Monday, May 3, 2010

African Adventure 24

December 2009

We traveled 10K to Bansmnore' school for a talk with the 100 students about dental hygiene and healthy diet. They were expecting us and the director welcomed us warmly. The children were eager and attentive for new information. Six students volunteered to demonstrate teeth brushing using the Niim stick or toothbrush, and powder or paste. We gave them sports and school supplies and the PTA gave us three chickens in appreciation. The wind to our backs aided our return trip to Thyou bakery and market that morning.

The chicken donation made a wonderful meal the next evening as we sat together in Georges courtyard with family and friends and shared rice and sauce, chicken in sauce, tomato and cuke, my biscuits, and rice-eggplant dish Jonathan brought. He also brought his guitar and suddenly there was drumming, singing and dancing as more people came. It was great fun!

Minata had helped me make millet porridge enriched with Moringa powder to use in my final gathering with the women at the maternity. I had the help of (midwife) Albertine. We brought a chart and Moringa branch to illustrate our talk and the easy process of pulling the leaves off for use. We talked about the benefits to their diet especially for malnourished infants and nursing mothers. I reviewed the recipe and demonstrated how to make the porridge, then we passed out samples for everyone to taste. I showed the women how to add Moringa leaves, fresh or dried to their sauces. All the while Albertine was emphasizing the key points to her patients. The Moringa project with 150 trees we planted in Sala will aid everyone.

That afternoon Angela gave the medical staff 2 suitcases of equipment and supplies her hospital (Southwest Washington Medical Center) donated to the CSPS clinic in Sala, BF. The staff inventoried all and the Major said “Merci Infiniment!” They were so appreciative. In fact they brought dinner to my house that evening. As a group we ate and talked about poverty in Burkina and the generosity of Americans. It was time for Angela to say goodbye to the people particularly in our compound. They were sad to see her go. We made the trip to Ouaga and toured the Artisan Village for gifts before she flew out Friday evening.

When I returned to village Jonathan and Sabrina came to get my exercise ball and a mattress that I had. Another director from the Salou school came by for school and sports supplies I had. Sunday morning after Mass, Father Jack blessed the harvest donations the families brought for the needy. The priests will distribute in the district. Afterwards at the market we visited with many people, some I gave printed photos to. At home I continued passing out clothes and various things people back home had given me to donate to the Burkinabe'. I was baking every morning and enjoying my dutch oven. My neighbors liked tasting those fresh treats.

By weeks end I visited with the Major and thanked him for my time in Burkina especially working with his health clinic. A joyous occasion came to me that night when Albertine called about an imminent birth. She predicted it would happen in 4 hours. She woke Adama the pharmacist, and asked him to come and unlock medication she needed for the woman as she neared delivery. The midwife monitored her blood pressure and other vital signs. The laboring mother would occasionally moan with contractions, and close to 5am I heard her bear down.
Suddenly the baby's head crowned and with another contraction she delivered the head, and skillfully Albertine turned it's head to the side and the infant cried. On the next contraction the shoulders arrived, followed by the rest of it's body. She laid the infant on his mother. Albertine pressed on mom's abdomen and delivered the placenta with a brief tug on the cord. She saved it in a pan, later examining it carefully and rinsing it before giving it to the family for traditional burial ritual. The new mother stayed overnight for observation. In the morning I took them a new homemade baby quilt from Sally, and gave congratulations.

Second Week in December 2009

The CREN (Center for Recuperation of Enfants with mal-Nutrition) worked months on the plans for the inauguration today of the facility in nearby Sabou. It contains a center for malnourished infants and their mothers as well as an emergency room and short term hospital with laboratory, pharmacy and ambulance services. The morning Mass was sung in French, Moore' and Latin for the occasion. Italian priests arrived to honor the work of the Order of Mary. The Monseigneur and the Health Minister were in town for the event as well as many other national and local dignitaries. Entertainment was put on by dancers, drummers, masques, and theater groups, etc. After many speeches, lunch was served in the main hall of the CREN.
Dominique, a local functionnaire, drove two villagers and Albertine and I to Sabou to the event. Many NGOs worked together to bring this project to fruition.

Midweek we brought photos to the schools in Thyou and regretfully said goodbye. Many of the children and teachers asked for pen pals in America. Then we took the moto to Dana and Zao to say farewell and donate school supplies, including a soccer ball. The teachers were so happy because they had just asked the parents to organize enough money for a soccer ball for the school. We said goodbye to the ASC Bili in Zao and another good friend, Atia.

Back in my compound later I gave Salame a pair of slip on shoes, and bartered with two boys to water our Niim tree and Hamadou's Moringa tree in exchange for the soccer shoes I gave them. These boys, Yakuba and Seni both wanted a headlamp for studying at night. In the evening all my neighbor kids came to play with Luke's transformer toys he had bagged up for kids in gramma's village.

During these last days I baked every morning in my dutch oven to use up pkg mixes Chris sent. I also made biscuits and cookies from scratch. Thursday I took a batch to Bibata, a nurse at the clinic. I found the midwife weighing the babies alone, and we worked together all morning logging the weights and immunizing the infants. Towards noon the new mother and baby come too, and I was so happy to see them doing well. In the mid-afternoon the Major and the midwife sat down with me and Georges to talk about the instructions for the sterilizer that Connie had given the clinic. We translated into French how to use it, much the same way as their old one.

Issaka came to visit and talked a long time about poverty in West Africa. He said that most days the children don't eat breakfast or lunch, only dinner, because of no money and no food. He wants help buying a machine for farming. Minata also came and asked me to buy her a charrette, cart for hauling things back to and from their field. She showed me 7 bags of peanuts she set aside to help pay for her kids schooling next fall.

That evening I made beans and rice for the neighbors, sending over dinner to the adults, but eating with all the children myself. We made burritos with all the Mexican accompaniments that Chris had sent. The next morning I hung sweaters out on the ledge on my veranda and the women and girls tried them on until one fit and away they went happily. I had boxes from American donors to distribute before I left in a week. Zongo Tanga came by for an American-French dictionary, one of many I would give away.

At the conclusion of Sunday morning service I said goodbye and thanked the members who welcomed me there two years earlier. Jean Baptiste told the congregation that I had rode my bike all the way every time to church and that I was part of their family. I shared that they will go home with me in my heart. They clapped.

It was market day, so I had a chance to share simple things and farewells with some of my friends there, i.e. Florence and Marie got a whisk and peeler. Amidou, the ASC from Bouyou village bought us a calabasse of melange. It was fun to chat with everyone. We proceeded on to Henry and Veronique's place to take some family photos. Then to Koala Jean's new hangar where his wife was serving her homemade dolo.

On Monday I gathered up the surplus food items for the PCVs at the Transit House. I also had clothes for them to peruse, i.e. cocktail dress. Now I began my three days of medical and dental tests before going home. I had exit interviews, bank account to close out and some documents to write up. It was a packed schedule. One morning I had coffee and granola mix with Marte, the director's wife and a fine person. Other fellow volunteers, Becky treated me to lunch Tuesday and Kait took me to dinner in the evening.

Wednesday evening Sanfo's wife, Awa took me and two other PCVs going home for the holidays to the airport. I went there to greet my daughter, Heather. We hugged and hugged. This is her first world trip beyond North America. We had an omelet sandwich in the morning before I went to get the results of all the testing, which was good news. In the afternoon I finished some written reports before going to the director's office for the staff's gathering to say goodbye to me. They clearly are proud to have a senior PCV come to Burkina Faso and persevere through many obstacles. They commented on my love for the Burkinabe'. Finally Doug Teschner gave me his Peace Corps cap. (Heather taped the event.) My last day as a Peace Corps Volunteer was very emotional for me.

As I returned to my village to show Heather around, I asked Bouba, the bush taxi driver, if he would transport a charrette (donkey cart) back to village. So on Saturday evening he did that and the kids and I went down to the road to get it and surprise Minata with this new aid for the family farming. With tears in our eyes Minata and I hugged. It was truly a pleasure to help them.

We packed up our tools and a dozen Moringa trees to make one last effort at the garden by the school. The guys and Heather dug holes and replaced a number of trees. Then Achille and Madi were painting a new sign for both gardens. Issaka, the president of the soccer group and Karim, my village counterpart, each brought a friend who needed soccer shoes.

Sunday after the village chef and the two family chefs came over for coffee, Heather and I biked to church for my last service in Thyou at St. Irene's parish. Heather taped the beautiful singing and I was so proud. I took her by the bakery and the market, where we enjoyed pork sandwiches. We gave out two mosquito nets to Irene and Pascal that Heather brought from America. They were humbled by the donation. That afternoon Heather and my neighbor kids played ball outside, laughing all the while. She put music on Abdoul's new MP3 player and showed him how to operate it.

We quickly got into the task of giving away most things in my house to my neighbors and friends. I let most of the women choose a garment and something from my cooking supplies and staples. The kids all got shirts or games or hair adornments. Word spread fast and we had a long line of folks at the door.

Later in the afternoon the medical staff from the clinic arrived bearing a gift for me and I was in tears as I opened the sack with a two foot tall leather giraffe, perfectly formed with all the prominences of bones and muscles. Wow! The head nurse, Philippe and Abdoulaye, a medical board member, thanked me for all my work and talks with villagers in this Sala health district. And I thanked them for being patient with me and my limited language. I will have no problem remembering Sala and all villagers I met during my stay.

We continued packing some things and giving away most, then suddenly the yard was full of people, the village chef, the two family chefs, the COGES member, soccer president, teachers from the school, the pharmacist, Minata, and Madi to translate for me. The chef thanked me for my service to Sala, that I had touched many lives. Salame thanked me for working hard and treating everyone well. All the people are thanking you he said.
Hamadou said as second family chef in line behind Salame he wanted to thank me for my work and generosity with all the neighbors. He was so moved. Minata talked lovingly a long time about my time there. Next came a photo shoot. Finally we shared the big meal they all brought for the occasion. It was long after dark when we finished packing.

The next morning by 6am three days before Christmas we got ready to leave and there were dozens of neighbors outside to say goodbye. It was a bittersweet moment for all. The bush taxi kindly met us at the foot of my hill to load our bags. Jonathan, my nearest PCV (24yrs old) was waiting at Thyou when we got there to pick up passengers. He said “I am so inspired by you and how you put your heart into Peace Corps working with the people of all ages. Whatever obstacles you feel were in your way, you did a tremendous service and on behalf of HUMANITY, I want to thank you for that.” He left me in tears, to go teach his students who were waiting.

In Ouaga we caught a green taxi with all our luggage and bikes etc for the Peace Corps Bureau. The driver said his clutch was out, so we lurched ahead continually after each stop. Oh the memories!

The next day we flew to Kenya for a week on safari in East Africa.

