Ambene’s Passionate Mother..!

We have finally left Popondetta, Oro Province’s capital, and we’re on “actual outreach” in other words we’re finally getting far remote!

We set for our first village, Ambene! Ambene is in a difficult piece of land… They are in the middle of the mountains and there’s a road 3hrs out of their village, but they can’t build or pave a road to connect their village as the land surrounding their village doesn’t belong to them and they don’t have permission to build on it. So instead of having a smooth ride, we take a 4WD and go bush for about 90min, crossing mud patches, river beds and beetle nut gardens.

Ambene is like a little lost paradise! Everything is green and luscious, the village is pretty; it’s in the shadow of a mountain and there’s even flowers bordering the paths!

It’s our very first village we visited so we started with health promotion, followed by clinic. A day wasn’t enough to see the sea of people that had gathered for services! We returned the second day and opted for the same format; health education to draw a crowd before clinic.  We covered different topics on the second day to address the issues we had seen in clinic the previous day.

At the end of our helt toks (health education talks), we asked if there were any questions. One mother stood up and started speaking in the local dialect. It wasn’t long before her speaking turned into some loud, and animated expression. It pretty much looked like she was angry and shouting at us or at the community, I wasn’t sure.

Then I looked over at Philip (he’s a good friend and local health worker, fluent in over 12 dialects), I always turn to Philip in case of doubt. He seemed calm, purposefully looking at the mother and nodding his head in agreement. No need to worry, explanation will come… eventually!? Maybe :) The mother continued for what seemed like 5minutes. Then Philip thanked her and turned to us to explain!

The mother was beyond herself happy that we had come to visit and provide health care! She realized through our teachings that her village is a paradise where they pretty much have everything they need for life in abundance as long as they do a few things differently! She went from someone who had a fatalistic worldview about life and believed that sickness it a normal part of life to someone who is an activist for life and solution. She was encouraging her fellow villagers to build “tippy taps” or “leaky bottles” to help improve their hand washing & sanitation practices! She asked for our education charts to be able to spread her newly acquired knowledge with the ones that were in the field in the morning! She decided to act for change and no longer be ok with death and sickness in her community!

Needless to say, this doesn’t happen in every village at such a dramatic level, but it was such an encouragement to our team in our first few days to see the impact health education can have, the power of good, true and practical information in the hands of the villagers. Happy hearts!

 

Follow Ups = Happy Days!

I love that I get to work in very remote places! Unfortunately that often means that I have very few follow up visits with my patients. But in this post I want to share about 2 follow ups I’ve had this year!  The first one is oh so good and really happy! The second one is awesomely good, but sensitive stomachs, please abstain from reading ;)

This year I took the Primary Health Care School to Oro Province! (If I had favourites.. Oro Province would be one of them!) It was my fifth time to the province and we targeted the mountain areas around Kokoda, my third time there. One Sunday we went to church in Papaki. Although I hadn’t done clinic in Papaki before, I remembered walking through the village and across the river to reach Eiwo on the other side. I remember Eiwo for two things: 1- a cool cliff to jump off in wet season! 2- a girl called Ethel* with Pott’s Disease or Tuberculosis of the Spine. You might remember her…!
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I showed a friend in the village a picture of Ethel and asked if he knew of her. He recognized the mother and said that she was currently visiting in Papaki! He sent word for her and within 5 minutes, Ethel, who was also visiting was in front of me!

When I saw her in 2013, I was unsure of what would happen to her. She had already gone 5 years without treatment and she didn’t have too much longer before getting paralyzed if left untreated. Leaving her with nothing more than health education and a referral letter to the hospital for treatment, I prayed that her mother would take her to the city for treatment. Most of the time I don’t get to follow up… so I tell myself as I leave a village, that everybody was granted their miraculous healings and fairy tale endings! Naive, yes, quite possibly, but the only way I can see what I see on a daily basis and keep going.

