Tuesday, July 31, 2012


Bowls, like buckets, are a big things around here. We eat all our meals out of bowls, food is kept warm in lidded bowls, gifts and purchases of corn or soap or oil are delivered and carried in bowls. When women get married they're given bowls with lids and enamel pots in different sizes, and many women proudly display the fancier ones year-round, stacked up on shelves or tables in their sleeping huts.

Bowls are great, but everyone has pretty much the exact same ones, which can lead to confusion, especially during big events when lots of people are cooking and eating and carrying all sorts of things around in nearly identical stainless steel bowls. To keep track of things, most women like to paint their names and initials onto their bowls, usually with nail polish or whatever's on hand. Since I've been working with the other PCVs in my area on our little World Maps project my host family knew I had a bunch of little pots of paint on hand and my host aunt Hassanatou Bâ asked if I had any extra that I could use to paint her name on her bowls before she went back to Guinea for two months to visit her parents.
Hassanatou, posing for the camera. 
Hassanatou lives on our compound but I'm still not sure how exactly she's related to my host family, so I just think of her as my aunt. In any case, she is a very sweet woman; she thinks it's funny when I get things wrong, is happy to repeat herself two or three or nine times when I don't understand, and makes delicious sugary little fried dough beignets on market days. When I came back from my vacation I gave her a three-pair set of the earrings that my American family had sent with my for the women in my host family; she particularly loved the dangle-y one shaped like little golden leaves and she wears them every single day. Obviously, I was more than happy to paint her name on a few bowls.
Once I got started my host moms Saliou Dian and Mariama Souaré poked their heads into my hut to see how it was going. They liked what they saw, and asked if they could bring their bowls over, too. Pretty soon my hut was overflowing with bowls of all sizes, and with little host siblings eager to "help" with the painting. I let three of the older kids come in to do some painting and (aside from spilling paint on my floor and paint thinner on my floor mat) they were actually pretty helpful.

My hut, full of bowls. 
I made sure to use a different color for each woman's initials, for aesthetic purposes and because it makes it easy to tell them apart at a distance or in dim light. Since this bowl-name-painting-day I've been asked to do the same for the neighbors behind us and across the way, and am pretty sure that it will happen again soon. It's easy, it's fun, it hardly uses any paint, and it's nice to do something so immediately useful and delightful for people. 

Between the bowls and the map murals I'm pretty sure that there are a few people in my village who think I'm a Decorating Volunteer, sent over by the American Government to with a bucket of paint, a pack of brushes, and a mission to make things pretty.
Fancy paint for Saliou Dian, Mariama Souaré, and Hassanatou Bâ 

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