Friday, October 5, 2007

Work, markets and elections

Health update: no more fevers, but now I have an infected cut by my 2004 shin puncture scar (some will remember that incident). That's what I get for tyring to shave my legs in village. Idiot.

Food update: I just had the most delicious yogurt at this little restaurant in Dapaong. I brought my own chocolate granola, and it was heaven. They even had a tv with French news.

In the last two weeks, I’ve taken tiny steps in the direction of what can be called work. I mean work beyond cooking for one every day, baking brownies, burning my trash and chasing out the continually growing spectrum of wildlife encroaching on my personal space. The crickets and spiders have given way to salamanders, wasps, one very large roach (insecticided), two small frogs (one disappeared and one died) and an annoying and ever-changing collection of insects that only come out at night to dance and commit suicide in the light of my candles and lantern.

Wednesdays are still my busiest days, although we went from about 170 women and babies last week to maybe 50 this week. 50 is comfortable. On Monday, with the clinic staff, we decided to focus on two themes for talks on pre-natal consultation (CPN) and vaccination days. For CPN, the talks will be on the consequences of giving birth at home and on Wednesdays, nutrition. I did the first talk on Tuesday, and the birthing assistant translated.

As a result of the Dapaong malnutrition conference, the Sagbiebou clinic now “takes charge” of moderately malnourished children. This means that if I notice an underweight baby on Wednesdays, we compare its height and weight to a number on a chart. If the baby is less than 80% of its body mass index, we send the mother home with enriched porridge for two weeks. Last Friday, one of the medical assistants, Kokue, and I biked to five of the families’ homes. All the mothers said they prepared the porridge properly (one measure of porridge, two measures of boiled water) and that the children ate well. I believe each child stays in the program for three months, so we’ll see how many gain weight.

On Tuesday morning, I biked over to the chief’s house to ask for his assistance in finding a language tutor. Hopefully something comes from that, as I’m getting tired of saying the same 10 things I know in Tchokossi to everyone.

I’ve discovered that going to the market is a great way to increase my vocabulary (and amuse everyone else), meet people and take care of business, all in one trip. Right now, in addition to the usual okra, tomatoes, onions and garlic, I can get oranges, bananas and watermelon at the Sagbiebou market on Thursdays. Last week I followed a little girl around who said she knew where I could get peanut butter. She took me to her mother, who was chatting with friends and not selling peanut butter, or anything else, for that matter. Later, I found a woman (she acted like we’d met and talked before, but apparently, I dropped my talent for remembering names and faces in the Atlantic) who took me to a lady with delicious peanut butter. And she taught me how to say peanut butter in Tchokossi.

Two weeks ago, I biked to Mango (about 30k/16 miles) to check out their market. Less exciting than Sagbiebou, but Mango has shops with toilet paper – I had a lesson-teaching experience of leaving my last roll on the latrine floor before a downpour... paper bags hurt – and a volunteer with a lovely house containing a flush toilet and refrigerator. AND they have a community center with a bar that has nearly frozen drinks. Cold drinks have become a source of great happiness.

Last Saturday, I biked to Gando (15k/8 miles) for their market, by far the most lively in my prefecture. If you come to Togo, we’ll go to Gando’s market. They have a huge pagne (cloth) selection, a Fanmilk (ice cream approximation) guy on a bike and more stores with toilet paper. I ordered a lit picot (plastic-woven metal-framed bed) from the picot guy and a food cabinet from the carpenter. Then I had a cold drink before biking the 8 miles back on the dirt road to Sagbiebou.

The market was probably more lively last week due to elections campaigning. Parliamentary elections take place October 14th. We go on “standfast” this Monday until the 22nd. That means no leaving village during those weeks. It also means pack a bag and be ready to evacuate if necessary. I was unconcerned about this until I came to Dapaong and other volunteers partially convinced me that there is a slight chance of unrest. So I’ll pack my bag when I get home, but will continue to believe that the election will go smoothly and all will be well, minus a potential loss of phone reception and maybe a toilet paper crisis (I’ll have to stock up while in Dapaong).

And on that note, I’m going to go withdraw most of my money from my bank account and buy some tp. Just in case.