I'm sitting in my little apartment with both windows open in a short sleeved t-shirt. It's Sunday, almost 9 PM and it's still light out. Kids and grown ups are partying in an empty lot a couple of doors down which has been turned into a neighborhood 'open space' with some play structures and a little community garden. The last few days have been beautiful...sunny, in the 70's during the day. There is a sense of Spring cleaning all over, with people hanging their linnens out of the window, the front of buildings being cleaned and painted and repairs made to streets, signeage refreshed. I myself washed windows today, and felt compelled to do a thorough cleaning of my little place. Music, mostly middle eastern, and conversation waft in my window, the cats in the apartment across the street are sunning themselves on the ledges, tails flicking back and forth.
I continue to find amusement in my growing French skill, now good enough for some eavesdroping as I wander around. I just read a French Maigret Mystery, by Simenon called Maigret et le Tueur (Maigret and the murderer) in which a young man has a hobby of going around town recording casual conversations in the Metro, or Cafés, at the butcher's and the baker's. I feel much like that when I'm trying to catch bits of nonsense conversation, and relishing in the fact that I can understand it, never mind the banal nature of the content. "I think wearing jeans is OK..." or, "what do you think you are doing? " or "softly, darling..." or "wait a minute, I have to go in the house, so I'll call you later". I can even uderstand the Metro loudspeaker now when it tells me the train is not operating between this station and that other, thank you for your comprehension...
Next week I begin the medical French classes for 2 weeks. At the end of last week, a friend, Diane Jones, was in town on her way to the Ivory Coast in west Africa. She is a nurse working on an international project supporting teams of health leaders in the Ivory Coast who are placing people with HIV on meds and monitoring them. The project is a collaboration between Ward 86 at SFGH and a nonprofit organization dedicated to care of people with HIV. We went to an organization called Action Traitement, to look at their educational materials in French. Their goal is educating people about treatment options for HIV, and supporting them in getting the best medical care possible. We then went to Hopital St. Louis, which has been around for 400 years (does that blow anyone's mind besides mine?) originally for the treatment of people with the plague, and later became a treatment center for skin disorders, notably leprosy, and now is a dermatology hospital. They attend to all skin disorders including those secondary to HIV and other STD's. We visited with a Dr. Joseph Ecra fron the Ivory Coast, who is working there for another few months, and is one of the leaders in HIV treatment in the Ivory Coast.
The experience of listening to French focused on medical issues was timely for me, and added to my interest in sharpening my skills. Also eye opening to be in a hospital in a modern country that has such a long history, hearing about the conditions in the Ivory Coast, where the civil war has decimated the health infrastructure of one of the most advanced medical systems of Africa. He gave the example of no running water in the pediatric part of the hospital, and no land lines or computer technology. The result is that clinicians use their personal phones to stay in touch with patients as well as getting results from labs and the like. And still he could be excited about a new integrated model of care. Makes our challenges seem more manageable...
Enough for now...next up, how to eat foie gras and other French culinary mysteries.