Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Saturday, November 28, 2009

More Photos

The maternity ward at the hospital in Thies

The mama/baby packets....Thanks Bethany et al!

Jane Ann showing displaying the contents of said mama/baby pack to its recipient

Separating our supplies at the house. There were 3 clinics to give to.

Walking to the clinic

Thursday, November 26, 2009


#1. Senegalese don't use toilet paper. It's water and your left hand, kids.

#2. Senegalese children shake hands! It's so charming, I can't resist them even with sandy, sticky hands and runny noses. They would walk over to shake hands and I would melt every time. It should be noted, this applies to any child old enough to walk. If a Senegalese child can walk they will walk over to shake your hand.

#3. Most women still wear traditional clothing, all made by one of the many tailors in town.

#4. Donkey drawn chariots are used frequently. A woman arrived at the clinic in labor on one.

#5. Senegalese love Barack Obama.

#6. Senegalese are experts at recycling, reducing and reusing. They would put any self respecting American environmentalist to shame. The main motivation is that they don't have a waste disposal system or landfills and can't afford luxuries such as paper towels even if they were available.

#7. There is a very high rate of polio (or some deforming disease) in Senegal. There were many severely handicapped people even in the small town of Mboro but these people are treated well by everyone in the community.

#8. Africa is expensive. There. I said it. It was over $2 for a dozen eggs, bananas were about $ .75/pound and a lady tried charging me $3.50/pound for green peppers at the market. Granted, they always try to give you the Toubab (whitey) price but some of these prices were the ones we paid AFTER haggling.

#9. Select areas of Mboro had running water all day. Our house only had it at night. Sometimes it would turn on at 6 pm. Sometimes it would turn on at 10. Power outages were common.

#10. We washed our clothes by hand. I think everyone in Mboro did as well.
#11. Senegal is predominantly Muslim and in Mboro they had a call to prayer 5 times a day starting just before sunrise. They prayers were piped through loud speakers so you could hear the call anywhere in town. People kept prayer rugs with them at work and home.

#12. Polygamy is legal in Senegal and a man can have up to 4 wives.
#13. Senegal has a low AIDS rate...only 2%. Not bad for Africa.

#14. There is a belief in at least some parts of Africa, Senegal being one of them, that having sex with a virgin will cure AIDS. This results in the frequent rape of young girls (there was one at the clinic who was only 5 years old) and many countries have billboards and posters up trying to debunk this myth.

#15. The mosquitos there carry both malaria and dengue fever. The ones carrying dengue bite mostly during the day, the ones carrying malaria bite mostly at night.

#16. Most African slaves brought to America were brought from Senegal. About 3 million of them were held and processed on the Isle de Goree a short ferry ride from Dakar.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Things Get Better

After the first few brutal births we were able to take over management of the births we attended! Woo hoo! The night watchman would walk the half block from the clinic to our house and shout into our windows in French that there was a birth and we'd all crawl out of our mosquito nets and into our scrubs.

The group of women that stuck it out to the end were amazing and we all worked really well together so most of the births went smoothly but not just on our account. Senegalese women are very stoic, usually have lots of kids...8 or 9 and they have enormous pelvises to boot. As they say, you could drive a truck through them. That said, some things are universal. Childbirth in Senegal is no walk in the park. Just like anywhere else in the world, every woman who believes in a God begs him for mercy in the throes of natural childbirth. It's like that.

The mothers we worked with were very sweet and we were touched at how they took to us despite the language barrier. They are so used to coming in to give birth without the support of family or friends, being hit, yelled at and treated poorly but just because they are used to it doesn't mean that they don't want and need the kindness and support any woman wants in labor. When we started doing massage and counter pressure they took to it immediately and we got to be part of some really nice births.

Baobab Trees

The Baobabs - The Tree of Life

Baobab trees are very eerie looking and in addition to being Senegal's national symbol, they're used for nearly everything under the sun.

Boababs are fat-trunked trees that are native only to Madagascar and North-Western Australia. They have been known to attain girths of almost 30m, with a diameter of about 9-10m. It is thought that boababs live up to 2,000 - 6,000 years.

The bark of the African baobab tree can be used to treat fever and combined with another plant was used toprotect against malaria. Leaves and roots are used for medicinal purposes, primarily gastric and chest complaints.
The Baobab is also to be considered an aid to fertility. Infertile women place their hands on the tree and promise to either offer sacrifice, or the naming of their child after the tree in return for fertility. Breaking the promise results in the death of the child. Different parts of the tree can also be taken to enhance fertility or induce an abortion.

You can also eat it! The seed kernels are eaten raw or roasted, and are a highly nutritious food source and the bark can be ground into a powder for flavoring food. The leaves of the baobab were traditionally used for leaven but are also used as a vegetable. Its fruits and seeds are also edible for humans and animals. The pulp of the fruit, when dried and mixed with water, makes a beverage that tastes similar to lemonade. The seeds, which taste like cream of tartar and are a valuable surce of vitamin C and calcium and were used to protect against illness, were traditionally pounded into meal when other food was scarce.

The Boab's bark contains a fiber that is used to make string, rope, fishnets, twine, cords, sacks and clothing and the gum of the tree can be used as glue. Other products such as soap, necklaces, rubber, musical instrument strings, waterproof hats and cloth can be produced from the various parts of the baobab tree. The bark of the baobab tree has to be removed to obtain the fiber but the baobab tree can regenerate the loss of bark if it is cut away.

Baobabs can be used for shelter, as they develop hollow trunks. A hole is carved in the trunk to form a door, the soft pulp removed and a fire lit inside to dry out the hollow. The bark grows around the cut and over the internal surface of the tree, which is unharmed by the excavation. Or if you wait long enough...after 1000 years the trees naturally hollow.
In the early pioneering days, Boabs were often temporarily used in this way to contain prisoners. Grates were fitted to the openings, the prisoners put inside and the grate locked.

In Senegal they are sometimes used as tombs for Griots (or village storytellers and keepers of heritage). We saw one of these trees at the wild animal reserve we visited. The tree was 900 years old, the trunk had hollowed out and we peeked in one of the holes at the base and there were human bones and skulls. !!! Our guide told us that people were sometimes buried in the trees if they didn't work the land because if they didn't work the land they didn't deserve to be buried in it.

This Baobab has been converted into a bar! I didn't see it personally, I just found this pic on the web but it says the tree is 6000 years old, 155 feet in circumference (takes 40 adults to hug it) and is 72 feet high. That’s a big tree.