Wednesday, August 4, 2010

my grandiose 2-year idea that will probably fail

hi all! i didnt take that many pictures this month so it's gonna be a wordy entry. since july 4th, i've visited Dakar and gone to 2nd rounds of training - both deserve separate entries but this'll have to do for now.

Dakar was... amazing. it felt like being a little kid in a candy shop. perhaps Dakar is no different and not more special than other large cities but i guess i just forgot what it's like on the other side of the atlantic. i forgot what being in civilization feels like - my small village of 300 in the middle of a desert doesnt quite resemble anything back home. i forgot that tall buildings actually exist, that electricity can be had consistently, that water actually runs and you can choose hot or cold, that people actually own air conditioners and nice cars, that people dress up and go out. i forgot what its like to have choices in what you eat, not even just cuisine but what specific meals you want. i forgot what its like to be able to grab a cold refreshing beer, or ice cream, or even fresh fruit. i forgot what supermarkets and cafes looked like. it's these small, almost insignificant experiences of life that really make me appreciate what being an american and living in america really means. there were many a times when i didnt understand just how prosperous our country is and how lucky we all are to have the freedoms and opportunities, things that weve took for granted. it takes experiences like these to really comprehend why americans really do have it all. finally after 4 months, i have had real chinese food. real... chinese... food. food made by people from china who couldnt really speak french, definitely didnt speak any of the local languages, and the only way to communicate was in chinese. how bizarre is it to find a group of americans in a chinese restaurant that only speaks chinese... in the middle of senegal? case and point. so what do a group of deprived americans do when theyve been in rural villages for 2 months? they go wild and eat everything! lol, we had chinese, american, italian, french, thai... next time we're doing indian and korean. there were even pastry shops and gourmet chocolate! you dont realize what youre missing until it's gone.

ive never had desperados beer before even though people say you can find it in the states. it's like a corona-y beer, with tequila. pretty good actually.
hanging out with our teacher and her friends during a christian holiday (celebration of st anne?)

ill skip the telling about training part because theres not much to tell. except that we learned all these cool new gardening techniques and ive decided that im going to convert my desert patch into a lush permaculture. and also what my overall project goals and plans are for the next 2 years of my life. but anyway, after training ended, we went to the beach for one last time before heading back to our desert (the complete opposite).

the ocean is just so beautiful. and the sunset. and even better! that night, the power was out so everything was super dark and there were dinoflagellates (word courtesy of jess lee!!) in the water so our bodies glistened with fluorescent plankton. we couldnt get pictures because of how dark it was and the flash not being able to catch anything but it was amazing. it was like glow in the dark body glitter!

now, back in my regional house, as i type this in our hot, HOT (like feels like 115), and humid weather, i plan on going back to my village in a couple of days after i finish a few last minute errands. what will i be doing in my next 2 years you may be wondering. thus far, ive really done nothing except for acclimate and assimilate. which i guess is an important aspect because you need to gain the trust and confidence of your community before you can actually do anything. and find motivated people to work with (lack of motivation is a killer here). now after my 2nd round of training, i have a better idea of the project i want to do...

1. my village counterparts want me to give causeries, in general to everyone about HIV/AIDS, and to women about the importance of pre- and post-natal consultations.
2. after visiting a few surrounding villages, as well as going through the village doctor's consultations book to see where people are coming from and with what ailments, i have noticed a lack of accessibility to medical care as well as to general knowledge on certain prevalent problems of the region.

proposed project:
because my village health post is in charge of roughly 15-20 villages (probably more... 30?), i want to do a 2 year series of training of relais. relais are the name given to community health workers. they are unpaid, and therefore volunteers, and work out of the goodness of their hearts. i will be going to each village to find the existing relais (who probably hasnt been trained in a very long time) or set up new ones, and each month, one relais from each village will come to my health post, where we will cover a variety of subjects ranging from simple first aid, to hygiene, from how to deal with dehydration, to malaria (and also malaria net distributions after these talks and proper handling and care of the nets), from pre- and post- pregnancy health of mother and child, to child nutrition and vaccinations, from STDs and HIV/AIDS, to family planning. i will leave the HIV/AIDS and family planning and other sensitive subjects toward the end of my service when the relais and myself are more comfortable with each other and the sensitive subjects can be breached. after each session, each relais will go back to their village and find a group of suitable villagers to talk to and we will schedule an in-village causerie to do, on the subject we just talked about. the relais will be doing most of the causerie and im just there to help out. if i teach the relais how to make niim lotion to protect from mosquito bites and prevent malaria, the relais will demonstrate to villages how to do the exact same. in this way, when i leave, the knowledge will be passed down and hopefully people will continue without my presence, or any aid group's presence for that matter. peace corps philosophy emphasizes sustainability and this is the only sustainable solution i can come up with. of course this is just a project idea in the making - thinking about all the details, it will be a logistical nightmare scheduling all these causeries and transporting the relais to and from my village. transportation is already such a huge problem in my area and the concept of planning ahead and making schedules doesnt exist here. how will i carry out my project? this is what i have to figure out.

but in the mean time, i have to prepare for ramadan, the month of no pleasure between sun up and sun down. no one can drink, or eat, or smoke, or doing anything fun or pleasure related during the day. the senegalese value their coffee and tea, both of which are extremely caffeinated and sweet - so imagine the caffeine and sugar withdrawal. compound that to smokers who will have nicotine withdrawal and everyone just being hungry and hot and dehydrated. tempers will flare. bon chance to me...

No comments:

Post a Comment