One week into our project and we’re moving quickly through our assigned projects and adjusting to our new surroundings. The latter has been made easy by our wonderful hosts, John and Marte, who have opened up their home and taken care of our settling in so well. After only one week, we feel part of the family.
Much of the first couple of days was given over to courtesy calls and introductory meetings. Bob W made all these arrangements to make sure there were no suspicions or misunderstandings about our presence. Suffice it to say that while our project is small in the grand scale, people who work across the whole province are really happy we’re here
We are guilty of comparing our situation to what we experienced in the last few years. It’s probably only natural but it’s also not really fair to Abam Eba or Sam and Doumandzou.
There are some changes though worth noting.
First, we’re only a few miles from the border with Equatorial Guinea and the village lies on the principal road which means there are electric lines along the road and that means most homes have electricity most of the day. That makes it easy for us to keep all our tech devices charged.
Like many border towns around the world, the influence of the other country is marked. Spanish is heard, many people go shopping across the border. Spanish beer is here and so is Spanish wine.
Second, it’s still a bit of a shock to appreciate the impact of technology. WhatsApp is the biggest change this year. We text and call at no expense. We’ve even called the US. Reception is spotty but no complaints. There are 30 or so channels on television which is turned on each night.
Some things remain. Water is a preoccupation. There is a working pump in the village but a long walk away. Closer is a stream where we sometimes bathe – very refreshing at the end of the day. And when it rains, buckets are placed along the tin roof’s edge to catch enough to fill a barrel for washing through the week.
We have volunteers. At our first meeting in the village, a man pointed out that if we weren’t able to pay, then it would be hard to get people to help. A valid point where people have so little. We answered with lofty ideas of friendship and collaboration. And yet, people have shown up to help. It must be like an old-fashioned barn raising because the men villagers are digging sand, hauling bricks, mixing and pouring cement, and at the end of the work day a meal appears for all who worked. We later learned the women of the village are taking turns preparing food for all who worked.
Our mosquito nets project is moving quickly. The team has surveyed house to house nine villages and distributed nets to eight of them – 303 nets. They’ve tested about 45 people who felt sick and almost half were given treatments for malaria. They have one more day of survey and distribution before they go back to last year’s villages to do an evaluation. We did run into one woman in Mitzic who had gotten two nets last year. She was effusive in her praise – no trips to the hospital, no illness compared to the year before when she and her children were sick multiple times. Only one person but the kind of result that shows the value of the nets.