Seeing Ethel all grown up, taller and bigger than before and NOT in a wheelchair, made my day! Our time in Eiwo 3 years ago wasn’t in vain! Ethel’s mother believed that she could be healed and made the hard sacrifices to get to the city and complete the whole 9 months of TB treatment her daughter needed! And Ethel got her good ending :)
3 years later

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First seeing Ethel launched me on a journey with Tuberculosis and understanding my role in “Ending TB in MY Lifetime”. I remember walking back to our village after clinic that day and having a long discussion with Philip about health promotion and the need to increase health awareness surrounding Tuberculosis as well as the need for mobile diagnosis! I’ve always held the picture of Ethel as a reminder that something needs to happen for TB. And now I can also associate it with the fact that health promotion does work and that sometimes the most seemingly helpless situations can be turned around with a little faith!

Alright! Sensitive stomachs, this is your warning ;)

The next story is about a patient I had in Ajeka! Before I write about the patient, I must tip my hat to his wife! The most loving and dedicated person I’ve ever seen… who accepted to put up with way more than anyone should ever!

So this amazing lady comes to see me and says “Angie, you’re back!” (Who is this lady!?) “I have to bring my husband to see you.” (Oh no!) Her husband, Jack* was seen in 2013 for a “boil” on his buttock. Instant flashback!

I, unlike some of my students, highly dislike when I need to ask my patients to remove their pants… I unfortunately tend to have a very good memory for things I’d rather forget… When Jack came to see me, he had had this boil for over 20 years! taken many antibiotics and never really improved. The right thing to do, was to give him a fair assessment and look at the thing… unfortunately. I had to remove the dressing his wife had put on the boil in order to see… as I removed the dressing, a scab pulled off and let pus along with tiny maggots ooze out of his wound. What a sight! I haven’t forgotten yet! At the time, I put him on Flucloxacillin, a great antibiotic he hadn’t had yet, and referred him to the hospital for surgical draining.

When his wife said that I had to see him, I was so sad! How & why should someone have to suffer through 25 years of but ulcer!? And poor wife!!! I immediately thought the worse… He hadn’t gone to the hospital and sat on his infected ulcer all this time… His health card surprised me with multiple trips to the hospital since my first consult, which is a good sign! He did get surgery, yay! But then, it got infected… according to the book, at the time of the last visit, things were in a good state.

So why did he need help? Did it get infected again? Dr. Thomas!!! A case for you :) He was surprised I had seen this guy before, and I was pleasantly surprised to find out that his sore was completely clean!!! I remembered what it looked like in 2013 and expected worse… but to my surprise, there was no inflammation, no redness, no puss, no worms, nothing but a small hole! Mind you that wound was tunnelling to the anal canal making a small fistula, but it was a minor surgery to fix the whole problem. And this reference in the wife’s hands was a guaranteed good outcome :)

La Familia!

Hello friends,

I know I’ve been a little silent out here for a while…! I’m about to post a whole bunch of stories form my last outreach in Papua New Guinea, so you might get a few notifications if you’re following my blog…

But before I start writing I want you guys to know that I have the best family in the world and had an amazing time at home with them for the last 6 weeks!

Here’s a picture of them, but feel free to look at more on Facebook ;)

La Familia!

“It’s about Working with Friends!”

ORO PROVINCE DONATES TO YWAM MEDICAL SHIP

Governor Juffa said that the provincial administration was a proud supporter of YWAM’s work in Oro Province.

“YWAM first started working in Oro three years ago with their land-based primary healthcare teams who built relationships with local healthcare workers and village leaders in preparation for the arrival of the first YWAM Training and Medical Ship in the province.”

“What has stood out to me about the work of YWAM is their commitment to build relationship and to work alongside our people in seeing good outcomes. They’ve stayed in our villages, trekked with backpacks full of supplies, travelled in boats along our coast and have come to know and love our people. Our health workers and provincial administration look forward to their visit every year – its more than getting a job done, its about working with friends.  Friends that share our common vision – excellent rural service delivery.”

