It's been a while since I last posted in Ouaga and school here in Navielgane is finally in full swing. Lately I've been spending a couple of hours each morning observing different classes at the primary school near my house. One thing I know is that I'm glad I went to school where I did. In the younger classes kids sit up to five in a desk (which are wooden benches attached to narrow tables) and hitting isn't exactly uncommon. The first graders come in not knowing any French so the teachers spend the day speaking at them in a language they're not used to, hoping they'll understand, while trying to teach them to read and write. The day I sat in on 1st grade, they were going around the room pointing out things that were white and saying "c'est blanc." I was terrified the entire time that one of them was going to come over and point to me (its not out of the ordinary having kids scream "la blanche" at me as I walk/bike around my village), but thankfully not of them caught on. Even though I'm not going to be teaching, it has been good to see how the classes run here and to know what conditions the kids are learning in. One thing that is cool is that they each have their own little chalkboard to practice writing on - I know I would have thought that was pretty sweet when I was a kid.
I finally made a visit to my local CSPS (clinic) with my homologue. It's in another village about 5K away. Another volunteer was supposed to live their from the health sector but unfortunately she had to go home. Luckily a new group of volunteers arrived last week- all from health and small enterprise development - so once their training is over I should have a new neighbor. So anyway, I visited the CSPS just to get an idea of what it was like/let them know i was here, etc. A popular activity among many volunteers is to participate in baby weighing days, so I asked about that. It worked, out that the next day was a baby weighting day so I went back on Thursday to see how it all worked. It was pretty hysterical to watch because they put the babies in this harness and hang them from a hook in the center of the room. Their eyes would get all wide as they swung around until a good measurement could be taken and a lot of the time there was screaming and kicking involved. They encourage mothers to come in once a month to have their babies weighted, measured, vaccinated etc. Each person has a little booklet in which they keep track of all the measurements to chart if the baby is malnourished or not. The woman in charge of the maternity clinic also spoke to the women for several minutes on the preparation of something called boullie (which is something like oatmeal) to start incorporating into the babies diets. The whole process took up most of the morning. Afterwards, they had me sit in on a couple of consultations which was mostly just awkward and a little confusing since everything was in Dagara. All in all it was an interesting and eye opening experience. Although I'd like to help out thee when I can and am needed, my visit made me a) glad I'm not a health volunteer (I don't think my queasy stomach could handle being there every day) and b) reaffirmed the fact that I don't want children.
I continue to have lots of free time (which I don't think I'll ever be lacking) and managed to fill some of it with a little home improvement. I finally finished painting and although I did a far less than perfect job and it kinda looks like an easter egg exploded in my house, its done and is better than looking at dirty, brown walls with cement patchwork everywhere. I also hung some curtains that I made from traditional Dagara tie dye pagnes that I think are pretty spiffy.
In other news I am currently sporting a rather 90s Coolio-esque hair style. My neighbor decided she wanted to fix me up with a new 'do' and that meant that I sat for several hours on Monday while she attacked my head with a comb and some rubber bands. I thought I was going to end up with some corn rows but oh no, I have a gangster's paradise look going on with braids sticking out in every direction. She was pretty proud and someone suggested we take a photo together...I can't believe I'm allowing the evidence to exist.
Another new thing that has been occupying some of my spare time is a game here called "Ludo" (although they pronounce it "Lido"). I'm pretty sure its from Nigeria and basically it's the African version of "Sorry" - dice, little colored pieces you move around the board etc. A bunch of guys sit around playing it and drinking tea near the kiosk where I sometimes buy my bread. My neighbor saw me playing with them one day and then took it upon herself to buy it on a trip to Diebougou (the same trip where she bought rubber bands for my hair do) so we could play it at her house. She's a little competitive and alot better than me so playing with her can be a little intimidating (silly I know, it's just a bored game) but I'm getting better.
On my way home from a trip to the CSPS, my homologue and I stopped at another primary school to chat with the director/ After introducing me to all of the classes (in one he asked if I had a message for the kids, to which I responded "stay in school" because it was the only thing I could think of in French) we were standing outside talking and he asked "So, in reality, what are you actually doing here?" This wasn't the first time I've gotten this question and people in my village have been asking when I'm going to start working. Technically, we're not supposed to 'stat' anything until our in-service training in January. This preliminary period is supposed to be for assessing the needs of our communities. For me this has been a source of frustration for me as much as I'm sure it is for the people here who thought I was going to come in and make drastic changes. Unfortunately the parent association (APE) of my school still hasn't gotten together and I'm told that the mother version (AME) doesn't really function here. One of the volunteers who worked at our training said we would lean alot about ourselves during these initial months. One thing I I've definitely learned is that I like having actual goals to accomplish which is almost contradictory to many facets of Peace Corps life. For now all I can really do is wait - for the cultivators to come in from the fields, meetings to happen, January to come around. But for now I'll just go back to "integrating," getting my hair braided, drinking tea, and catching up on all the reading I haven't made time for in the last several years.