On New Year's Day three of us went by bus to OHG to bid my host family during training goodbye. The driver let us off by the sign to Somyaga and soon Amade' came on his moto to pick us up. What a welcome, Ramata and Minata, grandma Awa, Alizetta and other gramma were there. All the kids ran to meet us, and had grown so much in the year since I had seen them. Of course they fed us right away and then in the afternoon Orokia came home—oh what a feast for my soul. Amade' butchered a chicken in honor of the visit. The women prepared it and potatoes for dinner. We had lollipops for the kids and gave my Cutco knife she always admired to Orokia. At 10 that evening 30 of the women from around came to the courtyard to chant and dance together, just like when I lived there. Oh la la! I heard my name in the chant. It was so much fun to be in their midst again.
The early morning of departure, 6 family members walked us out to the highway to catch the bus back to Ouaga. The morning walk in the moonlight was outstanding and memorable.

On the evening of January 3, 2010 Sanfo drove us to the airport and we said goodbye to our friends and flew overnight to Paris. I looked down on my beloved Burkina Faso with love, thanking God for bringing me here.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

African Adventure 23

First two weeks in November 2009

Monday morning I went to the clinic and greeted the staff and saw many patients there. The Major arrived to greet the Medical Chief of District, who drove here from Sapouy with an assistant. They were there to collect the immunization statistics from the Tetanus Campaign over the past weekend. A long discussion ensued about the specifics especially from the satellite villages. The head nurse, Philippe hastened to respond to all questions. In 20 minutes the officials left with the data. Health care in Burkina Faso has local controls, with the caveat that the numbers are gathered by the state for planning and analysis.

The next day I sorted the student letters from USA into three piles and delivered them. I went to the school in Sala and gave Zongo Tanga the letters and drawings in order for his class to write to the sixth graders at Harmony Elementary. By noon we delivered a set to L'ecole Centre and Yargo, schools in Thyou. We returned to Sala clinic to discuss with the Major the wish list of medical supplies for the health center, as Angie's hospital(SWWMC) offered to donate. She will bring them when she comes to visit the end of this month. The Major invited us to lunch on spaghetti with pintade and yogurt with him It was very good.

The chef of Sune' had sent a rooster to us in appreciation of the HIV-AIDS talk there. My neighbor boy, Abdoulaye came in the afternoon to prepare the fowl for me. I fried it and basted it with barbecue sauce. I made baking powder biscuits and cole slaw to have dinner ready when Jonathan came in the evening with his guitar and his contribution of chili. Abdoulaye and Issouf, his students, Jonathan and I enjoyed the meal. Afterwards Jon began playing and singing; suddenly the neighbor children came in large numbers to my house for the jam session. I recorded it plus took pictures.

At the maternity unit after baby weighing that week we presented the final talk on prenatal care. I felt several babies were very hot, so the staff sent those mothers and infants to the clinic for exam. The talk was “Post Partum Visit and Signs of PP Infection”. 30-35 women attended. Both nurses, Emilie and Bibata supplemented what we explained and some women engaged in question/answer discussion. My friend Atia from Zao, a small village 15K away, came to visit me and waited for our presentation to finish. We went to my home to chat. I provided her with some supplies she needs before we went to the market.

On Friday I noticed some neighbor kids were at home rather than in school. Hamadou, family chef, said they were sent home by the principal due to unpaid tuition. There were five in all, and the cost per school year is 4.5 mille, about $5. On my way to the bush taxi station to check on my pkg many kids came up to talk with me, sang the song of brushing the teeth. They were in front of the new boutique building nearby and we sang and took photos.

On Saturday I shared the medical evaluation report on Seni Pele' with both the Major and Gilbert, a medical staff with a similar leg mobility problem as Pele'. Gilbert said that since his own surgery which straightened his leg, he now gets around on crutches and his three wheel moto very well. In fact I have marveled at his adaptation skills as he administers medical IVs, injections, and other medical procedures to clients at the clinic. Plus he's a poster person for polio vaccinations.

The next Tuesday at the school hangar in Bouyou, we conducted a hygiene lesson with 60 young school children. This year the hangar has new sides on the structure. The director and students were waiting for our arrival 11K into the bush. As we set up our posters and materials, the director had the children sing the chant we taught them last time. We took time talking with them about the benefits of good dental care and diet. They were very attentive as we demonstrated teeth brushing with natural and modern means. Then 8 volunteers repeated the demonstration well, although one girl's gums bled badly. I brought a new toothbrush for each student and also photos from our last time there. Nebie' Amie, a health liaison in village came to greet us and wondered if we would be presenting to the adults. We stopped by THE village tree where folks gather and greeted the handful of people who were there. They insisted we come back in the future to visit. What a special village this is! On our way home we stopped at the neighboring village school to leave more student letters and visit the staff there.

This week little Sofi, 6, has an infected gouge in her shin from falling off a bike, so we soaked it and applied an ointment and bandage. It took nearly a week to see healing, with time to put her foot up and rest.

On Wednesday I went to water the trees at the school garden. My counterpart Karim had dug holes for more planting, so the students helped me out with watering and planting. He had replaced several fence posts. We had wire to tie the fence to the posts, which is a must with cattle roaming around.

Before I left for Ouaga, Minata showed me how to make porridge, using millet. I practiced with adding Moringa powder to the millet to enrich it for malnourished infants.

Social Services in Burkina Faso

An overview of social welfare in Burkina Faso suggests that it is in early developing stages or there is within the Burkinabe' culture built in responses to the identified needs of the society. This raises the question: Is aiding the disadvantaged the responsibility of a culture's people or of their government, or some other entity?

The health system in Burkina Faso, for more than 15 years, has been striving to improve maternal health by encouraging prenatal care and birthing to occur at local health centers. In these centers many problems can be identified early and birthing risks reduced for both mother and infant. In the same vein immunizations, and early diagnoses of malaria, HIV-AIDS, elephantiasis, tuberculosis are also available to villagers. Due to poverty many families can't afford to come to clinic, even though prenatal and delivery cost 800 francs ($1.50) plus medications.

The physically handicapped (young and old) are visible in every town and village on crutches, sometimes self fashioned canes, and three wheel cycles with the chain propelled by one's arms. I met a ten year old boy living in a small village, he has a severely deformed leg and hops along with the assistance of a metal rod. The doctors said his ankle was separated from his leg during his birth at home. The solution is complex, his family can't afford to travel 40 kilometers to the hospital and stay there for surgery. They also struggle with the decision of amputation and prosthesis.

Frequently if not always the elderly live out their days in the family compound, thereby warding off loneliness. Small children children guide blind adults wherever. Poor water quality can lead to vision defects especially in newborns and aging villagers. My eight year old neighbor girl has been cross-eyed since birth. According to the doctors the condition is no longer treatable. People with total hearing loss mimic sound while using very graphic gestures and body language to be understood. Sometimes their deafness is mistaken for mental illness.

The culture and the communities of Burkina Faso take care of their own. People in the village with mental health or addiction issues live among the villagers. When their condition or behaviors affect others, they often are ignored or guided away. I was attending Mass when a member of the congregation was praying loudly but not in union with the priest, who was not dissuaded by this variation. Citizens accept her as a part of the social fabric. The afflicted belong to and are treated like village brethren.

Orphans and elders are included into the midst of a family and are treated with the same respect and dignity as members of the greater family. Nearly every family raises shirttail relatives. The elderly share their oral histories with the younger generations, thus preserving tradition and stories of family, history and culture. Whatever is asked of a Burkinabe', they are bound by cultural norms to give according to their ability. Truly it takes a village to raise a child.

Hunger and poverty are widespread. Desperate people beg for help, sometimes on street corners and sometimes at the markets and sometimes on your doorstep. One day my landlady/friend came to me and said “I sent the children to work in the field with lunch of millet and sauce from last night's dinner and have nothing to eat 'myself'.”

When property crime happens in villages it seldom comes to the attention of officials. But the villagers often hold the thief accountable. All news spreads fast by word of mouth. As I rode my bicycle one day, my fanny pack was stolen by two motorcycle thieves. My shouting brought out the neighbors, who captured and held one thief until police arrived. The neighbors retrieved my purse and its contents intact.

As a visitor and Peace Corps Volunteer, I observed the immense harmony and integrity that binds Burkina Faso people together. There is a unique construct for social services here and it is strongly ingrained at the village level.

Early on my birthday we set out on the bush taxi for Ouaga: Pele', Mathieu, and me to get the results of the evaluation from the Handicap Organization. Georges joined us in Sabou to translate information with the medical team. I went further into Ouaga to pick up the x-rays needed for the doctor's review and joined the others at the clinic in Goughin sector.
Dr. Yago explained to us that since there is no function in Pele's right foot, the most advisable procedure is for Pele' to have his right foot amputated below the knee, with the prospect of an appliance for walking. His older brother Mathieu, asked questions and there was much discussion before the doctor wrote a prescription for surgery. The social worker said Pele' and family should travel to Koudougou for that. The X-rays and Radiologist report were given to the brothers with the plan to discuss everything with their family and make a decision. Then we went next door where they fitted Pele' for crutches. We found lunch nearby and walked a long distance back to the main route so the brothers could take the bush taxi back to village and then pedal 10K to their home.

I made a vanilla cake and purchased Nutella spread to top my birthday cake at the Transit House, where PCVs sang to me and we enjoyed a snack together. Every Friday morning early is the ceremony at Moro-Naba Castle in Ouaga. This event is presided over by the highest village chef in Burkina Faso. A beautiful and tall chestnut horse with white sox is saddled and at rest in velvet robes outside the gates of the castle. Contingents of chiefs from every sector in Ouaga participate in this weekly tradition. At precisely 8am the main chief enters in red regal robes (sign of war). The drums roll and a canon is fired. The area chiefs come forward in groups to salute the head chief, and later he leaves to change. He reappears in white robes (sign of peace). Applause erupts and the canon again fires. The reenactment of history of this region of West Africa is powerful.

On the weekend the Food Security Committee met for a marathon meeting covering gardening, past and future plans, and my presentation on nutrition, this time devoted to an example of enriched porridge (bouille) for malnourished infants. My sample however had started to ferment in the heat, much like local beer (dolo). I had planned to provide samples until that point, however two brave souls wanted to taste it irregardless. We had a good laugh! The group disbanded early due to the soccer match between BF and Malawi late that afternoon. Crazy fans were in costume there, and we PCVs were happy to see the national sport in person while still there.

On Monday I packed up to return to village with my ten packages from USA full of donations for villagers, plus box mixes for my dutch oven. I made a stop at the travel agency downtown to book airfare to Senegal when Angela arrives this coming week. I wrote a check for over one million francs, WOW! The bush taxi was late, so that put me back in village at dark. I enlisted the aid of two men, to each take 3 boxes to my house for me. Once there I sent two neighbor boys back for 2 boxes each. I was content to get all boxes home, and pass out long awaited items, soccer shoes and balls, jump ropes, lights, baking mixes, pictures, and many other things.

