Not my sector

After being installed in the tiny village of Ichirnawa at the start of my service, my days consisted of walking around, greeting people in Hausa, getting to know my neighbors, and adjusting to daily life. One place I liked to sit in the morning was at the 2-room health clinic, where the nurse spoke French and there was always a pot of tea brewing. One day within my two weeks in the village I was hanging around at the health clinic as usual with my friend the nurse. He disappeared inside, and when he came back out he invited me in to see something. I entered the small room and there was a woman lying on the table, about to have a baby!

My first thought was that I might be invading her privacy; that she may not want some strange man in the room. I quickly realized this was not a concern for her; she lay there grunting and swearing, paying no attention to me. 

My second thought was that witnessing the miracle of life was a very intense experience, and that it can be overwhelming for some guys. I reminded myself to just stay calm. The nurse poked around on her stomach, she began pushing, and within minutes she had given birth to a baby girl. It took all my self-control to remain poised while I held gauze or handed my friend various instruments. After the baby had been successfully delivered, I suddenly felt very light-headed, and had to excuse myself. While the woman's friends went in to see the baby, I sat outside the health clinic for a full ten minutes, breathing deeply to clear my head, reconfirming what I had just seen. I decided that was enough cultural integration for one day, and spent the rest of the day at home, still felt slightly numb. 

To this day I don't know why my friend invited me to witness this. He knew I was trained in agriculture and not health. He was good at his job, and clearly didn't need my help. Maybe he wanted to impress me with his work, or shock me to see how I would react. Or perhaps he just wanted to show me exactly what I needed to learn- what daily life was like for people here. 

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“Sunset at the Railroad” by PCV Nicholas Baylor Hall. Namibia, 2011.