Friday, 24 June 2016

Psycho Physio

So upset today. Been in floods of tears.

No, not the EU referendum, though that doesn't help.

Had my first physio session yesterday at Kigali University's College of Medical Sciences. I found them by contacting the head of the Rwandan Association of Physiotherapists.

They have a dedicated physio unit in town. As I showed in my Red Bananas post, I'm having trouble clenching my fist because the new skin is so tight. I went to see them to try to learn some exercises and to see whether they could do anything to help reduce the sensitivity.

Things started out great. Yesterday was wonderful. Came away almost able to make a fist and feeling as though we'd made real progress on the sensitivity issue.

Today did not go so well. In fact, I'd go so far as to say it was a disaster.

Same physio. Started out fine. He told me before that he would have to press hard so, when it became uncomfortable, I just assumed he knew what he was doing. We were talking about the EU referendum, so perhaps he was distracted. Then he went off on a spiel about how western countries allow homosexuality. He said "I don't know what your beliefs are, but..." at which point I did say "I'm bisexual." A friendly discussion ensued, but the pressure on my fingers seriously increased whilst we were talking. 

I honestly don't believe he intended to hurt me. I think he was just distracted. But by the time he finished I noticed a purple bulge against his palm. When I turned my hand over I realised he'd pressed so hard he'd split the new skin on my fingers. They looked like strawberries - big red blisters.

I was shocked. So shocked that I started to panic. One month on from the accident and my fingers were almost healed. To look down and see them bursting with puss again - I was frightened.

The physio ran to put ice on them, but it didn't make any difference. So, in tears (having just had my hand mangled whilst listening to my physio's personal homophobic outpourings), I walked up the road to my usual clinic.

They told me the physio should never have treated me because the skin is still too fragile. But he was a professional with six years' experience, working at a professional institution for physiotherapy, I really thought he knew what he was doing.

I was so happy to lose the bandages last week, but now I'm right back to where I was. They dressed my fingers well and told me it will be all right, but I was so upset - mostly thinking about what Nurse Moses will say on Sunday when he sees what's happened to an entire month of his work.

I'm also totally exhausted by the attitude of some medical staff. During the first physio session, the male physio tried to coerce me into inviting him to my house, acting offended when I said no. Then I had to listen to his uninvited opinions on LGBT people. Meanwhile, when I was enduring an hour of painful skin-stripping a couple of weeks back, the administrative manager of the clinic decided that, rather than listen to my music whilst undergoing the procedure without painkillers, now would be the perfect time to declare himself a Soldier of God and try to convert me.

"Now is not an appropriate time," I said, through gritted teeth.

"Now is the perfect time!"

"Now is not the time," I repeated, with such force he eventually left the room.

I went out of my way to make friends with him again before I left, but I seriously resent being made to deal with this crap when I'm sick.

Rwanda desperately needs an ethics policy for medical staff:

  1. Do not solicit female patients
  2. Do not offer your opinions on anything that may offend your patient or cause them stress 
  3. Do not talk about religion unless a patient wants to, and under NO circumstances try to convert them to your religion

Just really simple stuff.

They still charged me. Cost FRW 5,000 for the physio session, then 26,000 to undo the damage at the polyclinic. Safe to say I will not be returning.

After physio, I was supposed to meet up with Jo and Zuba for lunch, but when I called to say I'd be late, and explained what happened, she came to the polyclinic to collect me. I was so glad to see them.

She took me for ice-cream in Kibagabaga, then Pizza at Pili Pili, which is a gorgeous restaurant with a pool and an amazing view.

Even had a Rolls Royce parked in the drive!

Thursday, 23 June 2016

About Those Voters Who Couldn't...

I rarely get political on this blog. In fact, the last time was the Scottish referendum, so I suppose I only get political when there's a referendum...

If you're outside the UK, or inside it but bored to the back teeth of the Brexit/Bremain debate, John Oliver gives an entertaining overview above.

If you have been following the debate and would prefer a gritty review spat out in a tone that matches your gut-burning desire to punch someone in the face, watch Jonathan Pie below.

Either way, take five minutes to peruse #dogsatpollingstations, a very British response to the stress of pretending we know what the fuck we're doing when we clearly don't.

I'm currently fairly pissed off.

