Friday, 30 December 2011

Time Warp.

Like all new moms I am fascinated by her every move. However, unlike most new moms, I realise that you're not. So rather than post about every single thing she's done (clearly being the first and only child in the entire Universe to master these skills), here's a quick time warp round up of the firt few weeks.

Her English is coming along magically! we now speak a bizarre melange of Tok (Neo-Melanesian) and English. Swimming is 'play wash-wash" and the beach is "big sal warra".

we've kinda mastered a knife and fork.

we've had a meltdown in a supermarket.

We've reported back to her village "They eat meat at every meal and I can have as much as I want!"

We've have  BFF's called Jessica and Bree.

we're fascinated with standing under a shower and will do it for hours.

We like bacon aka 'flat pik', mueslii (breakfast lollies bilong Daddy).

We totally ROCK the Yacht Club, where we walk in, flick our peeps the peace sign, bask in the ensuing squeal of "VOP's HeRE!!!"

we didn't vomit on our first boat ride. (However we did look mighty green).

And we've been put to bed with a stern word, for being naughty.

And, from my point-of-view, I am excited to announce:

Her hair seems to be growing through without the discolouration of KD!

We finally evicted the intestinal worms

Her teeth are baby teeth, so will drop out and hopefully grow through without the pitting and discolouration of KD.

Her patches of depigmentation dermatitis aren't getting any bigger.

which pretty much brings us up-to-date.

Have a safe and super Gnu Ear, and Vop, Husbang and I will see you on the flip side. 

Thursday, 29 December 2011

The Vacuous Opossum

Vop's got Kwashiorkor's Disease. Thus, my first conscious thought about my new daughter: "Fuck, she looks like a vacuous opossum!"

KD is characterised by lethary (ergo, the vacuous-ness? vacuousity?), swollen belly from liver enlargement, ulcerating dermatosis, hair and teeth depigmentation.

The name comes from a local dialect in Ghana and means"the sickness the baby gets when the new baby comes".

Vop was only breastfed until her birth mother died in a car accident when she was five months old. I have no evidence she was ever wetnursed by another member of the village.

KD is pretty much malnutrition caused by too many carbs and not enough protein.

Welcome to the predominant diet in PNG... ALL carbs and almost no protein. Villages such as where VO'P comes from exist on taro, kau kau, pit pit and the VERY occasional chicken or pig.

Imma guessing the village orphan, raised by the 'mad' grandfather got served last when protien was on the menu. Welcome to the patriachy that is PNG.

Vop's KD issues are compounded by her chewing of buai, or betel nut.

Buai is chewed here in PNG by almost everyone. The streets are awash with blood-red spit of the buai kai kai. It's disgusting (sorry, cultural mores against spitting are the hardest ones to get over, I find!). Not only does it stain the teeth bright red, it is claimed by the PNG Medical Society that chewing betelnut kills over 2000 people in PNG a year. The medical society has called for the chewing and selling of betelnut to be regulated. It is used for sing-sings and other rituals, but is more widely chewed because it allays hunger.

Long tern buai use causes teeth decay and eventually several forms of mouth.tongue/oesophageal cancers.

 (Pepsodent ran an ad campaign in Southeast Asia like they would in any other part of the world - one that focussed on whitening teeth. It was a dismal failure. I'll blog about my reaction to "Guard precious whiteness" another time)

VOP's teeth are pitted and stained, striated with bilirubin, and chipped to the point of looking pretty feral.

Hence the Opposum reaction.

Victims of kwashiorkor fail to produce antibodies following innoculaton against diseases, including diphtheria and typhoid. So even if she's had the vaccines, it probabaly didn't take.

Dealing with her KD is going to be a major part of our early parenting.

worse than Internet dating.

Okay. I admit to dating on the Internet in my single days. One day I might blog about 'battered hamburger boy' or 'nipple clamp boy', but we all know the longing: both physical and emotional,that accompanies a first meeting.