End of November

When I got to the Major's home to talk with him about the COGES role in the community, Gansonre was there visiting. He had been our head nurse when I arrived in village and soon became the Major for Dala, a village down the road and further SE of ours.

Zachariah had dug around all the Moringa trees and built a depression circle to retain the water. The petite forest is next door between the Major's home and the Maternity clinic. We visited the midwife, who promised to text me before the next baby is born. I so want to be present for a birth in Sala. The medical staff, Gilbert took the written translation of the last medical visit for Seni Pele to his family when he went to Dana on Friday for vaccinations.

Dicko, a school teacher and Issaka, president of the young men's soccer group, each came over for their special soccer shoes. I gave shin guards, gloves, balls, and cones for the group. They have a big game this Friday and were very happy for the contribution made possible by the generosity of Americans at home.

At the school we talked with Madelenne,the new Directress about the Moringa project there, and she agreed to have the students water the trees everyday. She also pointed out weaknesses in the fence. We showed her how the students can dig around each tree for water containment. Tanga, another teacher gave me student letters for Angela to take to America when she returns there. That gives me a chance to practice my French, translating them. I began reading my new book “The Secret Knowledge of WATER” by Craig Childs, two easy ways to die in the desert, thirst and drowning. This seems apt as Burkina is close to the Sahel, and south of the vast Sahara.

On Thursday I made my way to the Ouaga travel agency to pick up our tickets to Senegal, and also exchange dollars for francs. I took a taxi to Karite' Bleu where Angela and I will spend the night after she arrives at 6pm. My Peace Corps driver, Idrissa and his wife, Awa drove me to the airport to get Angela and her luggage, which included a giant suitcase full of medical equipment and supplies her hospital, SWWMC donated to Sala's clinic. Her USA eye doctor Cole, donated $300 for stethoscopes, blood pressure cuffs etc. too. Networking warms the heart! It was exhilarating to see my daughter after two years. At our Bed and Breakfast we ordered in a pizza, visited and slept well.

Friday we enjoyed a continental breakfast on the patio and watched the exotic pair of birds in the yard. We got Ang a loaner bike and rode to the PC bureau and meet all the staff there. I worked a bit on the computer and printed the email from Chris with a contact in Dakar who would host us for the coming week. We flew there that evening and Issa picked us up and took us to stay at his auntie's house. She's traveling abroad, so we had the house to ourselves with the housekeeper, Soulemaa (a Burkinabe'). This gave Ang the opportunity to practice Moore' greetings all week in preparation for returning to my village. We caught a cab to downtown Dakar and ran across AlaBama, who acted as our guide the rest of the day. We walked to the president's palace, watched changing of the guard, then onto a Cathedral, and finally the Sandaga market. We watched kids braid ropes out of thread on half block long-amazing! We shopped like tourists, visiting a tailor shop and ordering some items.
We saw cute mini-buses escorting people around town. Every street corner in Dakar had dozens, sometimes hundreds of sheep (goats) and we found out they were for Tabaski, a big Moslem feast on Saturday. Customarily every family buys one for the holiday meal. We lunched mid-afternoon on rice and Mafe' sauce, a meaty groundnut sauce.
Saturday evening we set out to find Senegalese drummer music, the kind Ang had experienced in New York city when she worked there as a traveling nurse. We arrived at “Just4u” to find the Orchestra Baobob playing a salsa dance rhythm, catering to my age group. Then we tried “Madison” which had lots of drumming and singing (mbalax music) for the younger crowd. Neither was quite what we were looking for. (I wasn't to find that until I returned to USA and in Seattle.)

Sunday morning while having our omelet sandwich, we observed a man harvesting leaves nearby. Then there was a horse drawn cart typical of transport of cargo within the city of Dakar.
As we photographed these, men having their morning coffee conversed with us about what's up? and Obama-always about Obama. Africans across the continent are so proud of his heritage. That afternoon Issa accompanied us to a private beach, Voille D'or, on the east side of the Dakar peninsula. We had a lovely afternoon on the Atlantic napping on mats in white sand, snacking, and swimming. We continued onto another aunt's home, Seeley, who had returned from New York this week and was happy to meet us. She supports a Senegalese restaurant in NY and her cuisine was excellent, a platter of roasted chicken and rice baked in Mave' sauce.

Tuesday we ferried over to the nearby Goree' Island, where we had a quaint French room with a balcony overlooking the cobblestone path below. We toured the house of the slaves, “Maison des Esclaves”, where 14 million slaves arrived and 6 million more died enroute due to disease and bad treatment. We viewed scales, a fattening room (69Kg minimum), 3 rooms for men, a room for children, a room for young women, punishment room (hold 2-3 men and they couldn't stand erect), and waiting rooms on two corridors. There was an opening called “Gate of No Return” on the ocean side, where the slaves boarded the ships, with a plank extended to enter the ship. Our guide took us to the Catholic Church and showed us a written apology offered to the slaves by Pope Jean Paul II posted in the sanctuary. We ate another famous Senegalese meal for dinner, Yassa Poulet, chicken with plantain sauce. Sleeping on this small island, we awoke to birds singing and church bells ringing. We walked up the hill to the Castel where a canon was perched to protect the small island. The view of Dakar was especially nice from there.

Back in the city Wednesday we dined with Brandy and her husband Herman and son, Carter. Brandy has worked in Africa four years in Cameroon, Gambia and now for a Non Governmental Organization, US Aid, coordinating a development program. Herman is a musician and three and one half year old Carter goes to International Pre-school. He speaks French with a true nasal sound already. Our mutual friend said we would enjoy the visit and we did. As we returned to the airport we noticed the traffic slowing and the crowd gathering for the visit from Iran's president. Then his motorcade passed by on the freeway going into Dakar.

People were getting ready for Tabaski, washing goats, getting new clothes and hair treatments. There was a festive atmosphere in the air. Meanwhile back in BF the Moslems celebrated a day earlier. We took a bush taxi to Sala, my village and the kids helped us up the path with the baggage. There were many neighbors waiting to meet Angela and they laughed when she greeted them in Moore'. She greeted both family chiefs and the village chief, plus the Major and midwife the next day, with token gifts for them all. We went to St Irene's Church where she greeted more people. She was fascinated by the bakery (boulangerie) and videoed the process.
We continued on to market day in Thyou and found pork sandwich on baguette for lunch. My friend Achille arrived from KDG to visit. When school was in session, Angela brought soccer balls for all the boys and jump ropes for all the girls to use together. She brought pen pal letters from USA to Sala school for the students.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

African Adventure 22

Togo/Benin trip

The last days of August and first week of September I began my sojourn east from Ouaga to Koupela, then south through Tenkodogo and Bitou, arriving at the frontier (border) with Togo before noon. The STMB bus with 60+ passengers onboard were mostly headed for the capitols and coastline of these two countries. A handful of us got off midway down the length of Togo at Kara. Guys on motos were waiting to take passengers to their destinations, but one man walked me to my Hotel le Sourire. It was clean and freshly painted for 5 mille per night. A large covered and separate patio was the dining area.

Softly as if in my dream I heard women chanting Muslim prayer at 4am and Catholic church bells at 5:30,as if competing for attention at dawn. After breakfast I explored the town, walking to the bank, past the police station to the cathedral, which was set on a big track of land on the hillside. The old and modern churches set beside each other. I toured the grounds taking photos. I lunched on fry bread, filled with spaghetti, grilled corn, and for dessert Bengue', a tasty combination of yogurt, milk, sweetened petit millet with ice cubes.

Tuesday morning I took a taxi to Tamberma Valley, where since the 17th century this tribe has lived in fortified round houses called tatas, which have one entrance, so as to trap visitors/enemies once inside. This warded off the slave grabbers. Interestingly the structures are made from clay, wood and straw, so tools weren't necessary.
Under the cone shaped thatch roof, grains are stored. Fetish and animal bones line the inside walls. The villagers come out of the hillside huts anxious for visitors, old women smoking pipes and men wearing hats with horns. We visited a Baobob tree, said to be 2000 years old, so big that there was a chamber inside with daylight beaming down through its belly. Early on, animist sacrifices occurred here.. An agile person can climb up the inside walls.

At another place in the valley an old woman was spinning cotton. She let me try it, and I could tell it requires lots of practice to do well. She had an penny-sized chin hole below her lip which she stuck the tip of her tongue through and then giggled. The men had made arrowheads with threatening points on either side of the sharp tip. Quivers and bows were also homemade. We tried their millet beer, Tchoukoutou. Back in Kara at the marche' I found Togolaise music to add to my collection of African music.

Wednesday was a long day of bush taxis, already full before I came along to squish in. When we got to Togo/Benin border there was a big hassle with drivers wanting our business. Some of us walked to the border which was in sight. We lunched under a big tree waiting for a bush taxi. The one that gave us a ride broke down many times, and the driver sucked water out of the distributor carburetor area. The fumes were bad, but the road was worse. The 30-40K took two hours and twice we had to get gas. At the roundabout in Benin where the road met the highway to Natitengou, we caught yet another taxi 85K to the north and our destination. We walked up the east hillside to our accommodations, Auberge de vieux Cavelier, where we found chicken, riz gras, and Beninaise beer.

Thursday I got a hold of Yesenia, my Benin PC friend, who invited me to her village 15K away that afternoon. At Tanquieta station I hired a driver who knew Yesenia and her village. Along the way I couldn't help thinking how much like the Columbia Gorge it looked there, green trees overhanging a steep gorge, and plush lowlands. We walked along several fields to Yesenia's house, past an unclad farmer cultivating his field, and past a Baobob tree with fetishes hanging from its massive trunk. Shortly Yesenia returned on a moto with her friend, the animator. We sat on her veranda and ate bananas and drank water, chatting the whole time about COS and her project, timed irrigation for vegetable garden. It was fun to compare notes on our lives in separate African Peace Corps countries.

Friday morning our guide through the Pendjari National Park came early, as I realized Benin time was an hour ahead of BF time. He drove to Tanquieta then east 45K to the park entrance. There the driver Alassine, put a seat on the top of the 4X4, like an African safari. We sat up there the duration, bouncing around when we hit chuckholes in the road. The rains had puddled water and creeks everywhere. We saw monkeys, coq du boufond and many birds, but no large animals. Apparently they most often come down during the dry season. We came to a stream swollen into a lake that was a dead end for us. Luckily we caravaned with another vehicle which helped us out when our rig got stuck in that creek.
Next we drove to the Cascades, water falling in sheets over huge ancient slabs of stone. Boys had crafted fishing poles and were hooking the fish from the pools of water.

