Saturday, April 26, 2008

Let The Games Begin!

And by "games" I mean hot season and work. Same thing, really. For a little glimpse into my life recently, lets take a look at a recent journal entry of mine, dated Monday, April 21st:
"I have heat rash. Everywhere. It's unpleasant."
Hot season has arrived, and though I know many of you back home in the comforts of A/C and spring breezes may be thinking, "Come on, Morgan, it's Africa, what did you expect?"I assure you I have good reason to whine just a little bit. For example, I found myself experiencing some stomach cramps the other day, most likely the result of the questionable-looking meat I had eaten earlier at a neighbor's house (I've stopped asking what animal it is after the time I found out I was eating Bush Rat). Longing for a comfortable spot to lay down, I ventured into my house, setting up my cot in the cooler of the two rooms. After about 15 minutes of sweaty repose, I thought I could feel the heat stroke gaining on me so I gave in and went to sit outside, where the breeze keeps things slightly cooler. On my way out, I peeked at the thermostat I so rashly bought last month: 112 degrees. At almost 6pm. Welcome to Burkina. I took the picture below of myself (lame, I know) to commemorate the absolute sweatiness of the moment.
Work!

Luckily, I have some great projects to distract me from the heat. As a community health volunteer, there's a lot of freedom to decide what type of issues to target, depending on our own interests and the needs of our village. As a result, my first two projects are both related to malnutrition, which is a particularly large problem in the small, more remote surrounding villages that my health clinic serves. This is particularly frustrating for me to see each month at baby weighings, since the region in which I live is much more fertile and has more resources than most areas in the country, so even the poorest families should be able to provide food for their children. The disconnect lies in the lack of education regarding proper nutrition, and as a result, a large number or children are severely malnourished. In some parts of the country, nearly a quarter of all children under 5 years old suffer from acute malnutrition, which is an extremely high percentage.
So, working with the sole female member of my health committee, we're about to begin the process of getting trained, and then implementing a rehabilitation and education program for severely malnourished children and their mothers. Its a program which has had some success in other parts of West Africa, utilizing inexpensive local foods and collaborating with "model mothers" in the community who have healthy kids and are well-respected. I'm hoping it works out without too many glitches.
Secondly, the two health volunteers close to my site (Lori and Lindsey) and I are getting started on the planning stages of building a garden at the district hospital's CREN (center for the rehabilitation of malnourished children). When an infant is found to be severely malnourished in any of the villages in the district, they can come to stay at the CREN with their mother, where they're fed high-calorie diets and the mothers are educated on their child's nutritional needs. Most CRENs have a garden to provide much-needed vitamins and nutrients at low cost, but our CREN in Orodara doesn't have enough funding so we're attempting to help them out with planning, funding, and implementation. This could end up being more of a long-term goal, but again, I'm eager to see how it progresses.
Here's a picture of my own "model mother" in village, who is absolutely wonderful. Here we were sitting in my courtyard and my little sister Safiatu is getting her hair done and "reading" a magazine I gave her.

The Mysterious Missionaries
In addition to each of the two projects, I put in my time at the CSPS (health clinic) each day, assisting with prenatal consultations, weighing babies, and helping with monthly vaccinations. The rest of the time in village, I can be found reading , playing with my posse of little kids, visiting with neighbors and attempting to learn Siamou, or riding my bike to various locations. Cory, the health voluntee in the village of Serekeni, is my closest neighbor, and we've recently been trying to meet the ever-elusive Canadian missionaries who live in my village. The first time we located their house and prowled around, they had yet to return from a year-long trip back to Canada, so we had to be satisfied with a view of the house and yard alone. However, we marveled at the giant screened-in porch which is twice as big as my entire house, the huge water tank providing running water, and the solar panels for electricity. Then we were guiltily interrupted by the guard and made our exit. The second visit, we apparently just missed them by a few hours, they had gone to Orodara for the day. But their presence was evident by the newly-swept courtyard, car tire tracks, and various signs of habitation. After admiring the bouquet of flowers in a glass vase, complete with linen table cloth on the porch, we told the guard we'd try again another time and scampered off, visions of running water and good food flashing through our minds.

Excuses, Thank Yous
Due to the fact that sending one letter to the US costs as much as 8 meals at the local restaurant in Orodara (800 CFA), I've been bad about responding to all the wonderful letters and packages that I've received from home. Despite that, I want everyone to know, as always, how much it means to me to get mail, and I appreciate it even if you dont hear back from me directly! I owe a big thank-you to all my parents, the Putnams, all the Lawrence ladies (and happy belated 80th to Papa!), Bonnie and John and Peggy Collier, Selenda, Auntie Beth, Jan Cole, and Lydia, Tovs, and Shala! I'm lucky to have so many friends and family that haven't forgotten sweaty little Morgan all the way over here in Burkina Faso! Also all the emails are wonderful too!

Finally, an early Happy Mother's Day to all the amazing Mothers in my life: Mom, Ellyn, Kunsi, Granny Beth, and Nana. I Love and miss you all!

And now I'll leave you all with a this picture of me playing mommy to my little brother Abbas, snotty nose and all. Corny as it may be, just being able to see him grow up a little each day makes even the hardest days here worth it.

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