Sunday, March 16, 2008

It's not malaria!

Another day of languid wooziness as I suspect that malaria has found me again. Symptoms…sick stomach (though that could have been the palm wine I had yesterday to celebrate the first cdpeace staff meeting), sleep all day with barely enough energy to make it to the latrine, complete loss of appetite (can’t even look at food), sporadic high fever. If this continues I’ll be diving into the lone packet of malaria medicine I’ve been saving for an occurrence like this.

Yesterday was a historic day for several reasons. First of all, we held our very first SLTU (teachers’ union) meeting with reps coming from most of the 31 schools in the chiefdom. With no history of trade unionism or professional associations in the chiefdom (or paid employment, for that matter), it was very moving to watch how participants absorbed the impact of what they had come together to create. Also moving to hear the conditions of the majority of teachers. The majority, by far, are unpaid, unsupported, have no teaching or learning materials, often have no building and are the sole teacher in the community, have been coming to teach the children daily without pay for many years, and have been struggling to find resources to upgrade their own learning. The meeting ended with a long discussion about what we could collectively do for the families of the many teachers who die each year. As yesterday was also the day I officially resigned from my Canadian teaching position (and hence lose membership in my teachers union), I was also moved to be made a member of this union. I’m hoping that bringing teachers together to identify and address the struggles they face will go a long way to improving the conditions of teachers, students, and communities.

Yesterday was also a historic day for cdpeace, as six local people were offered letters of appointment (CIDA funded) and we shared a celebratory toast with Canadian volunteers via Skype. This was the culmination of years of hard work, planning, dreaming, and fund-raising We’re all thrilled with the committed and dynamic team of women and men in place who will be moving forward with work in education, women’s economic development, agriculture, and literacy.

Good news…it’s not malaria! Kouame has just told me that he and Mabinty were also sick last night with the same symptoms. Bad palm wine!

We’ve had our fourth unprecedented early rain now, and there is great confusion among the farmers, as no one is sure whether they should start brushing early or not. The rains, and thus brushing, have come at least a month early (last year they were a month late). I thought about this as I washed the guest house sheets on the back porch the other day (this involves getting help hauling many buckets of water from the well, making soap from caustic soda and palm oil, asking the carpenter make a wash board from an old plank, asking the blacksmiths make a basin from scrap metal, hauling wood from the forest to boil water, heating water on the three stone fire pit, scrubbing and wringing relentlessly). Despite the hard work, this new technology (washboard) makes the task much easier and I was happy to have several of the women stop by to try it as the washboard has now moved into the main house. Dry season, however, is not the time to be washing white sheets and selfishly, I’m glad for the rain when I’m brooking (though am greatly concerned about its impact on the unroofed library mud bricks). Today I’m going to search for dye to ink the sheets blue.

Photo: Maso school volunteer teacher Mabinty on her way home from school with cassava from the school garden. Mabinty, one of three female teachers in the chiefdom, has just been hired as the part-time cdpeace Women's Learning and Teaching coordinator.