Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Visit with Simon

July 11th

Today was a really good day. While my weekend of hiding in my courtyard was helpful in it's own way, getting back out and feeling like I was accomplishing things made me a lot happier, just settling back into a familiar groove. I got a call from my major at 7:20am, which kind of irked me, but he was just checking up on me and I told him I'd be there soon. So at 7:30 (my usual time) I went over and helped Sali weigh women and write down information from their exams into the carnets. We didn't finish until noon, and so I went home to eat and relax before spending the afternoon at the maison des jeunes, waiting for Simon and talking to the people sitting at the little restaurant in the corner of the courtyard.

My conversation with Simon was really interesting and kind of surprising in a few ways. Dr. Claude and Emily both told me that he had come to IST in Bobo and was really enthusiastic about starting projects when I got back, but what they didn't tell me is that he didn't know I wasn't going to be there until he arrived. In my rush of leaving I asked Dr. Claude and Justin to call my homologue and let him know, but he said he was really confused and worried when he arrived and couldn't find me, until Dr. Claude told him what was going on. I felt bad that he walked into that completely unsuspecting – I'd assumed that they'd contacted him and told him to come anyway. Now he has a cell phone, but at the time he didn't so I guess communication was probably a factor. But he did seem to have really enjoyed the information they gave him, and thought the idea of Care groups was a good one and he's willing to help me find a good village or quartier for starting one, which was really exciting.

(A Care Group is a new idea that Peace Corps is picking up to use in spreading health messages. You survey a community and find 10 interested and respected women who then become responsible for 10 families each. They attend a monthly meeting where they learn to teach a simple health concept, like how to put up and properly use a mosquito net and why it's important, then they have the month to teach it to each of their 10 families, effectively reaching 100 families on a very personal level by a neighbor that they already know and respect. It also tends to give the women involved a higher level of status and respect by being visibly involved in the improvement of their community.)

But the theme of the conversation was, unsurprisingly, wait until after the harvest. I said I understand – a big spectacle can sometimes get people to come out after their work in the fields where a smaller gathering might be ignored in favor of going home, but he said that I should take the time to repose. I smiled and said that I'd done a lot of reposing this past weekend and was actually kind of excited to be out doing things, but he shook his head and told me that it's important to rest my spirit after such a long voyage. I was so shocked that I don't think I even responded to the comment directly – I've never heard anyone here talk about taking care of one's mental or spiritual heath. Thinking about it now, it makes me feel really happy to know that he's willing to listen and understand that I was away for something difficult that might take time to recover from, which is even more surprising contrasted with most everyone else who offers their condolences and then expect life to resume as usual (which, granted, it usually does for the most part in their eyes). It made me really happy to have found such an impressive person to become friends with, and I'm really glad he's agreed to help me in my work here as well as be my friend.

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