The weather has been staying pleasantly cool here, low 70s in the mornings and most days no more than 90-95 degrees in the afternoon, although it did reach 100 one day. As long as it cools off at night I will have no complaints. I just remember that my original assignment was supposed to be Mongolia and think about how much I hate to be cold. There it might be -40 degrees right now, so I am happy to be here. Some days there have been real clouds, not just dust in the air, which helps keep it cooler. We actually had about 15 seconds of a shower the other day, a very rare event this time of year. At first I did not believe I was really hearing rain on the roof, but I got outside before it stopped and it was real.
With the hot dry season approaching the trees are blooming and making seeds to put down before they go dormant in the heat. The sweet smell in the air makes me think of spring back home. Leaves are beginning to fall from most of the trees. I understand the Mangos keep their leaves, but most of the other trees drop them in preparation for this time of stress, just like our trees drop them in the fall to get set for winter.
Speaking of trees, have I told you about moringa trees? These are the miracle trees the Peace Corps is encouraging volunteers to promote with the Burkinabè. They are drought resistant, fast growing trees that have other great virtues. The biggest one is that the leaves contain lots of good things. Here are the statistics:
If you compare100 grams of moringa to 100 grams of these other things you can see how good moringa is
7 times the vitamin C of oranges
4 times the calcium of milk
4 times the vitamin A of carrots
3 times the potassium of bananas
25 grams of leaves a day will give a child the following % of recommended daily allowances: protein 42%
Vitamin A 272%
Vitamin C 22%
The trick is to get the Burkinabè women not to cook them so long that they cook out all of the good stuff. The usual cooking method involves hours of cooking things over a fire to make sauce for the to. You have to get people to add the morenga at the last minute so that people get the nutritional value.
Apparently you water the morenga trees a bit if you want them to keep their leaves all year, but if you want them to go to seed, you have to stop watering them. I have a stash of seeds and I would like to pant them in my courtyard, but I have to do that good old soil preparation and dig big holes first. Me dig the holes? No way in this dirt, but I have a friend who has dug a few for me. Now he is looking for well rotted manure so that there is fertilizer for the seeds. I may get trees planted by the rainy season.
I have talked before about the malnutrition here and my visit to the center for malnourished babies that is sponsored by the Catholic Church in town. It is actually supported by donations from European countries, mostly from Italy I think, which is the home of the order that founded the church here. When people take babies there for help with nutrition they learn how to make a kind of baby cereal from local ingredients, and one of the recipes uses morenga leaves. Again the secret is not to boil it to death, as the Burkinabè tend to do. With malnourished babies you usually have malnourished mothers as well, so you need to convince the mothers that they need to eat well to provide good breast milk. Another thing I have learned is that mothers often give their very young babies water in addition to breast feeding them. This is a dangerous practice because of the contamination of the water sources here, and also because it fills the baby‘s stomach. Then the baby does not drink as much breast milk, and the mother produces less.
Non Peace Corps Volunteers
I recently encountered a couple of other nasaras (white people, foreigners) riding bicycles down the dirt road that passes my house. I stopped to greet them and find out who they were and what they were up to. She is a French pediatrician, newly retired, who is volunteering at the center for malnourished babies. Her husband is an agriculturist who has been doing some training about farming and also helping with the garden at the medical center.. They have been here for almost two months and this was the first time I had encountered them. They had been riding up and down the highway and finally discovered this safer dirt track. I invited them to my house for lunch Sunday and I was pretty proud of my menu. It was all local food except for the seasonings which Janet had sent me. I get a piece of goat meat, cut out the good bits and fried them up with onions. Then I added water and rice, along with a mixture of herbs of Provence, and it made a yummy casserole type dish. Add to that cooked carrots, local bread, and a lettuce and tomato salad, and it was not a bad lunch if I do say so myself. It was a very pleasant afternoon, but, unfortunately it was their last week here so we will not be getting together again. Too bad. It was good practice for my ear listening to good French, and they were interesting folks.
The pediatrician was talking about some of the things I mentioned above about malnutrition and giving babies water. She also told about the family’s lack of a sense of urgency if a child is sick. One child was brought to the center, so ill it finally died. When she asked how long the child had been sick, the mother said about 7 months. Can you imagine watching a child get sicker and sicker and doing nothing? Maybe they had tried other things, like traditional medicine and had only come to the western medical place as a last resort. Maybe they kept thinking if they gave it enough time the baby would improve. Maybe it was a matter of not having the small amount of money it takes to get medical help. I have no information, but you have to wonder what they were thinking.