Let me preface this by saying there is no such things as a "typical" day on the mission field!  But here's an example from Bolivia.

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A day in the life of a missionary pharmacist

One morning in Bolivia I woke up to the pleasant feel of a fan blowing across my face - and the annoying vibration of my  cell phone alarm. It was 5:00am and for the first time all week I was not bathed in sweat! I praised God for the fan we'd confiscated the night before and then noticed Christina, the Bolivian girl I shared a bed with, curled up in a little ball with our sheet wrapped around her in an attempt to stay warm. It was, after all, only 82 degrees (F) in the room!

I slipped quietly out of bed and turned off the fan before walking across the courtyard to the bathroom facilities. A tree frog I thought I'd accidentally flushed down the toilet the night before had miraculously returned to hang out on the lip of the toilet bowel. I told my amphibian friend I was glad to see him alive but wished he'd find a new home. I then realized I'd forgotten my toilet paper and headed back to my room, trying to move slowly in an attempt to prolong my sweat-free state.

I spent a blissful half hour reading my Bible while swinging in a hammock in the courtyard. At 5:30 other teammates started to stir and I realized I needed to start my day. I  quickly got dressed, ran a brush through my hair, grabbed my headlamp and headed for our supply room (the headlamp a necessity as the light bulb in said supply room had burned out several days before). I  packed a suitcase of medications and supplies to replace those we'd used the previous clinic day. A teammate came in to help me and I sent her rummaging through suitcases and boxes for more plastic bags. Twenty minutes later we emerged, dripping with sweat but packed for the day.

By 6am my roommate was up so I set up my laptop and portable printer to print out medication labels. I've never traveled with a printer before but found it really handy this trip for pre-printing specialized labels. In between feeding labels into the printer I packed my backpack and washed my face and neck in a futile attempt to cool off. The power suddenly turned off 10 minutes later, so I decided that was a sign that I'd printed enough labels!

While packing my backpack I realized I'd run out of snack food so I hurried to buy some crackers at a small store before meeting my team for breakfast at 6:30am. Breakfast consisted of toasted cheese  sandwiches, liquid yogurt, milk, and fruit. Bolivians love dairy products - a very good thing for this cheese lover!

After breakfast and morning devotions we crammed ourselves in small taxis and headed for that day's clinic site - about one hour from San Juan. The building we used in this village was a school building that had not been used for several weeks. Spiders, cockroaches, and moths had literally taken over the walls and floor of the room we used for a pharmacy. We worked with some local Bolivian ladies to sweep the floors and walls while the men located a large table somewhere down the road and carried it to the school. 

Cathy and I started to set up the pharmacy, but we'd locked most of our medications and supplies in a building down the road the night before and our Bolivian teammates had trouble finding someone with a key to open it for us. So the doctors started seeing patients who didn't complain of fever (the thermometers were also locked away) and medication orders started piling up. After many medical outreaches in the developing world I'm used to problems like this. We took advantage of our forced free time to play with some kids and I wrote some notes in my journal.

Sometime after 9:30 a key was located and the pharmacy bags started arriving. By 9:40 the room was a bustle of activity as my 2 helpers counted pills, diluted liquid antibiotics, filled out labels and laid out piles of medications for me to check. Suddenly it was 12:30 and my growling stomach reminded me of the crackers in my  backpack. Pain in my  neck and back reminded me to give my helpers a break. We stopped to give each other quick back rubs, stuffed crackers in our mouths, and each took a 5 minute break to walk around the school yard and interact with people. Lunch finally arrived at 2pm, and after a short break to eat our rice and chicken we continued seeing patients until dark.  That day I dispensed over 500 prescriptions, 200 of which needed a "pharmacist touch" (pediatric dosing calculation, therapeutic substitution, patient teaching, etc). Exhausting work (did I mention it is HOT in San Juan?) but also rewarding. One of my last patients was a child who had never used an inhaler before. The woman who was explaining most medications for me was busy, so I grabbed another translator and worked with this boy and his mother myself. There were no pediatric "spacers" available so we used a toilet paper roll. His breathing improved mere moments after using the inhaler, and his mother's grin will stay in my mind for a long time.

The end of a clinic day is often the most chaotic time of day for me. As doctors and team members finish their last patients, they arrive in the pharmacy to help. I feel like an air traffic controller - politely ordering everyone around while frantically  checking our last prescriptions and mentally inventorying medications as they disappear into boxes so I know what to bring the next day. Today we loaded our boxes back into the locked building down the street (to be picked up on our way to a more distant village the tomorrow) and piled into vehicles to go back to San Juan.

Dust from the road mixed with my sweat, then dried in a crusty paste as we drove home. With 8 minutes to spare before dinner I grabbed a change of clothes and headed for the shower. It felt wonderful to wash off the layers of sunscreen, mosquito repellant, dirt, and sweat. So wonderful I almost didn't notice the water was cold. Almost...

Dinner that night was chicken soup, rice, and a Bolivian dish that I can't describe but it tasted delicious to my hungry taste buds. After dinner I stopped at the little internet cafe to send an e-mail home, but a group of children were playing games on all the computers so I used my limited  Spanish and comical hand gestures to set an appointment for later in the evening. 

Back at our guest quarters I helped organize our nightly pill counting party - prepackaging bags of multiple vitamins, pain meds, and worm meds so they'd be ready for the next day. We ran out of worm labels in the middle of this process so I set up my laptop and printer to make more. I talked with the doctors about a few of the things we were running low on  and started a list of things we'd need to gather in the morning.

At 9pm I talked some teammates into going back to the internet cafe, where it took me 45 minutes to read six e-mails and send one, but those six encouraging e-mails were worth it! By the time I got home, changed into p.js, and chased a spider out of the sink so I could wash my face I could barely keep my eyes open.

I pulled out my cell phone to program the alarm and noticed a text from my parents! Now wide awake, I texted back and forth with them for a few minutes before I fell asleep. At 2am I woke up in a pool of sweat because we were once again without a fan. I spent the rest of the night in a  hammock in our courtyard (where at least there was some cross-ventilation). I thought of the hundreds of patients we'd helped that day, the dozens of people who'd heard about Christ for the first time, and the chance I'd have to do it all over again the next day. I curled up in the bottom of the hammock and fell asleep with a smile on my face. 

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