My full-week induction began on Tuesday, although most of the office staff greeted me at my new house when I arrived on Monday.
The first person I met was Zita. Zita is my cook, who was assigned to me by BERUDA, my partner organization, which runs a program to train local village women in fields where they can earn a living. Having a “servant” is the strangest thing on earth, although it was expected…it is one of the very few ways rural women can help support their families.
Zita was extremely distraught when I told her she didn’t have to show up at 6 am to make me breakfast, followed by lunch and dinner (she cooks enough food for a family of 10, which is the norm in Africa), and she only cooks my dinner – although I bring her home at lunch to eat with me because I think it is the only time she gets food.
Zita lives in the next village and sleeps in the office during the week. I haven’t asked her age, although I had assumed she was much younger than me until she told me she has four children (well, she could still be in her early 20s I guess…), and also raised the two children of her husband’s first wife, who passed away. One of those children just had a baby last week, and yesterday she told me she is pregnant with her fifth. She didn’t look all that excited…
Besides continuing the food binge (thanks to Zita), my first week of work consisted of visits to our field offices. In Njinikom, we barged in on a large training session for widows, where Daniella (a volunteer from Chile) was trying to explain why it is important to brush your teeth. The widows found it extremely hilarious that they were expected to bring a toothbrush with them to the fields when farming, and said it was too embarrassing to pull out a toothbrush after dinner when staying at other farms during the week.
Micro-Finance workshop with Mulumbo village women at
BERUDA's Njinikom CREN Centre
In Fundong, I met Cleetus – a disabled orphan whose education was funded through our Sponsor an Orphan program. A New Zealander who passed through years ago provided Cleetus’ high school fees, and he was supposed to attend a technical university to continue his education, but the school lacked accessibility for someone on crutches. He is currently unemployed with no options for his future.
|BERUDA's Fundong office|
My first week was great, although I am still plagued with the major challenge of internet connection. Only one computer in the office has it (and it isn’t mine), and I am in the process of buying a dongle from a volunteer who lives about six hours away, although my expectations aren’t high (in case it doesn’t ever work…just like my water situation).
|Zita teaching me to make Fufu and Jama Jama|
Highlights from my first week in Boyo Division
- The bright smiles and warm welcome I received from the widows in Njinikom, and later those in Belo at our office training centre. When you show up they are so happy that you pop in to say hi, even though most don't know a word of English, and they welcome visitors with a rhythmic clapping followed by a quick high clap.
- Kati Kati with the Director in Fundong – traditional fufu, jama jama and fried chicken soaked in palm oil, eaten with your right hand, of course. I was shocked when the Director proceeded to crunch on his chicken bones and swallow them (Zita agrees chicken, fish and even beef bones are the best part!) I tried to explain that dogs don’t even eat chicken bones in Canada, as they are dangerous for the stomach and intestines. She found this hilarious.
- Chatting with Zita about village life, her many recipes for macaroni and cheese (because that’s what “the whites” eat) and God. The former comes up a lot.