Tuesday, October 14, 2008

First field mission!

After a relaxed weekend (reading; planting some tomato, cucumber and guava seeds in the garden- we can already see the first sprouts), we went into the field for the first time! It’s not really our own mission, as we were following the consultants that are evaluating the WFP programme in Burkina Faso (as we are halfway through the said programme 2006-2010, which includes supporting basic education, health, and rural development, as I explained in an earlier post). So we mainly observed everything and took many pictures, but it was still very exciting, interesting, and a great promise for our future missions (the first few of which are already all planned out for the coming months).

The drive in itself was an adventure. We were in a convoy of eight big white jeeps, the red dust trailing behind each car, our super driver Cissé brilliantly manoeuvring on the very bumpy road, a tape of African reggae playing, the gorgeous Sahel landscape passing by (savannah-like, greener by water spots), dotted with herds of cows (African cows with long horns and a kind of bump on their back) and goats, travellers and herders waving at us (even clapping once). The bumps in the road didn’t make our hearts jump as much as a roller coaster, but the entire experience was much more thrilling.

Our destination was an ‘alphabetisation center’ near the village of Gorom-Gorom (40 km North of Dori, about one and a half hour drive). After having had a big general meeting in Dori discussing issues/problems/solutions, the consultants evaluating the programme needed to go into the field to actually see how the programme is implemented. At the alphabetisation center they hold sessions to teach adults how to read and write, as well as some promotion of nutrition, health, hygiene, etc. To encourage the adults to come to these sessions (which are only held during the non-harvesting season), the centers distribute food at each session to the participants. We all sat and stood in a circle, and the consultants asked those responsible for the center as well as villagers who attend the sessions how things were going, if there were any problems, if the food was delivered on time, whether the food did motivate them to go to the sessions, if they had any suggestions, etc. It was very interesting, and I look forward to being able to ask the questions and talk with everyone myself on our future missions (myself = translated by someone else, as people from the villages don’t always speak French but one of the local languages).

We filmed and took pictures- the children were very enthusiastic, each little boy wanting a picture with just himself, even pushing the others away for this (that made me feel a bit bad). At the end we also took pictures of the women altogether, who were happy to see it afterwards on the digital screens (those things are great here, but what would be fun would be a Polaroid camera to give them some pictures immediately).

The way back was quite an adventure too. We had been escorted by a jeep with policemen (‘gendarmerie’, which, by their impressive uniforms and big guns, look more like the army). Unfortunately, they had a rented jeep which couldn’t really stand the road. They kept having to stop, until they simply couldn’t go on anymore. So we had to bail our own security out by pulling them with one of our jeeps!

Unlike other missions where we will be going further away, this one stays close enough to Dori for us to come back home every evening. After a tasty ‘riz gras’ at ‘our’ bar/restaurant ‘Cafetaria Le Bonus’ (a tiny place where you can eat at the bar or on the one table, with walls and a roof of braided straw, and always playing loud reggae, the guys working there singing and dancing along), we went to bed early to be well rested for our second day into the field.


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