Friday, July 09, 2010


No, we did not take Sophie with us to Amsterdam, but I did want to mention before I share more of our trip that Sophie just celebrated her 2nd birthday on Wednesday. Happy Birthday Miss Sophie!!!!

One other exciting piece of news is that R & M had an ultrasound while we were in Africa and discovered that they are having a BOY!!!!! A grandson. Wow. I have now cast on my first knitting project for him - a pinwheel baby blanket in Cotton Supreme. It is a fun, easy pattern and this yarn is so soft and yummy!!! Not sure what I will knit after this.... Any one have a 'favorite' baby item that they have knit?? I am so excited to meet this little one.

Ok, now on to Amsterdam. We decided to take a few days after Africa to unwind and process all that we had experienced before jumping back into everyday life. We had a wonderful couple of days.

Amsterdam is a city that is actually below sea level and is kept dry by a series of dams and canals or something like that. We toured much of the city by boat. This was the canal that was right out front of the bed and breakfast that we stayed in.

The cobbled streets lined with quaint shops were one of my favorite places to explore.

We happened to be there during one of the World Cup games that Holland was playing in. The town was CRAZY.... filled with orange people!!!! And rightfully so..... Holland plays Sunday for the Championship. Cheering with you, Rolf!!!! Hup Hup Holland!!

One thing that is so cool is the number of people who used bicycles as their primary form of transportation. Bikes are every where!! And what is nice is that they have bike lanes along every street, complete with their own traffic lights and road signs. I think that this really contributes to the fact that obesity doesn't seem to be an issue. Very few people own cars. They either bike or walk. I don't think I've ever walked as much in recent months as I did during our days there.

As is true of most of our travels, we experience a new place through the food!!! (What can I say, I like to eat!!) This was one of maybe several gelatto cones that we consumed during our visit...

Poffertjes are tiny pancakes that they COVER with whipped cream; powdered sugar and fresh strawberries. Oh yeah. They were yummy!!!

I was determined to experience their french fries that they cover with mayonaise of some sort instead of the typical ketchup. I went with a curried mayonaise which was pretty good. But I honestly think I would have preferred ketchup. But when in Rome... (or Amsterdam in this case)

Finding quaint cafes to have an early dinner at is always fun as well. The pace is unhurried. You practically have to beg for your check and they look at you quizzically wondering why you want to leave. Relax. Slow down. Enjoy.

The Dutch are very in to their cheese and there are some amazing cheese shops to go into and sample. We brought home a few small rounds which we have been enjoying.

We did take a short day trip to Harleem, Holland, which turned out to be a wonderful, quaint city. I think next time I would opt to stay in Harleem and take day trips to Amsterdam!!! One of the places we visited was the Corrie ten Boom house. It was here that Corrie and her family hid Jews and members of the Underground during the war. We also visited the Anne Frank house in Amsterdam. The horror of war becomes more real when you go to the actual sites of events you have read about for years.

The weather was perfect while we were there. We enjoyed long walks along the canals and in the parks. We stopped and rested and enjoyed reading in the sun; talking through our Africa trip and just being together.

Now we are home and pressing on. We have a quiet rest of the summer and hope to get some things done around the house.

And dreaming of Africa.....

Until Next Time....

Monday, July 05, 2010

Jos, Nigeria... (Part 3)

In this final post on our trip to Nigeria I want to share what really made this trip so special, and that is the people and the relationships that we developed with them during our time there. Not only with the other members of our team, but with the many Nigerians that we worked alongside. This has been the hardest post to write.. having to confine what I feel to words and keeping it short when there is so much to write. Suffice it to say this just barely scratches the surface.....

Our team was composed mostly of doctors from around the world. I was one of the few non-medical team members. I was kind of hoping for a honorary medical degree after sitting through the many talks on the diabetic foot; advances in breast surgery; mesh hernia repair etc... I think my inability to look at the pictures automatically disqualified me!

This doctor with Steve was one of the main planners of the CME conference and used to be the Dean of JUTH. He and his wife (an opthamologist) now run their own hospital in Jos and are starting up a teaching hospital in a town several hours from Jos as well. He was very open about the many challenges they face in both situations.

