ECU Field Journal: Africa

Marie's Blog from Lambaréné, Gabon<-- back

Lambaréné, glad to meet you.
August 2, 2008

Hopital d’Albert Schweitzer is like one large family compound. The people here are very nice and polite all the time. Everyone says “Bonjour,” “Bonne apres-midi,” and “Bonne soir” without fail. There are people from all over the world here: France, Germany, Spain, Switzerland, Ukraine, Cote d’Ivoire—the list goes on. 

Since we arrived over the weekend, we had time to pay attention to our living quarters. We broke out the bleach, masks, and some cleaning rags we fashioned out of leftover socks, and scrubbed every inch of the house we will live in for the next three months. Our house is raised up high on cement blocks, and is screened all around. It almost feels like we are camping as we cannot control the dust, bugs, or really anything in the house. We patched all the holes in the screens with duct tape, so now our house has so much more personality. One hole was too large to patch with tape, so we had to cover it with plastic. It was made by a cat that my predecessor, Meredith, had named Monsieur Sternocleidomastoid. The sternocleidomastoid is a muscle in the neck, and apparently the cat’s muscle was exposed for a long time while an injury healed. Meredith is back in the U.S. now, but when the cat thought she was home and didn’t answer the door, he decided to eat a hole in the screen to get in the house! Every night he follows us home, thinking we’ll feed him and give him attention like Meredith did. My roommates will kill me if I feed him. I will resist doing so as long as I can! 

You must sleep under a malaria tent here and I went to great lengths to find an all-enclosed tent that no little critter could enter without my knowledge. I have made my tent, “the clean zone,” and it stays zipped all the time. I take a shower every night so I can enter clean and free of the bugs that I always feel are hiding on my clothes. Showers are exciting as well, as we share our bathroom with bats! They sleep all day and then around 4:00 p.m., they start talking. I have resolved not to look up or down anymore, only forward. That way I do not see the bats, spiders, or whatever else might be lurking. I have found that taking a shower without my contacts is very relaxing as I cannot see anything!!!