Sunday, July 13, 2014

Week 2: Campbell and VCOM students together at City of Hope

Here we are! And almost halfway through our time here at the City of Hope! The group of first-year med students from Campbell was joined three days ago by our VCOM students. So our other half is here, and the ratio of extroverts to introverts has been irrevocably changed (for the louder!). The decibel level of nightly conversations and card games has gone up considerably, but so has the uproarious laughter count.

Our first week here gave us plenty of time to acclimate and get used to Tanzania time… being in Africa means that hardly anything happens on time and, surprisingly, we love it. All of us feel like we are detoxing from the pell-mell, Western medical world. When we got here everyone’s first questions were about what we were going to be DOING. You can imagine how disorientated these task-driven Westerners were when they didn’t have a to-do list for their free time or a normal classroom for our discussions. Ty leads our daily class times underneath the acacia tree in the quietest corner of the compound. So each morning after breakfast there’s a long parade of students carrying their plastic chairs on their heads down to the Lion King tree, form a circle (the circle of life?) and our day commences.

Our time always begins with devotions. We have been working our way through Luke, in no particular order, guided by the Holy Spirit and the profound questions of whichever small group leads us that day. The VCOMers jumped right into the routine and yesterday’s discussion on suffering was especially deep (or dope, depending on who you ask).

Class time follows. The Campbell students bore the brunt of adjusting to Ty’s teaching style last week. And…they LOVE it. It’s not your usual lecture. Instead of spoon-feeding us information he poses questions to help his students rethink their assumptions about spiritual, soul and physical health on their own. In the past couple days we’ve really begun to dig into the worldviews that influence the majority of these future doctors’ patients. It’s not just about patients, it’s about people. The goal of all our discussion times is not to try to teach the students to integrate/insert their faith into their practice, it’s to expand their understanding of their faith so that their practice of healthcare will fit into it. The implications are practical, personal, social and spiritual. It’s good stuff!!!

To break up all the serious worldview talk, there have been a couple hysterical aspects to our mornings. In the middle of conversations grappling with suffering and the will of God, we often find ourselves interrupted by a neighbor’s cow that stays hidden behind some nearby bushes.  We’re convinced he was raised by donkeys. Have you ever heard a cow try to hee-haw? Well, use your imagination. It considers itself an integral part of prayer time…

Then there’s the swarm of African killer bees that decided it would start forming honeycomb on the acacia tree the second day we were here. We woke up the whole hive when we set up shop underneath the tree that day…  luckily they took off in the opposite direction. But we got plenty nervous. Apparently this is the same bunch that almost killed Ty a couple years back when he tried to take their honey. You’ll have to ask him about that one day…

Another local creature that hates Ty is the resident Holstein bull that freely grazes in the compound everyday. (Why they have a Holstein bull and no herd, I don’t know. As far I’m concerned, it’s free range beef, and we all know what that means.) He has a crazy eye and I don’t think he can see that well. I’m pretty sure he gets surprised when he sees us, and since bulls don’t have the flight instinct, FIGHT it is. He paws the ground and threatens us with a good bout of grunting. He has caused the circle to scatter on numerous occasions. I’m not sure that a bunch of white girls running away in brightly skirts has been all that helpful in these situations, but Mr. Bob, a good friend, has now resorted to bringing a 10 foot staff to our Bible studies in order to ward off the beast.

Other than that, we are busying ourselves with relationships and…not "DOING" much of anything. That’s the point. We are learning how to be and how to be ok with not “doing” something every minute of every day. To quote the vivacious and beautiful Erin Fitzpatrick (a Campbell first year) “well, I’ve spent maybe one hour in the clinic in the past two weeks, but I’ve learned more about healthcare here than in any other setting.” Our afternoons are open—open to conversations and time with the children, local villagers, workers, Bernard, Mama Jane, Dr. Ben (the amazing Kenyan man who runs the clinic), the Chacha family, and each other. Then there’s banana farming, corn-crib building, hymn singing, and our latest venture – runs with some of the older girls (I can’t explain how countercultural it is for that group of girls to go running through the village in the morning in all their skirts. Sunrise this morning with them was great.) Nights hold a lot of cards and epic dance parties (shout out to DJ Chacha!) with the kids. Weather is perfect, food is filling, people are beautiful and our God is good. Bwana asifiwe! (Praise God!)

And that’s the update from us! Hopefully more to come, although internet is persnickety…. For now, kwaheri! (Goodbye!)


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