I’ve been meaning to post for a while now. So much is happening! First, the Chinese engineers that live next door to me couldn’t understand how I lived with no electricity so they sent a wire from their house to mine! Now I have a light bulb in my bedroom and a place to charge my phone and computer. Big time game changer.
A couple of weeks ago, I had a meeting with the village chief and the chiefs of each quartier (kind of like neighborhoods within a village) to discuss the latrine project and cultural center. They were really excited. I was so nervous; not only was I giving a presentation to the most important people in my village, but I had to give it in French! It all was translated into Kotikoli, one of the local languages, by my homologue, Djobo. Pagala has 10 quartiers, and I’ve decided to build 20 latrines, so that makes 2 per quartier. The chiefs of each quartier are going to choose 5 possible places for the latrines. From there, we will teach the families how to use the latrine, sanitation rules, etc. We are requiring the families to come to 100% of the formations we do in order to be eligible for a latrine. If they can’t be motivated enough to do that, they probably won’t be motivated enough to use and maintain their new latrine. We are in the process of choosing someone to build the latrines, so once we choose and finalize the budget, we can apply for funding. It going to be a pretty big project and we still have so much work to do!
When we discussed the cultural center, I started getting a little frustrated. Djobo and I showed them the plan we’d made, and all they wanted was more. Someone said it needed to be bigger, another said it needed a library (the volunteer in Pagala before me already started a library), and another still said if I didn’t do everything they wanted, they could always find an NGO to come finish it. It made me mad! Here I am giving them all of this for almost nothing (I say almost because the community has to contribute 25%) and they just want more. It made me wonder if the presence of aid in Africa has done more harm than good. Maybe if NGO and volunteers weren’t here, they would be motivated to do things on their own rather than waiting around for some other country to give it to them. Maybe they would be more progressive and innovative. It made me wonder why I’m doing all these projects. Is it for the community or is it so that I can leave feeling good about myself?
So right now, I’m sitting in an air conditioned room in the Peace Corps Medical Unit. I had to come back yesterday because I woke up with an itchy rash on my neck, face, arms, stomach, and back. They wanted me to come to Lome so they could look at it. I was supposed to see the doctor yesterday afternoon, but transportation is so unreliable here, I didn’t get here until 6:30pm! I had to wait an hour for my first car out of Pagala to fill up (when I say fill up, I mean two people in the passenger’s seat, five in the back seat), then I got to Langabou to catch a bush taxi to Lome. I was pretty excited because I found one immediately and it was really full meaning they driver wouldn’t stop every 5 seconds to pick someone up. My hopes of getting to the med unit on time were dashed almost immediately, though, because we drove about 10 feet before stopping again and everyone got out of the car. I saw why soon enough, one of the back tires flat and hissing air. Awesome. So we waiting there for a while and stopped about 600 more times on the way down. Overall, the trip took about 8 hours to go less than 200km. I’m supposed to see the doctor this morning. I’m sure it isn’t bad, so I’m hoping I’ll get to go back up to Pagala today or tomorrow.
Life in Africa is, well, life in Africa. Slow-paced, worry-free attitudes, and lot of problems. Sometimes incredibly rewarding, other times frustrating, other times depressing, but it always is. Eight months down, eighteen to go!