Work is returning to normal now that the awful Programme Partnership Assessment is over. We can get back to the schools’ development plans and see what progress, if any, has been made towards reaching their priorities for the first year. We have also had preliminary meetings with mothers to ask if they would like to start up a mothers’ association to promote education, especially for girls. 130 mums turned up for our first meeting. I heard later that it was the first time mothers had been invited to the school!
Meanwhile two of the schools are building classrooms from millet stalks. A year ago I was shocked by that – this year I suggested it! What a difference a year has made to my understanding of the reality of life in Africa. There are no desks or chairs for these “rooms” so the children sit on sand. Not the best way to learn to read and write.
Our posters are going up in the village this week advertising the literacy classes and our letter has gone to the Lamido, informing him. I wonder what the chances are of his daughters coming. The noticeboards here are trees.
Inundated with “gifts” of chickpeas and guavas. Chickpea Curry for dinner tonight and tomorrow, then we move onto the squashes. When I asked Lydia what she does with chickpeas, she told me they just boil a big pan of them and that is their meal. She also showed me how to squeeze them open, rather than prising them the way I was trying to do it.
Our peanut crop was harvested this week by Etienne, one of our night guards. A row then followed over who should get the leaves for the goats. The contenders were Etienne, because he had done all the work, and the two Thomas’s – the Laurel and Hardy of Zidim. Etienne quickly gave way to the priority that age brings here and retreated. A heated argument ensued between the Thomas who cleans for us and the other Thomas who is employed by the Mission but does nothing for anybody as far as I can see. The latter’s argument was that no matter who lives in our house, he always gets the greens. I left them to it and the pile of leaves lay rotting in the sun for four days before the problem was resolved. We don’t know who won!
Everyone seems to be agreed that the rainy season is over at last and we are now entering a cooler, drier time. The locals are complaining of the cold and lighting fires morning and evening. Today in the car, Godam refused to open a window because it was only 33ºC!
A fellow volunteer was convinced last weekend that she had worms – a common but unpleasant complaint here. She was relieved to find out that her worms were in fact her flatmate’s dental floss!
This week, we got a 4 year old boy who’d been bitten by a donkey 5 days before. He had a broken upper arm bone, open wounds on his shoulder and a nasty wound in the groin. The broken arm had been treated by a traditional healer with a tight splint which we removed - hopefully in time to prevent gangrene and subsequent amputation. We asked what had happened to the donkey and the answer was it had been “égorgé” – i.e. had its throat slit – and then been eaten. The liver had been reserved for the patient – apparently it helps healing. We’re told the same thing happens if someone is bitten
by a dog; the dog is chased and caught by the villagers, has its throat slit then the liver is removed and given to the victim. Yet another lesson in local culture!
We are now well and truly out of the rainy season and the countryside is rapidly drying up. The crops are beginning to be harvested and it seems that things have ripened more quickly this year than last. The heat during the day is becoming quite intense again, which has a dire effect on candles – see attached picture (no rude remarks, please!). There is a pleasant drop in the temperature overnight which we enjoy but the locals complain it’s too cold.
We have a local blind man, Abraham, who turns up at the door about once a month with one of his many young children acting as guide. He is very poor and comes looking for some help. We usually give a little money and some food. Anne’s national volunteer, Godam, told him he was to stop bothering us (not our idea) so he turned up after two weeks instead of the usual four! Pumpkins are the crop of the moment and we have been given several in the last week or so – more than we can possibly cope with, so we gave one to Abraham this time. It was a big pumpkin and although he tried (see photo) his little
boy didn’t have the strength to carry it so his father took over and set off home with it on his head.
Now wondering what will happen with Dr Djemba when Anne Poppelaars returns. For a start, he will no longer have the exalted position of acting Médecin Chef, a title he has thoroughly enjoyed. He is expecting to stay on in Zidim at least through December, but will the organisation be prepared to continue paying a salary for very little work? Even if Anne starts back part time, she will do more work in a day then Dr Djemba does in a fortnight!