Thursday, February 5, 2009
On a typical day (well, those don't really happen here actually, but anyway) I wake up around 6 am to the puppies crying to be fed (oh yeah, I got a puppy named Jupiter), with backup vocals from the goats, cows and roosters of the neighborhood. After feeding them I usually get in about 30 minutes of yoga (if I'm feeling ambitious) and then cook myself something for breakfast. Lately the most popular choices have been oatmeal or a concoction listed as 'Something Good for Breakfast' in the cookbook where I found it during my first week at post, when I was looking for inspiration for exactly that! (recipe included at the end if you want an idea what it is) Breakfast is about as far a my day goes with any sort of routine so far.
This past week my counterpart Jacques and I have been riding our bikes out to do routine vaccinations in some of the surrounding communities that make up the health catchment that Jacques is responsible for. The communities themselves are generally pretty small and lie anywhere between 15 and 40 minutes ride/hike out from the village proper and the hospital, many beautifully set at the foot of the rocky hills that frame nearly the whole village. Although they aren't incredibly far from the village proper, the changes in living conditions in some of these communities are tangible. In one, there is literally almost no water for over a mile. An NGO came and tried to drill to put in pumps last week but went away again after hitting rock in three different places before getting to water. I don't know if they will come back and try again. The malnourishment seems more pronounced out in these areas too, although I admit I may just not be looking in the right places in my own village to make that comparison. Either way, its been eye-opening and very educational to see these communities and their struggles and hope I can eventually do even the littlest bit to help them.
Vaccine outreach happens only 4 or 5 days out of each month, so when I am not doing that with Jacques I've been finding other ways to keep busy, as his health center, which I will probably end up doing a lot of my initial work with, has not opened yet due to a lack of equipment. Twice a week I help out at the hospital with prenatal consultations done by the traditional birth attendants, a project started by the Peace Corps Volunteer here from 2004-2006. I think I've mentioned this work in an earlier post. It's also really interesting work and the traditional birth attendants that do the consults are wonderful to work with. We've been seeing anywhere from 4-30 women each time and I am learning a lot from the work, both about the norms of pregnancy here as well as about the general challenges faced by women in accessing medical services autonomously from their husbands.
Besides prenatal consultations and vaccine outreach, I've been filling the rest of the time doing technical research, exploring the area a bit, working with a community group started with the previous volunteers to plan a youth camp for the summer, and working with the Health and English clubs at the high school here in preparation for the Fête de Jeunesse, or National Youth Day, which is happening here next week and actually involves several days of performances by the various clubs and ends with a big parade and party next Wednesday. I'm sure I'll have plenty to write after that!
So far my days end pretty much as they began – I feed the puppies and either cook myself something to eat or visit a friend in village for dinner. I take a brisk bucket bath and settle in with whatever book I'm currently reading. Right now it's 'War and Peace' and as it's over 1000 pages I think that will keep me occupied a while. I definitely feel like I am starting to get the hang of this and am looking forward to all the new challenges and lessons the next two years hold.