His son is a computer software genius and was at the conference as one of the IT guys. He and Steve bonded despite the fact that he is not a MAC guy. (He does have an IPhone which did carry some points!!)

Keith and Carol were the leaders of our team. They had lived in Nigeria for 20+ years as Keith worked as a doctor and worked with and mentored medical students. Many of those students are now doctors in positions of great influence and are mentoring the next generation of medical students. For Keith and Carol, going to Nigeria is going home to family. This woman is the daughter of a couple they had in Bible study when they first moved to Africa. How exciting to be working along side the next generation!

Esther is a lawyer who has taken time off of work to raise their daughter. Her husband is a surgeon who was part of the team putting on the conference. She is currently learning how to sew clothes for herself and her family and explained to me the process of choosing fabrics; patterns etc.. as well as demonstrating how to secure a little one onto your back. She even made a few wraps for me to bring home for M to use with our grandbaby.

I had the privilege of babysitting Esther's little one during some of the retreat. What a precious little girl.

Bash and Esther reminded me so much of Steve and I years and years ago with 2 little boys and a third one on the way.

Steve and Zack - the head of The Navigators in Nigeria. How exciting to meet him and hear more about the Navigator Ministry in Nigeria

One thing that struck me is the names of many of the people. They are rich in meaning.
Here is a young man named Godsend with his wife and son.

Carol and Comfort. Comfort is one of the physicians who works at the HIV clinic I spoke of in the previous post.

Blessed. That is his name. Very fitting.

And then there were the Steves. Lot of them. Here are just 4 of the 6 or 7 that were a part of the week. My Steve pretty much stopped responding to his name because it was said so often.

Bart and Rolf were two of the docs on the team. Bart is an endocrinologist from Mayo Clinic in Rochester and Rolf is a pediatric gastroenterologist from Holland. So enjoyed getting to know both of them. Rolf kept us all cheering for The Netherlands in 'football'. Hup Hup Holland!!

Curt and Linda are both surgeons from North Dakota. They had lived for the Congo for many years and had stories that were absolutely amazing. What a gift to spend time with these two. Well, with everybody.

I wish I could list every body on the team; at the conference and at the retreat, but that would be too difficult so I will end here, holding this precious little girl with Carol and Brenda (a nurse from Texas). Note the mammoth mango in Carol's hand. Yum!! I am already looking forward to our next opportunity to go to Nigeria.

Oh, I wanted to also introduce you to someone I have 'met' since my return from Nigeria. Sandi commented on my first Nigeria post and I have since learned that her daughter lives in Jos and has an incredible ministry working with HIV/Aids victims. Check out Mary Beth's blog here. Turns out that some of the items I purchased (and can be found here) to bring home were made by the women that Mary Beth has taught to sew. Next time we go to Nigeria we will meet in person. I'm looking forward to that.

Next post I will share about the few days we spend in Amsterdam on our way back to the states. Hup Hup Holland!!!

Until Next Time....

Saturday, July 03, 2010

Jos, Nigeria... (Part 2)

We had one day that we were taken around Jos. We boarded the bus provided by JUTH and experienced more of the sights and sounds of Africa.

The traffic convinced me that I would NEVER want to drive a car in Nigeria!! Motorcycles loaded with 2-3 people weave in and out of the traffic constantly. The driver honks when he passes; when he turns; when he cuts in; when he does anything, basically! Times that by EVERY driver on the road and all one hears is the honking of horns!! I lost track of the number of what I felt were 'close calls'.

The roadsides were filled with open markets and people selling their wares. Chicken anyone?

Or perhaps a small bag of peanuts from the top of one of these precious girls heads? How I would have loved to know the life story of one of these girls.....

The fruit stands are amazing and we had fresh fruit each day.. usually for dessert.

We went by the sight of a market that had been burned during one of the many uprisings. The couple we were with who had been missionaries there for 20 years spoke fondly of their many shopping experiences at the market and ached for lives and livihood lost in the devastation.

We did stop at 2 small shops and I was able to purchase a few things to bring back from our trip. Maybe another year things will be not quite as tense and we can move around more freely. For now being cautious was just ok by me.

