Even after all this time of living here in Zambia, I still get caught up by what people may not have been exposed to and therefore never learned.
Several days ago Joseph landed wrong on his leg while jumping on the trampoline. The nannies brought him to me immediately and I couldn't see anything amiss, but his knee seemed tender so I gave him some Arnica and then had them wait and see.
Later that afternoon they brought him to me again and said he'd been crying a lot. He really didn't want his leg messed with so I wrapped his knee in an ACE bandage and gave the nannies a ziploc bag of ice instructing them to wrap it in a cloth diaper and apply to his knee. I also gave him some Ibuprofen and planned to dose him every 8 hours to combat the swelling and pain.
A couple hours later I checked on Joseph while they sat in the dining room watching an Einstein Baby video. I was puzzled when I found a wet, cloth diaper tied around his knee on top of the ACE bandage. "Where is the plastic bag", I asked. It was sitting in the sink--empty--all the ice had been emptied into the cloth diaper and tied around this knee where it slowly melted.
I was tempted to be annoyed, but I realized they had never dealt with ice packs before. How would they know how to best use it?
A couple days later as I closed everything up for the night, I gave the bottle of Ibuprofen to the night nanny and gave her careful instructions on when to give Joseph his next dose. I even had her repeat them back to me to be extra sure.
I had forgotten something important though.....
The next morning when I opened the door for the morning shift, I stopped by the nursery to check on Joseph, and to collect the bottle of Ibuprofen. I don't like to leave medicines down in the nursery where a child could get ahold of them, or they could be given out indiscriminately, or perhaps go missing.
When I picked up the bottle the cap looked odd. I realized that the outside plastic cap had been popped off and was sitting askew while the child-safety mechanism was still on the bottle. It hit me instantly. I had never taught the nanny how to open a child-safe bottle before.
Medicines here are mostly dispensed in ordinary bottles, or tiny plastic bags. No child-proofing here.
Now that I knew my mistake I wondered if Joseph had even been given his medicine as I was told? Had the nanny wrestled with the bottle and given up when the top part of the cap 'broke off'?
I carried the bottle up to the house and Tom and I both tried to figure out if she might have been able to pop the lid off. We tried with all our might to get the lid off and failed. I decided to just wait and see how Joseph did so I didn't overdose him.
The following night I left the bottle down in the nursery again. This time I took time to teach the nanny how to open the bottle. I handed it to her and asked her to open it. She twisted and turned and eventually pulled the lid completely off--liquid flying across the room--but she'd gotten it off. I was shocked! Tom and I had tried with 'all our might' and yet failed. How had this nanny done it? The conclusion we drew was that we are afraid of breaking it. We will take it to a certain point and then hold back because we don't want to spill, damage or destroy the bottle.
Also, Zambian women have really strong hands.
I did eventually teach her how to open the bottle properly though it took time. "Push and turn at the same time". She would push down. Let go. Then turn. Over and over and over.
While we see it as a simple, mechanical device, it is mysterious to our staff members and so they can't 'see' how it works. It's just a lack of exposure.
It's not about smarts, it's about experience. I, for instance, have no idea how to plant, harvest, process, and prepare cassava. I could learn, but it would take me a while.
It's a good thing I am here for the long haul. I have a lot of teaching and learning to do.
P.S. Joseph is doing just fine now. He is using his leg again without any problems.
Exactly Three Years Ago: Where I Live (some things have changed, but it's close)
Exactly Two Years Ago: The Faces of Kazembe Orphanage