On return to Tanquieta I arranged for a bush taxi to Fada in eastern BF early the next morning. The driver agreed to pick me up at the hotel by 4am. We drove north to BF watching the sunrise come over the mountains in the east. The hilly terrain changed once we got into BF. Since the floods alerts came this week, we decided to continue onto Ouaga. On the outskirts of the capitol we saw evidence, water up to the road on either side. Inside the eastern sector we saw one city block flattened. People were said to be housed in the local schools and churches.

While I stayed the weekend in Ouaga, I got a batch of pictures into the Close of Service folder for Emily to use in putting together a slide show for our Close of Service party the next week. Driver Michelle drove me from TH to the bush taxi, but the driver, Bouba did not come today, so we went over to the Car Cellular place to find the car that goes to Leo, 90K past my village. It stopped on the outskirts of Ouaga for over an hour. By the time I got home that evening, Lorraine called me and without missing a beat we ole' friends picked up the last conversation. She's excited about their Greek cruise with another side trip to spend time in Tuscany and Rome.

When I spoke to the Major he told me the rains flooded the road near Dana waist high, and I needed to postpone our HIV-AIDS talk in Sune', a village 14K past Dana in the bush. So my plan B was a sensibilisation with the women after the Thursday morning baby weighing time, continuing my talks about prenatal health care. The accoucheuse, Albertine was fine with that, as she was passing out mosquito nets to the women who had infants under one year old and there would be a big group to train. In the afternoon at the marche' I was able to discuss with Jonathan the reason he and I will postpone the AIDS talk. We had pork sandwich together and caught up on PC news before I shopped for veggies.

Thursday we did the second sensibilisation with the women about not working so hard during pregnancy and having the men carry the wood and help with the field work. We emphasized their need for extra rest for both herself and the fetus. Albertine added that she aids the women with medicine and information at prenatal visits. It is a good time for the husband to come too so she can answer his questions. She said the government pays her to help the people and they need to come. After our talk, the midwife passed out “Plumpy Nut” and vitamins for malnourished infants. By weighing and measuring the babies and using those numbers on the grid, some fall into this category.

When I inquired about a woman in labor, Albertine said she's referred her to KDG hospital to aid in delivering an unborn, deceased baby. The depressed woman refuses to leave the clinic and relatives/visitors were trying to persuade her to go.

I asked Laurentine to prepare the chicken Jean Baptiste gave me for dinner. Meanwhile I made cole slaw and baked biscuits in my dutch oven to bring to the table. By the time I got to their home, Laurentine was mashing garlic, frying it with onions and tomato paste and oil for sauce to cover the cooked chicken. She prepared rice with sombala and piment. What a terrific cook!

Adama, my teenaged neighbor, came with me to the school garden to weed the Moringa trees. We worked together an hour or more. Then he filled my large water bidon via many trips to the well. I worked on preparing spaghetti dinner for my neighbors that evening when they returned from the fields. I made biscuits again, cole slaw and sauce for the spaghetti and four bags of pasta. 16 showed up for dinner.

Next day I visited with the Major at the clinic to tell him I have Close of Service Conference in Ouaga this week. He told me he delivered the 20 Moringa trees to Bansmnore and they are all planted and doing OK. In the afternoon I went to two other compounds near me and distributed Moringa trees. I got ankle deep in water enroute but returned on another dry path. Zenabou and I sowed five dozen more seeds to sprout while I am gone. When I took the bush taxi we got a flat tire by Kokologo, and had a 30 minute wait for repair. Becky texted me and said we are lodged at ODE during the conference, a new place for me. We went to the kickoff dinner at “Mystique”, a French restaurant in downtown Ouaga. Excellent cuisine!

The sessions this week were carefully crafted for the PCVs who will return home for Masters degrees or to hunt jobs, so I was able to skip some. I attended the medical session about the physical exam before we go home. And I attended one on job interviews that Ellie thought I could lend experience to. A panel of ex volunteers talked one morning and that was fascinating. The country director had us all over to his place for a hamburger barbecue the second evening. Dr Claude led the final session on separating and reintegrating into American life. Saying goodbye to village is very difficult, think about it and do it over the last month, she advised. Give ourselves time to reenter life at home.

On 17 September 2009 I received a grandma call from Shawn and Jodi that their baby was born this morning. BoBrazon came feet first into this world weighing 8 pounds. “He is a beauty!” they said. Everyone is excited! Dieu est grand!

Friday and Saturday were filled with shopping, using internet and working on Moringa stuff. Then we all got dressed up for the Close of Service party held on the rooftop garden-patio of a new international school/residence. The hosts were very accommodating and friendly to us. !0 PCVs put on a synchronized dance, which was adorable and fast.
Drinks and hor d'oeuvres were served. A video of our group working, living and playing in Burkina Faso was shown with music. Lots of memories and chatting, then dinner was served.

Unfortunately I got sick with a temperature and had to excuse myself to the med unit. Sylvie said often volunteers get sick from eating street food in Ouaga. She put me on an antibiotic and in two days I felt fine. Andrea and I ate dinner while we watched Tom Hanks as a PCV in Thailand entitled “Volunteer”. On Wednesday Ousmane drove me back to village. I asked about Fr/Eng dictionary and a broom to take back so he was on a mission to find them for me and did! We dropped off Jonathan's packages in Thyou and then up the hill to my house in Sala, where Ousmane greeted everyone before he left. It was sooo hot, I slept on the porch for comfort.

Last week of September

On Thursday I went to the maternite' for weighing the babies and doing a talk with the women on “Anemia and Pre-eclampsia”. 40 women were in attendance with their babies. We discuss the symptoms of swollen feet and face, and the need to go to the clinic for help. The young nurse Emilie interjected that it's treatable during pregnancy, but more difficult if the woman only comes to clinic for delivery. Often the medical staff have to send the woman to hospital for caesarian. I gave two mosquito nets to the women who were most involved in the questions/answer period.

At market the vendors lay out a big tarp and dump a pile of donated clothes from America and elsewhere for all the shoppers to sort through for their new items. I found a few new things for the neighbor kids to start school with. I met my friend Cyrille, who has been treated and is recovering from malaria this week. Robert and Constant are also there to talk with. We went to the Kiemtore' family home to visit Maxime, who is going back to Bobo to seminary in the morning. We discuss his ordination next July and his wish to have his premiere Mass at St. Irene' Parish in Thyou. But his family is not able to foot the expense of the entire celebration. He plans to have a discussion with the church board at Christmastime when he returns home on his next break.

I made a batch of oatmeal raisin cookies to bake in my dutch oven, while Sanata and Madi watched. I explained that tea and cookies are good together. When Issa and Madi made their Burkinabe' tea they made me some sans sugar. I was able to pass out 2-3 cookies to each of the neighbor kids. I donated a few school supplies to Sanata and little Adama, both are going away this week to school. I spent the afternoon redoing my bulletin board, a source of attraction to all the neighborhood. So I grouped the photos under three headings: My American Family, My Host Family in OHG, and My Sala Family. The kids love to stand there and find themselves in the photos. I added our new baby, BoBrazon to the American group.

Saturday morning I had help inflating the big red exercise ball Angie sent me for my back and sciatic nerve. For over three hours the neighbor kids played on it on my porch. I read an interesting mystery book entitled “The Name of the Rose” about a twelfth century Franciscan Abbey in Italy, where a number of monks went missing and were murdered over access to books and manuscripts in the library.
I love the luxury of time to read. Due to the hot weather, I slept outside on the porch most of the week.

I took Zenabou to church with me, which she loves to do. Because Fr. Thomas came to hear confessions and say Mass, the congregation overflowed into the second hangar nearby. A young man gave us his seat there. Afterwards we went to the market, stopping by the bakery for warm French bread.
Zenabou tries on clothes at the market and finds some to her liking. Constant goes with her to pay the vendor 1500 francs. The tailor repaired my backpack by hand and only charged a couple hundred francs. When we get back home, I give the little girls each a pair of flip flops, and Zenabou shows off her new clothes funded by Angie. When Abdoulaye comes over, I invite him to visit me in America after he finishes his CEG (college, which is actually secondary school). He has mixed reaction, happy at the idea, sad that he has no money. I suggest he talk it over with his family.

That Monday Marie and her son Claude from church came for a visit, and I invited Georges to translate for the two of us. Marie said Jean Baptiste just told her this morning to come for a visit, as he promised to send her. She went too far past Sala before asking directions to my house. I make peanut butter cookies and give all the kids some, then I make tuna sandwich for my guests, always a hit with the Burkinabe'. Meanwhile there is activity going on outside my house that I am not aware of. The village chef comes over to tell us that my neighbor, Sanata's baby has died. I discover later that the baby gets buried at noon behind our compound and close to where Alizetta lives. That afternoon after my company leaves, I decide to try and visit Sanata, who is sitting in Kontim's hut alone. Other women are nearby in the courtyard. I sit with her awhile to give my condolences. Her heart is heavy and her breasts are full!

On Tuesday I practice for the talk Thursday at the maternite' on false labor, miscarriage and birthing. When George comes for lesson, his nephew Alexis came along to phone his father in Kokologo about tuition (25 mille) for a year of school in Thyou. Madi is going to OUA this week to register for University and pay 20 mille fee to enroll. He will try and find housing too. Then Karim and Saidou (major's son) come to visit. I take Saidou's number as he leaves tomorrow for school in KDG. I will call him when the photos from his brother's wedding feast come, as there is a good one of him.

I got my activity reports ready for the Major to take to Sapouy to the Medical Director of our area. While there I survey the Moringa Project both at the maternite' and at the school. The trees are dry and turning yellow. Rasmata helps me water the ones by the Major's house, and Karim helps me with the ones at the school.

I stop by the soccer field on the way home and the young men are out there running their legs off! I visit Issaka briefly and his shoes are in shreds. I note his size 43 with the hope of replacing them. Africa is very hard on feet, I soak mine somethimes and they are happy. Karite' butter works the best for the dry cracks on the soles of feet.

First two weeks of October

On Thursdays I did presentation to the women who bring their babies to be weighed. The lesson was on false labor, miscarriage and birthing process. Between 45-60 women filled the waiting room area, the hallway, and some out on the porch to listen, each with a baby. We encouraged the women to come to the clinic at the earliest sign of a problem to consult medical staff for solution and avoid further complications. The accoucheuse said it is also problem if the labor takes a long time and they need help. The women responded more come to clinic than stay home for birth. The accoucheuse finished by asking them to bring 800 francs for delivery when they come in. She added that if their husband has questions about sexual relations to bring him in for discussion between the couple and midwife.

October turned hot early on and I slept outside most nights. When I prepared my tent one night the sky lit up with lightening. It was a dazzling spectacle that I tried to capture in pictures. Ousmane indicated I was attracting the lightening and that was very dangerous, so respectfully I ceased my activity.

