Sunday, January 29, 2012

Excuses, Excuses

I haven't posted in awhile -- it's been a busy month, internet's been bad,the power went out, we have out of town guests, there was a transport strike, I've been in village, I got strep throat...

streptococcus bacterium
In any case, I'll be in and out of the Kedougou house all week while helping with the cervical cancer screening training project and (hopefully) will catch up with blogging... and e-mailing... and podcasts... and paperwork... and Skype... and laundry... and everything.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Writing with Adama

I’ve been working in my hut the last few afternoons, doing prep work for a latrine project and typing stuff up. I don’t usually let little kids into my hut, especially if there are a bunch of them, but if they ask nicely and aren’t being too rowdy I’ll let them in, give them a stack of scratch paper and some pens, and watch them “write” up a storm. 

Here are Mankaba, Ablaye, Diame, and Diabou (above) and Diouma, Mankaba, and Daouda "Petit" Ba (below). They’re usually pretty well behaved, and they do a good job of keeping an eye on each other, calling out things like “Hey! Mankaba! Don’t touch Adama’s pillow! She washed it!” and “You can’t have all the paper! Give her one!”

Yesterday Diabou, the youngest of my host sisters, came into my hut for the first time. The mere sight of me made her cry for the first few weeks after I arrived, but I gave her plenty of space and she progressed to just glaring at me, then sitting near –but not next to - me, and then a few months in she started greeting me with little waves. Now she has a lot of affection for me, and expresses it by doing her best to feed me mushy crackers, lightly chewed-on bits of baobab, and handfuls of rice with sauce. Anyway, yesterday she came in and sat down and scribbled, and I was pleased that she was there and it was all very cute.

 And then she peed on my floor.

“Oranges.” And bananas.

The word for “orange” in Pular is leemune (“lem-oon-eh’) and it’s orange season now. My host father has been going around in the afternoons, handing everyone a couple oranges, and I like them.

They’re green, even when they’re ripe, which is a little weird at first, and they’re not as sweet or seedless as the Navel oranges I grew up with in California, but it’s nice to have a little extra vitamin C and potassium (I’m fighting off the cold that has everyone and their baby sneezing all over the place) and they’re fun to peel. 

There are banana plantations around here, especially over the border in Guinea, and there have been bananas at the weekly lumo market for awhile now. They’re small and dingy, but they taste delicious and make me think of this thing Iheard on NPR awhile back. 

Salémata/Ethiolo Bike Ride

Ethiolo, where my wonderful neighbor Tatiana lives, is about 5 or 7 kilometers away from Salémata. 

I don’t know how far it is exactly, but it doesn’t take very long to bike, even including the two hills that are too steep to bike up.

Good-Luck Noodles

Tatiana was kind enough to host us for a little New Year’s Eve celebration in Ethiolo, the Bassari village where she lives. Two of the new agricultural PCVs joined us for deep fried shrimp chips and vanilla-sugar beignets, super-oily-but-still-delicious spaghetti noodles, and movie night. 

We watched The Gods Must Be Crazy (which apparently none of us had remembered clearly) with Tat’s host family while one of her host brothers (who’d watched it before with Jimmy, the beloved local Canadian missionary/tooth puller) did the translating into Bassari.

After that we went back to Tat’s hut to cheers with some sparkling white wine (imported specially from the supermarket in Dakar) and watch The Hangover. The movie ended right at midnight (according to my netbook, anyway) which was neat and also maybe the latest that I have ever stayed up in village. (I’m pretty sure my village thinks I’m really boring.)

It was delicious, entertaining, a lovely evening and a good end to a good year. 

Things That Make Me Nervous

Now that the rainy season is long over and even the cold season is beginning to peter out and heat up, people are doing a lot of grass-clearing. These are photos from the lot next to the Regional House, and even though the fire was under control it made a snapping, crackling sound that kept me on edge until it went out. 

Some of it seems to be prescribed burning, and some of it is just to clear fields, and either way it creates lots of smoke. Sometimes it’s really hazy around town. 

Year of the Pull-Tab Soda Can

Sometimes it's the little differences that catch your eye. Is this some sort of retro-futuristic marketing ploy? Is this a thing in America now?

Joseph the Cat

This is Joseph, the Kédougou Regional House cat. 

He used to be Kate’s cat in village, but he made the move to the big city and (after an epic Dino Party) since then Kate has COSed1 and gone back America. He’s chatty and slightly nuts and likes to sit at the table like a human person and sometimes comes and sleeps on my feet, which is adorable. 

He is INSANE about hard-boiled eggs. 

I really can’t exaggerate his egg-mania. (I feel like there should be a word for that.) He yowls if he sees them, comes running if he hears shells cracking, and rears up dancing on his hind legs if you’re dawdling while peeling one. Once you drop it (you have to drop it, he will tear into your fingers if they’re between him and an egg) he’ll latch on, growling like a ferocious little wildcat, and wolf it down as fast as his little jaws can demolish it.

1Close-of-Service, when you do a mid-sized mountain of paperwork and they send you home.