Thursday, September 07, 2006

Fellow Peace Corps Volunteers

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Components of the Best Care Package Ever

~ Meat, any and all of it. I’ve even seen packaged, no refrigeration needed bacon. Both deeply disturbing and delicious.

~ Cheese. Velveeta, Cougar cheese, those cheeses that people send their relatives for Christmas. We have locally made cheese here… but it puts me at risk for tuberculosis.

~ Pictures! Pictures of you, your pets, your garden, your surroundings. It’s a little piece of America for me, plus, villagers love looking at them and always have questions about the US.
~ CD’s: if you send me blank ones I’ll send you pictures!

~ Stationary; (while we’re on the subject of what I can send you)

~ Shampoo. It’s sold here, but it doesn’t suds up and it seems like the angrier I get at the lack of suds, the waterier the shampoo becomes.

~ Trashy magazines. Yeah I know. You’re above it and will probably even be embarrassed buying them, but you’re not here and we are, and here, none of us are exempt from the pull of US Weekly, People, In Touch, and In Style.

~ Ice Cream. No, just kidding

~ Dried Fruits and Vegetables. I like them all. And I'm desperate. Sometimes I eat leaves.

~ Maple Syrup. I can make pancakes, and French toast, but when I’m done they just look up at me, all golden brown and barren and I can tell that they’re wondering where the syrup is.

~ Taco Bell mild sauce, or any fast food sauce packets. Generally, the bigger and more evil the corporation, the longer their shelf life.

~ Coffee, whole bean -I have a grinder here. Think of it as me saving African babies one milligram of caffeine at a time.

~ Anything chocolate.

I'll go ahead and bold this part:

Natalie Beck
Corps de la Paix
B.P. 89
Konni, Niger
West Africa

The Woman in the Well

Exactly one month ago today Hadiza fell into the well. It was noon and I was about to head there myself when I heard a strange, eerie actually, mixture of yelling and crying. Kids are always yelling or crying, but this was different and everyone in the village must have heard that difference because when I stepped out of my door to see what was wrong I saw that everyone in the village was walking towards the well. More and more people started wailing as the news spread. I don't know what it is that makes the moments of disaster a blur or unforgettably crystal clear, but I remember sounds, wailing. I remember seeing Ali climbing out of the well somehow carrying Hadiza. I remember that she was dripping wet and I thought to myself, "she fell all the way to the bottom". Of course she did. It's a10 meter deep well lined with rocks, and not the kind of polished stones you'd see in a Thomas Kinkade cottage, rocks that regularly tear the rubber containers used to pull up the water. The well is ringed with crumbling cement and beyond that is mud. It had rained that morning. If anyone was least likely to catch their fall, it was her. She was eight months pregnant.

She was conscious. Everyone migrated to her house. Her family put her in her best clothes and onto the back of a motorcycle to ride the 5k through sand and mud to the dispensaire where later I found out she had refused to have a full exam because the doctor is male. Women here feel "shame"; that's the closest translation into English, but really it encompasses so much more than what might be conjured up by an American mind. It involves etiquette, morals, and lifestyle choices all silently dictated through tradition.

She is the fourth person to fall into this well. In a village, not too far from mine, I heard that a person fell into a 17 meter deep well and died. Here is the good news: Hadiza had a baby boy last week. I went to the baby naming ceremony. He seems healthy. Also, I'm convinced that getting funding to improve this well is the right thing to do. I would feel shame if I didn't.