Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Back from Bakel.

For two weeks, 10 volunteers (mostly from Tamba region) spent everyday including christmas day and new years day working on a project a friend of mine set up. Two years ago, my buddy Mark volunteered for a group of doctors and nurses that went to Ghana for two weeks to do catarax removale surguries and to perscribe proper medications for allergies and infections. He invited one of the doctors and one of the nurses (his mother) to come to Bakel, a boarder town to Mauritania, to perform the surguries again. With the help of so many volunteers, the doctor was able to give a small training to every one for the job they were to do for the two weeks. Some volunteers were trained to do the screenings, checking for catarax, vision, and pain. Some volunteers were in charge of more specific vision tests to give out glasses. Some volunteers worked in the the operating room cleaning tools and handling gauze and idoine swabs. The volunteers were extremely organized and some even took the early morning shift to give out numbers to people starting at 6am. All in all, they did about 70 surguries and saw roughly 1,800 people. I made it out there to get some of the clinic on video. I spent 5 days filming surguries, eye charts and eye checks, the "styles and smiles" glasses team, interviewing local doctors, volunteers, and patients... It was really incredible. I could tell from the few days I was there that the clinic was probably the most tangible and rewarding experience that those volunteers had had in Senegal.

While I was there, we all went on walks through the city. We wen down to the fort and looked out over the Senegal River. I got a chance to wander through seemingly endless cornfields and to see Mauritania only a few minutes boat ride away. Bakel was beautiful. It reminded me of Israel. It was littered with dilapidated french buildings and this incredible pink flowered euphorbia. I spent new years there, sort of a mix between your typical Tamba house sexy party and a strange Senegalese dance party. The DJ let us put in our ipods for a few songs and we would all dance and then he would play Senegalese music and we and all the Senegalese people would dance. It went on till 4 or 5 in the morning but I was asleep by a few minutes after twelve. I haven't quite figured out what to do with the hours of footage from the eye clinic but I'm sure I'll think of something. If nothing else for Peace Corps posterity.

Now I'm down in Kedougou, near the Guinean boarder, filming the last of the five women for the film. Actually today was my last day of shooting and tonight, she invited us over to her house for dinner. Her name is Binta Diallo and she is pretty interesting. She works as a nurses aid at the regional hosptial here, she runs an organization that does rural education outreach on issues of health and sanitation. We filmed her yesterday being interviewed on a radio show about the current situation with rabbies in the area and afterwards she had us follow her to a meeting she was leading. Today we went with her as she dropped off boxes of clothing and food to a koranic school in her neighborhood. The woman was unstoppable.

And Kedougou itself has been as beautiful as ever. I'm sad to leave in a way. I've been in Dakar so long that I missed living life like you're camping. I missed squat toilets and living by flashlight and cold showers and washing clothes by hand. In Dakar, all of those things disappear. But for the sake of this movie and my grad school applications, I have to get back up to Dakar soon. I'm hopeing to be completely finished with the film by March and then its back to my village to start getting people excited about trees. Haha. Can't wait.

Hope the holidays went well stateside.

Peace and Love, e Allah okueng chellal moyyo (and may god give us all good health),

Barry Pousman