Monday, August 6, 2012

A Few Odds and Ends


At our mid service medical check-up and at our close of service checkup we get a routine dental exam, including tooth cleaning and x-rays.  I was surprised by the modern equipment in the office I visited.
One time last year I was having pain in my teeth and I was not sure if it was because I had a sinus infection or if there was a dental problem, so they sent me to see the dentist. The kind of x-ray equipment that they used was different from what I have seen in the US, although some volunteers said they have dentists that use the same kind of equipment. Instead of the bite-wing x-rays with the film in them that you hold between your teeth, here they put a plastic covered square, about 2 cm on a side, in your mouth and snap x-rays that are sent to a computer.  Here is the dentist looking at my x-rays.
Apparently they do not have full confidence in this technique (or maybe it is the Peace Corps that does not trust them) because when they did not see any problem on the computer images, they sent me to the place where they do the kind of x-ray where the machine moves around your head and you get a view of all the teeth on the same piece of film.  In any case, the teeth were not really the problem so I just got drugs to fight off the sinus infection, after which the dental pain disappeared.

The tooth cleaning technique here is also different.  Instead of scraping with the little metal pick, like my dental hygienist uses in the states, they use a tool attached to the drill-rig that spins and sprays water.  The first time I had my teeth cleaned that way I thought I would drown.  I have heard people describe it as feeling something like water-boarding torture.  I will be glad to get back to the American way of doing things, or at least to having I person doing the job with whom I can communicate so I can complain clearly!

Security in the City

In an earlier blog I showed you that, on residential streets in the big cities, you do not see much of the houses because the courtyard is surrounded by a wall.  Here you can see a typical street. Notice that there are several double doors that can be opened to admit a car.
What I did not show you was the things on top of the wall intended to keep burglars from climbing over them.  This is the top of the wall around the place where volunteers can stay in Ouaga.
Here is a wall around a nearby house that is topped with barbed wire (which may not be too clear in the photo. Others are topped with broken glass, but I have not taken a picture of one here.

Hair care

When I was coming to Africa someone told me they had heard there was a beauty parlor on every corner in most African towns.  The person wondered how poor people could afford beauty parlors, implying that people did not have their priorities in order.  Here is an example of what might count as a beauty parlor, a woman sitting on the ground, braiding a little girl's hair in front of her house.
People are willing to pay someone to do this because it would be very difficult, or maybe impossible, to braid your own hair and, compared to what it would cost in America, the services are relatively cheap. One common hair dos that took me a while to get used to involves using a plastic string to gather the hair into little puffs. The string goes from one puff to another to another.  
In another the tufts of hair are wrapped with the sting and the finished bits may stick up all over the head. 
In another version, the sections of hair are wrapped in plastic which are continued until the sections of hair look like little curls hanging down all over the head.
Sometimes rather than little curls there a longer ones, like these.

A more common kind of style involves braiding, including some extra false hair or other fiber to make it hold up longer and to add to the style. 

Both boys and girls get their heads shaved from time to time.  I am always surprised when one of the neighbor girls gets her head shaved.  Those of you who know me will not be surprised to hear that when this happens I have trouble recognizing them!  When a young person has a shaved head I can't tell if I am seeing a boy or a girl, unless she is wearing earrings.
I have seen no one with an Afro and I have seen very few Africans with dread locks, although some of the African-American volunteers wear them and reggae singers wear them.

Most of the time women cover their hair with scarves, often made of the same material as the dress they are wearing.  Here are the mothers of the bride and groom at a wedding.

Temporary Tattoos

A lot of the volunteers, like many young people in America, have tattoos of various sorts.  Here in Burkina Faso there is a tradition of decorating feet and the left hand with henna "temporary" tattoos. During Camp GLOW set-up, a group of volunteers had a local woman do some on their arms.
 When the decorating is being done, the "paint" forms a bead on the skin.   

 When it dries, you peal it off, and what is left is the color on your skin.


  1. Jan,
    It's Mari and Dwight. Dropping by to say hello and to get your contact information. Call me 505-699-7588. Love and Miss you.
    Mari and Dwight

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