The Polio Campaign commenced for three days over the weekend with door to door visits. On my bike I met up with the vaccination team walking not very far west of the main route. We visited many homes, and witnessed harvesting, pounding the millet, and drying the stalks. At one house Gilbert plays with the baby, kissing it. At another the people show off their white furry dog.
They give us dried ears of maise, which we hang off my bike. We walk all morning covering long distance in the heat and drinking much water along the way. We ask for all the preschoolers in each compound and give them the polio drops, marking those vaccinated on the wall and tagging each child's finger.

The second day I find the team close to Ipala compound, Albertine on foot and Gilbert with a flat tire on his moto, which he goes off to repair.. He is happy to see me, because I can take his spot. I join Albertine the rest of the morning going west deeper into the bush. We visit many people, some working on harvest and chucking maise or weaving panniers. We note the calabasse vines covering huts and granary At one place Albertine shows me a very malnourished child who needs to go to the CREN. An eight year old girl was carrying the baby. She said her mom was at home and they have no money. At Odeille's home, she gave us citron, another gave us maise and another, peanuts before we headed home past the barrage.

Sunday morning I sprayed a insecticide solution called Rambo on all the Moringa trees at home, at CSPS and at the school garden. That day I noticed how tall the millet and maise grew this season next to our house In a short while the children harvested all of the corn and took the stocks down too for animal food in the future.

I prepared beans and rice to have inside the tortillas I was serving my neighbor kids that night, along with cole slaw and oatmeal cookies. I had Minata make citronade for dinner. Another taco fest, thanks to Chris. We sent food over to the adults at home, but the kids came over to fill up at my place. They each had 3-4 burritos.

That first week I paid school fees for Alima to attend this year, 1,250 francs (about 3 dollars). Hamadou asked for help paying for 3 of his children Emma, Sadia, and Moussa. I found Fati on the playground and she provided her mother's family name to register Alima. My Moringa counterpart Karim was there to assist with watering the trees at school.

Within a week I invited Jonathan to come have a Taco Fest with my neighbors and some friends at my house. I requested he bring his guitar and play for us. Jon is Garrett's replacement, a PCV teacher in Thyou. He hales from Chicago area and told me his gramma wanted to do Peace Corps.
After eating, Jonathan picked up his guitar and played and sang and whistled. The sound drew the other neighbor children into my house and soon it was overflowing. They kept time to the beat and engaged more as the rhythm and music got faster. We went on until 9pm and was a big hit!

The next four days I went to OUA to work on my quarterly report and get my blog done and onto the internet. When I arrived at PCB I met with Doug, Country Director and Dr. Claude, Health Sector Director and we discussed my schedule for ending PC service on a high note, considering everything. I had wanted to extend 3 months, but the heat was discouraging that idea. I will end on 17 December. It felt like a roller coaster ride that day, when I opened my email and found a request from Yvonne Recchia. She wrote that inspired by my PC service, she applied for a social work position in England and asked if I could give a work recommendation. I was only too happy to respond.

I worked on the job reference and my reports pretty intensely over the next few days. When I came outside I discovered a rainstorm with much thunder one evening. The guard advised I wait, so I read my book. Then another guard was ending his shift and leaving for home, when he offered to accompany me to the Transit House. People here extend themselves for PCVs and visitors. When Angie called me to plan her visit here, she said Cliff was pulling his pickup truck and trailer rig into the driveway, where the kids had been playing, when a speeding sports car hit his trailer and careened off nearly hitting a big tree. Luckily no one was hurt.

One day I had free time, so I planned to go downtown and visit the French Cultural Center, Biafca (bookstore), and Marina Market. I ate lunch at L'eau Vive, a place run by the Carmelite Missionaries. They specialize in French food. Salad D'avocate and Escalope de porc panee was my order and it was good. I met a young man Karim with a gentle persona, who showed me around and carried my bag. The vendors are less tenacious when a local is with me.

In the evening PCV Josh and I visited with Ansel, our driver to Zinaire Zoo last month. We had a nice chat and he invited us to his home whenever we are in Ouaga. His wife just finished veterinarian school. We will try to get Christina to join us.

Near the PCB is the Handicap International Inc. office. I stopped by to discuss the crippled 10 yr old in my area who needs appliance for his right leg. The staff were helpful in providing resource information about orthopedic assessment every Tues and Thurs in Goughin sector. It will take some coordinating to get there.

When I arrived in village the Major and Dicko Ousmane both helped get me and my stuff up the hill and home. I visited around in my compound greeting all the women, Yvette, Sampoko, Dougouma, and Alizetta. Zenabou brought over delicious benga for my dinner. Abdoulaye and Karim looked at my youth magazine. Quiet evening until the weather changed to wind and rain.

Thursday I was at clinic for baby weighing by 8am and throughout the morning we weighed 52 babies. By 10:30 we started our talk on Soutien (Care) after Delivery. Over forty women were there. It was National Handwashing Day, so we talked about
the universal precaution and value of washing hands with soap routinely throughout the day. Twelve ladies volunteered in pairs to demonstrate proper handwashing. The caveat for them was the ball of soap I gave each one for participating. It proved to be a good lesson.

The last two weeks of October

I spoke to both Angela and Heather about my new end date for Peace Corps service. They both thought they could move up their dates to come visit mom in Africa. Ang wants to visit Senegal while she's here, and Heather and I will travel to Kenya at the end of my service. They are checking prices and schedules to accomplish this.

We worked on the garden at the school to water all the trees and replant five of them. All the teachers were under the trees and offered to get students to help water and replant. Karim came to help dig holes in the very hard soil. The boys helped with this and also we saw that the beef had tore the fence down. We agreed to repair the fence next week.

The choral competition between all the parishes was a Saturday night performance at St. Luc's in Sabou. I packed up to go spend the night with the sisters at the CREN and attend the event. For two hours the choral groups sang, drummers drummed and theater folks put on skits. I taped some of it. The place was packed. The next morning we went to Mass at St. Luc's and I tried to tape the singing. We went to the market afterwards, so that I could see Yvette, my friend who moved there from Thyou. She continues her specialty, making dolo for the market there as she did in Thyou. She greeted me eagerly and we visited. Laurentine and I went to find pork sandwich but settled for chicken, which was very good.

I was bothered by the heat and returned to the CREN to nap. Sr. Mary shared an experience she had with a 2 day old baby, whose mother died. His grandmother brought him to the CREN from a remote village, because he was losing weight and malnourished. Sr. Mary said she baptized and named the baby and he began his recovery. A friend of the grandmother's acted as a surrogate relative and the baby, Francais recovered miraculously. Sr. Mary's faith is profound!

I arranged for a tour of the CREN on October 31 for our midwife at Sala. She makes referrals there and it will help her explain to the families what to expect. Early in the week the nurse Philippe went to Sune' for vaccinations and he talked with the chef there about our HIV talk planned for Thursday that week. We had to take Georges moto to get a new chain and sprocket set in order to make the 24K trip.

I went to Thyou to the bakery for bread one day and the baker was gone, so I hung out with two older women across the main route, who were pulling peanuts off their plants. They allowed me to participate.

When Karim came to visit we walked to school to regard the broken fence posts. We patched it until Wednesday when we will fix it. The neighbor women came for coffee and they shared stories with me of how many women in our compound had lost a baby. A large sad number....

Ali, then little Karim came over to color. They each have an ear infection, so I gave them a non-aspirin and antihistamine. Alima came over for 200 francs she needs for school supplies. I made pizza for dinner, which I'm doing better at now. I really like using the dutch oven for variety in meals. When I made oatmeal and raisin cookies that week, Sakinata was watching me, fascinated with the process.

On the way to repair the fence with Karim, I dropped off balls of soap and the list of women who participated in our handwashing demo last week. Albertine will distribute them this week, as I will be gone to Sune'. Karim and I spent 2 hours working on the fence and watering trees at the school. He dug holes one foot deep each for 4 posts he made. Then we tied the fence to the posts with wire I had. The older girls at school watered all the Moringa trees. Jonathan came by to practice our presentation for Thursday. Afterwards we walked the two compounds to meet the neighbors and Hamadou offered us dolo. He told Jon he heard him play the guitar at my house last time and enjoyed it.

Thursday morning we got our things together for sensibilisation, so that when PCV Jonathan came, we were ready to make the 24K trip to Sune'. We arrived there at noon, and the chef greeted us. We waited an hour under the big tree, where an old model A carcass rests. Some men were napping and the women were frying haricot balls in hot oil. When enough crowd gathered, we began the HIV-AIDS talk and condom demonstration using an ear of corn as a prop. For our first presentation together Jonathan and I were satisfied. Georges of course translated everything into Moore' for the villagers. At the conclusion the chef asked us to wait as he had something for us. Apparently the chicken got away, so we received this gift a week later from the village of Sune'.

On our way back to village that day, we stopped at Dana 10K away to speak to Seni Pele' and his grand brother about an evaluation of his twisted leg. The family agreed to the appointment. The school director will communicate with the family anything I need to text them about.

One of the joys for me has been to give photographs to villagers. Aminata, Ousmane's second wife, was pleased when I gave her a framed family photo, which she hung immediately in her newly constructed hut. She asked me for a solar light, which I was happy to give her.

October is the month of the Rosary and the Christian villagers gather under a tree in a clearing to pray the rosary. I went there one afternoon before dinnertime and joined in as different ones each said a decade of the rosary surrounded by nature.

Overnight thieves broke into Minata's house and ransacked it looking for money. They were even in her room searching, but she didn't wake up. Thank God the children were safe. No one woke up. Hamadou lost his phone to them. I had locked my door the last two nights, so was untouched by the scoundrels. Later I heard from the pharmacist that a woman recently from France was also robbed that night. They clearly were looking at foreigners I believe. When I opened my door the following morning I saw the courtyard full of people, even the village chef, all worried about the intruder.

I pedaled to Sabou, 15K away in about 1.5 hrs and caught a bush taxi to Koudougou. The chauffeur stopped at a school and picked up a load of pipes to transport to town. My friend Achille met me in KDG and got me and my things to a room in the petite seminary for the weekend. We went to the market and found Joseph, who parked our bikes in his lot. I gave him a photo of he and Georges, schoolmates from seminary days. We shopped at the market awhile. We went on to visit Odeille, Achille's big sister and her three sons at her home. She gave me a bag of peanuts and a photo. After a couple hours on the internet, we found “Marquis la Restaurante a Cote”, owned by another relative. We had brouchettes and riz gras with our drinks.

On Sunday we found that it was holiday at the seminary, which means no Mass, so we rode up to Burkina Parish for Mass, which I recorded. The choral voices were angelic. The pastor I had met at Fr. Frederick's 20th Anniversary Mass at Thyou. In the afternoon we looked at a series of Benin/Togo trip pictures and then I took a nap. When we got back together later, Achille took me to get a watermelon to give his mother and sister, Emilie and we visited Seraphim at a restaurant where he was chatting with his friends. They gave me all the information on BF documents required for passports.

