This week I spent living in a small rural village called Bugadu with a local partner NGO called FREDA Africa. We left Monday afternoon and took a two hour taxi ride north and then another 20 minute boda boda (motorcycle taxi) ride to the village. Kirk and I packed a duffle bag for the both of us equipped with our mosquito nets and clothes for the week. When we arrived, we were greeted by the local villagers and a tasty dinner cooked by a Muslim family who provided us with room and board for the week. Kirk and I were accommodated in our very own grass roofed hut for the week, with mattresses and everything! The sounds of the rats scampering around and squealing in the roof at night was a little unsettling at first, but we soon got comfortable to the sounds of our rodent housemates as we settled in for the night.
|hut on the inside. pretty nice, eh?|
Tuesday morning we rose at 8 o’clock to be ready for the first class we were going to be teaching to the villagers at 9:00; however, we failed to remember that African time is a little different from Muzungu (white guy) time. Most everyone showed up at their leisure an hour or two later than the scheduled time, but we taught an important class on sexual health. This class proved to be very beneficial because we became aware of many domestic problems that seemed to be running rampant within the community. We tried to emphasize that the man and woman were equal partners in a marriage, but African tradition and culture is still very negatively chauvinistic, where it seems okay for a man to beat his wife, kick her out of the house whenever he wants, have sex with her when he wants, etc. To many men in the village, a wife’s role is to be barefoot and pregnant and cooking all day long. Teaching about sexual health in such a society is so important because the men live according to a local legend where a certain man had many, MANY children and one day, one of them got rich and he was then able to provide for his parents in their old age. Therefore, men do what they can to spread their seed, including polygamy and adultery, thus making room for lots of sexual diseases to spread like wildfire. We addressed these domestic issues as best as we could and emphasized loyalty to one’s spouse.
That night we enjoyed spending the entire evening with the village children. They taught us songs and danced for us for hours on end. Maybe due to the loss of a strong cultural identity in the United States, we felt like we had nothing cool to teach them from America. The only thing that came to mind was the Macarena—which isn’t even American—but turned out to be a big hit! The kids loved it! Even by Friday the kids were still walking around humming the song and dancing. Right before bed one night, one little girl walked by humming the song and said in her tiny voice speaking broken English, “Thank you for your song.” Who knew the Macarena could change lives?!
Wednesday we taught classes relating to economic development to help boost their small economy. We presented many small business ideas which were widely applauded and hopefully FREDA Africa can get them set up with the materials they need to get started with their businesses on future visits to the village.
That night we went to the closest town for dinner and ate some crazy pork stuff. It was good, but I paid the price for it later. The next morning I woke up super tired (even after sleeping a good ten hours or so) and not at all hungry. By lunch, my appetite was gone and was feeling rather queasy. I stayed in the hut that afternoon instead of going out with the group to teach about basic sanitation issues. While they were gone, I ventured out near the latrine feeling that I might vomit sometime soon. The lady who was cooking us our meals for the week noticed I was hanging out there and asked me what was wrong. She pulled something off a nearby tree, opened it up and gave me a handful of dry seeds to eat with water. I did so rather willingly. I was excited to try some cool local remedy. Unfortunately it all came back up about three minutes after, thus decidedly ending my proud four year streak without puking. She then made some tea and gave me some bread, which I also couldn’t keep down for longer than a few minutes. I sat around in front of the hut sipping water and feeling absolutely awful. My stomach hurt like crazy and I felt almost delirious. Around dusk the rest of the group came back with a Coca-Cola to help my tummy and Travis, the FREDA Africa founder, went off to the nearest town for some medicine from the pharmacy.
|path to the latrine. i threw up all around here|
While he was gone I spewed another time but a large congregation began to form around me. All the village kids were worried about me and said it was a boring night without me around to dance with them. Finally Travis returned with a bunch of medicine, including charcoal pills, which apparently help with diarrhea?! I took them reluctantly, and for good reason, because soon after I decided to swallow them, they made a comeback. While I ventured out into the forest to vomit that time, I leaned against a tree and a mango fell on my head and splattered all over! If ever throughout this story you wanted to feel bad for me, this would be the time. I was covered in mango and vomit in some tiny village with nowhere to barf except the forest, and nowhere to use the restroom except this dirty squat toilet:
|latrine outside view|
|latrine on the inside|
I went back and got cleaned up and by this point it seemed that half the village was there with me sympathizing for me. They sat with me the rest of the evening. They said a prayer for me, put their hands on my stomach and blessed it, sang me a hymn, and sent me to bed.
I woke up in the night not because I was feeling sick, but I woke up marveling at the love these people showed me. Me, a stranger, a Muzungu, but they showed the greatest amount of love and affection and concern that anyone could possibly demonstrate.
The next morning we went to teach our last class. Many of the villagers (most of whom weren’t even around the night before) showed up only to see if I was okay and to tell me that they were praying for me. Clearly the faith of these great people did something miraculous for me, restoring my physical and spiritual health, and exemplifying to me their incredible humility and love towards their fellow man.
We left that afternoon, although I wish I could have stayed forever. At the beginning of the voyage I hoped to change the lives of the African people. I don’t know how much I’ve impacted their way of living, but they have clearly impacted mine.
|kids carrying even small kids|
|more cute kids|
|lady with our bag ON HER HEAD!!!!!|