Saturday, November 28, 2015

Thankful to the Core

It was just a normal Thursday: I woke up, boiled water for coffee, filled up my solar shower to wash off, got dressed in a full tissu ensemble, fed wowo, threw back the coffee, grabbed my helmet and headed out the door by 8 to meet Daniel for vaccinations.

Daniel had already left to get the vaccinations from another health center about 30 minutes away (the fridge in Zaffe has been broken for about a month, increasing the hassle of vaccination days), so I found someone leaving village who was happy to give me a ride.

When I arrived, our vaccination pagoda was already filled with mothers. We've had problems with tardiness and ever since we said they'd have to clear the hospital grounds they've been showing up earlier and earlier. The table in the middle was littered with piles of vaccination booklets waiting to be filled out and Daniel was sorting through vaccination cards to find the corresponding children to whom the books belonged.

The women chatted amongst themselves, giving breastfeeding advice to some of the new mothers. We had 12 newborns this week, which was a record in my two months here. I started to fill put the cards, organizing them by village (we vaccinate babies of Zaffe, Kabole and Egbessi in Zaffe on Thursday mornings) and vaccine type. Daniel had a lot of extra paperwork to do for each newborn record, so I quickly pulled together a quick sensibilization on "How to keep your child healthy" and found a woman who could translate for me. The women were really receptive and interested to learn about what types of food are healthy for children to complement breastfeeding after 6 months.

By 11:30 we were ready to start the actual vaccinations and thus commenced the next half hour of muffled cries and shrieks of pain from the little ones. It took extra time to do the 9 month old children, who are entered into a special register for completing all required vaccines then given a mosquito net for their family.

At 1, we had finished up all the paperwork, cleaned up the trash from dozens of syringes (the needles automatically go in a biohazard waste box) and walked across the road to eat lunch with the major of the Zaffe center, Richard, who's daughter was busy making us ignam pile.

After lunch, Daniel and I headed to Kpakpa-Zoume to vaccinate a couple other newborns because the vaccine vials expire once open and we only have a limited supply. We rode around trying to find houses and ended up walking around the village to greet people. By 4, we were back in Adourekoman.

Since I had decided not to go and celebrate Thanksgiving with fellow volunteers (its just too far for a couple day trip and I'll see everyone at training in a week!), I had told Daniel that I wanted to cook some food and share it with the health center staff, ie my Adourekoman family.

After two hours in my kitchen, I managed to scrape together mashed potatoes with caramelized onions and a mango crisp. I had doubts that they would eat either, but was happy when we sat down together at 6:30 and explained that the purpose of Thanksgiving is to acknowledge everything you are thankful for.

As predicted, the mashed potatoes were not spicy enough (they add the equivalent to jalepeno paste to everything here) and the mango crisp was too sweet for the Beninese taste buds. Regardless, Daniel enjoyed a whole plate of both before running off to the health center when another patient came by. I had also bought dinner rolls, which went over very well. I mean, who doesn't like fresh bread?!

It turned out to be a lovely Thanksgiving. I received messages and emails from friends and family all over the world. I am so thankful to be supported and surrounded by love on a daily basis. Peace Corps has reinforced by belief that behind every stranger is the makings of a new friend, and I know already that I have made life-long friends here in Benin.

So, despite being away from my family, both among other volunteers and at home, it was a fabulous holiday filled with babies, smiles, pimante free food and lots of new friends!

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