Well it’s now Sunday and I’ve made it to Bamako in Mali. Plans got change a bit and I was driven to Bamako today. I wrote the following post yesterday then tried to get on the internet. The power was out when I arrived in Orodara last Thursday, due to the rain and normal problems. They do have some internet there in Orodara, but when they do it’s very slow. Just modem dial up via cellular service. So after writing the post Saturday, I tried to use the cellular sevice at my hotel, it didn’t work. But now in Bamako I have internet and can post the last part of Burkina Faso. So you can read it in present tense, one day late!
Today I have my first day off and I’m in Orodara, in the southwest corner of Burkina Faso. Very small town, I’m guessing around 8,000. I got out my little French book and found out how to ask to see if I could get some laundry done. Ah! simple and even getting it done today, which could have been a problem. They do the laundry by hand and then hang it out to dry and it’s been overcast and raining on and off since I’ve been in Orodara. But today it’s sunny! Voila!
What I noticed on the drive down here from Ouagadougou last Thursday, is that I’m getting further south and deeper into the tropic zone and the rainy season still isn’t, just quite over yet. So the landscape has become a lot denser, way greener, tall tall grasses, palm trees have started popping up and there’s mud. I’m also getting a little closer to the headwater area of the Niger River, I think it’s mostly in Mali, but I’m getting close. So the terrain has also become a ‘little’ hilly, it’s nice.
Boro, who drove me to Orodara from Ouagadougou, and I stopped off at a supermarket in Bobo on the way here. It was a huge (for Africa) supermarket with all kinds of stuff. I stocked up on drinkable yogurt, pineapple juice, crackers, mango juice, water! I found out later that it’s the big supermarket there in Bobo, mostly for the ex-pats and NGO people working there, Westerner’s!
So we finally get into Orodara and find the HKI office. Boro is just dropping me off, then he’s heading back to Bobo to spend the night before going back to his home in Ouagadougou. So I get introduced to the group that is there in the office and we got acquainted with my lacking French/English situation. I was able to understand when they told Sara, the woman who’s the ‘temporary’ field coordinator / supervisor, wasn’t in the office yet. I was just getting settled into my confusion when this woman walks in (I had to presume it was Sarah) and she says “Hello, welcome. How was your drive?” The look of surprise on my face? It was in perfect English. Well, she’s a native Californian, albeit she’s been in and mostly out of America for a long time. It was the first easy English conversation I’d had in over two and a half weeks.
She came to Orodara via Dakar only a month or so ago. To temporarily supervise the beginning of this project in Orodara I came here to see. Then another surprise, Lea came into the office and I was introduced to her. She lives in Emeryville just across the bay from San Francisco. Wow, three native Californians all in this little corner of Burkina Faso. I am in language bliss! Lea is working on her thesis (UC, Davis) and is doing a study on the health financial structure, cost analysis, et al, here in Orodara for this study. (Sorry Lea, if I did not get that exactly right). She’s been in and out of Burkina Faso a few times in the last year and just got here about 3 weeks ago.
This is a bit of a different situation here in Orodara, than I’ve seen in my visit to West Africa. This is a joint project with HKI, IRSS, and the University of California, Davis. It’s a Zinc research study being done to see what the effect and benefits might be with a Zinc supplement for the children. I went across the street to Sarah’s house, had lunch and got my layman’s explanation of the study. It was a bit complicated, for a photographer, but I got a great explanation and I had a good understanding of what I was going to see.
I don’t want to complicate things for everyone with the details of the study, it’s just now getting started here and so they are still in the beginning stages of the research study. I’ve been out in the field seeing the process they’re going through to set the standards up to track the study, which is very detailed and needs to be very precise and specific. They need to get detailed information of the children for the study. So the first thing they do is give a short explanation of the project, to educate the mothers what they are trying to do and hope to achieve, so they can help their babies.
They’ve already picked the first large group of mothers and babies, so now they need to find the ones that will fit the study. So they need to get consent forms signed and fingerprinted. Yes, this is a formal research study.
One of the next steps is taking the medical statistics of the babies, so they need the baby’s temp, respiration, weight, and height. Which I might add, is a bit more modern than the process I witnessed out in the villages of Eastern Burkina Faso and Niger!
Then all the technical work still needs to be done and it’s just the beginning. All the data entry, scanning the data, and marking the Zinc for the study needs to be done. Colour coding the doses, because the tracking codes are in code and the content of that particular pill is a secret. I was told, only one person and the Zinc manufacturer have the codes, no one in Africa does. So no one can tell who’s getting what dose of zinc or a placebo, until the end.
It’s been very interesting and fascinating how this is done. I continue to be in awe of the time and patience the staff and workers have and give in navigating a rather difficult process.
Now I really must say, one of the benefits of my time here in Orodara has been the hospitality of Sara and Lea. I’ve had dinner with them every night, I’ve watched them cook in their ‘kitchen’. We’ve walked at night down the road and through the back paths, to see Orodara and to buy fruit and vegetables. We sit for dinner or lunch and talk, an English conversation. Sarah and Lea … I thank you both! I hope your projects and remaining time here, goes well and is successful.
A driver from HKI in Bamako is driving across the border to Orodara today, then first thing in the morning we’re crossing over the border into Mali and driving to Bamako. The plan is to travel to the village of Diolia on Monday, then to Bancoumana on Wednesday, back to Bamako for day trips and then the last weekend of my trip here to West Africa. So I say farewell until the next time, from Mali.
I would also like to say to all my new friends here in Burkina Faso, THANK YOU! To Boro, Boubacar, Olivier, Rasmata, Régina, Tonde, Sara, Lea, and everyone else in Ouagadougou, Fada, and Orodara.