrel down a street with no lanes, horns blaring, flashing lights, jostling for undetermined position among the chaos of cars, getting thrown forward at a red light.  A second before the light turns green a cacophony of horns begin and you are jerked backward as the race to move past all the other cars on the road starts up again.  I dread getting behind the slow driver with the speed demon taxi driver as that means riding the bumper with constant slamming of brakes to avoid collision. Good thing the dental care is good here because at some point, no doubt, I will lose a filling. The many taxi experiences wouldn’t be complete without mention of the fare negotiation. It is important to make sure the meter gets reset at the start of your ride otherwise you end up in a no win negotiation at the end of your destination. Of course, then there is the alleged broken meter. The taxis driver with the “broken” meter will attempt to charge you 5 JD for a 2 JD or less ride  for no other reason than you are not a local and they really don’t care if you get out of the taxi.

Then there is the experience I just had leaving the coffee shop.  I get in the taxi and ask him to set the meter to which he responds as you like but makes no  move to set the meter. I ask again. Nothing. I asked how much. His response was free for USA. I thought to myself yeah right, but gave up.  At my destination I hand him 2 JD and he reacts in shock and says this taxi 4 JD, 4 JD.  I get out and say, “well you should have said that at the beginning because all you are getting is 2 JD.”  My heart was pounding and my hands shaking because I’ve never done that before, but enough is enough. Fortunately, he didn’t come after me.

Posted by: jewelinthelotus | December 25, 2013

Christmas

It’s Christmas in Amman and really feels like another day. We had a Christmas Eve dinner last night with a few expats and then tonight we will have dinner at another expat’s house, but this Christmas lacks that Christmas feeling. I was reflecting what is Christmas to me while scanning old blogs and came across this post from 2011.  Vienna is one of my favorite artists. She has a beautiful voice and is an amazing pianist. She isn’t an Atheist, but wrote these lyrics while reflecting on what Christmas is to her. They resonated with me this year…again…so I thought I would repost.

“The Atheist Christmas Carol”

It’s the season of grace coming out of the void
Where a man is saved by a voice in the distance
It’s the season of possible miracle cures
Where hope is currency and death is not the last unknown
Where time begins to fade
And age is welcome home

It’s the season of eyes meeting over the noise
And holding fast with sharp realization
It’s the season of cold making warmth a divine intervention
You are safe here you know now

Don’t forget
Don’t forget I love
I love
I love you

It’s the season of scars and of wounds in the heart
Of feeling the full weight of our burdens
It’s the season of bowing our heads in the wind
And knowing we are not alone in fear
Not alone in the dark

Posted by: jewelinthelotus | December 23, 2013

HAPPY HOLIDAYS

I can’t believe tomorrow is Christmas Eve and 2013 is coming to a close. There is very little sign of the Holiday in this part of the world. It’s very subtle, which in some ways is refreshing.

Wishing all a very Happy Holiday Season and New Year. Looking forward to what 2014 brings.

Posted by: jewelinthelotus | December 21, 2013

Dead Sea

This weekend I slipped away for a mini relaxation retreat at the Dead Sea, which is only a 30 minute taxi ride from Amman. Merry Christmas to me. A trip to the Dead Sea always comes with many a caution of not shaving the day before and ensuring you are cut and scrape free. All very wise advice. Another piece of sage advice is use caution if you wet your hair in the salty water and whatever you do, don’t touch your eyes! Something I haven’t been able to avoid each time I’ve come to the Dead Sea, which results in the feeling of a hot poker in your eye. 

This trip has been quite lovely as there are no crowds.  Yesterday it was me and two other people floating in the Dead Sea, which made for a serene float while viewing the landscape — West Bank and Israel on one side and Jordan on the other — while absorbing the medicinal powers of the salt.

Sea salt is well know for its medicinal properties.  It is deeply purifying and has the power to draw out and dissolve negative energies from the emotional and physical body, which is from an article I recently read on grounding techniques.  After my twenty minute float I spent the rest of the day at the Zara Spa swimming in the infinity pool, receiving a salt scrub and massage, and sitting in the sauna. It is hard to believe I am here on a mission working in a hospital treating refugees from the wounds inflicted on them from the political unrest in the surrounding countries.  It’s an interesting juxtaposition. However, a lesson in gratefulness without guilt.

