Getting Schooled by Aviv

Yesterday was interesting for sure. It was my first day out without Braydan on my team AND we were in a new area. It was a little intimidating because I was super comfortable working with Braydan and sharing the responsibilities with one another; we were an effective team, and we knew we could rely on the surety of one another. Not that my new teammates aren’t sure of themselves and their ability to give aid, it’s just different trying to figure out a good system together.

We ended up going to a community that hadn’t been visited for almost a year called Dambwa. Andrew, our bus driver, dropped us off at the Mahatma Gandhi Clinic to meet up with Consula (pronounced Con-soo-la). The team was Caleb, Lauren, and myself, and after saying hi, we went out into the community. All of the people we met were very grateful for our help, but like Maramba, there wasn’t a ton we could do for them because almost all of them were suffering from the effects of hypertension.

I don’t know why this information hasn’t been passed along to the caregivers yet, but we don’t have access to medications for high blood pressure, nor are we qualified to give them out. But every person we visited asked us for medications to treat their high blood pressure. I feel bad every time we have to say no, but it really isn’t something we have or could get our hands on. The caregiver seemed a little miffed about that, but again, there’s not much I can do about that so… there was one older man who was so sweet, but he shuffled out with with an X-Ray and doctor’s notes from his most recent visit, and we all looked at each other with kind of concerned looks because again WE ARE NOT DOCTORS! We did the best we could to interpret the notes to him and give him whatever advice we could, but I couldn’t help but feel kind of useless at that point. However, all of the patients that we saw were very grateful for our help.

Overall, the 2 hours of the morning we were out involved a lot of walking and advising people to drink more water, eat less salt, and try to de-stress as much as possible. While it didn’t necessarily feel super productive, it was something. When we were finished, the bus came back to pick us up and we came back to the compound just in time for lunch.

With lunch finished, we had a few minutes before our workshop meeting with the other medical interns, so Braydan and I got in a couples rounds of ping pong and then got to work on creating/finishing our lessons for the next day’s workshops in the school. Because of the prevalence of wounds here, I chose to research and lecture on basic wound care, and Braydan decided to take on substance abuse, which is another big issue here in Zambia. The point of each lesson is that it is thorough enough to be printed and used by someone else to teach the lecture later on, so naturally I made mine seven pages long haha

After completing our workshop lessons, us medical interns met back up to go over our lessons in the group, discuss possible changes or helpful ideas, and format exactly how we envisioned the rotation to go. We made the pre-quiz for the workshop and hoped that it would be straight forward enough that the students would understand what was being asked of them. When all of that was finished, some members of the group left for the Sundowners activity (which surprisingly has nothing to do with Sundown Syndrome) while the rest of us decided to relax for the time being before lunch.

Naturally, Braydan and I gravitated back to the ping pong table. While we were playing, a guest of the LBP that we had seen a few times previously approached by asking, “Are you both still at it?” and asked if he could play the winner of the next round. It’s not like Braydan or I are particularly good at ping pong, but we can hold our own pretty well most of the time; furthermore, it’s not like this guy was way better than us by any stretch of the imagination. But for some reason, he smoked both Braydan and I at ping pong. He mentioned that it was probably because when Braydan and I play together, there’s an emotionally competitive motivation that keeps us going, and we just don’t have that competitiveness with a total stranger. Needless to say, we walked away with our tails between our legs a little bit.

Braydan and I played another round before deciding to sit down for a bit and wait for dinner. While we waited, the man that had schooled us earlier introduced himself. His name is Aviv (pronounced like Tel Aviv but without the Tel) and he is from Israel. We talked about why we are staying at the LBP, what we’re all studying, and since we’re all studying health, we discussed the differences in the healthcare systems and medical school application and admission differences. It was very intriguing to learn about another country’s system for training physicians and to then compare and contrast. I think the bottom line that came across to me was that it’s pretty much a universal standard to take some form of MCAT aptitude test before going in to medical school, and universally no one likes it.

We also learned while speaking with Aviv that the night club directly across from the LBP (which we can hear EVERY. SINGLE. NIGHT.) is actually pretty much a brothel. So that’s fun. But in all seriousness, it was saddening to hear from Aviv about his discussions with a woman that works at an NGO here to help girls that are prostitutes, along with his own knowledge from working for a similar NGO in Israel, that most of the prostitutes at places like the club across from us are actually girls from well-to-do families that experienced a lot of sexual abuse in their younger years, either by family or someone else. But still, that is extreme.

I think we often forget that those kinds of things happen, and far too often the victims are not able to receive the support, therapy, and closure that they need in order to move on from the trauma. I am grateful that I grew up in a family and in a safe enough environment that I never experienced that kind of trauma nor was ever exposed to even the potential of it, but I know that that is not as common as it should be. I had always wondered why girls would resort to selling themselves as a means to make a living, but with the insight shared by Aviv, it actually made a lot of sense. It’s tragic for sure, but it makes sense. I hope that one day we can live in a society where this kind of tragedy doesn’t occur, but in the mean time, I whole heartedly support and appreciate all the work NGOs like Aviv’s do to help empower these girls and women to get help and healing for themselves.

That was a lot of heaviness for one post, so I think I’ll sign off for now. Until tomorrow, ¬°adios!

-Gabrielle Bezzant

Author: Gabrielle Bezzant

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