Heat: the dry season has at last arrived, after a month and a half delay. The oppressive cloud cover broke in a massive storm, and since then mid-day temps soar, dust rises, rain is infrequent. It is drier, but not exactly dry, maybe a drop in humidity from 99% to 85% (I'm making this up) and a rise in temperature from 85 to 99 (well, not quite that high perhaps, but in the mid-day on the road it must be close). Kind of a Bundibugyo balance to keep the misery index constant. And child after child on the ward had temps well over that, 102 seemed to be the average today. HEAT, from the sun and from the body fighting infection, purifying. Purifying me, too, sweating it out, and pursuing contentment in all circumstances. Thanking God for two top nurses, Olupah and Asusi, pleasures to work with even in the heat, and a welcome sight on the Monday when all the rest of the medical WHM team happens to be out of town.
Bustle: The community alarm clock is a person whapping a metal wheel rim well before 6 in the pre-dawn darkness, because the primary school two doors down has decided to institute a boarding section. Meanwhile the hundreds and hundreds of non-boarding school students all began to flock on the roads today, assorting themselves into color-matched pods of one school's uniforms or another. Bodas carrying parents, trunks, people missing work to pay school fees, prayers, anxieties, scramble, the massive effort one can only appreciate in a country where 50% of the population is under age 15 and where education is seen as the ticket to success in life, and for the clan.
Beginnings: I watch my students' trunks being checked as they enter the CSB gates, greet teachers who are sweating through that onerous task, pop my head into the school nurse who is tasked with performing pregnancy tests on all comers, sit in the line of fee-paying parents. The bursars listen patiently to everyone's stories, dutifully marking down what payments are made, issuing receipts, gently chiding those who did not pay all their fees from last year, checking off lists, explaining the categories of payments. The staff and returning students mingle with hopeful parents, all greeting, recognizing old friends, a pleasant sort of chaos on the school porch. Staff with new duties look serious and determined to fulfill them. New signs are on the office doors. Deus smiling, quietly going about his supervision. I wonder how much grief underlies the day as people re-start life here without the Pierces; I know they are missed, and I suspect they are grieving somewhere on their travels, knowing school has begun. The sad reality of ways that part, of following a call they've heard to move onward, of being left here behind. We alternate between hopeful reassurance that life goes on and students and staff will manage, and weary wondering if all the loose ends they held together will unravel too far.
It is almost 8 hours since I left home this morning. I've seen two babies that will not likely live through the night, jaundiced and feverish and fragile newborns. Another whose mother bled to death less than six hours ago, leaving the family to cope with an orphaned newborn, which thanks to surrogate breast-feeding support should be possible. A 10-year-old in a coma, with signs of increased intracranial pressure, spinal tap looks very clear but waiting for results, prognosis also poor. Blood dripping into a child with sickle cell anemia, a hope-it's-not-too-late transfusion. A preemie who made it up to 925 grams today. Two new diagnoses of TB and one who is on his second week of therapy and finally starting to improve. There are knocks at the door, notices about meetings, complaints about water flow, flat tires and honking horns, and my own family who will expect a dinner sometime soon, good news from Luke that he's back in classes and out of quarantine as of Friday . . . And so another Monday passes.