For those not familiar with the Dead Sea, it is over 400m (1,312 ft.) below sea level–the lowest point on the face of the earth. It is believed the area was home to five Biblical cities: Sodom, Gomorrah, Adman, Zebouin and Zoar (Bela).  The Dead Sea is land-locked and the rivers that flow in have nowhere to go, so they evaporate, leaving behind a restorative cocktail of salts and minerals. The Dead Sea is mentioned in connection with its healing properties in the Bible as well.  People travel from all over to experience the healing of the salt and mud of the Dead Sea to treat psoriasis and other skin conditions as well as arthritis.

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Posted by: jewelinthelotus | December 18, 2013

Taxi in the morning

I have to admit one of the most peaceful things I enjoy is a solo taxi ride into work as the sun is rising.  Especially when it is a non smoking taxi driver and he is playing what sounds like chanting or melodic prayer. It might be saying all is lost, but I find it an extremely meditative start to the morning even among the jolting of the taxi and the clamor of horns.

Posted by: jewelinthelotus | December 14, 2013

Two months in Amman

Well it’s a snowy day and I thought perhaps it is time to write a blog update now that I’ve been in Jordan for two months. I haven’t felt particularly inspired and energized about writing so have been dragging my heels. My energy level has definitely been very low the last month. It doesn’t help I was sick for about a month while here and only now feel I am starting to get my energy back. The air quality and lack of air really took a toll on my lungs and energy level. So enough of the excuses I will now attempt to summarize the last two months.

My arrival was a bit bumpy for many reasons and some I can’t even remember in this moment, but it started me thinking about the truth about traveling. The parts no one mentions-the hard times, the frustrations, unless of course it makes a good story.  Those are the parts people skip over to make it all sound like one big grand adventure. The adventure is a truth and I wouldn’t trade one single experience and feel blessed I am able to go to the places I’ve been. However, the frustrations and challenges are part of it.  Currently, I am in this phase that all our experiences are part of the larger picture of life. We shouldn’t have to carve out only the happy positive experiences or turn lemons into lemonade for the sake of being positive. I’m not saying get stuck in endless complaining, but admitting something is hard and challenging doesn’t make someone a cynic or pessimist. I think life is more about embracing all that is, not telling yourself others have it worse so you don’t have a right to your current feeling.  There are always others who have it worse and better, that doesn’t negate your right to a feeling. In fact, I think being true to your experience allows you to be there for others in their experience. The reality of travel is it often is one long string of challenges. No doubt the challenges are part of the experience and how those are faced is what allows for personal growth, which to me is the biggest part of foreign travel.  Those waves of feeling helpless, frustrated, exhausted, rage at being taken advantage of because you don’t speak the language or based on your nationality, the desire to sit on the curb and say fuck it when lost or unable to communicate in your own language. Those moments happen – at least to me. Those moments of frustration are the lesson, it is what do you do after after the low moments that determines the entire experience. Where do the moments take you?

The upside of traveling in current time is it is much easier than what it used to be. I remember traveling when there was no internet, then post internet when finding an internet cafe was a novelty, when getting lost could very well be how the day was spent. I certainly remember a few bus rides to towns I had no intention of visiting. Despite the rants people have about technology I LOVE it! Now thanks to an unlocked iPhone I am able to access the internet, make calls far cheaper than in the States and I’m grateful for what I do have. In moments of feeling alone it creates a connection even if it is superficial.  Only one time it worked at when I was in a taxi and the driver had no idea where I wanted to go, I was able to find the number of the location, call and hand over the phone to the driver- problem solved. Of course, as some who are connected with me on Facebook know technology has not solved my attempts to get to work.  This continues to remain a challenge. I start Arabic classes in January so I am hoping learning some basics of the language will be of some help. Still seeking that english speaking taxi driver for hire. 

Many have asked what exactly am I doing here. In reality it isn’t that different from my job as an Administrator in a US hospital. I am responsible for the administrative and HR needs of the hospital. The hospital project is set up to receive patients from Yemen, Syria, and Iraq who are victims of violence.  This includes women and children, who are not necessarily victims of war violence, but of domestic or household accidents, respectively.  Patients are identified by a medical team in the respective countries who need orthopaedic, maxillofacial, or plastic surgery and in theory cannot receive in their own country. They arrive in Amman and are housed at what is called a Rehabilitation Center, a set of apartments/hotel rooms, to await surgery. They then receive surgery and physiotherapy and return home or back to the Rehab Center to wait on further surgery and/or healing. On paper this seems straightforward. I assure you, it is not. Some patients need multiple surgeries so the logistics of their stay becomes complicated as does validating their needs. However, despite the politics and complexity that I will not write about, it is an amazing project and vital to the overall work MSF is doing in Syria, Yemen, and the refugee camps. I hope during my time here I am able to visit the refugee camps in Jordan. For obvious reasons won’t be able to go to Syria or Yemen. My hope one day is to be much closer to the emergency front lines.

