Of Needles and Professionalism

My sister Sally took me to visit her good friend Susan Bexton in 1969.  Susan had returned from two years volunteering with Cuso as a nurse in Nigeria.  She was living at the top of McTavish Street by McGill and I was in my second year.  I recall thinking Susan had been ‘politicized’ by her experience.  Before leaving for Tanzania, I spoke with her from her home in Portland.  She said she thought she hadn’t accomplished anything, that the needles for the children were still barbed at the end of her stay.  One can all too easily hunt for positive things surely left behind, like manner, and professionalism and friendships but I didn’t say these things.  I left.

Susan, Kate and Elizabeth

Susan’s comments on ‘Hurry, Wait and Miss it’:

I laughed at your arriving 7 hours ahead of time [for the Field Day].  Tanzanian time, like
Nigerian time, is quite different.  That happened to me once.  And as far as
ceremony goes, the British colonial influence persists, I see.

The Nigerians really loved the formality of meetings of any kind.  One time
there was a harvest festival and I was asked to be the “lady chairman”.
There was also a chairman and speakers etc.  The person who introduced me
was confused by the X in my name as there is no X in Yoruba.  I was
introduced as Mrs. Sessie Bestox, a name  that persists to this day in certain circles.

Susan and Tola
Cuso, Nigeria, 1969

Cuso, Tanzania, 2012
Tola would be forty-five years old, Inshallah

I might be beginning to understand  Susan’s perspective as viewed  from the dentist’s chair.   I needed a tooth pulled.  There were several letters behind the dentist’s name and his hands were gentle and he was kind so he had acquired Susan’s manner, but where was the professionalism Susan left behind?  He was careful to show me the sealed needle and the use by date of the pain killer but the floor was dirty and the cabinets too; there was no running water except cold from a sink in the corner and the instruments got mixed up with the bloody swipes all placed together on the table.  Same conditions when at another clinic to get a preventative rabies shot.  All the same, I sure appreciated him.

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2 Responses to Of Needles and Professionalism

  1. wadawson says:

    This is a comment of David’s

    Yes, I can imagine that volunteering is a thankless and often an apparently fruitless pursuit. I think I have told you this, but, I remember we were told once by a friend how wonderful our children were! This was when they were teens/pre-teens. We sorta looked at the friend as if she was crazy – our kids were monsters! But not really. We realized that we were in the forest. We couldn’t “see the forest for the trees”! We couldn’t see the “good” in the fiasco of raising kids with all the day-to-day trials and tribulations. And that’s how I often think of a job like yours. You try. You spin your wheels in the slick rain-soaked mud. You leave a festival and then everyone returns to same drudgery. Has anything changed? Change is so slow. It takes generations. We may change slightly and we may change others slightly. The next generation accepts those changes as “normal” and then, slow by slow, change takes place – often imperceptibly. I wonder if Susan would see changes if she returned. I doubt if she saw changes after a year of volunteering, but, two generations later at least you can go to a dentist. At least you can get a rabies shot! I wonder if Susan would consider that a miraculous change that she helped initiate ‘way-back-when?

    • wadawson says:

      I think some very good points here David such that I’ve taken the liberty of adding to the Comments. I hope Mrs. Sessie Bestox has a read and comments further. Others too. I’ll think on this. Thanx, T

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