Saturday, October 27, 2012

A spot of tea...blisters

A fine African day was in the making, it was already 85* IN my hut at 8 a.m., and my oh so trusty bike was on the bench with a flat tire. Everything was pointing towards a low key hut day but I already told a neighboring village I would come by to hang out. Since I have to pass this village on the way to town, I stop by just long enough to greet people and maybe chat about my latest work.  Instead of patching my tire, I decided to walk. I grabbed the necessities, sunblock, bandanna, sunglasses, and water, for my daily battle with the sun and was on my way.

I bounced between a few compounds to say hello before settling in with Haabi Sabaly in Amoudou's household. She told me yesterday that she would be staying home to wash laundry and make lunch instead of working the fields. I was welcomed with a shady seat, several commands to sit, and breakfast porridge. I sent a boy to buy tea an sugar, we like to call this "small boying it."
I falsely assumed someone would takeover cooking the tea if I bought it. After drinking God knows how many hot shots of attaya, I finally made my first round! Even though I kept asking the people around me for a little direction, they weren't very helpful.
    1. Get box of tea, sack if sugar, and hot coals
    2. Heat teapot & then add tea
    3. Once boiling, add 1 shot of sugar
    4.burn fingers by removing teapot to cool
    5. Burn fingers more by pouring tea back and forth btwn glasses to cool (& to make foam)
    6. serve down the ranks
    Repeat 3x
It somehow took me twice as long to finish the 3 rounds than the old men. This is one skill I don't want to lose feeling in my fingers obtaining. Poor blistered fingers.
I handed the teapot of used leaves over to the kids. Sometimes they chew on the leaves and suck he remaining sugar out. This time they decided to make two more rounds of weak tea for themselves.
It was pretty adorable.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Menu: "eSpaghett"

 I'm so full and this time its of food that I cooked. When I got home yesterday I asked who would be cooking because she would be cooking with me! The ladies rotate chores, so it was Aminata's turn, as I was hoping. She understands me a little more, gets frustrated with me faster, and deserves a little break for the extra work that I cause her. I thought I would be cooking dinner, but Aminata called me as soon as soon as I drive my shovel into the ground. Lunch it is! I was quite the spectacle. I carried my fully stocked food bucket and gas tank out to the sitting area to start in a semi-comfortable, smoke free area. I knew they were lingering to asses my slicing and dicing skills. I like to think I passed with flying colors, but they still watched me dice the entire 2 kilo sack of onions.
Thank goodness for my prep work as a server. I cooked the pile of onions and garlic with generous, Paula Dean scoops of margarine on my little gas burner. The chants of my capabilities tarted with the first onion and continued as people passed by. We shifted to their  smokey cooking hut to finish the sauce and 2 kilos of pasta over the open flame. I cooked the oodles of noodles in a cauldron, I kid you not, and a deep pot of sauce from tomato concentrate. I thought the can opener would get more praise, but they only whispered about it's clean cut, much different than the work of their dull knife. I almost wish something crazy happened but verifying was easy peasy and lunch was ready by 12:30, an hour or two earlier than usual. 
Aminata dishes out the pasta, bread, and sauce into 6 large bowls. I watched hoping it was enough to feed the 16 people of my family. Pasta is my favorite (next to pb&js) and I would probably eat it in any form right now, but it really was "pretty and nice" like everyone kept saying. I traded my spoon in or a fork and shared a bowl with tijane and my little stinker Jennabo.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Circumcision Ceremony

Its tradition to 'give alms' with the seasons first cut of "marro farrow," field rice, so several bowls of rice brought an array of people from other compounds over to share breakfast. It just happens to fall on lumo/market day, which guaranteed a timely meal before everyone's departure for the weekly market. With the holiday only a week out, I gave Tijane my 15 mille (about 30$) Tabaski contribution to go towards our sheep (to be slaughtered).

I told my family that the Diaobe market was not the place for me because bandits, thieves, and anyone with the last name Mballo (corny local joke) are on the prowl for easy targets. It got a good laugh. Instead, I joined my sister Aminata in Sare Kallilou, just a 20 minute walk past our new school house and the farrow, for the traditional circumcision ceremony. A storm came late last night, leaving the lowlands flooded and the tall grass battered across the narrow path. My eyes could only leave the path when Aminata paused with her flip flop stuck in the mud. One nice thing about a regular well-beaten path is the freedom to let your eyes wander in every direction.

We were welcomed by another rice breakfast, but this time with a peanut sauce much tastier than my familys. People gathered rather quickly. Women came out in their flowing 'completes' and a few of them even had coins, shells, candy and bells added into their braids. They say it doesnt hurt to sleep on, but I dont believe them.