Next we motoed to a small village 10K from KDG and met his father's big sister. They were very happy to meet an American. In generous fashion they also gave me two bags of freshly harvested peanuts. Achillle bought me a connection for the outlet so I could charge my laptop, which took an hour. Then we checked out of the Notre Dame petite seminary and returned to the internet at the post office. We got an American hamburger, Achille's first at the Wend-Kuni restaurant near the bush taxi place, while we waited for my ride home. George met me and we pedaled towards Sala, when Bouba came along in Air Thyou and gave me a free ride. At Sala two young men helped me up the hill to my house. It was good to be there.

I went to the clinic on Tuesday morning and saw four people on drip feed for malaria. One of them is Alizetta, one of my favorite neighbor women, the one who was honored for completing her course in the Koran recently. Her adult daughters and their babies were there, as well as her husband, who lives in Thyou. He has the high cheekbones I've seen in many of their children. (See photos.)

I discussed with the Major my plans to take Seni Pele' to OUA for evaluation of his leg. He said there is a facility in KDG too, but I responded the transportation there is more difficult. The Major also mentioned the 4 day Tetanus Campaign starting Thursday. That would be the day we take Pele' to OUA. When I got to market that afternoon, I ordered pork sandwich from Jean Baptiste's oven and the whistler came by and shared my food. Later Juliette, wife of Bado gave me dolo and practiced reading English from my Oliver Twist book. She hadn't done that since her schooldays.

We called the Orthopedic Clinic two times and finally were told to come the next day as the doctor would be in following surgery. We sent msg to family via the Dana school director. Wednesday evening as arranged Seni Pele' and his much older brother arrived. I was glad Georges was here to translate with them, because I think 10 year old Pele' was a little afraid, but Mathieu expressed how grateful the family is for this evaluation. We were able also to get the family names correct, father and mother. Pele' is the youngest of five children. Mathieu returned from Cote d'Ivoire when he was born to assist his parents. He told us the malformation occurred after Pele's birth and they enlisted traditional medicine for help, but....

When the two men had left, I tried to entertain Pele'. We sat outside and many neighbors came over to meet him. Through dinner and playing, Abdoulaye come over to talk with him. He said the boy speaks Garounsi, close to Moore' but not exactly the same. He liked coloring, so I gave him a book and colors to take home later. He slept on the lipicot for the night. In the morning Abdoulaye rode Pele' on his bike to the bush taxi, as it was on his way to school. I followed to the station, where there was a huge gathering of Muslims, lots of chairs and motos. Our bush taxi left on time and in Sabou, Georges joined us to help with the translation in OUA at the Handicap Clinic in Goughin district. We waited until noon to get seen by the team of specialists. They stood Pele' on the table to look at the movement in his right leg and foot. Pele' could wiggle his toes, barely. The doctor assessed that Pele' had a clean break in the ankle area of his leg at or after birth and the bones didn't align to heal.

Orthopedic Dr. Jean Yago ordered X-rays, called the clinic to confirm and gonewrote “Urgent” on the referral. He said to come back later for consultation. For the next hour we walked, first out to the main route to catch a taxi to Centerville, and then from the wrong x-ray clinic to the correct one, close to our bush taxi. Poor Pele' was fatigued by all that exercise. The clinic as most businesses in BF was closed for repose until 1500h. They took 3 views, which the technician took across the hall for the radiologist to see. That doctor said that the break was clean (through) and the bones were not properly set. He ventured that Pele' was probably born normal and then the break occurred. He emphasized that we need to return to the orthopedic clinic for consultation on the next step. The clinic wanted 15 mille per x-ray, of which I could give 5 mille down, and pay the rest when we pick up the x-rays for next appt.

The ride home was an adventure. Bouba had left typically at 1430h and we went to Car Cellulaire to find it was also . Then we got a cab to a place called ONEA on the main route to Bobo (our direction) and waited hoping to catch a bus. Most other bush taxis and buses were full, finally BIT stopped and wanted 1500 francs per person. Georges was negotiating the price and then I said it's getting dark out and told the man that a child should only be 1 mille at most. He let us on for 4 mille. We went not far at all, when the bus stopped and all the men got out to pray for an hour before it continued. We arrived at 20h at Sabou and had coffee hoping to see a bush taxi going our way. A huge camion (cattle truck) was idling there while the driver was eating. The driver planned to stay the night there and drive to Thyou market in the morning to pick up cattle. For 1500 mille he said he would take us this evening. He put Pele' and me up in the cab and Georges and his bike in the trailer. In 15 minutes we were at Thyou. Georges went home, got his moto and took us to my house by 22h. In one day's time Pele' had for the first time ridden a bush taxi, a bus, and a camion, plus a moto. Most kids never get out of village!

The next morning Pele' sat outside waiting for his older brother to come for him. When Georges came over I had him write down what the doctors said, so we could give it to the family. Mathieu came and George took about an hour to explain everything and talk about our return trip on November 12, when he would need to come too. This needs to be a family decision. He will talk with the family.

We went to the market, had lunch and then I biked to the new grotto in Thyou for the rosary. Marie and little Claude each led a decade of the rosary. The next morning I checked in with Albertine, who was working on the Tetanus Vaccination Campaign in Sala. She wanted to ask the Major when she could leave with me for tour of the CREN. Karim was working on the campaign and I mentioned the falling posts at the Moringa garden at school, so we can go fix them later. At 10h Albertine was ready to go, after we got her one liter of petrol. Her moto is very comfortable and fast. At the CREN, Sister Margaret led us on the tour in French. Albertine refers many malnourished children with mothers there and it is a nice visual reminder of what they have to offer. We saw mothers and children there and met all the staff. It was a good trip.

Monday, November 16, 2009

African Adventure 21

First week July 2009

On the first I woke up to rain around 5am and it rained hard for more than an hour. When I was able to ride over to the PC bureau on my bike, Aisha, the mail clerk told me they picked up 39 boxes at the Post Office this morning and 7 of those were mine. Idrissa the driver drove me and my boxes to the taxi brousse after noon. On the way home our transport passed two petrol trucks which had crashed on the road and one rolled off, injuring the driver. The paved highways are all two lanes in Burkina Faso, and that makes safety hazardous at times. Once at the Shell station in Thyou, it took me three trips to get all the packages home.

The women and children are in the fields planting, so there's not many coming to the health center for baby weighing or anything else. We got done by 9:30 with no vaccinations needed today. At the compound the women are preparing food for Sita's relative who is here for marriage. By dinnertime in the evening many men were eating together in the courtyard to celebrate the marriage. Meanwhile the women gather in Minata's yard to eat. I never did see the couple and in fact they weren't both here.

When I opened the box Connie sent, I gave Fati her requested items, shoes, backpack, skirt and top, then invited the Major over to get the sterilizer. Over tea, we talked about it and the directions for using the pressure cooker need to be translated into French. We also discussed the district audit taking place soon, as well as the one the Peace Corps will do. I mentioned I want to teach the women how to cook with Moringa leaves.

My new friend Constant transported the gate here for the enclosure of the Moringa petite forest at the Maternite'. We had left it at the tailor's place last market until now. One morning Issa and Karim both helped me transport the gate, some wire, and new bigger poles for the fence We three worked until 11am reinforcing the poles and the fence, adding a layer for height. Karim dug holes and made a channel for the big woven gate to sit in. Now we believe the Moringa trees are safer from animals. See photos.

There was a COGES (health board) meeting one late afternoon, which Philippe ran and the accoucheuse participated in. There was a quorum of members and the discussion was about the audit and also the new residence for the head nurse and the need for more maintenance of the facility. They deferred my French report on my activities until Georges can attend and translate into Moore' for several of the board members.

With the rainy season comes higher humidity and a different feel to the heat. My midriff is sweating constantly. It feels very hot.

Father Andre' is a new priest ordained in KDG this first week of July and he says his premiere Mass at Nabatogo, with Maxime, George's brother, assisting. Yvette from our church organized a bus ride there for the women of the parish. We sang all the 25K way to that village. Each time a chant ended another choral member started a new one. It was a fun trip.
Many people circled the outside of the church, then processed down the aisles and onto the altar. Particularly colorful was the village chef in traditional hat, sword and clothes over his ordination attire. I taped the Mass, and the trilling of nearby choral member came across loud and clear. At the conclusion many people spoke, wishing Father Andre' well and presenting gifts to him. Then the congregation led by the priests danced out in similar fashion, very happy indeed!

Several of us walked over to the marche' in Nabatogo to eat our tuna sandwiches, and find dolo. Martine and Marcel, Kiemtore' relatives, had their dolo booth set up on the church grounds. We all piled back on the taxi brousse for the 5K ride to Andre's parents home where the rest of the fete would occur. We walked another kilometer past a broken bridge by their barrage, and to the family compound. Tons of people were there, in groups of singers, dancers, people visiting and/or eating. Guests of honor were under a tent at long tables to eat. Music could be heard over the loudspeakers. It was a joyous celebration! We left for home before dark, singing all the way back.

Second week of July 2009

The Major had helped me schedule a sensibilisation for students in Bonsmnore', his natal village. That morning the rain began at 8am and rained hard for three hours straight. Bonsmnore' is 8K up a dirt path, which in good weather is difficult to drive, but impossible with this weather. I text the school director on this last week of school and he invited us to come in October when school resumes.

So we went to the marche' and later Maxime text us that he wanted a family dinner to celebrate his advancement to the position of deacon in the church. We went to their parent's home and watched the food preparations, Riz Gras with gumbo and aubergine sauce, fish with onion sauce, fried chicken with tomatoes, garlic and onion sauce. They got out the boom box and church music cassettes to add to the occasion. It was a happy family celebration.

Only three women brought their babies for weighing this week plus two others came for prenatal visits. There was a family in the recovery room whose baby was born and died at home. Many people came to console them.

In the afternoon a young man helped me plant 15 trees over near the Maternite' now that our fence is secure. The Major found my watering can so we can keep them watered. I tried pumping water at the nearby pump, and found it takes practice to develop the skill. The people at the pump helped me out. Whenever I go there to weed, people come and help me too.

I invited the two new nurses for tuna sandwiches, which they enjoyed. An American meal! I gave them tank tops and we played Uno. Another evening Garrett, PCV in next village was hosting his replacement volunteer, Jonathan, a nice guy who plays the guitar and writes songs. Garrett finishes his service next month and returns to USA via Morocco.

Chris packaged up a Mexican Feast for me to host my neighbors with. I cooked up the black beans and the pinto beans along with preparing all the condiments, onions, tomatoes, and taco sauce. I had the kids learn how to say “Tortillas”, and explained this is a Mexican bread. They practiced wrapping their tortilla around a big scoop of beans. Three families came to eat, 3 women and 14 children. Everyone had from two to four burritos apiece and were quite content.