“We are very excited to see the newly refitted MV YWAM PNG ship now heading our way, even better equipped than last year.  In 2015, on the maiden voyage, more than 1500 patients were seen, and more than 800 immunisations provided, to our people in remote places in just 5 days.  This was all in collaboration with 15 of our own health workers on outreach patrols.  We make a great team.”

“Our donation today re-affirms our partnership and appreciation for 2015.  It also gives me great pleasure to couple this with a 2016 funding commitment of K250,000PGK,” said Governor Juffa.

YWAM Medical Ships Managing Director, Mr Ken Mulligan, said he was grateful for the Oro Provincial Administration’s support.

“We greatly value our relationships in Oro Province, and appreciate Governor Juffa’s lead in helping get this rural service program established.”

“MV YWAM PNG returned to Papua New Guinea just last week, following the completion of Stage 2 of the vessel’s refit; including the construction of a new dentistry clinic, day procedure unit, laboratory and the addition of a new, much-larger patrol boat that will transport teams and supplies from the ‘mother ship’.

“In addition to having much greater capacity to deliver services, we now have more opportunity to build capacity in the local health workforce and dental, medical and ophthalmic students by giving hands-on experience alongside our onboard health professionals.

“I believe it’s a exciting day for Papua New Guinea – together we are positioned to directly impact thousands of lives,” said Mr Mulligan.

The MV YWAM PNG is currently in the Gulf Province for the first outreach of the year, delivering primary health care, optometry, dentistry, eye surgeries and training to rural communities in the Kikori district.

There are 100 volunteers from 18 different nations aboard for the voyage including 17 Papua New Guineans.

Other major contributions to YWAM Medical Ships’ 2015 operational funding were Steamships Trading Company, InterOil, Puma Energy, PNG Ports Corporation, Milne Bay and Western Provincial Governments and Australian Aid. Major capital contributors to the vessel purchase included the PNG National Government and Morobe, Milne Bay, Central and Western Provinces.

 

 

KATHMANDU SUPPORTS TREKKING MEDICAL TEAM IN REMOTE PNG

KATHMANDU SUPPORTS TREKKING MEDICAL TEAM IN REMOTE PNG

A team of fifteen primary health care workers representing 7 different nations are jetting off to Papua New Guinea (PNG) next month to deliver primary health care and health education thanks to the support of camping and travel gear supplier, Kathmandu.

The team is a part of Youth with a Mission (YWAM) Medical Ships, a Christian charity that delivers health care and training to remote communities in PNG via its medical ship and land-based teams. Everyone working with YWAM is a full-time volunteer.

Team leader and Registered Nurse, Angelica Langlais, said that this trip will be her fourth visit to Oro Province in Papua New Guinea where her team will be working.

“My first trip to PNG was in 2012 – serving aboard our Medical Ship. The voyage opened my eyes to the reality of the remoteness and need for better health care services. Some people travel in canoes for two weeks, while others  trek for four days to reach healthcare services. The reality of it all was really confronting and hard to accept.

“Bringing teams of health care workers to remote in-land areas has been a dream on my heart ever since – and this year, I have the joy of leading a trekking team throughout Oro Province, while the other half of our team serves aboard the YWAM Medical Ship. We’ll be living like the locals – staying in villages, cooking over the fire, and showering using bucket! We have such a great opportunity to build relationship and to learn from one another.

Kathmandu has generously provided our team with trekking packs, that will carry essential medicines and wound care supplies as well as tents.  Having good gear is so important for a trip like this – we are so grateful for Kathmandu’s generous support,” said Ms Langlais.

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The team will set up mobile clinics in every village they visit and will provide maternal health services, childhood immunisations, wound care and healt

The team will set up mobile clinics in every village they visit and will provide maternal health services, childhood immunisations, wound care and health education alongside local health workers.
“The health education is one of our most important roles – we’ll be raising awareness on some of PNGs most critical (and easily preventable) health concerns, tuberculosis, malaria and HIV/Aids,” said Ms Langlais.

The team departs Townsville next month and will serve in remote villages throughout PNG for 11 weeks.
For more information on joining a YWAM Medical Ships outreach, click here.

