Wednesday, May 15, 2013

New Address

I have a new mailing address:

PO Box 174
Etsha 6

Why, you may ask, did I decide to get a new mailing address halfway through my service? Because no one from the hospital overseeing the clinic in Etsha can figure out who is responsible and how to pay for the post office box. I was patient and persistent for a few weeks, but then a care package was withheld and patience went out the window. Mail sent to the old box will be forwarded, but if you're going to be nice enough to mail something to me, send it to my new address!

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Community Clean Up

With the flood waters in my backyard again, I've been spending plenty of time down by the water. Usually this begins as an attempt to read but I often am sucked into people-watching: kids swimming, mokoros headed into the detla, women washing clothing, and even the occasional religious ritual. It seems the entire village takes advantage of this proximity to water. I have also found myself diverted from my reading by a much less pleasant distraction, garbage. Everywhere.

It is also worth noting my recent discovery on how much kids flip out over stickers. I've convinced them to break up an argument in the hope of earning a sticker. Kids know that if I am walking home and carrying something that looks heavy, if they help me take it home I will reward them with stickers. It's amazing. So, after a day sitting by the water, disgusted by trash, a light bulb went off: If I put garbage bags, my PACT Club kids, and stickers together, the waterfront could be cleaned up in no time. 25 garbage bags, 30+ kids, a bagful of stickers, and a couple of hours later, Etsha 13's lagoon is nearly garbage free (never underestimate how much garbage accumulates in a place without any decent disposal options).

I have been on a bit of an environmental health tear lately; it all started with an Earth Day themed PACT Club. I've been a little low on good activity ideas without a mile long list of complications, so I've taken advantage of all of the international commemorations, i.e. World Malaria Day, Water Day. I used an excellent activity suggested by  Bridgette, in which the kids guess how long it takes for various waste products to decompose and/or break down. They had no idea that plastic bottles didn't just disappear in a matter of a few years, or that styrofoam would outlast us all (and then some). I don't think I've gotten a single guess over 10 years for any waste substance! We also had the chance to talk about the various ways to dispose of garbage, burning or burying. As both options are still pretty awful, we focused on harm reduction.

They're much more excited about their stickers than trash pick up

The positive reaction from the activities with my youth led to my extra motivation to finally push for a training for the 'Green Scorpions,' a group of paid volunteers that the clinic oversees each month with the goal of environmental health education.The group doesn't get much information beyond a daily location and the instructions "Tell people to clean up their garbage." Since the time I arrived, the group has felt like a grossly underutilized resource; I'm so happy that everything came together for a training! Plus, there was great participation from the group and I think we all learned a lot. The group changes monthly and most villages in this area has Green Scorpions, so we're looking to expand into other nearby villages next month!

In other news, my cat disappeared for three weeks and then, after he was presumed eaten, showed back up one night looking well-fed. Where he has been is beyond me, village life is pretty harsh on animals- who knew my crybaby cat was so tough. Also, it is almost too cold to bathe these days, it seems that brief period of near perfect weather is over. Eight months out of the year I'm doused in sweat, and for three months it's too cold to bathe. But oh, that two week window between where I feel clean! Anyways, the most exciting news of all is that my dad will be out here next week! Can't wait to show him and his friends around Bots!