Months ago, I started the process to register as an overseas voter. 

Because I thought I'd completed this process, I didn't go to my local embassy's open day for voter registration.

I then had a panic when I looked again at the letter I assumed was an acknowledgement of my right to vote overseas, only to realise it was yet another form to sign and return, and the deadline had passed!

So, I wrote off being a voter.

Then I received an e-mail telling me the deadline had been extended and I still had time.

To be extra, extra sure of being able to vote, I not only scanned the form back to my district council, I even sent a copy home to the UK with a friend who posted it from Bristol Airport.

I received another e-mail congratulating me on being registered as an overseas voter and telling me I'd receive a postal vote...

...which I didn't.



When I e-mailed, I was told this was 'always a risk' with postal votes.

Really? Nobody told me this. Absolutely nothing on any of the literature I signed said: Yeah, good luck with this, you probably won't receive your ballot paper anyway.

I'm finding it hard to comprehend, in the twenty-first century, why we don't have an online voting system? Anyone who's ever had to use Government Gateway login to file self assessment or renew their road tax can attest to its level of security. It's so secure, even you can't log into your own account. 

I can review my pension, set up a child trust fund, even register a charity online, yet I can't tick a sodding box?

This isn't about people who don't register. This is about people who go out of their way to try to vote, and still can't. I've since heard from a lot of people whose postal vote never arrived. 

If you feel this is unfair, please take a moment to sign this petition to introduce online voting options.

Not that my vote counts, but I am for Bremain. 

It may seem a little odd that I'd vote independence for Scotland, but unity for Europe. 

Mostly it's a human rights angle for me. Scotland's record on human rights (no privatisation of water, you can't intentionally make someone homeless etc.) is better than England's, and that level of socialism would probably flourish outside the burning sun of England's rampant capitalism. I'd happily apply for Scottish citizenship.

For a similar reason, the anger and awfulness that's come to the surface during this campaign reinforces my belief that it would be dangerous for the UK to self-govern with absolutely no external mediation. Human rights cannot be self-governed effectively by any country. They always require external, objective mediation. That's the nature of human rights.

I have never been a huge fanatic for sovereignty or nationalism. I find it tends to be a distraction from more important things in life - like living.

As an expat and a globetrotter, I also have the standard concerns about what leaving the EU means for freedom of movement. I already have friends - a couple - who are forced to live in Spain because they are barred from the UK. The reason they are barred is because he, a UK citizen, had the audacity to marry an American citizen.

In a country that boasts of freedom, why should this matter?

Well, because they aren't rich.

If you don't earn a minimum of £18,600 per annum, who you marry is not up to you if you want to build a life in the UK. 33,000 people are already affected by this. Husbands and wives separated, parents separated from children.

How many might this apply to once we leave? Brits who married EU residents. 

And, as John Oliver pointed out, even if we leave the EU, we're still going to have to abide by its laws if we want to trade with them. 

That's just my reasoning. And, luckily for me, I really don't have to deal with the aftermath. At least, not for a little while longer. Every time I start to feel depressed about British politics, I look out the window at the sunshine and thank my lucky stars I live in a beautiful country 4,000 miles away.

My friend ‏@tattooed_mummy made a really good post, worth a read:  I want my country back.

Instead of talking about who gets to come to the UK, who's in, who's allowed, I reckon everyone should get out of the UK. Looks like it's about to implode. A bit of distance offers a different perspective on things. There are so many lovely places to live in the world. I don't know if it's the weather, our Neanderthal genes, or just that we hate our jobs, but for a country that has so very much, we're in danger of doing very little with it. We really are not the be-all and end-all of anything but our own adventures. Whether we're in the EU or not, we'll remain as divided as we are every time a referendum widens the fissures. There has never been a golden era of unity, any historical fiction author could tell you that. All we have is a golden opportunity to make life interesting, enjoyable and heartfelt. So we'd better get on with it, because time is running out. Every second of every minute of every day. 

Let's face it, if #Operationcroissant couldn't win us over with crumbly, buttery goodness, we're dead inside.


Tuesday, 21 June 2016

Red Bananas

(Warning: post contains icky photos of a bruised hand.)