 

The Day I Met Fatou

We were out of registration paper for the lab, so we went to the local photocopy store. I stayed outside, I don’t like small stuffy buildings. I talked to people on the street. This women came up to me, she didn’t speak French, I couldn’t understand what she needed, but I shook her hand and felt something wrong. It didn’t feel right. I subtly looked down at her hand and right away I knew the problem. Knowing me, I bet my non-verbals gave it away! I must have had eyes wide open like a scared child. Most of her fingers were worn down, chopped off, looking like they were eaten away or rotten. This lady had leprosy.

I wanted to talk to her. I wanted to know if she knew! If she was being treated! If she needed medical attention before she lost any more of her fingers or toes!

Outside of the photocopy shop was a “fast food” joint. I thought I’d give that a go! Excuse me m’am.. could you help me translate? Fatou helped me talk to the lady and I found out that the elderly woman was known at the Leper’s house and had completed her treatment a while back. I was happy to let her go. She asked for money, I didn’t have any, but I offered to pray for her.

Once the elderly woman left, Fatou asked me for a gift in exchange for her translation services. I explained that I was a missionary and didn’t have any money. Then she asked for my earrings, I told her they were memories, she asked about my watch, I told her I needed it for work… She asked about my hair, I told her I had just cut it, it was already short, then she must have been joking, she asked for my teeth! I rhetorically asked who was going to pay me for the medical advice I provided, Fatou laughed and agreed to let me go.

My friends weren’t done printing yet, so I stayed with Fatou and chatted a bit. When I was about ready to go, Fatou called me back and ask if I could pray for her business like I had prayed for the elderly woman with Leprosy! I thought it was so sweet! That she would see the value of prayer and ask for me to bless her shop. So I did and also prayed for blessings over her family and all the students from the school that were having a quick bite in her shop. They all shouted, agreed and laughed.

I’ve seen Fatou every other day after that and she’d always make sure I’d have a seat in her shop to spend time with her and chat about life. I love that woman.

From One Place to the Next

I  do realized that most people would be a bit confused with all the different names of locations I’ve used in my newsletter and other posts, if that’s you; read this post and I’ll try my best to explain! And feel free to have a look at this map :)

political-map-of-Senegal

We left Gorom (YWAM Centre in Sangalkam, close to Rufisque on the map, just East of Dakar) to go on outreach in Kolda in the Casamance region (green section).

Sandra was afraid that we’d miss the bus as everything stops for prayer (muslim nation), but we were in luck and finally left and caught the bus to Dakar (capital from where we’d take the ferry to Ziginchor).

It was a slow but beautiful ride. Every now and again someone would jump on the bus and pay their fare to the lady in the cash box. The bus was packed by the time we got to the city! It was the express bus, it only took 90 minutes to get to the city. At other times, this ride can easily take 4 hours! We hopped off the bus at the taxi station and cabbed our way to the port! We found a cabbie that would take the 5 of us… Sketchy! They’d legally only be allowed to take four. Only after we were on our way did we realise that our driver wasn’t afraid to get caught by the police because it was prayer time and all the cops would be at the mosque!

We got to the port. our “cruise ship” ferry was waiting. It was massive like the MV PNG but reminding me of the shape of the link! A good mix between my two favourite ships! I slept most of the way but woke up in the early hours of the morning, I blame jet lag for getting me up despite all the medication I took (hey! One can never be too cautious to avoid seasickness! But the sail was really calm!)

When I woke up I went back on the upper deck and spent some time looking out to the horizon! It was so PNG! Unbelievable… I was so nostalgic! Then I saw a little girl, she was so PNG, I wanted to take her picture..! She came next to me, I started talking to her, her name was Mama :) We chatted for a while, I showed her pictures of PNG, she loved it, she must have scrolled through all my pictures, then she took selfies and we took photos together! I was amazed! How can a girl from the village even know what a phone is and take selfies!!!

