Wednesday, 25 April 2012


Not written much lately, as things have settled down into a reasonable routine.
My cold has almost gone, my sunburn and cold sores are healing, and I am feeling better.

I’d prefer a hospital with regular running water, so the surgeons could scrub between cases. It would be nice if I believed the epidural syringes were sterile, and that re-using endotracheal tubes and spinal needles was OK. It would be good if the anesthesia machines included CO2 monitoring, and if the ICU had access to blood gas measurements. But I am more or less used to the way things are here in Addis and don’t let it bother me too much. Even walking up and down seven floors from the OB suite to the ferenji-acceptable toilets in the basement is pretty good exercise.

I am going to take some photos tomorrow. I want a picture of one of the OB residents checking the foetal heart rate. They don’t have any electronic monitors, so they listen with a small wooden cone which they push against the mother’s belly, while using the stopwatch function of an iPhone to time the heart rate! It’s a very strange contast!

Having been pickpocketed is in a way, rather liberating. I’ve already lost the one portable and valuable thing that will be a hassle to replace. Today, walking around an area notorious for pickpockets with five other anesthesiologists, I had about $20 in cash on me. Other things in my pocket were a cheap plastic comb, and the ferenji essentials, hand sanitizer and toilet paper. Do your worst, thiefs!

I saw a boy selling small packets of tissues harassing the Norwegian anesthesiologist, pushing his box of wares against her jacket, in a way that did not make sense unless – yes, he is using the box as cover while his other hand is reaching into her jacket pocket! As he was about ten and we outnumbered him six to one, I felt brave enough to grab him and pull him away. He knew the game was up and showed me his empty hand, so I let him go.

I met an honest taxi driver today. I needed a ride from outside the Ethiopia Hotel to our apartment, near the South African Embassy. He wanted 100 birr, I offered 80 and he accepted. I had paid 80 for the same trip the previous day, in a 40 year old taxi, the most decrepit vehicle I had seen so far, so I maybe should have tried for 70. When we got to the apartment I offered a 100 birr note, and the driver claimed to have no change. Yes, I know that is the first thing they teach in Taxi Driving 101, and no way was I going to let him get away with it. I tried offering $120 and taking 50 in change from him, but he was not prepared to let me stiff him for 10 birr. I took my 100 back and he withdrew his 50. I told him I would buy water from the shack across the road which serves as a convenience store. I bought 6 litres of water for just under 40 birr, so I had a little over 60 birr in change, which I offered the driver, then started looking for my other 20. The driver pointed out I had already given him 20 birr and we were now all square.

I wandered along South Africa Road to get some bread and juice at a supermarket. It turned out to be part of a huge complex, with a shopping mall, a swimming pool, a pool hall, a bowling alley and a trendy looking cafĂ© attached. There was also a gym, full of Ethiopian men working out on treadmills and with weights. I found that rather odd, but I couldn’t work out why.

Only two more days of clinical work. Tomorrow morning I have to go to the University of Addis Ababa to collect my stipend which might keep me busy for half the day. They are supposed to pay me $1000 US in birr, so that will be 17400 birr. The largest note is 100 birr, so I will be getting a wad of 174 notes. It is a bit crazy, but all the banks have rather cool banknote counting machines to save time and ensure accuracy.

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