Friday, July 6, 2007

The end of my trip - You can't bring mangos back to the U.S.

I never had access to a computer my last day in Niamey and I felt that the blog was hanging a little. So, in retrospect, here's the end of my experience in Niger.
As a tourist, I was a failure in Niger. I went to the Grand Mosque (with headscarf ready) but it was locked up and the guy with the key was nowhere to be found. Soumana and I went to the Niger Museum on Friday (supposed to be one of the best in West Africa) but, of course, it was closed on the holy day. (Soumana was, apparently, not paying that much attention to prayers last week.)
Instead we had cokes and talked about being 40 and never married, how it's unusual in both our societies and what kind of people give us grief over it. (Soumana suggests that I'm not married because I can't cook and I suggest he's not married because he's rude.)
On Thursday night I was invited to Madam Traore's for dinner which was a really nice dinner with enough food for about 25 people (there were five of us). I now know about 10 French words and Madam Traore knows about 20 English words so the conversation was light. I told her mangos from really hot climates are much better than the ones from hot houses and so on Friday she brought me a bag to take home. They made it to JFK where the customs agents took them from me (and ate them, no doubt).
The business aspect of my trip was considerably more successful. On Friday I went to the other big hospital in Niamey that is part of the University. Two urologists perform fistula repairs and train gynecologists to do the surgery. I met with the senior surgeon, Dr. Sanda who, like Dr. Abdulai at the National Hospital, seems very dedicated and is very good with the patients.
I found the work being done to address fistula in Niger to be really impressive. This is one of those cases where the reality seems to match the claims. Definately, UNFPA is dedicated to addressing fistula in Niger and definately Madam Traore makes a difference.
At dinner before I left for the airport I asked Ghaichatou why she personally thought Madam Traore was worthy of internatinal recognition and she said because she really views the prevention and treatment of fistula as part of the human rights that women deserve generally. She said Madam Traore doesn't wait for money, she just does the work and if she gets more money, she does more work. Finally, she said, Madam Traore is the only woman in the country that can go to the National Assembly lecture the politicians about the treatment of women.

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