Sunday, January 28, 2007

As has been previously documented in this blog. I am a far from an ideal parent. I even edge over towards being frankly bad. Latest example: Valentine’s vaccines aren’t up to date. At our latest doctor visit (just a check-up), the medecin waved the Carnet de Santé at me and said that she should have had a booster over a year ago. Ooops. Big oops, even. In a country where polio is at high risk of reappearing, it’s nothing to get lax about.
So, the great treasure hunt began. Finding vaccines here is no simple matter. The most basic childhood vaccines are often not available for months at a time. The drug companies have a lot to answer for. I hunted all over the city and no DT Coq Polio shot was to be found. I snatched up the last DT Coq (diptheria, tetanus, whooping cough) at a pharmacy in the center of town. But it lacked the polio vaccine.
I took Valentine to the nurse at the health center, so she could have the stuff injected.
The nurse suggested that we track down some oral polio vaccine. We tried at the Burkinabé national health unit downtown where they give yellow fever shots for a dollar. No luck. They said to try the Dispensaire Urbain, one of the national health clinics downtown.
It took a bit of searching, but we eventually found the group of low, crumbling cement buildings. It was very crowded, of course. The government health services aren’t free, but they cost much less than at private clinics. Valentine and I wandered for a while and ended up behind one of the buildings, where a young woman was scrubbing out a huge cooking pot. I guess we looked just as clueless as we felt, as she abandoned her dirty pot for a moment and kindly led us around front to the main door of the pharmacy in a large hallway. There were four other doors, all with long lines of people waiting to consult a nurse or doctor. The pharmacy line was short, but there seemed to be a problem. A slight young woman with long braids was pounding on the door.
“Sylvie!! Sylvie!! I know you’re in there! Open up!”
She pounded some more. Then she opened up her cell phone and had a go at that. No answer. Then she started pounding and shouting again.
Valentine and I watched the show and speculated. Who was Sylvie? Why would she lock herself in the pharmacy? Her pal pounding on the door sounded mad enough to kill her. “I don’t think I’d open the door until that mad girl gave up and left” observed Valentine wisely.
Then, a Person in Authority arrived. You could tell by the markers of power: A hefty physique, a huge pale-colored boubou in stiff, shiny, crackling bazin and plenty of gold jewelry. She sized up the situation and asked “Are you sure she’s in there?”
“Yes” the girl in blue answered ferociously. “She’s turned off her phone and locked the door, but I KNOW she’s in there! And nobody else has a key!” It was 4:30 and the pharmacy had been closed since lunch.
The boss-lady took the young woman outside and they walked across to another building.
I turned to Valentine and said “Enough fun. Time to investigate.” I’d been reading Lord Peter Wimsey stories lately and was feeling inspired. We went outside and turned right. A little farther on was a window, partially open. Using my razor-sharp detecting skills, I figured out that had to be the pharmacy. We strolled over and had a look. We could easily see in.
“Well, unless Sylvie is crouched under the desk in the corner, I’d say she’s not in there”, said Valentine. And she was right. The room was quite bare. Just one desk and some shelves. No rogue pharmacist was barricaded within.
As is too often the case in Burkina, the shelves in the pharmacy were very empty. There were just a few sad, scattered boxes. No sign of a refrigerator for storing vaccines. We turned towards the front gate and started walking to the car.
Life here is many things, but never boring.


MLW said...

Quite seriously, you're pretty much the best mother (whatever that means) I know. I'd be happy if I can be as wonderful to my kids as you are to yours.

My passport was getting dusty again, so am leaving Friday for 2 weeks in Laos with Bill. Not sure whether to pack my favorite pagne or whether I'll just look like a stupid hippie...

BurkinaMom said...

You are so sweet. Little do you know that I kept my flying monkeys and torture equipment hidden out back in a shed while you were visiting!

You are such a citizen of the world! I admire your spirit of discovery and adventure!!
BTW: Bring the pagne. It's a great conversation starter and you could NEVER look like a pathetic hippie.