On Thursday, I was out at clinic and things were busy as usual. Pastor was seeing patients in his office and I was working with my 3 women helpers seeing children. At some point, we decided to take a break in pediatric consultations and let the 3 helpers do the prenatal exams on the waiting moms. I stepped into Pastor's room so that I could continue to see patients myself and also help him out if he needed it.
Now, in Niger there are many different people groups and every people group has their own language. At the clinic we usually see Gourmantche and Fulani patients, so most of us can communicate with either or both languages they represent (Gourmantchema and Fulfulde). Occaisionally we will see patients from the Zarma group, and Pastor can speak with them in their language.
This day we had a new situation come up. Somewhere in the exams, one of my "girls" came and asked me to come help her with her patient. She told me, "I can't speak with her...she doesn't understand me and I don't understand her." She was a young Hausa girl of about 17 or 18 yrs., expecting her first baby. I asked where she had come from and the women told me that she lived there in their village. I was so surprised! There are no Hausa people around that area.
"Is she married to a Gourma?", I asked
"Oh, no. She's married to a Hausa man, and they live just a little ways from here."
The Hausa girl herself said that she could speak a little French, but when I tried to talk with her, she didn't understand. She had probably had a few years of school where French was occasionally used. So using sign language and simple French words, I tried to explain to her how to take her prenatal vitamins and when to come back for her next check-up. I felt helpless to help her! We all did.
I know that so often, I feel like such an outsider here in this country...and I think maybe this young girl must feel alot like that herself. When I asked if there were any other Hausa speaking women in her compound, they told me, "no". How alone this young girl must feel! And what brought them to this remote village. Perhaps her husband is the teacher assigned by the government to this village...
I couldn't help but feel sorry for her that we couldn't do a better job of talking to her. As she stepped out of the clinic, I remembered the words for "See you another day" in Hausa, so I said to her, "Se anjima" and quick as a wink, she turned to me with a shy smile and alittle hope in her eyes.
I'm thinking I need to learn a few more words of Hausa now...