I am the grumpy-looking person, also called the jumper, who is responsible for order and cleanliness in our small “practice” this morning. We dental students Sabrina, Luisa, Moritz and I, Franzi, take turns with a meticulously timed jumper shift schedule. Who would want to do the stand-in duty with 60 patients a day? 60 patients with toothache caused by infected root residues and teeth, with cysts and sometimes even larger abscesses. The patients’ dental condition is appalling. In the team, which consists of the 3 dentists Harald, Festus, Alena and us four students, we try to make a contribution to improving people’s oral hygiene and alleviating toothache through targeted pain treatment, i.e. many extractions coupled with informative words and donated toothbrushes. For patients with better oral hygiene, we can also do a filling or two. It has been almost two weeks since we opened our “practice” in one of the rooms on the large grounds of the St Vincentienne School in Marillac. In that time we have not only treated 600 patients, extracted 1500 teeth, but had an incredibly wonderful time. Besides the treatment, which we all enjoyed very much and we students were able to learn a lot from our experienced colleagues, we spent numerous evenings, after a fast TucTuc ride with seven of us, on the beach or with a good piece of zebu. We used the weekends for an adventurous hike up Pic-St. Louis, for a boat trip to the dream beaches of Evatra, for a quadtour or also for beautiful beach days at our favourite beach, Ankoba Beach.
After we had to say goodbye to Festus with a heavy heart after the first two weeks, we drove to the hospital “Hopitaly Salfa” in Manambaro, which is 16 kilometres and still an hour’s drive inland. The change of location from the small town of Fort Dauphin to Manambaro gave us the opportunity to get to know Madagascar from a completely different perspective. We found ourselves in a small village again. We lived in a guest house right next to the hospital, where we set up our “practice” and treated the patients, who were increasing in number from day to day. Besides work, we spent our time with dance performances by the children from the village, showered with cold buckets of water, ate Malagasy dishes and played skat in the light of a paraffin lamp.
We were therefore very sad to learn that in order to prevent the further spread of the Corona pandemic to Madagascar, the borders were to be closed from 19 February 2020. After many telephone calls to the German Embassy and the Foreign Office and many booked flights, some of which were cancelled, we flew back to Germany on 18 March 2020.
All in all, we can only say that our time in Madagascar was perfect and we can look back on a wonderful trip with numerous experiences, encounters and stories.