We finally arrived in Ziginchor (large port in Casamance, on the map, the biggest city south of The Gambia) after 16 hours on the sea! We got off the boat and into the waiting bay to collect our luggage… Oh boy! The luggage collection was chaos! They placed all the suitcases into a garage then opened the door for all to roam through them and find our own bags! It was hot!!! Dripping sweat Ange!! We found everything and headed outside to catch our 7seater! Man… It was old! We piled the microscope bags in the trunk and everything else outside on the top roof!

I loved the road! Everything was so gorgeous! I commented on the quality of the road, and I got laughed at! Let’s just say I wasn’t expecting Senegal to be this developed. I kept comparing with PNG and thought it was amazing, while the guys from Gorom compared with Dakar their capital and were unimpressed.

We crossed many small villages… On the road we’d keep seeing road checks. At one point we had to get out of the car and walk through the check with our passports! It was mentioned that the military was there because “we’re in the land of the Rebels!” But eh! It felt safe… I think it’s called faith!

At one of the check points, the driver stopped the car, the soldier looked in, straight at me, I said hello and smiled. The soldier looked perplexed! Then he smiled back and said passport! I asked “Me? My passport!?” He said of course you! With a big smile! I pulled out my passport gave it to him, he looked at it, others handed identity cards, he didn’t look at them, handed everything back, asked Mustafa why he was laughing so much and some other questions in language and we were free to go!

I was then told I shouldn’t talk to the military! Oops! I’m glad I made him smile! Life would be boring all day doing road surveillance!

I must have slept the rest of the way… we finally arrived in Kolda. We’d be going in the villages 1 hr inland from Kolda on a daily basis.

Can We Come in Your village?

We arrived in Kolda on Saturday evening. We had been travelling for a day and a half, we were exhausted. We had a quick chat with our contact over dinner and decided that a small group of us would go to the village the next day to discuss our plans with the village elders.

I was very familiar with the process as we do this in Papua New Guinea all the time. We would meet with the village elders and chief to explain our mission and ask for permission to help in their village. In PNG it’s usually quite straight forward… most people have heard of YWAM, when the elders see us they invite us in, if we bring any medical services they’re twice as keen! In our introduction we usually mention our ship and our motto “Mi Laik Stap Laif” (I want to live) from John 10:10 and people love that about us!

In Senegal it was a fair bit different… We waited on a group of ~12 people prior to starting our protocol. “Ataya” or sweet Senegalese tea was poured out and the discussion started. It had to be translated in four different languages for everyone to understand!!! My YWAM family is so diverse, I love that we had people from 7 nations working together! Our contact spoke Wolof, the villagers spoke Jola or Guinea Creole, Sandra, the school leader spoke Portuguese, and I French! There was a lot of back and forth! I must say when two normal people meet on the street there’s no such thing as a quick “How’s it goin’!?” It’s more like: “Oh hi! How are you? Good? Good! I’m good, yes good! Oh it’s so good that you’re good! Oh good, we’re good! Well have a good day! Yes good day! Thank you :) Yes a good day!”  So you can easily imagine how this “quick exchange” becomes much longer when it becomes official and protocol for welcoming guests is introduced in it…! Haha!

The first difference I noticed about this introduction in the village was that we didn’t mention Jesus. We mentioned “Allah” or God, peace, joy, life, and health, as this is a highly muslim nation.

Our contact, a Senegalese man, introduced us as Sandra from Brazil, Angelica a Canadian from Australia and Robert from Mauritania. He went on to say that the reason that we were all there in his village was because we believed that Allah wanted to help fight Malaria in his village.

The chief of the village, a very devout Muslim man, expressed his gratitude for our coming and our concern for his people. He acknowledged the fact that God had brought us from far away lands like Australia! He then went on to say that since God was behind our project, bringing strangers in, he had no choice but to help; he would gather as many people as possible and help fight Malaria! At that moment I realized that my willingness to travel could I would have opened a door in this man’s heart. Prior to that day I had never thought that my presence alone, or the distance I had travelled could mean so much! In PNG people shout or clap when you come from afar but they never bring it up as something significant.

