September 13, 2004
I’m finally posting these! I wrote them a while ago, but don’t have internet access. We’re all okay, but Isaac has dysentery. He’s taking medicine so hopefully it will clear up soon. We’re in Comilla and it’s been raining for 2 days straight. The streets are flooded, but it’s delightfully cool and there is a nice breeze. We’re working on my apartment, buying furniture (difficult when the streets are flooded) and setting up everything. Hopefully I’ll get my own internet connection soon, I’m feeling lost without my email!
September 5, 2004 – We’re Alive!
I’m writing this post although I don’t know how long it will be before I can upload it to my blog. I’m not sure when I’ll get internet service.
We made it here without any major problems. It was a long journey, though, and this time Isaac was a little more restless than I remember him being on the last trip. He was pretty good for a four year old though. There was a guy at the airport holding a sign with my name on it when we got off the plane (just like the movies!) and he helped us with the bags and the customs part of the airport experience. We got to go out the back way, and avoided the throngs of people who flooded the front area. I felt like a movie star!
I met Shaheen Khan, who works at the Public Affairs section of the American Embassy here. She is going to be very helpful. I found out that she knows my advisor, and actually was a roommate of his daughter’s when they lived in Illinois. It’s a small world, huh?
We really didn’t give ourselves time to recover from the trip. Masud has such a limited amount of time here that we want to get as much done as we can right away. We have been running around and sleeping in spurts, and I hope it doesn’t catch up with us and make us sick. We are planning to go to Comilla pretty soon and get everything set up as soon as possible. It’s hard to live out of suitcases, especially when those suitcases were not packed based on a logical plan, but were stuffed with whatever was the right shape or weight. I’ll be so happy once I can unpack!
September 10, 2004 - One word: SAUNA
Yep, it’s hot here. I hate to admit it when Masud is right, but it’s true that I can’t survive here without AC. The humidity just saps the energy right out of you. I’m told that this weather is pretty mild. God save me when April and the hot season rolls around.
Other than the heat, things are going really well. We’ve accomplished a lot in the past week, and I’m feeling extremely confident about my project. I met with one of my research partners in Rangpur this weekend, and she is really incredible. I plan to dedicate an upcoming post to the past weekend and what I learned.
Isaac has already been sick. He barfed three times the other day, and then got a rash. He seems fine now, and I’m thinking maybe he just got overheated or something. Seriously, it’s that hot in here. He’s really happy to be here, although he misses his “partner” (grandma). I keep telling him that we’ll be able to talk to her soon, but I always forget to buy the calling card when we go out.
Dhaka is really an awful city. It’s so dirty and crowded and scary. I’m so glad I’m not staying here. The only redeeming factor about Dhaka is that you can occasionally get Doritos and Mountain Dew. Comilla, while much better than Dhaka, still has its safety issues to consider. Rangpur however is the most beautiful and peaceful place I’ve been so far in Bangladesh. It’s just recently been developed, and it’s not too crowded yet. It’s safe enough that people can walk around at night without worrying. I think I’m really going to enjoy my time there, and I might try to figure out a way to stay there longer than I originally planned.
September 11, 2004 – The Rangpur Experience
After a week of being in Dhaka and the suffocating heat, I was beginning to feel really overwhelmed and discouraged. We decided to go to Rangpur before going to Comilla because the two cities are in different directions and we want to stay in Comilla for a while once we get there. As soon as the bus cleared the edge of Dhaka I started to feel better. The Bangladeshi countryside is really beautiful and it helped me to remember why I wanted to come here in the first place.
Rangpur is about a 6 hour bus ride north of Dhaka. On the way up, we saw a bus that got too close to the edge of the road and rolled off the side. On the way back, one of our bus tires exploded. Fortunately it was a back tire, and the driver was able to maintain control. If a front tire had exploded, we probably would have been hurt.
The actual city of Rangpur is really beautiful. It has recently been developed and it has nice roads and buildings, and it’s not overly crowded. The streets are relatively safe and it’s a peaceful place. Maya and Masud-bhai (Maya’s husband is also named Masud, so for clarification I call him Masud-bhai) graduated from Rangpur Medical College, and Dr. Javed and his wife Dr. Tasnim (also graduates of RMC) both practice there. Dr. Tasnim, a gynecologist, is going to help me with my project, and she allowed me to shadow her for quite a while when we were there. I should have taken some pictures, but I was so amazed by what I saw that I forgot my camera was even in my bag.
First, we toured the medical college and I saw the facilities there, including the gross anatomy lab, where two dissected bodies were laid out! I had to tell Isaac that they were plastic and that somebody was making them for a movie. Then we went to the Rangpur hospital where Tasnim-bhabi is posted. She also has office hours at her clinic, and she allowed me to sit with her in her “chamber” while she saw patients. Her chamber is a small room, no more than 12 feet by 8 feet, with a desk and an examination table. She sits behind the desk and consults with patients from there unless an exam is necessary. In a three hour period, she saw around 50 patients. It was quite different from what I am accustomed to in the US.
First of all, the patient is called in by an attendant. The patient brings their own medical records along, which makes a lot of sense to me. Since patients might go to different doctors, they bring all their medical records, so doctors can quickly see their complete history. Sometimes two or even three patients are in the room at once. To me, with all of my awareness of privacy rights, this was really amazing. Especially since gynecological concerns are usually somewhat embarrassing and sensitive, I was amazed to see how people didn’t really mind having their business discussed while other patients were in the room.
If a pelvic exam needed to be performed, only the patient, the attendant (and myself) and of course Dr. Tasnim were in the room. Some women were not embarrassed by this, but some needed to be convinced that if they wanted to be treated, they needed to let the doctor examine them.
Another interesting cultural practice that I noticed was that the patient usually came in alone and consulted with the doctor alone, and then the doctor called in the rest of the patients family before giving the diagnosis. It seemed that this was to make sure that the patient had a support system in order to comply with treatment, especially in cases where a pregnant woman needed to be on bed rest.
After three hours of seeing patients, sometimes two or three at a time, and fielding phone calls at the same time, we went to the hospital where Dr. Tasnim performed a hysterectomy and a c-section. I was allowed to see both of these procedures. I had to change my street shoes into special sandals that they had in the OT (operation theater) and I wore a hat and a face mask. I was really amazed at how much energy Dr. Tasnim has. She had started working that day at 8 a.m., and finished the c-section at 11:30 p.m., and still wanted to go with us to eat at a restaurant after that.
The next day, I observed her in her chamber for a few hours, and then was lucky enough to watch Dr. Javed perform a laproscopic gall bladder operation. Right after that was finished, there happened to be a woman next door who was giving birth, and I got to see that as well! (And the pain of child birth came flooding back. Nevermore!)
It sure was a busy weekend, and I’m so excited about working in Rangpur. I have lots of new ideas to incorporate and I’m sure that this experience is going to be incredible!
Monday, September 13, 2004
September 13, 2004