Tuesday, June 17, 2008

April, May, and June

It’s been a long time since posting to the blog, but I’m still here. I've been in Lesotho for about 9 1/2 months, and I have 2 1/2 more months to go before returning to the States. As I haven't written for a while, most of the events I'm writing about in this blog entry are now foggy in my memory (I'm getting old; see below for details). So I’ll just do a short recap (which will also appease the “I haven’t read your blog since your entries are so long” group). You’ll notice few pictures this time around as my camera wasn’t working, but it’s doing better now.

Jeff’s 30th Birthday Party (Saturday April 26th)

I entered a new decade on April 28th. To continue the very short trend of themed birthday parties (last year was the “uniparty” – no details to be disclosed on this website), we chose a Shoprite theme. Guests could wear anything they wanted as long as it was purchased at the local supermarket (picture Safeway or H.E.B, not Super Walmart). There were some very innovative and even attractive outfits – from gift wrapping paper, suitcases, shower curtains, to blankets, plastic bags, toilet paper and cling wrap – to name a few. I’m not sure if I should post any pictures from this night, but I wanted to give a shot-out to my man Jerry, seen here with the bag warrior princess, Kara DuBray.

10th trip to Mokhotlong (April 28th through May 2nd)

As Monday was my birthday, Baylor and the Kingdom of Lesotho decided to celebrate by holding a ground-breaking ceremony for the new satellite clinics to be built around the country. It was a grand affair, with the Right Honorable Prime Minister Mosisili as well as Mark Kline and a lot of the BIPAI team from Houston attending the ceremony. I drove up to Mokhotlong in time to do no work, but I was at least able to share a few cold ones with the local docs – a few from Zimbabwe and a few from Cuba, as well as my good friends Dan the Dual Citizen and Dutch Elise of UNICEF. Overall, it was more of the same business in the mountains. I was a little worried that it would be bitterly cold as we were in Fall and getting close to Winter, but the weather was great the whole week. There had been a large snow storm the week before – the day after it hit the taxis were taking 7 hours to travel what normally takes 2 hours.

Maseru (May 3rd through May 25th)

I worked at the clinic most days, seeing patients, training nurses, and grinding my teeth over patients that weren’t taking their HIV meds correctly. It is so hard to take any medicine in the best of circumstances. But when you don’t have money to get to the clinic, your husband throws away your and your child’s meds because he doesn’t believe in them, or a flooded river has kept you from getting your refills it gets a lot harder. The amount of viral resistance brewing out there due to inadequate adherence is daunting.

11th Trip to Mokhotlong (May 26th through May 30th)

I went up with visiting 3rd year UCSF peds resident and budding pedi ER fellow Kajal Khanna. About an hour into the trip we saw that the distant peaks we were to drive through were oddly white. We got to the first mountain pass and met first ice then snow blanketing the road and surrounding mountains. The drive was slow going, but we didn’t have to turn back – even though a few minutes of minimal visibility and 6 inches of snow on the road made me think about it a few times. The trip was good overall, working in the rural clinics as usual, but this time with a resident who could
carry things for me (just kidding, Kajal; mostly). Thursday in the dark we managed to find the Sani Top Chalet, a nice B & B further east of Mokhotlong town and overlooking the border town at Kwazulu Natal, South Africa. Most importantly, it has the highest pub in Africa – allowing me to obtain the much coveted award for both climbing to the highest point in Africa (Kilimanjaro) and drinking a beer at the highest pub in Africa. Autograph signing to be held at a later date. Friday night we made it back to Maseru to join Anu for our last happy hour together at the Lesotho Sun. I took off the next day on vacation, and he would be gone before I returned. Anu, dude, we miss you here already. Safe travels and rock on with your bad self in your pedi heme-onc fellowship. I'll see you in the Bay Area. [The picture featured above was taken by Anu in Thaba Tseka, which gives you an idea of what Mokhotlong looked like].

Vacation to The Good Old United States of America (May 31st through June 15th)

Along with my brother and sister-in-law, I surprised my mom by showing up to the house unannounced. Thankfully they hadn’t changed the locks (or adopted another child). With 4 nights in Corpus and about 8 in Santa Rosa, I enjoyed all the things I had been missing. We shared good microbrews (Belgian ales in particular), ate good pizza, watched movies, enjoyed great hot weather, ran and biked by the beach (a particularly nice run in Corpus after dawn with the dolphins surfacing in the Bay), ran and biked in some of my favorite California state parks, visited some wineries [saw Wilson winery out in Dry Creek (Sonoma County) for the first time where my friend Dawn is working - what nice zins they have], listened to outdoor music, and slept in my old room. By far the best times were spent just hanging out with my family and friends, especially the group from residency. Traveling in India, Dubai, South Africa, Swaziland, Mozambique, and Tanzania was great, but it was good to be reminded about the true blessings of home, family and friends. To my graduating friends from Santa Rosa, congratulations on finishing 3 years of grueling work (well, not counting Thursdays - except Team Meetings). I love you very much and will see you soon.

Flying Around with Mission Avian Fellowship and Bristol-Myers Squibb

I had the pleasure of hanging out with Tim Vennell from MAF. Tim, his wife and his kids (one boy and 4 girls at last count) have been in Lesotho for about 5 years. He and his fellow pilots fly docs, patients, and supplies around Lesotho in Cessna planes, providing an invaluable service to the Basotho. We traveled with Elliott Sigal, MD, PhD (Executive Vice President, Chief Scientific Officer, President of Research and Development at BMS), John Damonti (president of the BMS Foundation) and Charlotte (a BMS photographer) on a quick tour of the Mokhotlong hospital and one of the rural health centers (Tlanyaku). I was floored when we made the trip that takes me over 4 hours by car in 45 minutes. The health center we visited is 2 to3 hours from the hospital by car, but it took us a mere 8 minutes by plane. Besides being just a little deaf and nauseated (4 flights in 3 hours), I had a good time.
Thats it for now. I'll try to update the blog every 2 to 4 weeks until leaving in September. Hope you are all well,


Rethabile said...

Sounds like you're having a ball.

SouthAfrica said...

What an awesome blog posting. Thank you Jeff, it's really heartening to hear your story. Yourself, the other docters and Mission Aviation are certainly made of the right stuff.

I run a South African travel site at www.southafrica.to and every week we choose a blog of the week...this week we've chosen this entry of yours. You can see it at our weekly newsletter where we also showcase a local airline - Mango.

essentialafrica.com said...


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mohamed12 said...

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