We have complete freedom here to move about; however, as a woman that does not equate to what it means to move freely in the West.  I am working through some of my anger that has caught me by surprise as a result of a very male dominated culture.  The positive of this freedom is it has allowed me to attend a few political debates and to understand more the cultural context we are working in. I am happy to write one on one if anyone is curious to know more, but won’t go into detail on a public blog at the risk of misunderstanding, including my own. 

One of the hardest things I see daily is the amount of cats on the street. They are not the typical feral cat as they allow you to get close to them and pet them. One Saturday I spent half the morning coaxing one out of a tree and when he got close enough for me to reach him, he allowed me to pull him out and I still have all my fingers to prove it. However, I have passed one too many dead kitty and the image of vacant eyes is forever a memory stain.  My roommate and I attempted an Operation Kitty Rescue this morning as we are concerned some of the kittens won’t survive the storm. We didn’t have any luck finding any roaming the streets. I have no doubt our flat will have a few kitten guests in the near future. 

Well, I am sure this is full of typos and there is a lot I have left out, but this is my quick summary on a snowy Saturday in Amman. I will try to write more often. Regretfully, I didn’t bring my camera, but if you want to see photos, you can follow me on Instagram. http://instagram.com/jewelinthelotus

I wish all a very Happy Holiday season!!!

Posted by: jewelinthelotus | February 26, 2013

Evacuation

I haven’t been sure how or when to write about the last week. Every
day has been a different emotion.
For the last several weeks there has been discussion of kidnapping and
security at our meetings. Should we go or stay. I was becoming numb to
the conversations and then a kidnapping two hours from our location
happened combined with a visit from what they call a Super Log. He is
from Paris and well trained in security measures. He returned to the
Capital to discuss our situation and then the Cameroon kidnapping
happened. I knew then that we would likely be sent home, but was still
not prepared. Our acting FieldCo, as the actual FieldCo was just
returning from R&R and had decided to stay in the Capital, called a
5:00 p.m. meeting with the drivers for what I assumed was a briefing
of our security situation. Instead, it was an announcement the expats
were leaving at 6:00 a.m. the following morning and two would remain.
A palpable quiet came over the room. I looked around and saw tears in
several of the men’s eyes while at the same time feeling myself
flooding with emotion. More emotion than I expected for something I
knew was coming. The following 12 hours no longer even seem real. We
were sent a list from Coordination about what each of us needed to do.
Being the admin I got the lucky job of burning four years of paper and
packing all personnel and tax records. I kept calling Coordination to
confirm that burning so many records was really what they wanted me to
do. I was in a state of disbelief watching so much history go up in
flames. My heart was heavy. Every time I passed a watchman or a
driver, I started to cry. It didn’t help they were also crying. It is
a hard way to leave a mission. Part of my sadness was leaving people I
was just getting to know, and leaving a project that was doing so much
good and bringing hope into people’s lives. I felt like we were
abandoning a group of people who relied on us in many ways and it felt
so irresponsible to leave in so fast and so early. However, MSF is
very clear that security is never debatable. It was hard to let go
that I had made plans to stay. I had settled in. My room was just how
I liked it and I had acquired some charcoal and local incense to mask
the bug and cleaning spray in my room.

We all worked on our various duties well into the early morning hour.
There is a lot to do to close down a project in 12 hours. I tried to
sleep around 3:30 a.m., but all I managed to do was look at the
ceiling until it was time to get up. We loaded the trucks at 5:30 a.m.
and shortly after 6:00 a.m. we said goodbye to the two expats who
remained along with a handful of the national staff. Fortunately, I
had the back of the truck to myself surrounded by what we were
instructed to bring with us from the project and our luggage. It gave
me time to cry, observe one of the most amazing sunrises, and reflect
on my brief two months. The calls started coming in around 9 a.m.
asking what happened and wanting to know if we were closing the
project. Each call ended with, “We miss you!”