This man sure kept his word! Were we ever busy! We had enough work to stay in the village all week! We saw everyone from the village, then the school, and then I’m convinced from neighbouring villages too! Good on him for wanting to ensure people get access to life saving education, diagnosis and medication!

Village Leaders

Senegal – Jumping into the Unknown

When I first heard from Sandra, I started to dream of all the possibilities, but not for long, reason kicked in and I remembered that going to Africa was not part of my plan! I had all my work cut out for me for the next months and no finances to go, so I planned to politely decline the invitation.

Days ticked by and I kept thinking of this opportunity to join a team from YWAM in Senegal; to travel to remote villages in the African plain, to bring life and hope & to help fight Malaria. Sandra leads YWAM Gorom’s school of Malaria and she invited me to go on outreach with them in Casamance to do health promotion, diagnosis and treatment of Malaria. What an amazing opportunity! We see a large amount of patients affected by Malaria in PNG and I’m always up for a challenge, learning new things, see how we can adapt what they do and grow our programs with our medical ship, but also see what they do with Malaria and try to apply it to the main health issues we encounter in PNG such as Tuberculosis and HIV/AIDS.

The more time went by, the more I believed it was right to go even though it was getting ridiculously close to the feasibility deadline! After an encouraging chat with a friend and mentor, I decided to jump in and trust that my time in PNG, the “Land of the Unexpected” would have prepared me well to face this new adventure as I had no idea what I was getting into!

My first day in Gorom was spent in the lab where I read my first malaria slide! No rapid testing here! And when there wasn’t any access to electricity, Sandra would use a mirror to reflect the sunlight into the microscope, I never got to that level! When I first started looking into microscopes, the slides were already focused and malaria was in the field. I could pick up the malaria after a quick crash course and with the help of a cheat sheet :)

But it’d be a whole different thing when I’d set up my own microscope in the village and realize I hadn’t seen anything through a microscope in over 10 years! I had the hardest time even just finding the field! But I eventually got there and found my very own malaria parasite! They are tiny, tiny as!!! A little red ring with a glowing red dot! And then the reality of what I was seeing through the microscope hit me. This was a four years old boy… we’d soon find out that the whole family was infected. The older sister carried gametocytes; the kind of malaria that gets picked up by mosquitoes and spread around!!! No one in the family was sleeping under a net, and the sickness was free to roam. We were able to teach the village about the use of treated mosquito nets for prevention and provide them with treatment. In that village, half of the population was positive for Malaria.

Every time we visited a new village, we would first meet with the village elders and chief to explain our mission and ask for permission to help in their village. It was usually short and sweet, despite the fact that it was in four different languages for everyone to understand!!! My YWAM family is so diverse, I love that we had people from 7 nations working together! My favourite meeting was in Sare Hamidou, where the chief of the village, a very devout Muslim man, expressed his gratitude for our coming and our concern for his people. He acknowledged the fact that God had brought us from far away lands like Australia! He then went on to say that since God was behind our project, bringing stranger in, he had no choice but to help; he would gather as many people as possible and help fight Malaria! I would have never thought that my presence alone, or the distance I had travelled could mean so much!

Towards the end of clinic, I would usually have some time to just sit down with the mamas and chat. My favourite part of the day as I get to hear their stories and share the stories my friends in PNG! One afternoon, we looked at pictures of PNG… They loved it! They would stare at the different styles of houses, compare similarities in the culture and laugh at some of the differences. One mama decided to teach me how to ‘properly carry a child” so that I could teach the mamas in PNG. It was so good to see them take pride in their culture and share with me about their lives!

I felt very fortunate to be shown a wide open door into the lives of many in the villages and to be able to jump in very last minute to work alongside and learn from the excellent work that YWAM is doing in Senegal!

Taking this unexpected journey to Africa turned out to be one of the most uncertain, stretching and rewarding thing I’ve done in many years! I have learnt and experienced so much that I’d be ready to jump into the unknown again anytime!

Can I Be Honest!?

Can I Be Honest!?
I got scared.

