I love it when a plan comes together. Three of us (Henk, Doug and me) showed up at the boarding gate in Paris and when we exited in Libreville there were Bob and Charlie waiting for us. That may be the easiest part of the whole month but getting to that point had enough of its own fits and starts.
Plans don’t just appear, and “our man in Libreville” (great title for a book) has certainly paved the way. Over the past few months, he has been meeting our partners from the village and from the Ministry of Health and getting their buy-in and designating areas of responsibility. Long lists and schedules and agreements came from his meetings, and based on initial meetings we’re all excited and ready to go.
Day 1 saw us paying a courtesy call at the US Embassy and examining the growth on the memorial tree planted in our first year in honor of the two Peace Corps volunteers who died during their tours: Karen Phillips and Diana Fillmore.
We then had a meeting with our partners from the anti-malaria program to review this year’s mosquito net distribution. We will head back to the villages where we handed out nets last year and do an evaluation. In addition the Ministry people want to offer some vaccinations at the same time as distributing the nets.
It was “old home” week when we arrived at the Ministry. Two of our counterparts from last year, Giseline and Marie Paschal, greeted us with cries of delight, reciprocated from our side. Dr Safiou, the director of the national anti-malaria program fondly recalled playing basketball with Peace Corps volunteers.
At the end of the meeting we took our photo and noted we were in the same spot as last year. Charlie threw out some of his departing Bandjabi phrases and amidst the laughter, I overheard one Ministry official say “he speaks my language!” It turns out he grew up near Lastoursville in a village where Peace Corps volunteers were building a school. Mark Schultz, he remembered. And so did we.
We did our obligatory shopping although much scaled down as Bob assures is we can get everything we need in Oyem, the large town closest to Abam Eba where we will be working. Just as obligatory was dinner on the beachfront.
Truth told, we spent much of our first day figuring out phones, SIM cards, WhatsApp, wi-fi, etc. We’re fortunate no one was filming our tech conversations, as five old guys try to figure out technology in a foreign country with spotty service.
Today we meet the village civic association and perhaps have another dinner on the beachfront. Then tomorrow at the crack of dawn, we load up the cars and begin our trek north and east. I love it when a plan comes together.