There was only a small group of us who were evacuated as five had left
two days earlier as part of a reduction of team strategy. I am
thankful for the evacuation team – it was a solid group. We mobilized
and got the job done. Overall, we had a good group. There are
challenges living and working with the same group of people, but at
the same time it is a growing experience. There is one person who I
will probably remember the longest. Although, there were many things
at the time that annoyed me, most of the things do make a good story.
It is an MD from New Jersey who brought a 12 pound (maybe more) ham
from New Jersey to a Muslim country and talked about fixing it every
day for a week until we did! The day we planned to bake the ham he
was already asking me instructions before I had my morning tea. He
arrived with two very large suitcases filled with food and gifts. He
was one of the members who left early and was still in the Capital
when we arrived. And, of course, the first thing he asks me as I am
climbing out of the truck is about the damn ham! Did we eat it? Did we
bring it!? Oh for the Love of God! I hadn’t slept. I was emotionally
exhausted, but all I could do was laugh and say no, “your ham was the
last thing on my mind when I left.” He then asked two other members
of the team about the ham and a packet of smoked salmon.

I had initially had been told I would be leaving the day after we
arrived in the Capital, but fortunately our FieldCo put a stop to
that. She was right we needed to rest. It was good to reunite with the
team who had left earlier. It took a few days for the sadness to
dissipate so having time to share the stories and a chance to debrief
was exactly what was needed. Not to mention some time to blow off
steam, sleep, and laugh. I’ve been working since we arrived on helping
with a plan to keep the project running remotely. That has been
helpful in letting go that sense of abandonment I felt. We have been
saying goodbye to team members day by day. There are five of us left.
One will stay another two months and the rest of us leave this week.
I am ready to go. More than ready. Today is Monday and am no longer
getting called five times a day. I only received one call today from
the cook calling to say she missed me. It warmed my heart. Although,
she also wanted to know who had the March roster. She was another one
that could be a challenge at times. A strong personality who the week
before we left came into my office to tell me she could take leave
whenever she wanted and she was going home and had already called a
daily worker to cover her shift. So I got the fun job of telling the
daily worker to go home and to tell the cook that she was indeed
working. We then had to have conversation about who authorized what.
Again, in retrospect a funny moment. At the time, maddening.

There really is so much to say, but not sure what more at this time. I
will miss the people and the project. I hope it can be continued
remotely as the work is so important to those in the community. It has
been amazing first mission experience cut short by four months. I
regret not writing more as I had a long list of things to write about
before things so radically changed. Who knows maybe I still will. It
was a reminder as to why putting things off is not a good idea. I am
not sure what is next, but I suppose that will present itself in time.

Posted by: jewelinthelotus | February 16, 2013

SAFETY and Undocumented

Yesterday was grocery day. This was actually started about two weeks
ago so I don’t remember which yesterday I was writing about. The
FieldCo (team leader) went with me yesterday along with our national
staff Outreach Worker as they had a meeting with a local doctor about
HIV tests. It was an interesting meeting to sit in on as he shared
with us pictures of two of his surgeries. One was of a baby that had
grown into the woman’s bladder and another was of calcified baby that
a woman had carried within her for six years. I can’t say for sure,
but my guess these stories are not found in any medical journals. If
there were not pictures I would not believe it. This same day we
stopped by the office of Act for Hunger to say hello and stayed for
over an hour. What an interesting organization. I was impressed by
their approach to Nutrition training. Instead of hiring health workers
they spend time training people within the community such as hair
dressers. What an innovative approach and I think more likely to bring
about long lasting change than health workers not part of the
community would bring.

I have had a few questions about safety. Yes, I am safe or at least as
safe as anyone really is. I am not worried. The situation is closely
monitored and steps are being taken to secure our compound more than
it currently is. The region I am in is not touched (yet) by what is
taken place in other parts of the country. I find this interesting
and think maybe because it is the poorest area in this country.

Well, it’s Saturday night and my eyes are burning from looking at a
computer all day combined with the fact today the air is thick with
dust and smoke. The dust burns my nose and I am able to taste it in my
mouth. It so thick, it is possible to look directly at the sun. I
walked around the compound attempting to take a photo, but nothing
turned out.

Well, all for now, but will try again tomorrow.

