Friday, July 11, 2008

Half way

It's hard to believe that it's already been a week since the last time I made it to the internet cafe, and on top of that, we're almost at the half way point of the trip. Day to day life here is really starting to turn into a blur. I'm struggling to remember what's happened since the last time I wrote.

After we left Brikama last week to head back on bike for home in Jambanjelly (it's about a 10K bike, give or take, so it takes us around half an hour) we biked for about 40 minutes before we realized that nothing looked familiar and we were lost somewhere in the middle of Africa. We had no idea where we were or what path to take other than going back through Brikama and starting over again. Due to our biking journeys thus far we have created a tour. The big white kids on little bikes tour. It's been hugely successful with all the little kids along the roadside who run at us and scream tubabo (white) like it's their job. Usually it's entertaining until you realize that you have no idea where you are.

It just happened that almost immediately after I got back from the bike ride I had the fortune of getting some sort of stomach bug and threw up for the rest of the day. I spent almost all of Sunday and Monday trying to recover. This was my first wake-up call that I'm living in Africa and it's not always perfect.

The second wake-up call came on Wednesday morning. Abdulhai, one of our friends here plays soccer on the village team and somehow convinced me to go training with him one morning. As we were walking back from the run on the outskirts of town we came across two kids and a pack of dogs laying across the road. The kids were waiting to take the dogs out into the bush for hunting, which is common here. I didn't think anything of the dogs since they wander the town all the time and have never caused any problems. As we were walking through one of the dogs lunged at us. I was completely oblivious to the situation and was thinking more about breakfast than these dogs. By the time I realized what was happening and turned to see the dog, Abdulhai had already killed it. I can't illustrate the confusion at that point. I was just walking through these seemingly nice little puppies, and then bam, there's a dead dog laying in the road and Abdulhai is telling me to just keep walking.

The third wake-up call came when one of the women who lives in our compound brought her baby to us. The locals here know we have basic first aid so they usually come by when they need a band-aid or two. We were blown away when this mother brought her silent 7 month-old baby to us and showed us the baby's leg. At least 50% was covered in one of the worst burns I've seen. We didn't even know where to begin. None of us really have any medical experience and this baby needed more than a few band-aids. At that young, a burn like that can be life threatening, and the mother acted like it was no big deal. They either can't afford to go to the hospitals here or don't see the need. To their credit, the hospitals here are not really hospitals. A few members of our group have needed to go see a doctor or an optometrist and they don't offer help or are no where to be found. For the first time since I've been here I've realized that they simply don't have the resources that we've grown so accustomed to. In other words, this is Africa.

Despite the seemingly chaotic week, it was incredibly enjoyable. Work at the site has been going really smoothly and it makes the time here go by so quickly. We finished up the carpentry work on Wednesday and all of the interior masonry work today. I'm finally starting to get the hang of the work here, and it's really nice to be able to help the masons, instead of just watching. We had a half day today due to the Muslim tradition of prayer at 2 on Fridays. We took the opportunity to check out a new section of the beach, and with the recent rain bringing in cooler temperatures I plan on passing out immediately when I get back.

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