Well, I was in for a very pleasant surprise. Typically as soon as these veiled women walked into my examination room, the veil that covered their faces would be lifted. Although their husbands typically answered the history questions for them, this was usually due to necessity, as frenquently their husbands could speak French and the women could not.
I was even more surprised that after I had completed the history taking and needed to do a gynecologic examination, that there was not even a hint of hesitiation. I would turn my back to put on my headlight and my examination gloves, and would find the patient disrobed to an appropriate degree, and completely willing to allow me to examine them.
But even more remarkable to me was, at the end of the visit, I would always ask through Sylvie, my medical assistant and interpretor, if I could pray for the patient. Not a single one refused. It was nearly always a very simple prayer, but the effect that these prayers had on the patients was remarkable. Often the husband would extend his hand, and do the typical regional handshake (grasping the right hand like a normal Western handshake, then reaching above the thumb to the wrist, then back down to a normal shake, then pulling hands apart down to a snap against each other's fingers, following by pulling ones' hand back to his own chest). At this point these men always had a huge smile on their faces, and typically would say, in English, "God bless you." These men were so grateful that I was helping their wife. One man inparticular, after I cared for his wife, brought in his sister and his second wife to see me as well. (Did I fail to mention that this is a polygamous society?)
On that same point, one of the women that I did a prolapse surgery on, at the time of discharge she had a huge smile on her face and said, in English, "God bless you!" She was from Burkina Faso, and did not speak English or French, but she had memorized this phrase in English to say to me out of gratitude when I discharge her from the hospital. I was really touched by this expression of gratitude.