Friday, November 2, 2007

some events of the last month

After 19 days in Sagbiebou and 26 days withough internet (that’s alot for someone whose job used to essentially be responding to emails), I’m happy to report I’m still alive.

The highlight of those 19 days was spending five of them sweating in my bed and on my floor, temporarily out of order with what I’ll call a bacterial sinus infection (who cares about technicalities – what it was was unpleasant). The highlight of that experience was walking ino my kitchen one night to discover maybe 100 tiny spiders converting everything in my cooking area – dirty dishes, sponges, stove, med kit – into their new home.

So I killed them.

Before disappearing into my house for a week, I celebrated the end of Ramadan with my neighbors and landlord. This means I went to a huge service at the elementary school with them, then greeted the village chief and other important community figures. In the evening, I visited my landlord and spent the most awkward hour and a half sitting at a table with him, a lady with a baby (a wife?) and my neighbor Alima, with an audience of 20 children. We listened to his stereo, drank Fanta and he and I ate. I shared with Alima, i.e., tried to get her to eat the meat while I ate the cous-cous around it. Like I said, awkward, and very anti-climactic, as the way people talked up this celebration, I was expecting music and dancing in the street. I suppose that comes from living in New Orleans.

I spent several weeks half-heartedly searching for the middle school director. We finally met the day before school started. He told me I could start a health club and I told him I could help teach English. I always told myself I would never teach, but I’m excited to start. I observed one of the classes this week and just being at the school is 100 times more interesting than sitting at the clinic.

This Wednesday, 31 students attended the first health club meeting. I think it was forced attendance; before my counterpart, the science teacher, arrived, only one kid said he was there for the meeting. Anyway, I introduced myself, we played a name-game (or tried) and I asked what they wanted to do with the club (get soccer balls and jerseys). Then I gave them an anonymous health questionnaire to see what they know. More than half of them think malaria comes from the sun and that condoms are 100% effective in preventing pregnancy and STIs. Considering the number who also said they have sex, this demands attention. Hopefully, they come back next time.

I’m still far from fluent in Tchokossi, but can now greet (or at least respond to greetings) in Gan-Gan and Mossi (Burkina language). One of the Mossi yam and melon vendors forced a language lesson on me two weeks ago. Then she decided she wanted to pay someone to paint (henna) my feet. So last Sunday afternoon, I sat in the market and let a woman put henna and ash on my feet and left hand (I tried to discourage the whole event by saying I have dirty, stinky feet, but they insisted). The ash turns the designs black, so basically, I look like I walked through coal. Everyone else loves it, and my friend was so happy she air-kissed me. I gave them brownies to say thanks.

And as always, thanks to everyone who’s been writing. Mail is almost better than chocolate – chocolate makes me fat, and letters make me happy (but if you want to send both, I'll just be fat and happy). So thanks, and eventually, you will receive a response.