I am been working on this one blog post for a while venting about the "NGO" effect. I was going to talk about how much aid work has spoiled things here. I was going to go into depth about how the "white man" has turned the culture into a "donnez-moi," or give me, culture. I had that blog post all ready to go; then something happened. I erased that post this week.
Last Friday I started feeling sick. I didn't think much of it. When Saturday came and I was laying on my porch curled in a ball wearing a jacket, scarf, pants and socks; keep in mind it was about 100 degrees out. I was supposed to have a training on how to make soy milk that day with a new group. Everything was already prepared for the training. I called my friend and told her that she would have to do that training alone because I was too sick to go. She immediately came to my house, saw me, apologized and said that I needed to go because she was not confident that she could do the training without me.
Feeling guilty and not wanting to let the women down, I reluctantly went to the meeting. In typical African fashion, everyone showed up an hour and a half late. While I was waiting the president of the group gave me a pillow and blanket and made a bed for me on the couch. When the training was done, 3 hours later, and I was packing up my things, the president asked me how much I paid for the soy beans. I told her 500 cfa, $1, which was less that I actually paid. She then proceeded to give me 5,000 cfa, $10. When I refused, she wouldn't let me leave her house. She told me that the women all gave a little bit because they knew I was sick and should go to the hospital. They said the money was to pay to see a doctor and for the medicine that I would need.
Sometimes people offer to pay for my transportation to meetings; I don't expect that. Sometimes people feed me at meetings; I don't expect that either. Sometimes with new groups people ask me what I will be giving them; I always expect that.
Today I had another meeting with the group to make tofu. The president made the soy milk before I got there in preparation for the meeting. We had a wonderful time making the tofu, cooking it and eating it. As I was packing up the president came up to me and gave me money for my transportation, 300 cfa, 60 cents. Once again she wouldn't let me refuse. Then it started to rain a little bit; she went inside and gave me her umbrella.
I had this negative blog post all ready and this past week working with this group gave me a renewed sense of hope. Not everyone wants my money. The group definitely did not need to give me anything; telling me thank you is enough - more than enough.
Turns out that I had mild malaria. They were right; I was sick and I did need to go to the hospital. Happy to report that I am back to normal, there will be tofu in Meiganga, and I am grateful for my new friends! But this experience was a necessary reminder to hold onto the good that happens and cherish that. There will always be the negative, but when you are least expecting something unexpected happens. Cliche, but so true!
Next week we are going to be making lotion!