Wednesday, July 11, 2012

airport thoughts

Im sitting in the Detroit airport thinking about last week in Togo to stave off the eminent culture shock.

wait, first, two quick questions.  1. shorts? i dont get them.  2. why the hell do Americans always have to be cold?  seriously, no where does it say in the Constitution that a constant temperature of 68 degrees is an unalienable right.  end rant.

The following is a 3 part story.  The context is this anti-Malaria Bednet usage survey that we've been doing.

1. Last Thursday Richard and I went out to one of our assigned villages to do our survey.  Once we got there though, the chef told us that everyone was at marche in Namon.  Because the village is so far out thats the only marche people can get to, so the chef told us he couldnt tell people to stay home.  So Richard and I went to Namon and did the marche with Abby.  In a tchouk stand at some point in the afternoon, Abby and I were talking and she brought up the point that Togolese don't mess with baby names, or even really get excited about babies because there is a decent chance that the child wont make it. 

2.  One of the questions on the survey asks how many people of certain age groups sleep in a household.  That was the hardest question of the survey.  Many people had a hard time remembering which kids, ages 5-15 had slept in their household the night before.  I couldnt figure out why people had a such a hard time remembering kids.

3. Saturday, i heard that one of my friends had a death in his family the night before.  I was looking for Biliki anyway to talk to him about a project. so when i heard about the funeral, Muwaku and i went to his house to saluer him.  We get there and find out that his brother's eight year old son had died the day before from "a lack of blood," i.e. probably something to do with malaria.  Biliki invited me over to sit with the elders and other men.  When an old person dies, the funeral lasts almost a week and includes lots of dancing, drinking, and partying.  When a child dies, the men hang out under a tree and drink, and the women of the family hang out in the compound.  No dancing, partying, etc.  A pre-adolescent child isnt seen as a full "person" yet. 
Anyway, when it was time to leave, Biliki suggested we go saluer his brother.  So we went in his house.  The brother handed me a picture of a his child.  And almost broke down.  I've never seen a Togolese man that griefstricken before.  He was on the verge of crying.  It had been his first son.  I was painfully aware of how pitifully inadequate every condolence I know sounded. There was nothing I could say.

I know Ive blogged about this before, but infant/child mortality, and how societies have adapted to that, is something I still have a hard time wrapping my head around. Western society celebrates births because the child, in all likelihood will eventually become an adult.  This isnt something that should be taken for granted, but it is. 

Something else I dont understand.  Why does everything have to be automated?  I was in the airport bathroom trying to wash my hands in scalding automated water while the automated soap dispenser squirted soap everywhere like some demented frosting machine. Then the automated paper towel machine delivered me a square of paper large enough to dry 3 fingers.  I was so convenienced it was overwhelming.

American airlines need to take notes on how to treat their passengers from their European counterparts.  Seriously, a bit of style and class goes a Long way.

Something happened to me in Accra that has Never happened before.  When D and I got to the Accra airport (we flew out of Ghana instead of Togo), she developed selective observational skills in reference to the no-smoking sign in front of the airport and lit up.  Some valet told her she needed to move down or she'd get fined, so she left while I watched our bags.  2 minutes later a security guard comes up and asks me if I'd been smoking, and then grills me on whats going on.  Then he asks me if I smoke again, "no" (then). "Are you sure? Do you drink?"  "sometimes." he laughed and left.  D came back and we went into the airport.  We walked past the guard and he was like "I'm sorry about the smoking thing, I was just doing my job.  Please come back to Ghana, it is great here."  First time EVER an airport security guard has apologized to me.  I almost fainted.  

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