I hate the Harmattan! At least, I hate the way it makes feel. Each year from December to March, the prevailing winds and lack of rain allows the dust from Sahara to blanket much of the upper sub-Saharan Africa with a fine dust that goes up to 40,000 feet into the air. It severely limits visibility and causes me to start with a tight chest, wheezing and a severe cough. When we landed in Cameroon, the Harmattan was in full flower and my chest began acting up. My symptoms had actually started in Addis Ababa in reaction to the severe smog there the day before but got much worse as we drove 8 hours from the airport in Douala to the Mbingo Baptist Hospital in the highlands of the Northwest Province of Cameroon.
Travel, travel and more travel: Since last week’s The SteffeScope, the Loma Linda University accreditation team and I have been busy traveling. We had a wonderful time at the Fairmont Mara Safari camp (in the Maasai reserve), taking two game drives. We drove on Sunday from the reserve to Kijabe Hospital, where we were graciously hosted by both the general surgery program and the pediatric surgery program there. All day Monday and part of Tuesday, we interviewed the faculty and residents of both programs; met with the administrator, OR nurses, the medical director (Steve Letchford) and the Director of Medical Education (Loice Achieng). We also took a tour of the complex. As will be the case with all the programs we inspect, there were some things done very well and some things which will bear improvement. I was particularly pleased that Kijabe Hospital permitted the intake of two new general surgery residents this year and I hope that this trend will continue. Kijabe should be able to handle 12 (or more) general surgery residents. I was very pleased with what a good job they had done with record keeping. The program administration at both Tenwek and Kijabe even admitted (without duress) that it had done them good to go through the process. I felt faint.
We relaxed a bit Tuesday evening while at the Mennonite Guesthouse (taking full advantage of the free internet access) and then our night was short as we got up before 4:00 to get to the Nairobi airport on time. We spent a couple of hours waiting on our plane (I must confess that the Nairobi airport is NOT my favorite airport in the world and certainly one of the most uncomfortable) before flying on to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia by Kenya Airways. We were a little late, but got our visas, exchanged currency and collected all of our bags. We were met by Paul Gray and the Soddo Hospital driver.
We were driven to the nearby Myungsung Christian Medical Center in Addis Ababa and met the hospital director Dr. Chulsoo Kim and Dr. Daniel Chang (a surgeon from the Detroit area already approved as PAACS faculty). We had a brief meeting, a wonderful Korean lunch and then toured the facility. The LLU team was very impressed with the potential here. Knowing we had a long drive, we had to cut the conversation short and head to Soddo.
We had a similar set of interviews as we had in Kijabe and toured the facility. It took us all day Monday to interview everyone. That evening, Paul Gray hosted the entire faculty program and us at a nearby restaurant. The Ethiopian buffet was excellent and the companionship very enjoyable.
The Douala airport is always a stressor but it was actually better than usual. Our bags all arrived, we passed customs without a hiccough and then outside, we had to fight off taxi drivers and those who wanted to “help” us with our luggage. It stopped only when our driver identified himself and we sternly told the others that we needed no help from them. The van was a new one and the air-conditioning was an unexpected bonus in the sea-level heat and humidity. We stopped by a bakery for something for lunch. Don’t know that I see much that the French did for Cameroon during the colonial period, but they sure taught them to bake! Our planned six hour trip from Douala to Mbingo turned out to take 8 hours and we were exhausted when we got to Mbingo. And that brings me back full circle to the Harmattan and the coughing.
Praise and Prayer Requests:
1. Praise God for the traveling safety thus far.
2. Please pray for strength, health and discernment as we continue this grueling trip through January 22. Pray for me as I fly back to Ethiopia on January 22.
3. Please pray for God’s hand upon Micky and Sean while we are apart.
4. Please pray for the upcoming Christian Medical & Dental Association’s Continuing Medical and Dental Education conference to be held in Brackenhurst February 6 – 16th. I will be very busy during that time. Pray that the all the missionaries coming will have safety as they travel and pray that the Holy Spirit will prepare their hearts and minds.
Yours and His, for the peoples of Africa,
Bruce for Micky and Sean
PS: This was delayed in sending due to internet access problems. Sorry!