The heat is oppressive and because of that heat Holloway had to endure "an overpowering stench" in the birthing room. Walking into that room on a day that was probably over 100 degrees Holloway (p. 6) said the building "was like an oven, baking all the secretions [from pregnant and post-partum women] into a rank casserole" (p. 6). Holloway said she felt like she was "drowning in the smell of flesh, body fluids, and leftover food" -- all made more aromatically spicy by the torrid head in the dry season.
The fierce storms that arrive in rainy season have a huge impact on the village and on the story that Holloway is telling. In many countries, the rainy season would be a blessing after a long, hot dry spell. But the rains that arrive in Mali as the rainy season started are terrifying. "I was startled out of my thoughts by a clap of thunder that rattled the roof," Holloway writes (p. 91). "The noise was deafening, as if herds of miniature beasts were crisscrossing at breakneck speed along the roof." The rain was so fierce that it was "threatening to break through the bricks" (p. 92). "What a trade," Holloway writes on page 92. "Life giving rains came at the expense of devastating erosion." Topsoil that was badly needed for crops was "washed away by the very thing needed to make it flourish."
Answer to Question SIX: "Every act of development necessarily involves an act of destruction."
I don't agree entirely with that passage. Sometimes in order to create a better facility the old one must come down. But there are situations where you start from scratch and build where nothing has been there before -- hence, there is no destruction just constructive building. And there are situations like the birthing house that needed a new roof but that didn't mean tearing the entire building down and starting over.
Do Americans and other foreigners have the right to intrude in another culture? It depends on the meaning of "intrude." Clearly in the past Americans have pushed their way into other cultures trying to help -- and failing. Certainly the occupation of Iraq by U.S. troops was an intrusion that was totally unjustified. Especially in hindsight, given that there were no "weapons of mass destruction" to be found, one of the justifications given at the time of the invasion of Iraq.
But American Peace Corps members come to countries with permission, and they are trained to be gracious guests and learn ahead of time what their role is to be. If Peace Corps members tried to force the Western culture on the people they were supposed to help, that would be very wrong. But in the case of Kris Holloway, the help the Peace Corps provided was not only totally appropriate, it was sorely needed.
Answer to Question SEVEN: Values.
Yes there are certain values that transcend borders and cultures. The universal values that come to mind include health, safety, and the sanctity of life itself. Every person in every country around the planet wants to be free of illness and from the misery of serious disabilities. Good health depends of course on the availability of food, clean safe drinking water, and medicine. When Holloway went to Mali, it was her duty to help in any way she could to make villagers healthier -- and it turned out she played an important part in a midwife's livelihood. Monique and Kris Holloway both offered healthcare services, especially maternal healthcare to the female members of the village.
Holloway and Monique shared the value of preserving life. As women, they identified with the women in the village from that perspective; but they also shared a powerful empathy for women who were malnourished and otherwise struggling.
Some human rights are inalienable; indeed, according to the United Nations' Universal Declaration of Human Rights (in 1948), all nations in the UN should "Recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world." Dignity in this context means that all humans have a right to enough food, safe water, shelter and freedom (peace). We all know that not everyone enjoys those rights but that should be the goal -- and the Peace Corps volunteers are certainly doing their part.
Answer to Question EIGHT: How can North Americans help the developing world? Individuals are making contributions in many ways to help Africans by donating to various international organizations. But the U.S. could do much more, if the will was there. By providing the resources to African nations that will accept foreign help -- resources like agricultural aid, healthcare resources, wheat, rice, and other staples -- the U.S. could make a dent in the most depressed areas. Already there are many organizations like www.nothingbutnets.net that are providing needed materials; in this case, nets to keep mosquitoes out of African homes and hence to prevent more people from contracting malaria. For most people in the U.S. And other well-off Western societies a good way to help is to find a public charity that is truly making a difference in Africa, and give a regular monthly sum to that foundation or nonprofit. Small gifts from millions of people, even tens of thousands, can make a big difference.
Answer to Question NINE: Am I hopeful about Africa based on reading about the amazing work of Monique? I am hopeful that there are more people like Monique, and I am hopeful that more people like Kris Holloway are able and willing to dive into a terribly dangerous and poverty-ridden society and do what they can to help. But what is very scary are the wars in some countries like Sudan, Darfur, the Congo, and elsewhere; and we're not just talking about war, we're talking about genocide where hundreds of thousands of innocent people are driven from their homes into refugee camps and slaughtered in mindless explosions of violence. It does seem overwhelming and Monique's unique humanity notwithstanding, the situation is grim in Africa. Worse yet, so many resources in the U.S. And elsewhere go into funding weapons and other war materials. It's a vicious cycle and there seems to be no end to it.
Holloway, Kris. (2007). Monique and the Mango Rains: Two Years with a midwife