Nov 17, 2010

This Is Africa!

This is Africa or “TIA” was a phrase introduced to me a few years ago, meaning that “crazy things happen here and no one really cares because it is Africa”. I have had plenty of opportunities to experience what TIA really means since I’ve blogged last. Mainly because our Internet server has been down for close to 3 weeks, and not just wireless for us volunteers, but Internet for the Office as well. Can you imagine a business office being without Internet for 3 days? Let alone 3 weeks?! This is Africa. I guess they’ve called many times per week and because there is only one Internet service provider here in Jo-berg they are not really in a hurry to work on their customer service reviews. Thankfully there is a mall nearby that has a place with WiFi and that is how I’m able to update my blog today. It cost money but it is worth it at this point for sure!

Two weeks ago I had a first: I visited my first South African Hospital with another volunteer and two babies in tow. Lisa and I had the day off and we were recruited to take two of our small babies to their appointments at the hospital. Lisa was assigned to a 8-week-old little boy who needed to get to his pre-op appointment for a tearing hernia that needs to be repaired. I was given responsibility of a 7 week old that needed to get another chest x-ray to help determine why he is breathing so fast and his chest sounds so rattley. All of the Staff were busy on various errands so Lisa (who has been here 3 weeks) and I (who just celebrated 1 week) were dropped off on the side of the road that leads to the hospital at 6:30am with vague directions (go to the “second block” and be sure to say “yes! This is my baby” for example) as to where to go and what to do with the precious cargo we held. Talk about an adventure!

Needless to say South African hospitals are very different than the hospitals I am used to visiting. For starters, to be sure that you will be seen on a day that you have an appointment, it is best to get to the hospital before 7:00am! Lisa and I managed to get to the right “block” and then we separated ways to wait in our respective waiting rooms. I was the first to arrive in mine, arriving before any technicians or receptionist. As the room began to fill up with sick babies and anxious mommies I began to get nervous. Would we be seen or because I am a white woman with a colored baby would I get turned away or sent the end of the list? It’s problematic to say that this baby is mine when the woman in front of me wants to know what my husband does and why I would ever leave the US to come to South Africa. I kept repeating the baby’s first and last name over and over in my head hoping that I would remember his African name correctly enough to hear it being called. As I waited I prayed for the woman who’s 8 month old must have been brought from her own hospital bed to come and be seen because she was still attached to an empty IV bag. This is Africa and for whatever reason they make you hoof it all over the hospital to get the care you need (IVs put in, MRIs, X-rays, ect…) rather than the doctors coming to you or even nurses taking you to the different areas. If you can be carried to the needed department, you are carried or if you are confined to your bed, your loved ones are the ones pushing you from department to department.

Although Lisa’s appointment was supposed to be the longest, only after waiting for a half and hour or so, she showed up in my waiting room. Apparently the person who scheduled the appointment for her baby wrote the date down wrong so he wasn’t going to be able to be seen. She smartly rescheduled it all the while hoping that she wasn’t turned away because she was obviously a white woman with an obviously American accent! The technician arrived and thankfully I recognized the baby’s name the second time it was called. I followed the sweet technician into the x-ray room, strapped on heavy “don’t get radiation on your important parts” apron and then held down a sweet little man on a cold hospital bed so he could get his chest x-rayed. I can’t imagine what it would be like to be with my very own sick child because the feelings that welled up in my heart as I held down this crying, confused 7 week old I had only known for 3 hours smarted like he was my own. I hummed to him and shhhed him until we were through and then was escorted back to the waiting room to wait for the films to be ready for us to take back home.

Once we received the x-ray films we began the adventure of trying to get a ride back to Door of Hope. Lisa had her baby in his car seat and I had mine in the moby wrap along with 2 diaper bags, two bottle-warming bags, x-ray films in a huge envelope and a folder with all the other important paperwork for both babies. Neither of us have a cell phone that works here in South Africa but we didn’t have any Rand coins to use a pay phone. First Lisa tried to use her calling card but we didn’t have the right code to make an in-country call. We found a few rand but once we got a hold of our ride the call dropped after 10 seconds. Although we didn’t know it, it takes quite a few Rand to actually be able to make more than a 10 second call! This is Africa. We ran out of Rand trying to connect with the office so we had to go and purchase something at the market in the hospital to get change. Long story short, we got a hold of someone at the office and Kate (the director) was able to come and pick us up. When she arrived she only had toddler car seats so Lisa strapped in her baby in the back and I handed mine back to her “for safety” for her to hold as we rode home. Talk about an adventure! I’ve since been to the eye hospital and the Berea Hospital but I’ll save those adventures for another post.

All in all I’m doing wonderfully. Not having Internet has made me more homesick at times but also has brought into perspective how truly elite and privileged (dare I say spoiled?) I am with the life that exists for me in California. I am confessing to the Savior on a daily basis my self-indulgent mindset and asking Him to make my heart like His: seeking to serve rather than being served. The first verse of Kari Jobe’s song, “Singing Over Me,” sings:

When my wait is so long, When my tears are my song

With my hope nearly gone, You help me God

To believe with the faith, in this dry weary place

When You felt far away, You held me God

Oh, there is freedom in surrender oh, I know it!

Through these lyrics the Lord reminded me that He is near and that there is freedom in surrender. When I’ve felt like I was on the brink of exasperation or weariness or homesickness I’ve spoken out and confessed surrender and have been met with such sweet peace.

Thank you for praying for me! Please be praying that I remain well and strong to accomplish my shifts. We have strep throat, chicken pox and a stomach bug floating around our houses. Please be praying for wisdom for the Staff here at DOH, our budget is in somewhat of a crisis. Being a volunteer I’m not privy to all of the specific details but I know we are in need of supernatural provision. Lastly, we have a little girl in the hospital with Cystic Fibrosis, suffering from a chest infection that may prove to be fatal unless the Lord intervenes, please pray that she would be healed and home soon! Thank you so much. I miss you and pray for you often. All of my love!!!

P.S. One of my roommates also wanted to add her favorite T.I.A. moment: our toilet was replaced 3 weeks ago and other than the toilet bowl it is all made of plastic! Not surprisingly it has fallen apart piece by piece leaving us with a cracked (and pinching) toilet seat, a tank that we have to fill up by hand because it can't hold water and flush by sticking our hand into the tank and pulling up the plunger manually. So very Africa and hysterical!

Me and my favorite small baby!

The small baby room, we currently have 9 small babies.

One of my favorite big babies in his PJs!

A new baby that came through the baby bin, less than 24 hours old!

Laundry on the line... we don't have a dryer here!


  1. Nicole thanks so much for sharing your experiences this morning! My heart is warmed. I love the pictures too.

  2. Nicole, what a glorious adventure you are on! So good to hear about the happenings there and how God is meeting you. Hugs & love, Judy

  3. babies and laundry lines... just lovely.


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