Nomenclature

I was born on Tuesday. I’m telling one of the workers who stopped me on my way to the clinic. November 4th, 1986-election day, though I don’t tell him this. I had been walking the half-mile stretch from my house to the farm clinic, caught up in observing the road. I was thinking it fascinating that when the sun was out the ground took on a light cafe color, but as the sun went behind a cloud, a deep orange tinge seeped up, seemingly from under the dirt. If there was water it swirled, thick, making the ground appear like wet clay that could set at any moment. I don’t know why I found this so interesting, as my eyes followed the short staccato of patched grass lining the middle of the road. I’ve been in my head more than usual lately. I think without an outlet of an “other” to relay my observations, they’ve been building up in my head, causing me on occasion to all but completely remove myself from the present. The worker who stopped me had jolted me out of my head as he said hello, in Twi. He spoke more, my dumbfounded expression made him smile, and laughing switched to English. “You understand?” No, I admitted, I didn’t. He then asked me what day I was born, meaning day of the week, not date. I told him Tuesday, and he told me he would call me adina (or was it adima), either way, I had heard “edema” as in cerebral edema. I thought this strange, until repeating, I realized that isn’t what he had said. I kind of liked edema though, I’m not entirely sure why. Each day of the week has a name associated with it, a nickname of sorts. The little boy in the house shares the same day as one of many Johns who work here, so he has taken to calling him “name.” People, I’ve noticed have many names here, I’ve yet to figure out exactly why.

The morning was spent in the lab, reviewing stained slides, looking for parasites. It’s been a while since I’ve been in front of a microscope, but I found the motions easy, familiar, comforting. Looking through the eyepiece, I could be anywhere, except that a bug buzzes behind me since the doors are open to allow more light in. My fear, that the training and knowledge I had acquired in the past would be deeply hidden, difficult to extract. I was, thankfully, wrong. What had become second nature remained as such.  Working in the hospital in Tanzania, the lab was my refuge. I remember distinctly, standing near patients, unsure, and uncomfortable; I longed for the certainty of protocol, and reagents. Lab work is frustrating, and unpredictable, but it isn’t emotional, patients are emotional (and frustrating, and unpredictable). I knew then, what I know now, science is my passion and though I feel strong empathy for patients I prefer to be “behind the scenes.” I’ll develop the vaccine, someone else can administer it. It’s taken a long time, and the truth felt cemented today, no matter how much I may want to be able to work with people, that is simply not my forte. And it feels like such a gift, to be able to let go of the notions in the back of my mind that maybe, just maybe, I would be good with people. And perhaps I would, but I’m much more content where I am.

The heat is strong today, and I’m feeling tired, which I haven’t really felt since a few days after arriving. I’m looking forward to the weekend with plans of visiting the Volta region to the east to see waterfalls and go hiking (while hoping we don’t get rained out). Though it is only the middle of week 2, I feel the time here slipping away as I imagined it would. There was no initial stall, that first week where everything is new and seems to drag on forever. I felt adjusted almost immediately, and as a result, time has been flying by at a much quicker than the usual pace. This time next week marks the half-way point, I feel as if I’ve just arrived, and have so much to see!

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