Saturday, July 28, 2007

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So I didn't update last week because after typing up the blog, the power went out. Disgruntled, we left to shop for post visit. I cheered up quickly when Helen said, "That man's naked. There's a naked man running down the street."

And indeed there was. That was our introduction to the crazy man of Kpalimé.

We left for post visit the next day, Saturday. There are four of us in the Savanes region, and I got dropped off first. I had a huge welcome and immediately got a new name from the chief (Awa). The women accompanied me to my house with my counterpart (the volunteer's first point-of-contact in village) and all my junk. Apparently, I got a new bride's welcome, which involves singing and ululating.

After dinner with my counterpart, Saibou, and the presidents and vice-president of two village committees (development and health), I spent my first night in my new home. They put a cot from the dispensary in it for my visit, but it's otherwise unfurnished. There are two rooms (bedroom and kitchen) and a large living room which will also serve as a dining room and guest room. There's no running water or electricity. The shower floor has to be cemented, and they have to build a seat for the latrine. Hopefully that will be done when I get back.

Sagbiebou lies along the national highway (two lanes) at the intersection to Gando, a village 16k towards the Benin border. The village consists largely of mud huts. Mine's not a mud hut. The dispensary opened in February. My counterpart, who's the dispensary nurse and director, and the birth assistant seem to have the most modern houses. When I had dinner at Saibou's on Sunday, we watched TV5 on the generator-run television. The village has great cell phone reception, but that's about it for amenities.

I spent A LOT of time at my house during my four days in Sagbiebou, cleaning my water filter, washing dishes, cooking mediocre and unspiced meals and making candleholders out of cardboard. I also read, took naps, played with different interior decoration ideas and planted a moringa tree that another volunteer brought me.

On Monday, we had a meeting with the chief and local authorities. People seem very interested in doing business, education and farming projects. Judging from the children's swollen bellies and bleached hair and the raw sewage between huts, I'll have enough to do in the realm of health. I'm willing to expand, though.

After the meeting, I sat around at the dispensary. There was a lot of this during my visit as well. The best parts of hanging out there came on Tuesday and Wednesday.

On Tuesday, Saibou and I planned to meet at 8:30 to go to Gando so I could order furniture. We didn't leave until after 10, because Saibou had patients. Then he told me that because the baby born that morning was big, there was some "tearing" and he had to do a little surgery on the mother. I asked if I could watch. So on my third day at post, I watched my counterpart sew up a woman's vagina. He used a little anesthetic, but he definitely sewed where he hadn't injected, because she was clearly in pain.

The next day, Saibou had to go to Dapaong, so I hung out with the rest of the stuff at the dispensary. Wednesdays are vaccination days, so I got to mark what vaccinations we gave on a sheet of paper. Shortly after I started doing that, the birth assistant called me in because a patient went into labor. So I saw my first live birth. I went over and held the woman's hand because she gestured at me. I don't know if that's what she wanted, but it helped me.

I left on Wednesday evening and spent the night in Mango with another trainee. Yesterday we came to Dapoang, our regional capital, where the volunteers (ok, Ben) fed us an amazing meal of salad, tapas, bean burgers and brownies. We're going back to Agou tomorrow for the last three weeks of training. Apparently, those weeks will take forever. Going to post made me realize how much I like my host family, so I'm going to soak up the free food and lovin' while I can.