Working with the Dispensaire Saint Laurent

In terms of practical experience, I was most excited for the work I would be doing while studying abroad. The Dispensaire Saint Laurent is a catholic community clinic that provides primary care to anyone regardless of religion, sex, ethnicity or any other socioeconomic marker. The dispensary also has a maternity ward. I am helping the Dispensaire Saint Laurent with the following:
-statistics (on Excel and Access)
-financial presentations (PowerPoint)
-creating a website (pet project for me, probably through a free and easy-to-modify medium like WordPress.com)
-suggestions for efficiency

Today’s entry would have been mostly about how I kept messing up on the French keyboard (AWERTY instead of QWERTY) while I created French documents in French Excel and French Word, except this happened:

It can rain hard in Sub-Saharan Africa.

Because of the rain, I stayed at the dispensary and chatted with Soeur Solange in French for an unknown amount of time*. I think the sisters liked me for getting a huge amount of work done and staying late because then they treated to me a petit repas! They’re so underpaid and I knew that this was probably a big deal.

But also, anyone who knows me knows that I am extremely picky and that I have very high standards when judging things, and I want you to understand what I mean when I say this chicken was phenomenal. Unbelievable smoky flavor permeated completely through that I have yet to have found in Berkeley’s many upcoming BBQ spots. Browned skin encrusted with crushed peppercorns.

Aujourd’hui sera inoubliable [Today will be unforgettable],” said Soeur Clémence. Also I need to start posing for pictures.

After the meal, which was at 17:30 but was “déjeuner” for les Soeurs,the sisters drove me to their convent. There was angelic singing coming out of a room and though I am not Catholic, I prayed/sang with the sisters for 10 minutes.

The part after this was when I felt the closest to homesick during this trip. It was getting dark and I was having trouble getting a taxi to Sacré Coeur because the rain was so bad. Most taxis were full; some of them drove by without stopping; some even flat-out rejected taking me to Sacré Coeur before we even got to naming prices. After X rejections, I began to be unsure if I could even make it back to my bed. That was when I felt a little pang of longing for the security of the United States.

But I made it back, and I’m safe and clean and dry (or at least just slightly damp from sweat). And now I’m working on the website for Dispensaire Saint Laurent!

*I’m starting to adapt to this notion of fluid time. I used to be very frustrated when I asked what time dinner was and the answer would always be, “Dinner will be ready when it is ready” (in real-time, that meant in .5-3 hours).

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2 responses to “Working with the Dispensaire Saint Laurent

  1. *convent. Also, DANG. You have already posted so many photos of incredible flooding, and you’ve been in Senegal for what, two weeks? I’m taken aback by that. I naively thought all of Africa was withering away from drought.

    • Ah, thanks, editing to convent.

      About the flooding – RIGHT? I assumed that Sub-Saharan Africa = Sahara. However, the pictures I’ve been posting are due not only to the intense rain (I have never seen such thickly-falling rain) but also to insufficient infrastructure: uneven roads and lack of good drainage.

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