Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Visit From Aicha

June 28th

Dear Journal (and friends reading this once I put it on my blog) – you better be feeling quite appreciative, because I am only writing this out of a deep sense of obligation to record what was actually a surprisingly productive day. I would much rather be finishing my book or watching Glee, just so you know.

*deep breath*

Last night I woke up in the middle of the night because the howling wind was threatening to tear my roof off. I closed the windows and the door, and somehow, even with a piece of corrugated tin roof slapping against the side of the coffee shack next to my house, fell back asleep. Deep asleep enough that I didn't hear the rain when it started, but saw the evidence when I woke up and my yard was so flooded that I couldn't even get to my latrine without wading through several inches of water and mud.

I prodded myself into doing yoga in my living room, and I'm really glad I did! It felt good, an encouraging start to the day. My moringa sprouted! And the old one that I took for dead is even trying to make a comeback, I'm crossing my fingers. Insects or animals ate it while I was gone, it was just a 3 foot tall stick, but now a little branch is sprouting off one side.

At 9, as agreed, I biked over to the Mairie to see Francois and find any paperwork we needed to show Aicha, coming from Ouaga to visit and help with the library situation. He wasn't there. After waiting a bit I called and he said he was at a funeral, he'd call when he was on his way. So I went home. 30 minutes later, near 10am, he called and said he was on his way. I waited 5 minutes and biked over. Still no Francois. So I sat and read until he showed up just before 11am, right on village time. We walked over to the library and started talking about what the payment system for the library was (finally!), what we could offer to pay a new librarian, and when we can have a meeting to discuss finding one. Man, I should have just lied months ago and said someone from the Bureau was coming! Although when Aicha showed up we did have a more in depth discussion, just the fact of her arrival started conversations that I've been trying to have for ages.

The way she went about it was very different from an American, and I'm curious to see what happens. I would have barged in, asked to see the financial reports, demanded action immediately, and probably made them feel guilty for not taking good care of the library or the librarian. Aicha listened, asked a few questions, and started praising all the things they were doing right, all the plans they had made to work on the problems they'd identified. I was sitting there thinking that everything Francois was saying was probably made up on the spot to appease her, but she took it at face value and appreciated the steps they had taken rather than berating them for the ones they hadn't yet done. I'm not sure if it will help, if her praise and trust will be more encouraging of tangible action than my berating and disappointment would have been, but we shall see. There were a lot of specifics I had been hoping to hammer out, like a drawn up contract detailing where the money goes, who gets it, and how much gets set aside for new books and such, but maybe later. I've realized that I need to take a much more active role in this, which is frustrating but at least gives me something to do.

Aicha also had tons of good suggestions for new projects, like sensibilizations to teach students how to take care of library books since they get handled a lot and start falling apart if people aren't careful. I mentioned talking to the secretary at the Mayor's office about making neem cream and Francois was all over that, telling me that we'll pick a day when I get back from Ouaga and he'll have 3-5 women from each village waiting for me to teach, that he'll tell them what to bring and how much, and maybe the Mairie can chip in a little from it's budget for some of the supplies. Um...sweet!! How did I never realize that this is how to get this kind of thing done? Here I've been trying to do it through the CSPS when really I should have done it this way. I should probably talk to the Chief as well, he'll be angry if I don't, and of course I'll tell and involve my CSPS staff, maybe we should aim for a Saturday so it's nobody's day of prayer and functionaires have the day off. We talked about making liquid soap and handwashing stations at the Maison des Jeunes as well. Overall, very productive indeed! I'm happy but not overly optimistic, everything seems to always fall apart at the last minute, but at least I've got something to aim for.

We ran into Major and the people from TDH (a child malnutrition NGO), but couldn't go greet the CSPS staff since Aicha had to get back to the bureau by 18h and it was already nearly 15h. I went home and called Al back, then headed to the CSPS to charge my phone and help with the polio campaign paperwork. I requested to not be part of a team, so from 2-8pm I drew maps, made charts and grids, re-copied paperwork, and fended off the flying termites that flocked to the lamp over my head. It was tedious but I do feel a little less guilty about not getting up early to help tomorrow morning, having stayed so late tonight.

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