Thursday, October 12, 2017

Greetings and morning routines...

I'm starting to get a morning routine. On the days I go to the hospital, the same keke driver picks me up at the same time. I come out of my compound to find his keke parked by the side of the road and he's usually just around the corner eating breakfast from the little stall under the tree where the college-aged girl fries up yam and kosai for the morning customers.

Photo credit
When we arrive to the hospital gate, the guards let us in without a question (kekes are not usually allowed into the hospital compound) and always greet me with,"Sannu likita! Ina kwana?" (Good morning doctor(fem)! How was your night?"

When I walk up the steps of the VVF Center, I call out greetings to the women and children sitting there. They're usually doing laundry, eating breakfast, caring for their babies, or just enjoying being outside.

Photo Credit: Dr. Steven Shephard
Then I greet whichever nurse or aide is sitting at the table in the foyer (usually admitting patients to the VVF ward, answering questions, or looking for patient cards), poke my head into the nurses' office and greet anyone there, wave and call out "Sannuku!" (Hello all) as I walk by the VVF ward, and then see if any of the surgeons are in their offices to greet them.

Photo credit: SIM archives
Photo credit: SIM archives
Once all of that is completed, it's about 9:15am and I'm ready to join the doctors for rounds of the VVF ward, assist as a clerk in the Tuesday VVF clinic, or see my caseload of patients.

Greetings are a big deal here. It's super offensive to ignore a greeting and many times someone has had to tell me, "Kate, she/he is greeting you." Ooops, sometimes I just didn't hear it!

At the end of the day, I make my way around the VVF center saying goodbye. The proper response is usually something like, "Sai gobe?" (see you tomorrow?) or "Sai an jima, ki huta gajiya" (see you later, go and rest your tiredness.) I answer with, "Yaowa, sai gobe. Allah ya kai mu." (OK, see you tomorrow. God take us.) And as they call out with the proper "Amin" (Amen), I'm out the door.

Then something unusual happened this afternoon. Maina* (you've heard about her from my newsletters, name changed) had returned to the center, bringing about 15 women with her who had some sort of urinary incontinence or fistula problem. When I came down the steps after work, she saw me and called out, "Sannu likita!" and came over to give me a hug. After exchanging a few greetings, she told me an entire paragraph in Hausa that I didn't catch....

So I greeted her again and then turned to greet the other women sitting on the steps. One of the ladies had a very young infant with her, so I went to go and take a closer look. As I reached out to touch his tiny hand I heard Maina laugh. I looked up to hear her saw, "Likita, ki son yaran!" (Doctor(fem), you like children!) Maina has seen me enough times to know that if there is a cute little African baby anywhere in the room, I must go over and say hello. She also knows I will greet the mother and immediately peer around her back to greet her child she's carrying on her back. I replied in Hausa that I like children, but I don't have any--and they all laughed (whether at me and my poor Hausa or the content of my statement, I don't know!).

Then they all proceeded to gather around me and someone pulled out a phone and started taking photos of me. The concept of the selfie has made it here to Nigeria and young Nigerians like to take all sorts of posed photos of themselves, but these women seemed to prefer just having a photo of a westerner in their flip phones. So of course, I had to pull out my camera and show them how a group selfie is done...

So with their friendly laughter in my ears I turned and walked back to the gate to flag down a keke to take me home. It's nice to know that when I return tomorrow they'll be waiting for me again with a fresh set of Hausa greetings... because you never if the state of  someone's family and house and husband and children and on and on and on may have changed overnight!