Friday, July 4, 2008

Workin' hard in West Africa

I just worked more in the last week than I have since I got to post (unless you count biking as work).

My peer educators are trained! I don't know how well I trained them - most of them missed some, if not half, of the questions on the final exam - but training ended Sunday and everyone survived. Over the three days, I rollercoastered from extreme satisfaction and joy to impatience, frustration and near tears. I considered firing (not possible) Azembe, an instigating 10th-grade student. He had a comment on everything the women's rights speakers said and tried to argue both that things were better when women had to beg their husbands to travel and that we should isolate HIV positive people. I get fired up about both those subjects. Instead of grabbing him by the neck and shaking him, I babbled on in my best angry French about tolerance and gender equality. Then my counterpart translated.

A quick tangent on that – I’m learning, a little belatedly, that if I want to increase comprehension during activities, I need a counterpart to translate. I mean translate from Linda’s Non-African French to African French, not translate into local language. Fortunately, for most of the weekend, I had a great counterpart, Karim, who is the president of the moto syndicate. I think that means he’s the boss of Sagbiebou’s moto drivers.

After we finished training on Sunday, Saibou (nurse counterpart) and Mr. Tairou (teacher counterpart) told me we needed to motivate the kids with Cokes. I’d offered to take those two, Karim and another teacher who helped me out for beers, but it ended up being the whole group – you can’t expect people to participate in anything if they’re not going to get anything out of it (no, certificates and homemade sugar-cookies are not enough). It was fun, and we split the bill three ways. The kids did a “banc” (a cheer) for me, and when they left, I engaged in two beers and lively conversation with the counterparts and one of the girls’ fathers. Beers in Africa are twice the size of American beer. I slept very well.

On Monday, I headed south. I spent the night in Kara, then came down to Lome on the bus Tuesday morning. After two and a half days of editing, our Perspectives-GAD Newsletter combination issue is complete. I’ve forgotten how tedious producing a publication is. Still, it looks good (mostly thanks to Amanda) and come next Friday, volunteers will have something new to read.

On Wednesday night, the ambassador extended an open invitation to volunteers to attend a 232nd birthday reception for America, which took place in his very large backyard. We went, partook of the free drinks and finger foods, mingled, then moved on. Kind of fancy, except it was clear who the non-Lomé volunteers were (Amanda and I), based on our grungy attire. I don’t even own a nice pair of shoes anymore. Anyway, it was interesting to hang out with ex-pats and meet non-Peace Corps people.

Camp Espoir “Training of Trainers” starts next Friday. Rather than going back to village (an all day affair) and then repeating half the trip next Thursday, I’m going to visit friends in Kpalimé and outside Pagala. Hopefully I can see my host family. I heard rumors that my host mom, Esse, is pregnant or has already had the baby. So we’ll see.

Enjoy the photos.

In Benin. Awaiting your praise for this one.

This canoe trip (Benin) was much less harrowing than crossing the Komoungou with bike bags.

Sagbiebou: an antennae surrounded by mud huts.

The mosque. And a lizard.

(l-r) Mr. Tairou, peer educators with their certificates and Saibou.

Rachidatou's dad, Rachidatou and Mme Awa.

1 comment: said...

Wow that first photo is awesome! I wish you a happy 4th of July in Africa Today :).. can't wait for your visit back in August!