I grew up with the notion that you ate fish on Fridays. It was school that did it, that instilled the idea, and school dinners on Friday were all the better for it. We had been looking forward to the fish for 10 days especially as it might be kinder on the stomach than the goat, beef and chicken and also because we preferred not to eat fish until we could have it fresh from the sea. We had not reckoned with Fridays.
The day started at the offices of HPA – Health, Poverty, Action – in Berbera town where I was delighted to meet friends I made over a camel steak dinner in the Ambassador Hotel, Hargeisa in February. Rohid, the programme director, welcomed us with open arms and in his best Nepali English to which my ear has adjusted now. He has R&R (Rest and Recuperation) every two months so the opportunity to visit his home in Kathmandu is a regular one. Wesley is Kenyan and Nairobi is not far away although a house in Nairobi is never ‘home’ to a Kenyan whose family in near the shores of Lake Victoria.
We were to meet the Regional Medical Officer and the Hospital Director prior to their day with DFID representatives on a visit to check out the projects they sponsor. It was good to see Bashir again on his home patch – he was in the first group in Hargeisa – but a surprise when it dawned on me that he is the RMO, the big chief, in Sahil. He qualified as a doctor in 2007. That shows how depleted this country is of experienced and senior medical staff. He is enthusiastic and bright and determined to learn and develop his skills and no doubt his experience of managing a service will grow rapidly. He is proud of the care offered in Berbera Public Hospital and we are looking forward to comparing the standard of care in the maternity here with that in HGH. But not on Friday apparently.
Since the RMO and HD were busy with the important visitors (funding coming a little higher on the agenda than training) we would be spending the day at HPA preparing for Saturday and Sunday morning as we leave again all too soon for Hargeisa.
The HPA office has AC, at least some of the rooms have, and the contrast with the air outside the office, even in the corridor, was striking. We were pleased to prepare in comfort accepting that we cannot change the inevitable; we are rapidly becoming old hands at ‘flexibility’ and my prior experience of Cambodia is coming in very useful. So we have prepared an all singing all dancing presentation on the use of the partograph involving two projectors simultaneously, a wall chart where we can project a blank partograph and invite participants to fill in the data points on the wall, and an unfolding scenario involving the management of labour in a patient with a previous Caesarean Section scar. You can imagine the pitfalls already. We are depending on the power supply, the projector bulbs (in this heat) and the skills of the operators (us) …
Lunchtime was the disappointment over the fish. We had called our driver (and our police escort) on the phone, our saliva and gastric juices were beginning to flow (we really have recovered from that tummy bug) and we discovered that the fish restaurants have no fish because the men are all in the mosque on Friday morning. We should have known. No matter. Flexibility and self-discipline kicked in and we enjoyed goat with Rohid and Wesley, and the nearest thing to dahl baht takari outside of Nepal.
Fish will have to wait until later.