The weather is finally cooling down and giving way to regular rains, which is a blessing because of the problems the heat was causing me (or more specifically my skin). The farmers in my village are busy building yam mounds and planting maize, groundnuts (peanuts), and cassava. If you are a farmer the success of your crop largly depends on your interpretation of the weather, or rather your prediction of it. In small villages predictions can sometimes take the form of prophecies. For example, if a hunter catches three (this is, I promise you, the magic number) grasscutters in one day than it means the rainy season will be strong; but if the chief trips and falls in the village square the season will be dry unless you slaughter three goats. Say what you want about the glories of meterology, but I find the system here to be far more entertaining.
I am in the final weeks of the school term, which means the students are excited for their two week break and the village is preparing for Easter festivities. I invited all of my best students over to my house yesterday and bought them minerals (soft drinks) and we watched a movie. It was a way of thanking them, or rather rewarding them, for giving me their best. Many of these students will be graduating from JSS (Junior Secondary School) but will have to stop their education there. Why? Because that is when the government stops paying for school. It really is a shame because the best students all seem to come from poorer families. It is rare to find foreign NGOs who will sponsor students by paying their fees. SSS (Senior Secondary School) only costs about $200 a year but most of the families in my area make $1000 a year.
I have also been working with the Women's Association on some HIV projects. One of the projects involves counseling people living with HIV/AIDS (PLWHAs) and those in danger of getting it. This is by no means easy or fun work. This morning I had to talk to a 20-year old girl and a 17-year old girl who are going to get tested for HIV in the next month or so. The Women's Association wanted me to talk to them to convince them to go back to school (again, no money) and avoid jobs that put them at risk. Being orphans, these girls often have to move from place to place just to have a bed to sleep in and food to eat. For young girls, this often involves finding a "sugar daddy" who will pay your expenses in exchange for sexual favors. One of the girls has been doing this since she was 14. They are scared to death of being tested, and they have every reason to be.
Again, the problems in Africa begin with poverty, which results from an unfair world system. It is our responsibility to change this. It will be the ultimate challenge which will define the greatness or wickedness of our way of life.
Much love, Douglas