Last post was bit somber but thanks to a dear friend who seeks to
explore life who reminded me sometimes you need to embrace the suck.
And, that is just it. In the big scheme of life this will be an
adventure and I will look back and remember the good and the growth,
but there are some days it does just suck and that is ok. It is part
of the ride and part of the journey.
Some days my head feels as if a knife is stuck in my eye and I crave
my soft expansive queen size bed and comfy pillows with my dog at my
feet. I am working on getting better at stay hydrated. And, some
mornings I miss a hot powerful shower. Instead I have a twin foam pad
with an indentation for my butt and cold showers with a bucket to wash
my hair. Although, it is starting to warm up so evening showers are
quite warm. There are evenings I long for the familiarity of close
friends. You know the one where conversation is easy and comfortable.
I could go on and sound like a whiner, but as a good friend reminded
some days it does just suck but that is part of the journey and my
lesson is embracing those days as part of the experience─part of the
practice. I don’t need to reframe it or lather on the guilt with
stories of how some have it worse because all of it is one big package
I will cherish when I can no longer live this lifestyle. Embracing the
suck is part of the growth. On the days it sucks I am not longing to
be elsewhere (for now) because for me to be elsewhere would be to in a
job that took everything I had just to show up every day and that is
no way to live. Of course, if I could make a wish Cody would be here.
The true test of my desire to stay came this week when there was
discussion about possibly having to go home because of what is taking
place in Mali & Algeria. My first thought, no, not ready yet. The
situation continues to be monitored, but for now we stay.
On the days I do feel down, I remind myself how amazing it is to meet
other independent spirits from all over the world who are here because
something deep in their soul calls to make a difference. So even on
the worst day I choose where I am now because WOW how amazing to wake
up in another country to the chanting of small children even if they
do sound like they are screaming and sipping morning tea in the dry
smoky dusty air listening to the birds chirp, watching small red birds
drink from the leaking water hose, and the dragon lizards scamper
about the courtyard. It’s as if one of them is communicating ok on the
count of three go then they all run like sprinters in opposite
directions then freeze flattening their bodies to the ground, their
chests heaving and heads bobbing. Some look as if they are in cobra
pose.

My work attire is comfy clothes with flip flops! Although the OT
Nurse and I had three skirts made so will be donning those soon. Loose
skirts will be perfect as daytime temperatures begin to rise to 100
degrees. Some of the expats complain endlessly about the food here,
but hey, someone else is cooking lunch and dinner and cleaning our
dishes. We get fresh baked bread daily; although, I have started
radically reducing my consumption of the bread and pasta. It is true
it is not exactly the healthiest as everything is fried in oil, but
I’m thankful after a long day I am not the one having to cook or even
worse having to decide what to eat among 12 expats.

As my friend reminded me it is ultimately about the starfish and
sometimes one of those starfish is you.

Starfish story -
Once upon a time, there was an old man who used to go to the ocean to
do his writing. He had a habit of walking on the beach every morning
before he began his work. Early one morning, he was walking along the
shore after a big storm had passed and found the vast beach littered
with starfish as far as the eye could see, stretching in both
directions.
Off in the distance, the old man noticed a small boy approaching. As
the boy walked, he paused every so often and as he grew closer, the
man could see that he was occasionally bending down to pick up an
object and throw it into the sea. The boy came closer still and the
man called out, ”Good morning! May I ask what it is that you are
doing?”
The young boy paused, looked up, and replied “Throwing starfish into
the ocean. The tide has washed them up onto the beach and they can’t
return to the sea by themselves,” the youth replied. “When the sun
gets high, they will die, unless I throw them back into the water.”
The old man replied, “But there must be tens of thousands of starfish
on this beach. I’m afraid you won’t really be able to make much of a
difference.”
The boy bent down, picked up yet another starfish and threw it as far
as he could into the ocean. Then he turned, smiled and said, “It made
a difference to that one!”

