Sunday, September 30, 2007

Lets talk Malaria ...and books.

As the rainy season is coming to a close (I will miss you and always think of you fondly) malaria is becoming a concern for health volunteers. Fortunately in the north, because its so hot and dry, the occurence of malaria isnt as prevelent as other parts of the country because there are very few mosquitos except during and after the rainy season.

As a little backround information malaria is one of the leading causes of death for young children in sub saharan Africa. Malaria is contracted when a person is bitten by a female anaphelese mosquito. Symptoms are similiar to that of of the flu but the disease can escalate incredibly quickly in a matter of hours.

In order to decrease the risk of contracting the disease it is best to sleep under an impregnated mosquito net, limit the amount of standing water that attracts mosquitos, and wear repellent. Unfortunately many people here cannot and do not follow these precautions. Often the adults or the men will sleep under nets but the children are left unprotected. I've noticed that most of the villagers I see do use mosquito nets but Im sure they dont have them impregnated regularly, (with a chemical that repells mosquitos from the net). I want to do a mosquito net dipping in my village but there are only two places nearby where the chemical is avaiable; in Matam, about an hour and 20 minutes from Boki Diawe, or Ndioum which is 6 hours away. Obviously Matam is the best bet but finding the person who has the chemical is going to take some work. I guess you have to go meet with him and convince him that you're going to use it for your village. I hope to do this next week while on my way to Kanel, Caitlin's site, to do the nutrition activity with her health post. Ill let you know how and if it goes.

Oh a little note to those who are worried about me getting malaria, all pcv's are required to take one of two anti malarial drugs. If a PCV is found to be "noncompliant" with this rule he or she can be administratively separated. Yes I take my drugs, even though it gives me weird dreams, so dont worry about me.

Also, to all you fatefull readers out there: a call to action!
There is a middle school near my village and Jane and I are friends with an English teacher that works there. We were wanting to start an English library as a resource for the school and are asking for help in attaining, old or used books and magazines. The students are teenagers, around 15 to 18 years old but their English is obviously not spectacular so nothing too difficult. You can leave your copy of the "Iliad" at home. But if you have any old or used books or magazines lying around and are willing to spend the money on postage, the school will surely appreciate the contribution.
You can send the books and magazines to:

PCV Ashley Goodson (or PCV Jane Kleven)
B.P. 83
Boki Diawé
West Africa

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

And I was afraid no one would show up!

This is when I was measuring arms and recording the names and ages of the children, right before things got a little out of hand.
This is Jane's village. Villagers gather to watch me cook the porridge while Jane measured arms.

So I tried to upload more pictures but am not able to at this moment. This past Saturday, Jane and I did a nutrition program in our villages. I wanted to have it at the health hut but that didnt work out so we camped outside the chief's house on mats and measured children's arm widths with bands to determine whether or not they were malnourished. We also made a healthy porridge (called "bouille" in French) and gave some to all the little kids. The villagers were really receptive and came in droves, with their children in tow. At one point it got a little out of hand with mother's throwing their kids at me and people crowding around. I am not so sure if they quite understood the correlation between measuring arms and giving out porridge in the hopes that they will learn to make the porridge as well and give it to their children in order to combat malnutrition. But if feels good to get some work done and the village has a better understanding of my reason for being there. One of the ladies from my village was a huge help and seems really motivated to do similiar projects with me in the future. When we were done she asked, "So when are we going to do this again? Next week?"

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Goings on and goings off....

My homecoming to the village was less dramatic than I would have thought. Lots of people were eager to greet me but no big parties or scenes. Life seems exactly the same as I left it. My room has had no flooding and is in tact. The biggest change to life in the village is now Ramadan which is proving to be a cultural and difficult experience. At around 4:30am the mosque sounds reminding everyone to wake up in order to eat and drink something before the sun comes up. Everyone gets up, half asleep and eats a bowl of a sour milky substance, in silence, and immediately goes back to bed. While the sun is up everyone goes about their business as usual save for a little slower and more frequent napping on mats. By the evening things get pretty quiet as Im sure the hunger and thirst are coming to a head. At around 7:30 (sometimes earlier) everyone asks around to see if its time yet to break the fast. Then they make juice and drink water and eat dates, happily. Spirits instantaniously lift. After this little "fete" they proceed to eat every meal they missed in succession. First comes breakfast (coffee and bread), then a little while later, lunch (rice and fish). Ive been told that they eat their dinner before going to bed but Im never present for this activity because I cannot stay up that late.

I'm sure while reading this, your silently asking, "sure THEY do all this, but do YOU, Ashley, participate in the fasting?" They answer is kind of. And as far as they know, I do, but I drink water secretly in my room, because dehydration is not pretty when you're a two hour walk to the road in 130 degree heat and the nearest hospital is an hour away. And I also eat a cup of cereal in the morning. Other than that, I'm trying my hand at fasting the best I can. Its not easy. The hours from around 3 to 5 are the worst. Either way, eating or drinking in public or in front of people during Ramadan is extremely rude and Im sure you would get some pretty harsh looks. They feed the children during the day and technically women who are pregnant or breastfeeding are not required to fast but at least in my village, they are, which is something us health volunteers are trying to fight. Obviously not drinking water or getting any nutrition during the day is not healthy for your unborn child or your breastfeeding infant.

I'm anxious to see how successful any work will be during Ramadan as well. Jane and I have a nutrition program planned in my village next week where we plan to do a short demonstration on how to make a nutritious porridge for weening babies and make arm bands to measure proper weight gain in babies. My village has a health hut (a building intended to be used as a health resource for the villagers, a place to go to get guidance on how to treat diarrhea, basic first aid, and a place for women to give birth), however, it stands empty having never been used. My goal is to get it up and running and I thought having this program there would be a perfect start. This is proving to be difficult. Nobody seems to know who has the keys or which keys go to which doors and after many questions and attempts, the hut remains locked and I have not been able to get in. Something that seems so simple is turning out to be so hard.

In other news, I went to the bank a couple days ago and after signing the little slip and carbon copy you have to when getting money out, the teller slides me my money, my copy of the receipt and a little note that says, in perfect english, "give me your telephone number." At least he didn't ask me to marry him and take him back to America with me! Its a nice change. I just laughed and took my money and left.

Have I mentioned that its hot here? Really..... hot. And where the hell did all these flies come from?

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Riots and Ramadan

So after about six weeks of galavanting around the country I am now heading back to my village. There has apparently been a lot of flooding and I've heard some horror stories about huts, compounds and entire villages being flooded out so I'm a little scared.

The ride up here yesterday was quite the adventure and probably the first time I've ever truly felt unsafe being a "toubak" in Senegal. 7 volunteers, including myself were riding in a car up the northern border on our way to Ourossogui when we came upon a small town with lots of people in the road. This isnt really uncommon to see at road towns, people waiting for busses and such, but we quickly realized that that was not the case. We drove up and there immediatly appeared at least 50 people that rushed the car, pounding on the windows, yelling, throwing things, and there appeared to be some guys at the front of the car attempting to lift the car and perhaps flip it over....? Anyway; the driver realized that this wasnt the greatest situation and turned off into the village and turned around. When we got further out we noticed that they also appeared to be burning things as well. We called a volunteer that lived there and she said that people were upset because a soccer match had been canceled and a riot broke out. We called our security officer and ended up just paying a little kid to direct around the rabble. We had to convince the driver to go, cause I think he was a little shooken up, as was I. But Im fine and no harm befell me.

Back to the village I go.
Oh and Ramadan starts today. No food or water when the the sun is out. Im scared.