Annually at the close of school, the Sala teachers host a party for all the functionaires in village. Dicko Oussmane came by to invite me to the director's house the following Monday night right after dark. I biked there and was walking in the field towards his house when a scorpion stung me two times on my foot. That is an excruciating pain that last for upwards of four-six hours. We went to the clinic where the medical staff put ice packs on it and I took Ibuprofen, Tylenol, Benadryl, and applied hydro cortisone. But mainly I was home elevating my foot until the time passed. I had met my horoscope sign, which comes out at night! Ouch!

Mid July the auditors from DC Peace Corps arrived, a whole contingent of reviewers came and quickly spread out to the contacts they asked me to provide and interviewed all available. Reviewers spoke French as well as Moore' the local language. They talked with my Major, head of the CSPS clinic, Karim, my counterpart, Georges, my language teacher and translator, Minata, my landlady and a 13 year old student, Adama, who of course attended the sensibilisation at school. Two more school people were to be interviewed later. The goal of the audit was to determine the effectiveness of the Peace Corps program and service at the community level.

Third week of July 2009

On this week I traveled to Ouaga, because I was summoned by the police commissionaire to testify as a witness/victim of purse snatching last January and trial was set for Friday. The PC driver drove me to the police captain's office and I checked in. He said come to the Palais de Justice next morning. Congo Harouna, PC security manager and I were driven there to the huge stark courtroom, where the main judicial people were all in black robes. The judges were distinguished by their white ties. The tribunal main judges were women flanked by two male judges up on the “bench”. The prisoners, 30+ came in a blue paddy wagon with many guards with guns. The courtroom security kept saying “Turn off your portables” to the people, who were attending the hearings. The postponed case names were called first, and after a bit, Congo found the Police Commissioner Christopher only to be told our prisoner, Allasane was not in that group. Meanwhile the prosecutor spoke from left side of the bench and the defense attorney from the right side spoke for four thieves. Thirty minutes later another guy defended himself and the prosecutor became rather heated arguing with the defendant.

Congo motioned for me to come out to the lobby. The commissionaire had found out that Allasane was in court last Saturday, pled and was sentenced to two years, no time off for the 6 months awaiting court date. (Apparently the whole court system is not computerized yet.) We then went to the Magistrate's office who signed a permission slip for us to visit Allasane in prison, which is a few blocks from the Peace Corps Bureau. This magistrate's office had mounds of papers everywhere. We waited over 30 minutes for the prison to find Allasane to come talk to us.(Prison could also benefit from computerized data.) He was contrite as he told us about just meeting the ringleader two weeks before the snatching. He said the police have been looking for Sylvain for 4 years. He is very clever and keeps ahead of them. Allasane said he met another of the accomplices who was caught, and serving time, while the mastermind Sylvain got away.

Close to the omelet place on Charles de Gaulle Blvd, the police had traffic stopped this Saturday morning for a bicycle race that went whizzing by. It's amazing how fast they are! I got a cab to the Village Artisanal to try out my visa card, and they required purchase of 30 mille worth of merchandise to use a visa credit card there. I had no trouble doing that. I found a quaint little restaurant close to my Hotel Zamdogo called La Cuisine de Juliette. I can now recommend their grilled curried chicken, a welcome meal after a long day shopping.

This week I spent with Becky, the other volunteer over 40. We became fast friends during training at our host village of Somiaga during those two months. Out of 8 people placed there, we are the two remaining in Peace Corps service. When I took the taxi brousse to Gademtenga, her market town, I was welcomed by her local friends and soon Becky pedaled up to meet me. Becky's village Likink-else is 7K further and we biked and greeted people along the route. Once there we sat under the stars in her courtyard relaxing and catching up on each other's activities. Monday was a day of meeting the village chef, the Major at the health clinic, and above all Zongo, the sweet nurse who laughs a lot and likes talking with us. We spent a fair amount of time sitting under the huge Baobob tree in front of his house. His wife Awa makes fried gateau (cake) that goes nicely with coffee in the morning. The village passed the word that the Fete of Masks was starting Tuesday evening in the nearby village. Meanwhile I observed Becky teaching an English class to 8-10 girls. The mutual admiration between students and Becky is very evident as they introduced themselves to me and I to them. They sang songs and practiced family connections, using my family. Other important folks I met were Ouseni, her Moore' teacher and Gansonre', the pastor and his big family and of course Madi, the owner of the local coffee shop. That evening Zongo and his wife donated a chicken to mark my arrival in Likink-else, which they prepared in wonderful sauce along with fresh local bread.

We went to the market where I found three tank tops new to me. We visited friends and tried out the local benga and dolo.

That evening we went to the outskirts of a village, Bengado for the Fete of Masks. A crowd was gathered on a knoll around a grove of trees waiting for the masks to arrive. Out of our view inside the woods men were preparing a sacrifice (chickens). In a clearing we saw 2 or 3 masks coming across the field towards us. Becky said “Look, they're coming out!” Saidou explained the ceremony as we and thousands of others watched the masked people dance toward us and to where other masques were gathered. They squatted in a huge semi-circle as the drumming and whistling swelled with the momentum. A signal that the sacrifice was completed caused them to start parading around the grove of trees with the children all running in front of them. Some masques carried fetish sticks. Their costumes were made of natural fibers, dyed black and pink. On their heads sat big hand-carved wooden masks, each of a certain animal, ie, gazelle, monkey, bird, antelope, sheep, herron, etc. Each masque in turn danced a particular step representing their animal. Then danced away into the grove. There were 23 in all, and it was captivating. We were lucky to see this festivity that only occurs every three years. It finished by dusk, and will continue two more days, when Becky got permission to take pictures. (See photos.)

Zongo gave me and my bags a ride on his moto to the gare, where the driver made a special trip back to Ouaga for me. At one point he let out his assistant, who went into the nearby village for milk, which I assume was freshly drawn. We waited for him to return with his two liter bottle. Reminds me of the fresh Jersey milk route my father made most weekdays stopping on route to town from the country.

Fourth week of July 2009

Back in village we weighed 28 babies and only one was frightened of me. That is progress. There was much visiting among the women today and they seemed to understand the Moore' numbers I was saying to convey their baby's weight. Albertine gave out immunizations to those infants needing them and then she did 3 or so prenatal consultations. We were done well before noon.

I went to the market to get vegetables for Garrett, when I received both a text and call from Zongo back in Becky's village. As I was visiting in the church hangar I saw Kabore' from Stephanie's village, Gao. He remembered me from a visit there. A Puel man bought me dolo and JB came by to say the pork was almost finished, so I left to buy enough to share with George's family. On the way I got my new fan motor from Augustine, who had repaired the motor himself for one mille. I practiced the Moringa sensibilisation for the CREN the following day.

Indeed at the CREN Sr. Margaret was waiting to greet us when we arrived after 10 that Friday morning, and there were over 20 women with malnourished babies in attendance at the Moringa talk. We were in the big octagon shaped main hall with little fire pits along one wall. The women and babies sat in an L-shaped bench area along another wall and we used the table in that area to train from. There were two or three sets of twins, which typically have high incidence of malnutrition. Sr Amy, Father Paul from Togo and a visitor from France as well as some of the CREN staff came to observe and ask questions as they were so interested in the topic. We had a chart up on the wall about the vitamin and nutrients that Moringa leaves contain. I spoke in French and Georges translated into Moore' for the women. They asked which is better fresh or dried leaves or powder. The concentrated powder has the most, and the fresh or dried leaves retain theirs if cooked under 5 minutes. Adding the powder to broth for infants is especially helpful. At the conclusion we passed out little cloth gift bags of Moringa seeds, which pleased the women. We had them share booklets showing how to plant, protect from the animals, etc. There were not enough to go around so they declined to take one home. The staff thought the mothers understood the presentation, which pleased us.

On Saturday Madi returned home to his family next door from his year studying in Bobo. He had passed his BAC, which is a high achievement in Burkina Faso. Now he goes on to the University either in Koudougou or Ouagadougou. No one knew he would arrive, as he lost his portable phone and couldn't inform them.

Later my friend Achille came to visit me and spend the night. He had painted a big sign for the Moringa petite forest. “Tree of Life”. We went over to CSPS to hang it on fence. See photo. He also brought me an oil painting of a Moringa tree for my house, as well as cultural drawings he made for each of my children. Achille proudly showed me his passport and documents he had gathered to get Visa to come visit in America.

That Sunday we went to Sabou to attend Father Emanuel's first Mass in his home parish since his ordination last week. Kiemtore' Maxime was the second Abbe at the Mass, and the congregation was truly excited at the event. The choral group and young dancer group were both amazing. At the conclusion the priests and others danced and clapped in procession through the church. The village chef gave Fr. Emanuel a hat, a daba, a bag and valise. Many other gifts were forthcoming.

On Tuesday Madi and I pedaled 30 minutes to the field of his family SE of our house. We saluted many people en route who were working in their fields. Upon arrival I photographed each of Minata's children planting corn in the fields. Abdoulaye came over to where we were and helped Madi and I weed one field. I worked an hour and got so tired I had to rest. Then I managed another hour before I actually called it quits. We sat under the tree next to the chicken coop Minata has there, and watched the new brood of chicks follow their mother around hunting for something to eat. The two brothers grilled corn for us to snack on, then when the pot of beans and corn Minata was preparing for lunch was ready we ate together. As we observed the various fields of crops, I noted that Minata has rotated crops since last year.

First week in August 2009

One of my neighbor's Sanata's baby was ill and I advised her to take him to the clinic. She said she had no money, so I said ask the price for medicine and I will pay for you. It was 450 francs, about $1. When I paid the pharmacist, I spoke with the Major about his suggestion and my desire to plant Moringa trees at around the perimeter of the school garden. He was OK with that, and I texted the school director for permission, which he granted. We convened a work party and the next day we took the 56 older Moringa saplings from my veranda to the school grounds to plant. My fellow volunteer Garrett came to help Karim, my counterpart and I load up the trees in a huge basket Hamadou loaned us. He also provided a machete' to cut big weeds and a daba, digging tool. Karim put all that on his bike and it was a precarious sight to be sure, but he made it .5K away. Two of the Major's sons, Saidou and Oussmane were there to help us. We all worked two hours straight to get the little trees into the ground, secure some parts of the fence, and water everything with the help of little boys at the school pump. About that time black clouds came and threatened to rain, but no luck!

The next day I returned Garrett's daba to him, and he said he can go with me to Sune' for sensibilisation after his meeting tomorrow at 10am. A group of young men in Thyou formed a young men's gardening association and are making plans to grow produce for money. It rained hard overnight.

