Monday, July 2, 2007

Just because it's not 125 degrees does NOT mean it's not hot

I started this morning by missing breakfast which turned out to be a very, very bad idea. I also skipped the security briefing and am counting on the fact that nobody who cares about that is reading this. They just tell you that there are problems in the north on the borders of Libya, Chad and Algeria and I'm not going there. I asked the UNFPA Representative here if she was suggesting that I don't look Nigerien enough (take a look at my bio photo to get that joke).
Instead I went to the bank where the nice man behind glass waved my hundreds of US dollars and the millions of CFAs they bought for all to see. So blending, I'm not.
Today we started shooting a short documentary that takes us to Dimol, a non-profit organization that deals largely with fistula. The camera crew is four guys (I expected two) and one of them actually has to hold a large boom mic. I feel like there should be some added special effects to this video shoot. Because I was at the bank longer than I expected, the crew went to Madam Traore's clinic to shoot and, as luck would have it, there was a woman delivering this morning.
In the afternoon, we (me, my translator, the film crew, Madam Traore, her ob/gyn son and several of her staff members) went to visit the Dimol Center where women wait for their fistula repair surgery or recover from it. (Our very own air-conditioned caravan plodding across Niamey.) It's a beautiful Center in a sparse area of town that's just being developed. Madam Traore told me she tried for two years to get the land to build the Center but it's lucky for everyone who will live nearby because they brought power lines and plumbing to the neighborhood. That's a nice twist.
The heat, my empty stomach and the five different languages made it tough for me to follow the conversation (even with a translator) so I helped with soap-making. (All I really did was stir the pot.) I've heard others say it but it's true that women whose fistulas have been recently repaired smile and laugh a lot.
This evening my UNFPA chaperone and I went to the Grand Hotel, the best spot in town to watch the sunset over the Niger river. This is one of the places where the elite of Niamey, the grungy American kids (because it's in Lonely Planet) and an odd assortment of expats socialize. We solved our big question to each other - that my FIRST name is Deni and her first name is Ghaichatou - and she told me a lot about her work on fistula in medical school. She started by translating for Americans who came to Niger to train local doctors in repair surgery.
Then we ate Italian food. Seriously.
Tomorrow we leave at 7:00 to take one of the women from the Dimol Center back to her village, which is 140 kilometers from Niamey and the car is not air conditioned.

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