Tuesday, August 2, 2011

PAM, Marche, Puppy!

July 27th

Another evening under the beautiful stars – I wonder if it's possible to ever get sick of looking at the stars? I mean, I know there are some nights I don't sit outside even when the stars are out, and some nights I sit outside even though it's cloudy, but whenever I do look up when the sky is clear I can't help but be almost overwhelmed at how beautiful it is. It feels like I could fall into it somehow.

It somehow feels like today was especially long, but I'm not sure why. Not in a bad way, certainly, in the way that you suddenly try and tell someone about your day and can't quite recall if what you did this morning was this morning, or maybe it was yesterday morning?

Where was I? The morning. We were supposed to have an inspector from the world food program come to see the food distribution so we had brought all the records up to date, cleaned the supply room, and even hauled out the scales, yardsticks, and arm bands so we could take all those measurements that we're supposed to. I was really excited because I'd mentioned a few times that it wouldn't be too hard to add those in, and certainly would make it simpler to see if a child was actually improving on the program or not. Plus, how could anyone reviewing our paperwork not be suspicious that each child grows exactly 2 cm over the 3 months, and gains 100-500 grams every 2 weeks, and each woman gains 2mm every week on her arm circumference?

When we finally started (a little late but nothing terrible, perhaps 8:30 or so) she called to see if the person was coming soon. They told her they'd get back to her and she told them we were starting anyway – the women wanted to get back to their fields and wouldn't stick around if we were just sitting and waiting for an hour or two. So I started weighing children and she started weighing women, and the end was in sight by the time they called back and said that the inspector had gone to Rondo instead. We laughed, and I pointed out that things had actually moved really quickly even though we were doing the measurements for all 60 people. She told me that when she'd been working alone it had taken her until 2pm every distribution day to take all the measurements herself, and it was because there were two of us. So I said something along the lines of it being easier to just have the real numbers instead of having to make them up, especially now that she had me and the interns and Julienne, and she agreed that we could keep doing them properly. I almost felt like jumping up and down and saying “Victory!” but I confined myself to mental celebrations of finally having seen something I had tried to change happen.

I understand why she had stopped doing the measurements – if I were there by myself every week for 6 hours straight in the sun I'd be pretty grumpy and not as concerned about doing it right as much as getting it over sooner. But we finished by 10am on a moderately busy day, showing that even if I'm not around she just needs one person to help her for 2 hours and then they'll both be available to help with the rest of the work at the CSPS, plus the data collected will actually be useful to people further up the line because it'll be true instead of unnaturally perfect and expected. I also realized that I've never seen anything change just because I said “Hey, why aren't we doing this?”, but now I'm starting to see changes when I start helping and show an interest and things get done faster so there's suddenly room to do the things we weren't doing. I think I could probably guide the process a little more than I did in this case (unfortunately there aren't inspections for things like CPNs or baby weighings, to the best of my knowledge), but I'll be thrilled if we can get into the habit of taking PAM measurements every week, not just when we expect someone to come watch with a check list. Then – on to the next goal!

By 11am the place was deserted – no women waiting to give birth or have a consultation, no patients waiting with fevers or injuries – and we all went to the marche. Occasionally it's annoying when I feel like I'm in a hurry (why?), but today it was a pleasure to spend a few hours sitting and talking to people. Alimata said she'd come visit me tomorrow with Fati, her daughter who is feeling much better and has even gotten to the point of not being scared of me anymore! Odelle must have been around, but even though I kept checking on her coolers and even asked the men standing around where she was (in Moore!) I couldn't find her. But I ran into Sali who introduced me to a man selling very tiny overpriced but worth it green peppers, and we wandered around for a little bit, stopping to talk to people. I bought some rice and chatted with the spice and fish guys (I've seen them in Seguenega too – they always set up right next to each other even though they seem to sell separately), and Sali confirmed that they sell the best rice in the marche.

So then I went home and read and drank my tea and ate my samsa – what a lovely afternoon! I left again after the repose with the intention of getting some water to do dishes, but ended up helping Julienne plant part of her peanut field. Well, actually, I planted about 10 peanuts and realized that unless I was going to go get another daba (a planting implement here, consisting of a narrow wooden handle with a short flat blade that angles back towards the handle, making it look like a “7” with the top being the metal blade) I was kind of holding her up since she could somehow dig, seed and cover 3 or 4 holes to each of mine, so I gave back the daba and started pulling weeds instead. We attracted quite a lot of attention and I got a considerable Moore lesson/mental workout in vocabulary surrounding planting and fields and working and obscure greetings that I still haven't quite figured out the proper response to. Still, it was fun, and when I finally broke away to get the key to the robinet from Luddie, I found out that Julienne had brought back a puppy! His name, of course, is Rex, the other two options being Lulu and Bobbie (the latter is one I've never heard, but Julienne assured me that it was one of the three approved dog names when I joked about the popularity of the name Rex). He's so tiny and cute! I was a little concerned at his apparent lack of curiosity when I went to interact with him, but eventually I convinced him to come say hello and he even started trying to catch my hand when I was scratching his ears and nose – not with a ton of enthusiasm, but he seemed to be getting the hang of it. I'm so excited that we'll have a puppy around! Even if his name is Rex.

And with that, it's bed time for sleepy village-time PCVs who have to get up and weigh lots of babies in the morning. Tomorrow afternoon I'm going to start cooking for the polio campaign, and Sali said she wants to come help! I'm excited to get to share with her, and to get help on making lots of tortillas and cookies. Maybe we can make it a regular thing and I'll get her to teach me how to make that awesome spaghetti sauce she had one day when I shared lunch with her.

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