Mangoes anyone?

Two of the Nigerian physicians that we came to know both work at the PEPFAR Aids clinic in Jos. We were able to get a tour of the clinic and hear about this AIDS relief program put into place by George Bush in 2003. Whatever your personal feelings are about Bush, this single act has saved thousands and thousands of lives. The Africans LOVE him and many are alive today because of this initiative. And Obama gets a Nobel Peace Prize. Go figure......

The children waiting in the children's waiting room were the hardest to see. AIDS continues to be epidemic in Africa. The clinic is currently treating over 20,000 Aids patients and diagnosis's 20 new cases every day. But the clinic has given them hope.

It was an incredible day. We then headed to a retreat center 20 miles out of Jos. More to come on our time there in my next post. I will also 'introduce' you to some of the people who we now call 'friend'.

Until Next Time....

Friday, July 02, 2010

Jos, Nigeria.... (Part 1)

Two weeks ago today, Steve and I boarded a plane headed to Abuja, Nigeria and then boarded a bus and headed up to Jos. We were so thankful for the support and prayers of friends and family as we entered into an area which the State Department has listed as an area for 'essential travel only' due to the unstable atmosphere and recent unrest. We were part of a team of doctors representing 'Africa Medical Partners' (under The Navigator ministry) who were going to teach at a Continuing Medical Education Conference at Jos University Teaching Hospital. (JUTH). Half of our time was spent at the conference; followed by a 3 day spiritual retreat for the African Physicians and their families. What an incredible experience!!! It is hard to even know where to begin.

After roughly 24 hours of travel, we landed in Abuja, Nigeria and were taken to a guest house for the night where we met up with some of the rest of the team members. We also begin to meet some of the many incredible Nigerians who became near and dear to us during our short stay.

The following morning, we loaded a bus and started on the 4 hours ride up to Jos. The traffic is unbelievable. Words cannot describe the sights and sounds.

And then there were the 20+ military check points that we had to go through with guards posted carrying AK-47's.... We were certainly not in Iowa anymore! (Sorry Paul, I decided against your advice of photographing the guards.....)

Cows on the road was another detour that we seldom see in Iowa. (ok.. NEVER see in Iowa!) They have the right away and it is best to stop!

We arrived at the guest house in Jos Sunday evening and unloaded the suitcases. Most of these suitcases contained medical equipment that had been donated to the doctors and the hospital. There were also suitcases full of requested books and items for the Navigator team ministering in Nigeria.

Late that evening there was a get together in the back garden of the guest house to meet some of the conference planning committee; hospital officials and a few government officials. Anyone who has been to Africa will tell you of the gift of hospitality they have. One feels instantly welcomed and a part of the family. And laugh. We decided they have a part of their brain just designated for laughter!

Monday morning found as at JUTH for day one of the conference. The 600 bed hospital was started 20 years ago, but due to disruption (and corruption) in the government, it was only completed last year. From the outside it looks incredibly nice, but they deal with power outages; lack of running water (imagine running an operating room without running water!) and a leaky roof.

Steve gave the first talk during the opening session. It was on the role of computers in medicine. He had been told there may or may not be power for his presentation, which made him a little nervous. Fortunately, the power stayed on for the duration of his talk, which went extremely well and was well received! (The power did go out about an hour later and remained off the rest of the afternoon!) This photo shows Steve getting me ready to run his slide show for his talk. Rolf, a pediatrician from Holland, looks on.

Steve and Rolf did several workshops in neonatal resuscitation. Steve is a natural teacher and was very much in his element.

His first group of students through the session.

Later he did a smaller hands-on workshop to give the attendees a taste of what is available to help with medical practices on their PDA'a and computers. It was fun to see them all hover around him and his IPad!

My 'official' role was that of photographer. We are working on a DVD and brochure that could be used to encourage doctors to be willing to participate in the conference in the years to come.

We board the bus and head back to the guest house after a long day. The leaders of the conference have decided to not take us out at night as they have done in the past for safety reasons. That is just fine as we are all exhausted and ready for some sleep.

Tomorrow I will share some of what we experienced out and about in Nigeria.

Until Next Time....