Sunday, July 18, 2010

Volona ny Vaoteraka!! (month of newborns)

I uploaded pics out of order, but this is after I spent the day harvesting rice with some friends. It's all either shoved into a gooney and brought back to the house for drying, or immediatly spread out on a mat to dry in the sun for 2 days (as in 4th picture below).

This was me interviewing an 8 year old a couple weeks ago, in a tiny village 10K away from Antetezambaro. Dr. Dezy (behind) and I went to a different surrounding villages each day of the week, to do yearly physicals for elementary school students. It was great to get out to ambanivolo be (really out in the bush). We weighed them, checked their height, teeth, skin, and vital signs and Dezy prescribed any meds/ malaria tests that were needed. This is me interviewing an 8 year old.

One of my favorite jobs of weighing babies and helping with vaccines every Thursday! So fun! but watch out for especially the wee boys who typically can't control their bladder releases as soon as they touch the scale...DUCK!!;))

This is Baby Kanto at about 12 hours old!!! 3.0Kilo (6.6 lbs) and a smiling star!! My first witnessed labor from the start of the tiring and painful labor to the beauuutiful and magical Creation of life, as I helped welcome her into the world! I'm honored to share a name with such a precious being!

Another shot of our rice paddies in Antetezambaro. She just finished seperating the grains of rice from the stalk, spread them out onto a tsihey (woven mat), and waits for them to dry out under the sun, for 2-3 days.

My good friend, Osoa, as she uses a small pairing knife to clip each stalk of rice. Each stalk holds about 20 grains of rice. You can see the golden fields in the distance, all ripe and waiting to be clipped, dried out, pounded to get the shelling off, rocks picked out, and cleaned before supplying a family with their year-long supply of rice.

It's been a while since I've had time or access to the internet, and because so much happens within each of my months here in Radagascar, it's hard for me to think about where I want my reflections to begin. The month of June, I"ll definitely claim as "Volona ny Vaoteraka"= Month of Babies, since on just the 2nd day of the month, the labor goddesses were provoked, as a young 16 year old girl arrived at the CSB to deliver her baby. That flight of the first vibration of baby love was not witnessed fully because the young mother wasn't progressing enough, so we had to send her to the the hospital in Tamatave. This was quite an intense first witness of how Malagasy people deliver a baby, which includes having at least one person standing at the crown of the mother's head, to be in a position to push her baby bellow down towards her legs, as hard as possible, hoping to push the baby down the birthing path quicker. Plus, "fomba Gasy" (Malagasy tradition/customs) include being as quiet as possible while pushing during labor. They believe it's a complete waste of energy to let out screams while pushing, since that energy could be used internally. And of course no epidural/ numbing meds at least in my local med clinic are available to help with the pain and discomfort of it all. Anyways, after a few hours of hard pushing, we had to tell her family to quickly get her to Tamatave and I never heard about the rest of her labor and birth. But just the next week, I saw an entire labor, from right after the water broke to the first suckles of Kanto's mother's life milk. This was another young mother, 17 years old. She's from my village so her mother didn't have to bring her very far. The baby's father had just left to work in the fields, so he wasn't there to support her, but I happily stayed by her side, supplied her with an arm/ hand to squeeze when needed , and kept her legs in position for the doctor to carry out the birth. After a couple intense hours of hardwork, a beauuutiful baby was brought into this world by candlelight at 8PM, 11th June. I gladly was the messenger of "vehivavy izy!!" =it's a girl! And sorta jokingly, when I asked the mother what her name is, I said "you should name her Kanto!" and she did!! Talk about fuzzy feelings inside! To know that the first baby I witnessed enter into this world is named after me!! :) I had a towel waiting for her arrival, so after the doctor clipped the cord, I brought her to the scale to weigh and get her cleaned up. Kanto had just a wee peep of a cry, but mostly had huuuuge eyes, wanting to sense the new world surrounding her. That was an overwhelmingly, emotionally beautiful sight- to get the opportunity to witness, exerience, feel the energies, spirits, see the natural body functions and releases involved in Creation of Life!! It's been great that Baby Kanto lives quite close to me, so I've been able to go visit frequently. I knew this beauuutiful, magical experience was a sign that my own American family's 2 upcoming babies were getting ready to embark upon us all! i could feel it in my bones! :) Sure enough, just 4 days later, on 15 June, 2010, Jon and Molly welcomed a bouncy, chubby cheeked (taking after big bro, Will) Brandon Nicholas Cummings into the world followed by my new Scottish Baby Sister, Vienna Rose Michele Cooney born on the 24th. Since my beauutiful, shining star sister, Jenny and I are soooo close, I'm honored to become the role of Vienna's big sister, for sister-ship is essential to our lives and Vienna will already have a variety of great Aunties, but of course her being Jenny's first baby, still needs a sister- and that's me!:) It's truly sad to be missing out on their fresh, new life, but I hope Jack Truman Baker, Brandon Nicholas Cummings, and Vienna Rose Michele Cooney are recieving my sould-starrd spirit I'm sending them in my dreams and always. Cheers to the Volona ny Vaoteraka!

The end of the month brought another fascinatingly,culturally enriching, work-filled day. I had 2 other volunteers, Aaron and Megan, come visit my site to help do a fantana mitsitsy (fuel-efficient cook stove made by mixing red clay, fresh cow poo, and sand). This demonstration happened to be on the same day as the mass circumsision planned for our commune, at our CSB. Since June 26 was the 50th anniversary of Madagascar's independance from France, the transitional government (the international world still does not recognize Mada as having an official gov't) went around the country to offer the ritual of circumcision, which typically occurs only every 7 years, as well as free doctor visits/ medicines to anyone with health problems. There were 50 boys that arrived to be circumsized, age ranging from 1 year old-16 years old (yes, 16!!!) that came in with their fathers to hold them while they went through what looked like, no doubt an excruciatingly painful, 45 minute long procedure. There were about 10 doctor's that came in from Tamatave, as they were working on 3 males, at the same time, on the same bench, as family/friends watch the process. One of doc's assumed I was a doctor and asked if I wanted to do the next boy!!! ahhhhh, "thanks but no thanks!! I'm a mpanentana (community health volunteer) NOT a doctor! Although of course I sympathethized for the boys, I'm also grateful to get the chance to see any cultural experience. I was kind of aghast to find out that the foreskin is given directly to the grandfather or uncle, to be eated with a banana following the procedure. A person would be cursed if they came into contact with the skin, so the belief is that it must be eaten to prevent that chance from happening.
Because of this news-worthy event, there were reporters there who were not only taking pictures and interviewing the doctor's doing the circumcisions, but also interviewing and photographing us PCV"s as we demonstrated the cookstove. Because a lot of people were there at the CSB to take advantage the free doctor visit/ medicines, It was miresaka be! (lotsa people..maybe a thousand that showed up) The week following, I had several people from all around the region telling me they heard me on the radio and wantd to know if I can show them how to build one too!!! It was sooo cool!
The next super cool event on my calender involves leaving tomorrow, with about 25 fellow PCV's to Lac Aloatra, the largest freshwater lake in Mada. We're all biking around the lake, which is 212K and stopping in each village to do AIDS's the 3rd edition of Cirque de Sida. They just keep gettin better all the time!! I'm xcited for it and will be verrry grateful, I'm sure, for the bike cushion I brought back with me. Biking, camping, roasting marshmellow's with friends, and spreading the good word of smart choices and safe sex....should be quite a fulfilling 2 week adventure!!!! Hope to share with ya all the good news that happened next time= amy menarak!!!! Cheers mates*