Okay, now ramp up that anxiety by about a gazillion.

The Husbang and I had only 3 days between the first time we heard her name and the first meeting.

All you women out there? You know how you want to look JUST right for that first meeting?

yeah. That shit aint got NOTHING on meeting your daughter for the first time.

Add the interracial element, as in 'has she ever actually SEEN a white person before?", and the fear factor ramps up a few thousand notches more.

Do I wear perfume (I am a Lanvin type)?, do I wear makeup? Do I bring gifts?

Husbang is the strong, silent, resilient English git type, who stood by calmly as I got myself more and more in a state.

"fuckity fuck fuck, she's going to hate me", I start screaming as I am getting dressed.

"Well. yes" replies Husbang, 'if you show up naked and talking like that".

I'd been on the interwebz, desperately looking for ideas. Like how to meet a 4 y/o from a remote village in the Highlands of PNG and not freak her the fuck out.

Can you see the headlines?:

"angry feminNazi blogger wears floral and rouge. Freaks outs orphan in Goroka with Tickle Me Elmo"

It's PNG. That shit could happen here.

I settled on a pair of cargo pants, a linen shirt, sensible shoes (Husbang vetoed the wearing of my Skunk Anansie boots) and eyeliner.

Agan, for those into detail, I wore Arpege and took an innocuous fluff teddy bear christened Puddin'.

It's a 5 hour drive to Goroka, home of Mudmen and Highland violence. It's another 9 hour drive to where Vo'p had been living.

On arriving in Goroka, we found out she and her escort were running 2 hours late.

So for those 2 interminably long hours I sat (without alcohol) and fretted. Husbang, who has the patience of a glacier just quietly held my hand and whispered that it was going to be alright.

And then she was here.

In the rather fancy restaurant of the Goroka Bird of Paradise Hotel, a child who'd been raised in a pig pen in a remote village in the Highlands of PNG, met us.

The first thing I noticed were her eyes. Impossibly huge and ringed with lashes that would make a supermodel envious.

Everything else, the Kwashiorkor's the protruberant stomach, the intestinal worms.. that all came later.

But for that first second I was captivated by her eyes.

And, I'm sure having been coached on the long PMV trip to town, she ran towards me and threw herself into my arms and my heart.

I was now Vo'P's Mom.


one small step.

Like everything seismic and earth-shattering, it began quietly. A wee ripple in the calm and tranquil pool that my life had become.

Moving to PNG had been seismic enough. I gave up my career of seventeen years to follow Husbang to the other side of the world. To a country where I can't work.

My days had become a round of internet surfing and lunching. All the things I used to despise. But after a 10 year-stint working in the high-pressure world of surgery, the idea of NOT having to get up at sparrow's fart and deal with the egos that inhabit the surgial theatres of large hospitals, I was guiltily enjoying my Nanna naps and mid-afternoon brandies.

So our haus mari came to me one day and asked me:

"how long are you planning to live in PNG?"

I thought she was concerned for the longevity of her position, so I answered her without much thought:

"oh, we're planing to be here for YEARS"

The sigh of relief this was greeted with, as it turned out, had nothing to do with her job.

Two days later she came to me again. And this time, I could feel the sand start shifting.

As it turns out, there was a 3.. maybe 4.. definitely not 5 year old girl in her village. Her mother had died in a car accident when she was five months old, and her father had been killed recently.. maybe last week.. maybe 2 years ago. She was living with her grandfather who was old.. maybe 80.. maybe 40 and crazy.. maybe Alzheimer's... maybe too much smoke and buai. She was living in a pig pen.. or maybe a goat pen.

And she had no-one.

I'll get all political on your ass later, but believe me, the statistics for rape and assault and violence against women in PNG are appalling.

So, before I knew it I said yes. Yes to turning my quiet an tranquil life upside down. Yes to taking on a child with multiple medical and social issues. Yes to a child who didn't speak my language (and I had only a rudimentary grasp of hers).


Yes.