Well, I’m now in the capital of Burkina Faso, Ouagadougou. I am only going to be here overnight and then I’m leaving in the morning to drive to the Southwestern corner of Burkina Faso and center out of the town of Orodara.
I will try to have a more upbeat posting this time over the last post. Last Friday in Diffa was a bit of a hard day. So Monday morning I drove to the border (called the frontier here) of Burkina Faso and walked across and the first thing I saw was a big white Toyota Land Cruiser with a HKI sticker on the side. I never had a second thought HKI would leave me at the border stranded! I met Boro and then we took of for the town of Fada, where HKI has an office and they work in the surrounding villages. My French, or lack there of, is being tested this trip. There isn’t someone traveling with me who speaks English this time.
I’d heard Burkina Faso was an easygoing place, not with the stress of Niger nor the troubles up north with rebels, so I was rather surprised that after crossing the border we stopped for over a half an hour on the side of the road. We waited until 9 am and then we, along with 4 or 5 busses and a few other cars went in caravan all the way to Fada. Oh! with a military person and weapon at the front and another at the end of the caravan. Seems as though it’s a rather tough stretch of road for bandits. They like to carjack and steal. Anyway it was a very easy trip, no bandits seen along the way.
Burkina Faso is west and a bit south of Niger and the difference is rain. The soil isn’t as sandy and although it’s still savannah, is a bit lusher and with many more trees. The millet and maze is taller and denser. Forgive the indulgence here, but ever since I was last in Africa, I’ve always loved the Baobab Tree.
My first stop was in a village called Fonghin and then onto another village by the name of Tibga. In both villages we were seeing the women learning how to farm. Simple right? Not if no one has every showed you how to till the soil or use tools. I think this kind of does double duty of work and day care, but they were the happiest group of ‘farmers’ I think I’ve seen.
The next day we went to see the health clinic for the village of Tanwalbougou. It is three or four buildings where anyone can go if they’re sick, need any health care and there are medical staff that will give free consultations. There is also a maternity ward and an area for monitoring the health and nutrition of the young babies. Most of the buildings do double or triple duty. I am only going to show you the ‘maternity’ clinic. Which seems to triple duty as a birthing ward, a clinic for the ill, and the area that women can go for the monitoring of their babies health and nutrition.
I was just poking around and Rasmata, from HKI who was showing me around, told me about a woman who had just had just delivered twins in the next room, the night before. She asked me do you want to see? I mean, who can turn down seeing one-day-old babies. The new grandmother was there and was she proud.
Now I know I’ve been saying how we just take off and drive through the savannah, but for those of you who have never done this, this really is the case. It’s trying to squeeze down a footpath, passing the occasional cow, ox, child, bicyclist. I can only image the paint on the side of the cars doesn’t last long. Driving over the bumpiest terrain and never getting over 15 mph. You can drive for an hour, thinking you’ve gone 30 miles, only to find out it’s been about 8 miles.
Now we’ve gone out to three villages to see a particular program. It’s a bit different than most, where women will bring their babies to a central point to get the education, guidance, and skills to help keep their babies healthy. This program uses the grandmothers of the villages to go to the individual mother’s home and then spend time with them there teaching them the ins and outs of motherhood. Even some of the simplest things, like how to hold their baby. Kind of a mentoring program. Then the grandmothers all get together afterward and discuss what they’ve done that day.
The cool thing about this excursion into the couple of villages is, when I first get there, the grandmothers want to meet me and shake my hand. I love their shake; it’s kind of like an exaggerated western handshake. So I go around and great every grandmother, shake her hand and we all smile. Then after following them around and watching them have their discussion afterward, it’s time to relax. So we all become friends and once again they want to present me with a gift. It can be simple like some freshly baked corn on the cob, but one village offered me a present I had to politely turn down. I didn’t think U.S. Customs would let me bring back A LIVE CHICKEN.
So then the last thing is they really want to ‘rejoice’, so one will take a plastic water can and some sticks and start beating it. The rest of the grandmothers will start clapping, singing, and then they take turns and dance for me. You just gotta love these women.
So today . . . This isn’t Diffa in the far eastern edge of Niger, but unfortunately even here in Burkina Faso there doesn’t seem to be a shortage of babies in need of help. Whether they’re acutely malnourished or orphaned. I went to a clinic run in cooperation with HKI and the CRS for malnourished children. I was happy to see it wasn’t as full as the one in Diffa right now, but there were still quite a few women there along with a few orphans who most likely would die if they weren’t taken in.
Tomorrow I’m off to Orodara and I don’t know if I’ll have Internet access out there. I think there’s a good chance I won’t but if I do, then I’ll try to post this coming Sunday. If not, then I will have to wait until I get to Bamako, the capital of Mali, which will be next Wednesday. Thanks for coming to read and look, I hope you’re enjoying the blog.