Work Begins

Trip Start Dec 01, 2007
Trip End Mar 27, 2010

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Flag of Guinea  ,
Tuesday, April 29, 2008

So my first three months of community integration are almost over.  I'm glad too.  I've made my hut as comfortable as possible with the funding I've been given and the materials available.  It now lacks a foam mattress (I have bed bugs in my straw mattress and I currently look like I have measles due to the bites), and a woven fence.  The fence will probably take a couple months because the artisans tell me all the materials have been burned for the season.  So no chickens for awhile, anyways.  Everyone in the village and most of the surrounding villages know me by sight.  So I've been itching to start doing something productive other than teaching English.
On my return from Conakry I got my chance.  We were supposed to fly back on Wednesday the 23rd but we were bumped back to Friday.  Friday April 25th was World Malaria Day and I had prepared a sensibilization for the 4th, 5th and 6th graders at 3:00 that day.  I spent forever drawing the flipcharts and handouts-there was no way I was missing that sensibilization even though I didn't feel my mental state was quite ready to go back to site.  We landed in Kissidougou at 11:00 and were able to catch a ride with Doctors Without Borders.  After a trip to the bank and the market I made my way to the taxi stop for Gbangbadou.  It was 1:00. Plenty of time to get a taxi and ride the 15k back before 3:00.  What I failed to account for was that it was Friday, the Muslim day of prayer when everything shuts down during the 5 times of prayer.  So I found one of my many "husbands", a regular taxi driver, on his way to prayer and explained the gravity of the situation.  He found me a taxi driver who was not praying but since I was the only passenger and I needed to leave immediately I had to pay 6x the amount I would normally pay.  But I was able to make it back by 2:00 and thus give the kiddos a what for on malaria.  They seemed to be engaged and the teachers and principal helped them understand by translating a lot of what I said into Malinke. Afterwards I felt very fulfilled.  I'm not na´ve enough to believe they will now sleep under mosquito nets or cover their latrines but maybe I convinced one or two that you get malaria from mosquitoes ONLY and not from eating too many mangos or being dirty.
Currently I am sitting through my third day of midwife training. Thirty women from the sous-prefecture have come to be trained as "Village Birthers" or matrons. Most are illiterate and do not speak French so the entire training has been pictorial and in Malinke and Kissi.  I could kind of follow along with the pictures. These were my contributions to the training: "Make sure you don't cut the cord too far from the body because it can lead to tetanus," and "Encourage the mothers to eat mangos after they give birth because they are rich in Vitamin A." Otherwise I've been acting secretary writing down everything we do so we can write a report to give to the authorities. Each matron has been given a notebook and pen. With this they are expected to record live births, deaths of baby, maternal deaths and when they refer a mother to the Health Center or hospital because of complications.  Since they cannot read or write I was asked to think of signs to express these so that everyone can understand.  So for each live birth they will write a circle, each dead birth a circle with an X in the middle.  Maternal death is an M with an X over it and reference is an M with an arrow after it.  These might seem like simple signs but it took us 4 hours to master them, and I use "master" lightly. We skipped lunch.  Some of these women have never held a pen let alone written an M.  I have really enjoyed this experience and I feel I have gained far more than I have given.  My favorite moment was yesterday when we finished for the day the women were dancing and singing.  They then decided it was my turn to sing.  I can't say I was expecting this but I wasn't surprised either.  So I stood on a chair and sang "Father Abraham" hand motions and all.  They loved it and sang along with me.  How many people have experienced something like that?  And those of you who know me well know I would rather do just about anything to avoid singing in front of 30 strangers.  I'm telling you, Africa changes you.  The point is work has begun. My next blog will be from Mamou during two weeks of training. And after that the real work begins.  
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