We biked to Sune' as planned. I had texted ahead to the health liaison in village that we were coming, but they have no cellular reception there, so had no notice. Last night's rain and today's mud made the journey tricky. We found the chef in the village and he said everyone was in the fields and some farmers had traveled further east to help their fellow farmers in their fields. Garrett commented that he liked the village and said now he felt like he was in Africa (in the remote village). Near the village meeting place, a grand old Baobob tree had hundreds of birds chirping from their huge nests, while a vulture perched on a limb squawking. Clusters of new leaves were coming out on the branches. We set a date with the chef to return for the HIV-AIDS presentation and I would invite Garrett's replacement, Jonathan to help with it. On the return home we saw a woman wearing a wreath of leaves on her head and atop that a huge calabash was resting, full of something I'm sure. We also passed a man whose bike broke down and he was walking his produce to the market in Thyou. George took his grain for him to Sala to leave at mechanics hangar. The man told us while he was voiding in the bush, one of his two pigs got away. Oo-la-la!

Second week of August 2009

Our Moringa meeting was over the weekend in Ouagadougou, and I prepared Kopto, as a dip from the harvested leaves to wrap a tortilla around. It was a hearty and also lucky late morning snack, because the lunch we ordered in did not come. The original members of this committee showed pictures of progress with Moringa projects in their villages, and we had lots to discuss and decide before the coming turnover of members. Rob and I worked on the broth recipe for the little Moringa booklet he has designed. The booklet is in French and 5 other local languages to be given out to the villagers as we talk with them about the benefits and how to plant Moringa.

On the roof of the Peace Corps Bureau, four stories up, we watched a beautiful sunset ranging from red to pink to violet along with beautiful shaped roundish clouds. There were thousands of bats in the air as far as the eye could observe. (See photos.)

Also Idrissa, a driver took me for my five country Visa located in an old government building with stacks of musty files and one guy working the desk. Idrissa requested the form, and had me fill it out. We went a couple blocks away to get visa photos, turned those in with 25 mille and left to return later when that was all processed.

My extended family in America was at Lake Shasta for a reunion, so when we connected on “Skype” there we all were seeing each other on live camera. We talked a long time and my brothers were in rare form as we joked and visited. What a treat to see my grandchildren and how they've grown since I left home.

On Sunday four of us had a guide, Anselme drive us north one hour to the famed personal animal park of Blaise Compare', the president of BF. Each visit has to be set up, so we were lucky Anselme coordinated this. Zinaire' Animaux Parc has large game animals and some small ones too. We drove into the 20 acre park and walked to the very big circular cages of tiger, hellan, elephants, monkeys, hippo, snakes, giraffe, horses and an ostrich egg. The hippos put on quite a show, which Christina captured on a video.

Anselme told us we brought him good luck, as his wife was getting her veterinarian degree soon in that town, where he visited her while we had lunch. Afterwards we stopped at the market going on in Minagou, where Anselme treated us to dolo. What a pleasant day we had! Later I showed all the neighbor kids the photos and hippo video, as most have never been to Ouaga, let alone to a zoo.

The next day, I returned to village to find Minata's husband, Oussmane and daughter, Sanata both were home too. That week on Thursday when the women and babies came for weighing, we began a series of Prenatal Care sensibilisations using a flip chart funded by Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and provided by the Health Minister of BF, and Family Care International, . The accoucheuse asked the women to stay for the talk. She and the two nurses, Emilie and Bibita, chimed in at opportune moments to comment on the topics related to good prenatal care for the mother and baby during and after pregnancy. There was a lively back and forth discussion between several women and Georges and the accoucheuse, who fielded those comments. Especially when the subject was coming into the clinic soon after they become pregnant. The midwife said they need to stop working so hard then and have their husband come with them for checkup to assure good health and she will answer questions then for both parents. Some women don't come for prenatal visits they said because they have no money for medicines prescribed. Albertine asked them to encourage other women to come for the good of all.

The Assumption of Mary into heaven is a big Christian feast day in BF. Our church had just finished the new grotto honoring the Virgin Mary by this date and the priests from Sabou came to say Mass outside near there. The grotto is like others in BF, big reddish pumice rocks form the “cave” and the alcove opening to display the large statue for the occasion. Otherwise she rests in a windowed case above the archway. The congregation formed a procession with the statue of Mary for the dedication on this feast day. It brought tears to my eyes to witness the undying devotion the Burkinabe' have for the mother of Jesus. The celebration continued under 8-10 grand trees in the meadow, with food of every description and drinks too.

End of August 2009

At the market I found Pascaline, who went home to gather Moringa branches for me (200F) as I wanted to take Kopto over to Garrett's for dinner on his last night in village. He is advisor and has a meeting that night with his young men's group who are planting a garden for profit. I went home, sat under the hangar out front and stripped the Moringa leaves from the branches, making two big bowls. I dried one bowl of leaves and made Kopto from the other. This is a nice pesto on garlic toast. The rains started at 4pm and continued straight through to 6:30 only letting up a little. I biked to Thyou with my new bike lite and Garrett was waiting on the main road for me. The four of us ate together, as both our language teachers were there to enjoy the beans Gar made and my offering. We were lucky with the earlier rain and the darkness of night to be able to get together. I was anxious to buy his dutch oven, which he had packed on his bike and put the big marmite on mine. Gar and Geo biked home with me for safety.

I went to the clinic to visit with the Major and saw two new babies in the maternite'. One of the mothers had another woman with a one year old child visiting her, and she asked me for a mousquitaire. I explained to come to my house across the field, but she didn't come. I think she only speaks Gourounsi and the language was a problem between us. I met the president of the young men's football group, Issaka, and was able to express my condolences on losing their 10 month old daughter to malaria last month. They took her to the hospital in KDG for transfusion, to no avail. He came by my house the next day for the mousquitaire I offered and I gave a couple Moringa trees too.

6 year old Ali was in the path crying his heart out, and I gathered Karim took his food. I brought him into my house to feed him the rest of Kopto on some bread and a power bar I had. The tears dried up then.

One morning by 8am it is pouring buckets outside and the skies are all gray. That continued until noon. In the afternoon I needed potash for my beans and rice, so I went next door where Sanata was making some. She had a container of sorts with ashes that she dripped water through into another vessel. Minata tasted it for strength and put some of the liquid in my jar. The two women were making bengado. Minata ground the beans into a powder, Sanata washed the leaves from the bean plants. The next step fascinated me. Minata built a rack from sticks of wood and straw in a big curved marmite and put it on the open fire. Meanwhile Sanata combined the ground beans, leaves, oil, potash and water and formed balls. Minata put these on the rack to cook in the contrived steamer.

I practiced the two lessons on prenatal care for the talk Thursday morning with the women at the maternite'. One topic was about involving the husband in the birth process early so that he is well informed and helpful. The other topic was the need for good diet during pregnancy and nursing of the baby. Many small meals are preferable and food from each of the food groups. At the discussion we emphasized that alcohol is bad for the woman and fetus, as well as infants. The 35 in attendance got involved with the issues.

I was excited and busy cleaning house for my guest that came for the weekend. Amade' my host father in OHG took the bus from there to Ouaga, south to Sabou and then bush taxi the 15K to my place. Wow, what a treat! The women couldn't come due to working in the fields. He was carrying his suitcase up the path as I showed him to my place, where he met the neighbors. We walked to the clinic to meet the Major. They are about the same age and got along well. I showed him the Moringa garden. We went to visit the forestry agent, Bernadette, then onto the village chef's place.

Amade' and I talked of the family of course. He was anxious to show me the photo album I had my daughters make up and send to them. I made Riz Gras for dinner, which turned out well. Amade' prayed two times that first day with me as is his custom. On Friday we sat visiting on the porch until it was time to go to the mosque. Madi accompanied him there and afterwards showed him around Thyou. While they were gone I fired up my dutch oven and made banana nut bread from a mix, which was a success. After lunch the three of us went to see Sala's barrage, which is very big now, esp in this rainy season. Since we were on foot we didn't go to the far end where Minata and many other villagers have gardens. But Amade' was impressed by it nonetheless.

Ramadan began that Saturday, which means all the Muslims fast from food and water during daylight. Minata rose at 4am to prepare breakfast before daybreak for Oussmane, Madi and Amade'. Later that morning Madi and I went down to the road with Amade' to wait for the bush taxi back to Ouaga for him. I loaded him up with toothbrushes for his entire family and sent my best wishes to Orokia and Alizetta and Awa the grandmother in the family. I hope to get to see them all before I leave.

Every evening for over a week the neighbor kids came over to play with the bionic Lego type toys that Luke sent for them in zip lock bags. Their creative sides took a while to catch on but soon they were into making their own objects. It was fun to watch.

The catechist from church, Jean Baptiste, wanted to come pay me a visit. Georges came to help with the translation. One day I prepared tuna sandwiches, and cole slaw, and we drank melange. JB led grace before and after the meal. He said Marie couldn't come because people were helping her in the field today. JB brought me a chicken from his own flock. I was pleased to show him my families, USA, OHG and Sala, I have on my bulletin board. I sent him home with two Moringa trees, a tuna pack and a sandwich for Marie.

My watering can had lost its handle, so I took it to the solder guy in the market for repair (300F). He did a fine job and now I can water Moringa in both places easier. Three adult sons of the Major came by my house for a visit and to get the mended soccer shoes for Zachariah. I found footsies to give them as well. I packed up ten Moringa seedlings in a box for the Major to take to Bansmnore' his natal village. I am hopeful to distribute the rest of the seedlings before I go on vacation. Gerard, my carpenter came to get six for the row of Moringa at his house. Then an idea struck me to ride around and distribute a Moringa tree to each family chef to plant and be used by all the women of his compound.

The first evening I took four to compounds behind my place and east of me. The next day Syrille came by to get two more trees for himself and two for a blind neighbor. That evening I took a tree to the big house en route to the Thyou barrage and north of me a ways. There were two more neighboring compounds I gave them to there. Next I packed up four trees and headed east of the clinic to leave trees at those compounds. One of them was that of the man plowing in the field with his steer and boy following him. I gave him that photo too.

One late afternoon/early evening I passed out eight trees on the west side of the main road in Sala, starting this side of the school and all the way to the mechanics place. Another time I took six down the hill from me but on this side of the road and passed out seedlings to those nearer neighbors. I found people who understood French, seldom English, but most could tell from the body language what I was doing and we got a good visit with each other in the process. Some villagers even showed me their already existing Moringa trees, which I was very pleased to see.

The evening before I left for Ouaga on vacation to Togo/Benin I went to my family chefs houses and gave them each Moringa trees, then also to Sita and Alizetta who each have houses on the outskirts of our compound. All the older seedlings are distributed and the young plants will be ready in a month or so. Rainy season is the ideal time to plant and hopefully they all take!