Friday, March 18, 2011

(This should have been posted before previous posting) Above: Female Elephant
I just returned from going on Safara in Park Pendjari. It was awesome. We saw 5 lions, water buffalo, hippos, elephants (which have extremely large male anatomy), tons of birds, warthogs, civet, pretty much everything that there is in the park except for cheetahs and leopards. I went with 6 other volunteers so we traversed the dusty roads to scope out the animals on the top of our old Toyota bus that looks like a VW bus from the 70s. Our guide wasn't that helpful and the driver was kind of rude, but we saw the animals which is why we went so we were satisfied. After that, we stopped at the waterfalls to go for a swim and just see how beautiful the natural world is. Especially since it's the dry season and seeing water isn't the most common sight so all the greenery was beautiful.

Before that, I went down to Cotonou to say goodbye to one of my postmates. He decided to end his service early for another job. That was kind of sad. It's nice to have another American so close to escape to every once in awhile, but at least I still have another awesome postmate who is in the same ville. While I was down in Cotonou, I went to see one of my Beninese friends from down there and he took me out to eat some fish with baobab juice mixed with milk and ice which was delicious. Although pretty much anything cold is delicious. It's getting hotter and hotter at post so it is consequently getting harder and harder to sleep at night. Eventually I will move outside to sleep, but I am trying to delay that as long as possible.

While I was at the health center the other day, I saw this guy come in from an awful accident and he had a huge wound on his head. It was as if someone had ripped a 2 inch piece of skin from the front of his head it as it's too bad, so the guy gets up off the table and walks off. Meanwhile, I feel queasy from just LOOKING at it and go lay down. I used to think that I could handle gruesome things really well, but recently I have seen so many things that should never happen to a human body and I am second guessing my capabilities.

Outside of that, not too much has been going on at post. I'm organizing some sort of event for International Women's Day. I held a girls club meeting for primary school girls. There were about 15 people in my house at one time which is about 12 people too many for my tiny house so that was a little cramped, but for now we haven't found a good room to use so we made it work. I had them do an activity in which they chose a word that described them for each letter in their name. Their were several problems. One being that many do not know how to spell their names, two being that they don't all understand French so I tried to help them and it was more fun just to let them color and draw and be together. I'm trying to organize a similar girls club for girls in middle school who have a better grasp on their French, but the older the girls get, the less time they have so finding a time that they can all meet is tough.

My health center is slow to give me work. Meaning, they give me none. Out of our staff of 7 people (which is already understaffed), there are 3 left. The majeur (fr) retired, another moved, another wants to move, etc. So my work partner is way way too busy so it's up to me to find work which is how it has always been, but sometimes I wish I had a more steady work plan. One positive thing is that they are still using the numerical order system that I put in place for vaccination day. Yay!!! Sustainability!!!!

Okay so I wanna go watch some people make cheese here. Apparently you take the milk, grind up some bark and voila, cheese. Cool right??? I'll take pics.

Thursday, March 10, 2011


Getting back from safari has been a bit tough, mainly because of the heat. My entire body is covered in the worst heat rash imaginable. My face was all swollen, my body itches like crazy non-stop, and there is nothing to do. It has been consistently 110 and it doesn’t get much cooler at night. I have started sleeping outside though, but that is only minimally better. So all of you enjoy your air conditioners. I guess that’s what I get for not having electricity. I have discovered a way to keep my drinking water below boiling though! Somebody took an old jug of motor oil and cleaned it out real good and made a rattan type cover for it so if you keep that kinda wet, the water stays cooler. The only problem is that everyone else knows I have it so they come to drink my water. But I guess that’s the culture here, whatever you have, you have to share.

Other than that, things have been pretty good. I have restarted playing soccer with the girls. We play almost every night. I have also been continuing to meet with the primary school girls. About 15 of them pile into my house which it is way too small and too hot for, but we do it anyways. We talked about self-confidence, the importance of women, and made friendship bracelets.

Students have figured out that I am decent at math, so they have started bringing me their homework to help them with. I always welcome students who are willing to learn, as many of them come for help with English, but it is often disheartening. Kids who are in 4eme which is about 8th grade have a lot of trouble understanding what fractions are. Is this normal??? With the way the system here works, most kids just memorize words and formulas without understanding what they are memorizing so in a subject such as math where you build off of previously learned items, it becomes increasingly more difficult to understand. I still try though. I try to explain through pictures, money, anything I can think of, but it makes me wonder how they really learn. It’s not any easier when the teachers tell the kids to go home and figure it out without explaining. How are you supposed to do that without textbooks or resources such as computers?

I had spoken with the director of the school to get the kids to plant a garden so they built the fence to keep out the goats and stuff. Now I have to take the seeds, which I have broccoli (doubt that will work), lettuce, okra, turnips, radish, carrots, tons of stuff. I’m trying to figure out the best way so that the kids actually get to use the seeds and so that director doesn’t take them and say he misplaced them so he can plant himself a nice little garden. I think I might just tell them to come get me when they are ready to plant.

My third cat is no longer. He lasted a good while though and he took care of my mouse problem. He got hit by a truck going by on the highway that is directly in front of my house and the neighbors were so lucky as to find him so they could eat him. That was a sad day. I’m just not meant to have pets here.

I just had a little terrace built in front of my house to give myself a good place to hang my mosquito net for sleeping outside. I remember when I used to have a mosquito net on my bed when I was little because it made me feel like a princess or something like that. Now, I actually need one. Funny how things change.

It’s presidential election time here so people are busy campaigning. Two nights ago, presidential hopeful Issa Salifou came to my village around 10:30 at night and passed out money and danced and then left. That is the essence of a good campaign. That or passing out fliers with the name and picture of the hopeful. And by passing out, I mean a car driving by playing loud music and throwing the fliers out to whoever wants them. They were supposed to vote on the 6th, but of course it got delayed so it is now scheduled for the 13th. We’ll see if that actually happens. So that’s about it for now, it’s the dry season so the other day I witnessed a dust tornado. Kinda cool. But that also means the wells will dry up soon so getting water will be more difficult.