Friday, 3 February 2017

Dig, dig, dig to Doulou

Two British volunteers, recognised as recurrent latecomers, find themselves sitting on a bench at a very unfriendly hour, no one else around.

Slowly, the rest started to trickle behind, whilst the early birds decided to use this time fueling up on overly sweet coffee and savoury doughnuts, which we don’t recommend if you’re about to undertake a 6km cycle. By the end of the day, we realised that 6km was definitely not 6km! Just as we were about to leave, as we should have expected, a bike broke down and we did the ‘bike shuffle’. Finally, we left an hour and a half later than planned. Those of us on bikes, looked on forlornly as the car carrying the other volunteers sailed into the sunrise…

Cycling on roads here is not as dandy as the UK. The lack of roads and excessive potholes meant it was going to be a bumpy ride. All jokes aside, fifteen minutes into the journey we encountered an accident between a cyclist and a motorbike. There was a woman lying still in the middle of the road, with concerned crowds looking on. Having taught a first aid class in the previous week, one of the volunteers bravely attended to the woman and gently comforted her, whilst checking the extent of her injuries. Thankfully, there was no life threatening injuries and the volunteer waited until the ambulance arrived, making sure the lady was comfortable. She was taken away with a broken leg and was shaken up but there was no indication that she will be any less than fine.

After the emotional events of the morning, our guide lifted the mood of the cyclists by singing at the top of his lungs. We left the main road and joined a very uneven dirt track which took us through breathtaking scenery and what can only be described as ‘Mud Hut City’. Cries of ‘nassara’ and ‘le blanc’ followed us as we cycled through the villages.

We arrived at the nutritional garden, slightly sweatier than before, to be greeted by some of the biggest papayas we had ever seen. We were given a tour of the garden and taught about the plants, and were delighted to learn that the peanuts that we had grown to love, grow on bushes!

Digging the foundations of the Pigpen

Construction of the pig sty then began. All volunteers had a go at digging the foundations but were quickly put to shame by the skills of the professionals and the strength of the national volunteers. Building was quick, but so was the increase in temperature. Soon all the international volunteers had turned a slightly darker shade of pink. In addition to helping out, each volunteer laid a commemorative brick. Something the Brits took very seriously - see Instagram for proof.

Lunch proved a winner for all; we all ate unprecedented amounts of ‘riz gras’ and cabbage. A group of curious local children that were playing nearby, were invited to join us. This was eagerly accepted and within minutes their plates were clean and neatly stacked.

After lunch, work started again, however we were all feeling the strain of the heat. We tried to persevere and two of the UK volunteers successfully cemented a wall of the pig sty. As the afternoon wore on, we retreated to the shade and indulged ourselves with fresh papaya, leaving our faces tinged slightly orange - table manners had gone clear out the window!

Hard at work, clearing the ground

One of the team suffered heatstroke and thus began the ‘car shuffle’, to try to find room for her as she was unable to cycle. Thankfully, there was someone near by with a pickup truck and she was able to go in there. One of the cyclists kindly decided to accompany the volunteer suffering, so that she was not alone. And then there were four... No incidents were encountered on the way back and the 45 minute uphill battle was made slightly better by the live concert given by our guide.

All in all, it was a brilliant and fulfilling day and definitely worth the achy muscles and blinding headaches we subsequently suffered for the next couple of days.


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