Just had a really lovely lunch today with my friend Bhavin. We haven't seen each other in almost eight years! He's been living in Kindu, DRC. I wanted to go visit him last year but didn't make it. He's just been to visit family in India and stopped off in Kigali en route home. 

We had a lovely meal at Zen, then ice-cream at the MTN Centre. So good to see him again. Really lifted my spirits after a difficult week.

Continuing the finger fiasco, there's some good news and some could-be-better news. 

The good news is that Nurse Moses has performed a complete miracle. Today is 21 June, which marks one month since I put my had in a bonfire (it was a really fun night apart from that). 

It's been one week since my first round of bandages came off. My fingers looked the colour of the ripening red bananas I bought. Apparently, once upon a time, most bananas were red. Who knew?

Anyway, let me just remind you what my fingers used to look like (do NOT click that if you're eating). Looking at that, then looking at this, it's utterly incredible what the human body is capable of. I've watched a few burn recovery videos online, and this seems about normal for second degree injuries. Not quite Wolverine, but not far off.

My wrist is still wrapped up. It was recovering quicker than my fingers, but then I fucked up. Tried applying some organic lavender cream, but part of the skin was still weeping. When it touched, it pretty much burned a hole through it. Nurse Moses was not impressed, but he reckons it should be healed by the end of the week. 

I really am a shit patient - too impatient.

Had a mild panic when I put my hand in lukewarm water to wash it. I'd been told to use mild soap, and I'd infused the water with fresh rosemary and mint. But after I finished washing, parts of my hand turned deep purple. I was terrified I'd done something stupid again, but apparently this is completely normal. It's only around the joints, which were 'very badly burned'. After washing, I slather everything in shea butter which is anti-inflammatory, antibacterial and promotes new skin growth. Each day it's getting a little better. I'm so proud of my body for fixing itself.

It's been hard, though. A month with one hand. I shouldn't bitch. I have a friend who lost both his hands in an electrical accident. This is only one, and I've always known it's only temporary. But it has been exhausting nonetheless. Washing my hair and putting on a bra take twice as long. All the things I do to relax - play music, type stories, cook - have been either impossible or more stressful than stress-relieving.

One of the worst things is simply not being able to wash up (go on, try doing your dishes one-handed). So I have dirty plates piling up. I have to put them in a bucket and hire someone to come and clean once a week. After they're done I feel good again, but as they collect over the week it starts to depress me. I even have to ask someone to cut my nails for me. It's a lesson in humility.

Also had a reaction to the antibiotic cream the clinic were using. About half-an-hour after applying it, all I wanted to do was sleep or cry. Two rounds of conjunctivitis and a tiredness that could swallow worlds. Thankfully that's over now.

I have had people offering to come and cook for me, or take me shopping, but I'm dreadful at accepting help. I'd rather open a tin of beans with my teeth and lie down in the dark until things sort themselves out. I deal better with sickness when I don't have to interact with people. But I am grateful to know help is there if I really needed it.

Something else that was a little difficult the first time, is that Moses sometimes treats me in the same room where I said my final goodbye to Christiane. When I was in Karongi with Paul, I had a chance meeting with a woman at Bethany. We struck up a conversation. She told me she owned a hotel over the water. I asked if she had known Christiane. At which point she burst into tears, hugged me, and told me they had been neighbours and great friends. That set me off. So a couple of days later I find myself in Polyclinic staring at the bed where we'd shared a final meal of chicken and chips, and where I'd hugged her and said goodbye, fully expecting to see her again. It was the same bed I'd been lying in last August when I had malaria, and she'd sent me a final SMS of condolence.

I have to be honest, after a moment of tearful contemplation, I took a deep breath and drew strength from it. Fuck it, I thought, at last I'm not dead.

Compared to that, most things are fairly manageable.

However, I am feeling a little glum this week. Had a bit of a stress cry. When this first happened, I was very British about it: laughing with nurses and friends, quietly resigned to a few weeks' recovery.

What I wasn't in the least prepared for, was this:

I mean, seriously - what the fuck is that? I just grew my hand back, do I not get a break here?

Seems that was just the first stage. Next comes physiotherapy.

I managed to track down a physio who works near the clinic. Hopefully going to meet him on Thursday afternoon. Meanwhile, I'm stretching and clenching as much as possible throughout the day. 

