I’ve spent most of the last 2 weeks living in a village in the middle of nowhere. No electricity, no cold drinks, no easy transport. We spent 4 days doing a nutrition survey – going house to house to ask about the food supply, and weighing all the kids under 5 years old. I’ve established that I am terrifying (I was hoping to just be a curiosity) and that I’m terribly clumsy (more on this later). We found 3 kids with severe malnutrition (in about 200) so it’s not good but not so bad. We haven’t analysed the rates of chronic malnutrition yet, but I’m getting used to four-year-olds the size of the two-year-olds I’m used to!
The other days I spent variously seeing patients out in the villages, in the IPD (inpatients department) of the village where we were staying, and sleeping off diarrhoea (thankfully only one morning!). I’ve learnt to “shower” by throwing dishes of cold water over myself (and how to tie a sarong so as to do this in public and stay decent – somewhat difficult when I’m not even supposed to show my shoulders!). I’ve discovered that Uno is a very good game to play when you do not share a language. I’ve learnt how to ask for eggs in Mon and intrigued the medics when I proceeded to decorate them for Easter.
So, after eleven days in the village, we did the 7 hours four-wheel-drive trip back and the next day, another 7 hours to Bangkok! Was quite surreal to be sitting in a 5-star hotel conference room for the Thailand MSF Annual General Meeting. Went a bit crazy stocking up on the luxuries not available in Sangkhla (Earl Grey Tea and Gin & Tonic) and even found an Indian restaurant.
So now am back in Sangkhla. We’ve have a few staffing changes amongst the expats and next week the new doctor will arrive, to replace V, who has to return to France. It’s Songkran festival for 3 days next week so the plan is to hire a houseboat on the lake and do very little. For the Thais and Mon people, it’s a time to spend with family and (as far as I can tell) throw water all over each other to welcome the rainy season. Am looking forward to a bit of a rest!