Posted by: jewelinthelotus | January 20, 2013

Somber Sunday

I wrote the below last night with the intent of editing this morning, but as I was at the end of my yoga sequence I hear the FieldCo calling my name outside my door. When I opened my door she was saying there is work to do in the office. I of course was puzzled as it is Sunday – our day of rest. It turns out the driver, Aminu, who was hospitalized for carbon monoxide poisoning died this morning. It was my job to prepare his settlement. I was flooded with a cold feeling. I didn’t know him well, but distinctly remember on day four me and the woman I was replacing greeted Aminu and climbed into the truck, me excited for my first venture grocery shopping and my replacement visibly tired. We stopped along the way to pick up what I learned was kose (which I’ve been addicted to since that day) from his friend and then departed for the hour drive to the market and grocery store listening to American 80’s rap music. Aminu was my driver the few times I’ve been to the hospital and to get my 20th passport photo. He often wore black driving gloves and gold rimmed glasses. It made me laugh a bit as it made me think of Chicago yet we were in tiny little Muslim town where the dust is so thick it resembles fog. The last time I saw him was last Sunday morning when he was in my office with puffy eyes and still crying. His grandmother had died and he needed a salary advance so he could return home. I felt so bad for him as his grief was palpable. I wasn’t sure what to do or say as in this part of the country a woman can’t shake a man’s hand much less hug him. All I could do was convey how sorry I was for his loss and let him know we were all thinking of him.

There is so much death here that seems senseless. Although, it is also the first time I have been around so much death. I respect and admire the clinical people who come to do this work. They see cases that maybe they have only read about in a book, but certainly never seen. The OBGYNS in the project are at the hospital close to 24/7. There is one MD that every time I see her I wonder who she is and then remember, right, one of the MDs. She makes an appearance around dinner time then goes back to the hospital. The women here are very sick and there is a 1 in 5 survival rate in the babies born. Many of the women arrive with the babies already dead in their womb. At some point I will write more of the project, but will save that for another time. A lot of the stories are not for the faint of heart and my own heart isn’t up for it today.

Written on Saturday
This has been a long and strange week. It feels as if two was in one. A national doctor was killed in a car accident. One of our drivers went home when he learned of the death of his grandmother only to end up in a coma from carbon monoxide poisoning. Why they put the generator in the house is the million dollar question. Fortunately, he came out of the coma on Friday and is oxygen. The Admin Assistant who reports to me got his key jammed in the safe on Monday so we were not able to pay salary advances on the 15th. For some reasons this really hit a stress button that in retrospect I am not sure why. Maybe it was something tangible to stress about it. I think I was looking for empathy – not sure. I think it was also my exhaustion settling in. I haven’t slept well this week. I’m tired – really tired. I’ve hit the one month mark and this is now the longest I’ve been away from my creature comforts. I need to find the balance of working and living in the same place. The days are long and the work week is six days. I am not used to that. The long week combined with living with the same group is a lot so I need to make an effort to decompress after the day. In addition, I’m grappling with what I call house arrest. We are not able to leave the house and if we want to go to the hospital we must go by car. Most frustrating as it is a short walk. I have strong freedom needs so I’m working to find that inner peace or subdue the restlessness and find a way to live in confinement working and living with the same group of people with essentially very little privacy.

I’ve now heard it said by many within MSF as people rotate through – there are some you will miss and some you are not sorry to see them go. The composition of people on the project are four long term people and the medical people come and go about every 4-6 weeks; a few exceptions with an OT nurse and Midwife manager staying through March and May, respectively. The woman I replaced told me the first few months are awkward. It is true; I arrived to a team that have their set norms, rules and rhythm. This will begin to shift on Monday. Three long termers leave Monday and it is time. They are tired. In my observation leaving is a combination of sadness, joy, and disappointment at not being able to accomplish what was set out to accomplish.

One of the new long terms arrivals works for Kaiser in California as a labor & delivery nurse. We’ve already shared a few rants about Kaiser. She has to go back for her break otherwise she loses her job. I don’t envy her as the clinical people tend to work seven days. She is going to need that break. We’ve already been described by the Log as being similar with our laid back west coast attitude. Apparently he hasn’t heard our rants. It made me laugh as I consider myself FAR from laid back. It’s probably because he heard us talking about all the herbs we brought with us. J

In my short time on the project, I have already sat in on three disciplinary meetings (part of my job). I walk away from these feeling disheartened as what I’ve witnessed thus far is lack of acceptance of the infraction. It is communicated back as the expat has the problem. Last night I was talking with one of the long-termers who said part of the culture is there is no need for self-improvement. Instead of hearing this feedback as useful and as a way to grow it is dismissed and met with defensiveness. Although, not radically dissimilar from my management experience in the states. I’ve also sat in on three interviews and it is interesting they are very quick to answer the what are your strengths question, but when asked the what area would you improve question, it is evaded and am told culturally that isn’t atypical. It is interesting given that most in the United States find it difficult to answer the strengths question and easy to answer the weakness or as now asked, areas for improvement.

Promise to write more about the project once I’ve had more time to spend at the hospital. I hope to by February.

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