Up with this I will not put.

At last I'm no longer a sign language interpreter.

Worse than the movement issue is the sensitivity. I can't touch anything. It's hard to explain. It's not exactly painful - it doesn't sting or throb. It's just highly uncomfortable. A horrible, prickly sensation accompanies even the lightest touch.

Tonight I've hooked a soft, extremely clean tea towel over the back of the sofa. I'm practising touching it gently. My theory is that if I continue to do this, my fingers will gradually desensitise. Typing and picking stuff up still feels like a long way off.

Monday, 13 June 2016

Food and Friends

Right, let's haul this blog up to the present day. Sorry - it's exhausting typing everything one-handed.

I have recently fallen in love with a little Korean restaurant behind RDB called Monmartse. I first went there after the three-hour skin stripping ordeal and cried into a large plate of noodles. For some reason my reaction to pain is 1) fall asleep 2) eat. I'm not sure if that's normal, but I either get incredibly drowsy or incredibly hungry. 

Anyway, the food made me feel so much better. It's such a secluded spot, perfect for reading a book. They also bring you free water. Last time the staff took pity on me and brought a free coffee too, and a mint. So much fun to eat there. Every main dish comes with a dozen side dishes, some sweet, some spicy. It's my new happy place.

Due to my injury, gorilla trekking was out of the question, but wonderful Senga came to the rescue and he and Paul sent me pictures along the way. They had a great time but ended up walking about four hours through thick mud. There's no way I would have managed it.

Rwanda Development Board (RDB) have been really great about it. They've let me reschedule my permit any time this year, so I'm planning to go with Jo at some point.

Had some good meals out. Went to Bamboo, which has a fabulous view of Kigali, and had our final meal at Khazana, which is the best Indian in town. Paul ordered a cheese and mushroom starter that was absolutely divine.

View from Bamboo

He flew out on 3rd June, leaving a massive stash of chocolate which has already gone. Truly enjoyed having him to stay, and the arm accident didn't impact too much on things.

My house helper Shania had to come and help make my bed. She did this to it, which is amazing. The ancient art of bedigami.

Things are progressing really well with the hand. It's been three weeks now. I was hoping the bandages would be off, but not yet. Nurse Moses reckons tomorrow for my wrist and maybe a bit longer for my fingers, but everything is healing well. My wrist is starting to itch like crazy some nights, but thankfully it only happens in short bursts. Really fed up of the dressing, but it's important to keep everything clean and well moisturised.

If you'd like to see how it's doing, here's a pic.

So, so much better than it was.

Starting to be able to stretch further in between dressing changes, but when the bandage is on I hardly move my fingers at all. They're going to be really stiff. Thankfully, I know a lovely guy, Sande. He's a trained massage therapist. Once the sensitivity goes down a little, he's going to try giving them a rub with lavender oil, which is supposed to help prevent scarring.

I raided Nakumatt the other day. Bought lavender moisturiser, shea butter and a massage oil with more lavender, frankincense, marigold and geranium (all good for skin repair). Testing them out on my scorched thumb in preparation. Seem to help.

Caught up with Jo the other day. Took the kids to the library and had lunch at the rooftop café there. It was very yummy, but Jo had to cut my food up for me.

It Didn't Look This Pretty After

My former Program Assistant turned Country Director, Maya, came to stay for a couple of days whilst her partner Vincent was working out of town. We drank too much and had a lovely time.  They threw a house warming in Kimisagara on Saturday. I was feeling totally whacked, but went for (you guessed it) 'one drink.'

Ended up in a nightclub at 1am after a fab house party where Maya cooked the most delicious Bosnian spread.

They kept me away from the fire this time.

Team Mayoga (Maya, Vincent, me and new recruit Khaze) will soon be reunited with original member Rose, who is back from studies in Belgium for a while. This could be quite disastrous in terms of liver function.

On top of that, my lovely friend Bhavin is about to arrive from Uganda. This is the guy I was going to visit in DRC but would need to take a UN flight to reach. He managed to visit friends in India and is going home via Kigali this weekend. Haven't seen him in about eight years.

On top of that, my favourite priest is arriving in a couple of days.

I'm a little too excited to speak at the moment.

Life is just so, so good.