I had NO idea what I was getting into!
I initially really liked the idea of being invited to join a team in Africa! Then quickly told myself that it was crazy, that I’d be too busy, it’d be way too expensive and turned it down in my mind. It was “the right thing to do”! I let reason win over faith.

I had decided that after 5-6 failed attempts at declining the invitation, today was the day; I would reply to Sandra! I owed it to her. I tried to type a polite response, but as I was thinking about declining, my heart was churning inside, I wasn’t at peace. (That’s usually when I KNOW I’m not doing the right thing!)

I prayed about it, talked to my boss,  we both had conviction I should go, I applied for leave and next thing I knew I had booked my ticket! Point of no return! I had absolutely no idea what I was getting into!

Then reason kicked back in with a “to do list”:

-Check Centre of Disease Control… Is there still Ebola!? Yellow Fever? Which type of Malaria Prophylaxis should I get?
-Book appointment for travel Doctor. I don’t want Yellow Fever!
-Register travel with Canadian and Australian embassies.
-Look at safety recommendations for Senegal. Turns out some regions are known for civil unrest, armed robbery and unexploded land mines!
-Find out from Sandra WHERE we are going on outreach…
-Safe water, electricity, phone/Internet reception?
-Dress code/food/language!?

I knew nothing, and the only clear answers I received weren’t helping!

I’m not high maintenance… I love the village, don’t need electricity or clean water, I just want to know what to expect.

No answer: prepare for the worse! (I expect the best!)

Everything felt a bit surreal. It hadn’t quite hit yet…
It’s only in Dubai that I finally realised that this was really happening!
Good bye Internet, I was on a flight to Dakar.

As I walked down the aisle to find my seat, I could see that everyone on the plane was a black or an asian men. I was the only Caucasian and felt really white! The plane was massive, my seat was literally in the last row! A man behind me harshly & demeaningly told me to move faster. Reflex kicked in, I instantly turned around and gave him the stare anyone would recognise as: “Don’t you dare talk to me like this…! I’ll take as much time as I want!” I wasn’t being slow by any means, I had just dashed across the airport, making the 30 min walk in 15 to catch my flight! I was simply being polite and letting people settle in their seats and put their luggage in their overhead compartments… You know!?

When I sat down I thought “stinking African man! I bet Africa would be a better place with less of those hooligans around!”
It only took a minute for the statement to sink in and my heart to be broken. I realised that I wasn’t carrying God’s heart and I still held on to my biases towards Muslim men. (Even though I have tremendous Muslim friends!) Flashbacks from Morocco ran through my mind. I started worrying about what Senegal would be like. I had no idea..!

God reminded me that He would look after me. After all, He had called me to Africa for such a time as this! That He would guide my every action and words. To hold on to His truth despite all the facts. To trust in Him.

My flight was nearly over… One of the flight attendant started talking to me. “Why are you coming to Senegal? Do you know anyone here? You’re alone, and a white lady! Be careful out there! Don’t get killed, Africa is a dangerous place!”

Great! This is exactly what I needed to hear! Thanks buddy! “What did I get myself into!!!???”

I got myself into what turned out to be an amazing experience! I learnt so much about the work of Gorom a sister location of our mission in Townsville, I learnt about microscopy and malaria… I thought I knew plenty about Malaria, but I still had heaps to discover! I saw a new way of doing outreach with a disease specific target… I realized that lab work needs a lot more time than I would have ever imagined! And I deepened my sense of calling for PNG. Even though I loved the experience, learning about new cultures, and meeting these amazing people, everything reminded of PNG and made me wish I’d be in my home; the “land of the unexpected” where I can communicate in the local language and recognize where people are from by their physical features. It made me realize how much PNG was now part of me and forever in my heart.

I can be honest and admit I got scared but I can also say that all my needs were taken care of, I felt completely safe, ate amazing food and that the worst part of the trip was the incident on the plane..! My God is faithful!

Oh… and the African men were quite fine! I didn’t have any more issues after the plane… I actually have many good memories and made great friends :)