Wednesday, September 19, 2007


So this has been quite the exciting week. Not only has Ramadan begun, but I just completed my first “project”. Ok so let’s not get too excited, I haven’t built any wells or cured any strange diseases, basically no one is prepared to build a statue in my honor yet, but give it time. That really is the goal of Peace Corps you know…

So my region mate Mara and I spent a few hours at the Health Center in Ait Oumghar… don’t bother trying to look for it on a map, you won’t find it… teaching dental hygiene lessons: How to brush your teeth, if you can’t afford toothpaste or a toothbrush how to make them, why you need to brush your teeth, you know, dental hygiene. The basic idea is that on this particular day every week, the women from the surrounding area come in with their newborns in order to get vaccinations and since it takes forever they’re waiting around for hours with their babies. We basically have them cornered. So we ended up talking to somewhere around 45 women and their children. Many of them had confused looks on their faces most likely because there were two foreigners speaking their Berber dialect, but there were also a few who wrote down instructions or went and got friends so they could learn too.

There was this really cute girl named Amina who, although was a little shy at first quickly jumped out of her shell and became our little emissary to the rest of the people in the sbitar. She even left and brought friends of hers back on their way to school.

Now you have to realize that we were surrounded entirely by women, so I was a little shy. I’m used to interacting with all men here and the high level of estrogen was a tad intimidating, not only for me but for the women as well. When I talked with them one-on-one they mostly wanted to know if Mara and I were married. Mara, however, is a powerhouse when it comes to engaging people and drawing them in, and where I tend to be silent when I can’t create a grammatically correct sentence, she charges ahead with whatever word she can recall and brings her listeners into an active dialogue where they participate in forming the sentence. The unintended consequence (or maybe intended, I don’t know) is that because the people with whom she speaks end up helping her complete her sentences, they tend to understand and absorb the information far better than when confronted with my timidly formed “correct” sentences.

So I return tomorrow to my site and finally have a plan for work. So you have an idea of what I’ll be working on in the coming months, my nurse and I are working on a plan to get a medical waste incinerator for our sbitar so we don’t have used needles lying around all over the place. I’m also working on designing a system for our community to deal with trash as a community as opposed to just dumping everything in the river. I have In-Service Training (IST) in November and after that I can begin writing grants. I still haven’t started learning Arabic, which I thought I was going to begin last month, but my tutor up and left for a job, so I’m waiting until I get a little bit more comfortable with Tamazight.

I hope this blog entry finds you all well. Sadly I don’t have pictures of this event because both Mara and I felt awkward taking pictures during the lessons. I apologize for the disappointment, but we’ve been trying to keep our work low-tech and low-key.

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