Much of what we encounter here is tragic. Much is beautiful. Sometimes our experiences are instructive. Some are perplexing. And some, like the unpublished story of John and the creepy Nepalese guy clinging for dear life to the roof of their Himalayan van, are purely snapshots that are best appreciated by stepping back and laughing as the absurdity of it. And I'd like to use today's position in the liturgical calendar to share just a moment.
Against all my expectations, one of my major roles here at Tenwek thus far has been in the NICU (or the "nursery"), where we care for little 2 pound babies, as well as bigger newborns who are sick for one reason or another. Given that my training included a total of zero days working in such an environment, I've been scrambling to learn how to function there.
How does one provide food for the 30ish babies pictured above? Especially when many are too young or sick to breastfeed? And without making them dependent on formula, which most families can't afford after discharge? Well, the answer can be seen every three hours on the dot, as a parade of moms make their way into the nursery wearing matching green gowns (for infection control reasons). They wash their hands, and then sit on these short floor stools in front of their baby's incubator or cot. They then grab a couple very small plastic cups and begin to manually express their milk into the cups, which is then fed to their infant.
There is nothing particularly humorous about this, but now imagine the tall skinny white male doctor, confused enough by learning the ropes of neonatal care, trying to awkwardly weave his way through the crowded milking hour, in order to see a few babies. Every one in a while, he tries out his fledging Swahili skills and meets with about 25% success and 75% loud silence. Welcome to my world.
So, the Tenwek nursery is indeed a special place, for the 8th Day of Christmas visits the rest of the world only once a year, but in this one room, it comes every 3 hours on the dot.