Monday, September 19, 2011

A typical Peace Corps day

Friday, September 16th, 2010, I left for Philadelphia and pre-departure staging. Friday, September 16th, 2011 was a typical Peace Corps day.

A couple of months ago me and Jen, my neighbor, re-started the Committee Against Forced Marriage, an initiative that some people in the Nampoch canton had started several years ago. As our first official event, Jen and I decided to put on a girls football match, after which the Committee members would address the audience about the problem of forced marriage.

So, a couple of weeks ago, when I got back from MSC and Bassar, Jack, one of the Committee members and an immediate neighbor came to me and was like "the football field is over-grown, we should do it at the primary school where the ground is clearer." I was like "um, the middle school ground is like 1/3 the size of a football pitch, no." Unfortunately, my mental state then sucked, and I didn't do anything about it.

Long story short, last monday, I got on the ball and bought some herbicide and got the coach to go spray the terrain (football pitch in french). I wasn't very optimistic that this would kill the weeds in time, but I thought it would help.

On Wednesday, I went to see the chief to tell him about the match and to get him to tell some kids to go "mow" the terrain, i.e. cut the grass with machetes. An hour with a lawnmower would have made my life so much easier.

Friday rolled around. The terrain was still overgrown, albeit slightly brown. I got up early, tracked down the coach, and we went to see the chief again. He called the guy he'd told to cut the terrain, and the guy was like "everyone is off trading labor in the fields today." I was bummed. Then the coach and I spent the next hour wandering through Nampoch rounding up people to help cut the field. Most of them were friends of mine so it wasn't hard. I was relieved and went back to my house to coordinate food efforts. The Committee was suppose to supply the food, I was organizing the the game, and Jen was bringing her team from her village- Manga.

Back at the house, the Committee members brought a lot of new yams for fufu, and got stuff to make sauce, but they didn't have the money to buy chickens for the sauce. I delegated people to go buy chickens, then decided to go check on the field status. As I biked by the middle school, i saw people out on the parade ground putting up goal posts. I swore.

The coach was like "the weeds in the terrain are too tough to cut with machetes, so we'll lay out a smaller terrainhere, and it'll be great." The terrain they were laying out was about half the size of a normal sized terrain and included 4 mango trees. A flag pole was directly behind one goal.

I had an internal freak-out, then helped them set up the field. And got sunburned. Seriously, you haven't really mowed weeds until you've used a machete.

As the afternoon progressed, the terrain got set up and laid out. I biked back home and coordinated the acquisition of tchakpa. Jen texted me to say that the van that came to pick them up was going to be late on account of friday prayers. The ref did show up on time. Karen had arranged his services, but he forgot his watch and didn't look too thrilled about the small field.

I tracked the coach down again and pressed him to find jerseys for the Manga team because they didnt have their own. He told someone to go collect jerseys from the cartier players.

The match was suppose to start at 3 pm. Which is about when the Manga team arrived. After Jen and I got them squared away, we discovered that the Committee didn't really have a plan for addressing the population. I found myself coordinating that and planning the match (2 30minute halves, 8 players on a side) with the ref at the same time. The President of the Committee talked to the players awhile, and Jack did too. Then we finally got the match started an hour later. In retrospect, that was actually decent timing.

I had to walk around the terrain during the match to keep from fidgeting. I was a nervous wreck. I was afraid that a failed match would both look bad for the Forced Marriage Committee and also dampen my efforts to engender a girls' football culture in the area. I was really happy, and a bit surprised, to see people get as into the girls' match as they would have a guys' match. There were a lot of people screaming at the ref, at the teams, and at each other like any good football game. When Nampoch scored, the crowd went wild. I think I remember picking someone up. It might have been my host dad.

Nampoch won, 1-0. The first goal scored by the Nampoch girls' football team.

Afterwards, I was even more surprised when a sketch group composed of a bunch of my friends put on a professional sketch about forced marriage. It was a big hit. It was all in Konkumba so I didn't get the jokes, but by that point I didn't care.

We took the Manga team, the theater group, and the Committee back to my house for supper under storm clouds. The Manga people left right before the storm hit. Jen told me later that they floated home.

The match, overall, was a great success. People have been asking me when we're going to go play in Manga. Yesterday, in the Kouka marche, a couple of my (guy) friends from Nampoch started trash talking with a couple girls from the Kouka team about who would win the next game. Friday, however, was an emotional roller coaster. I went between "oh crap, everything is screwed" to "oh wow, I cant believe this is going to work" hourly. I was pleasantly surprised when cool stuff happened without me having to coordinate it. I learned a lot about my community (one of my best friends in village is an actor, who knew?). I had to remind myself throughout the day that everything was going to work out even as it looked like it was falling apart. So yeah, over all, a typical Peace Corps day.


  1. I've been thinking a lot about your one-year anniversary. Glad the day ended on an 'o wow' note.

  2. Poophead. rewarding experiences rule