The ceremony started with a pair of drummers and a familiar cadence fading as they walked out of the village to meet the legion of recently circumcised boys in the woods. And then came the opportunity for my questions. The boys, all around 8 years old, were circumcised a month ago and have since only been in the company of each other and their fathers. During the day they ask for money on the roadside, are served meals by the men instead of they nenee/moms, and only return to the village to sleep.
Today, 6 boys were washed and dressed in new clothes and then paraded back into village with all of the men, drummers, and a finishline of welcoming women. They started a dance circle at the Jarga/Chief's hut and then moved through the village. The boys sat in a row, still draped in pagne/skirts and head wraps, with palms welcoming small shiny gifts. American change is going to feel like play money next to these weighted coins, all more robust than the quarter. I paid my repects and did my dance that everyone seems to love, though the reason is unclear.
People slowly broke for their houses as the parade marched on. The women started lunch preparations, fetched fuel wood, pounded rice until free from the sheath, and battled flies while mincing a bowl of beef, now tinted gray with a pungent that curled my lip. All afternoon was spent in the shade of a small mango tree with attaya and grilled feed-corn. Oily rice is quite a treat and a must at ceremonies, but just another reason I dont like them much.
One last note must be added on this topic. The "Kankouran," a costumed man believed to ward off evil spirits that threaten the boys, appears in my  Casamance region annually as part of the ceremony. As seen, he is dressed in deep red tree bark from head to toe and carries a machete in each hand, a scary site and an annoyance to main road travelers. Its just another part of the tradition to celebrate the boys' passage into manhood.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Things to take along

Sometimes this place takes me back 50 year to a simple time with everything from field work and home births to reusing and recycling found objects until too lifeless to rig a toy together. I can appreciate or at least understand most lifestyle choices and there are even a few I'd like to take home.

Do you know how many people could bathe in that nice bath tub of hot water? A family- and I don't mean the american family of four. I think I could cut back on those steamy sessions. An outdoor shower also sounds like a great idea, even if it's function is shifted to post-yard work and pool rinsings. Bathing beneath the stars takes my breath for a subtle smile- until I realize I'm battling mosquitoes without the basic defense of clothing.

Do you know how delicious veggies are when they're not harvested early and piled in shipping crates? Veggies fresh from the earth may not have the ideal marketed shape or color, but I guarantee the flavor fuller. Maybe I'll soon have a backyard garden or even a small veggie patch. I won't go as far as providing my own milk or bread but gardening is too easy and relaxing to pass by. I'm going to have so many experiments.

When was the last time you rode a bicycle? Granted I've always lived in the sticks a significant distance from anything, but there is no reason nit to ride a bike around town. I can make time for a bike exercise to the grocery store and of course through parks. Perhaps I can even bike to the gym and freshen up before work (assuming one day I'll have a big girl job). After bush paths and the limited road suggestions, not rules, of Senegal, I think I could handle a reflective vest and bike lane in America.
Ill leave things on the up & up for now. I look forward to this list growing, even in unexpected directions.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Bed Net Care & Repair!

2 Week Recap: 
Villages attended: 8
Participants: 189
Nets Repaired/Washed: 343
Total number of people now sleeping under effective mosquito nets: 956

Over the last couple weeks, we have had a line up of mosquito net trainings thanks to the planning and patience of miss Sarah Kuech. Villages across our dear region of Kolda have been able to host trainings through nearby volunteers. It difficult to get people out of the fields, both corn and soccer fields, but we have had a respectable turnout so far.

How the event runs: 
1: go through a questionnair with every participant
2: look for holes & repair nets
3: wash and then hang nets to dry
4: repeat through the crowd of children and women
5: have a malaria discussion led by the local health worker

The events somehow take an amazing amount of effort and will leave everyone involved yawning with the closing, but are immediately rewarding. We get to talk through problems to the best of our local language ability, which often leads to our Pulaar being translated into a different and more correct form of Pulaar. We are often prompted to get up for a foot-stomping dance and are asked to take meals with families. By the end of the day, come rain and the African strength shine, we hop back on the bikes and hit the dusty, pothole filled roads. 

Monday, October 1, 2012

late night writing

     My mommy held my hand across the street and now Ive crossed the ocean and a world of ideas.
While separation, dramatically comparable to death or loss, always manages to slip back in and surprise me, it has also made room for a... consciousness. My life is flowing, flexible, and free, though its still hard not to cling to the greener grass around stability. Yes, Ive been shaken, but Im wrapped in a growing solitude and full of life even on the most trying days, hours. Ill keep on crossing borders, enjoying each experience, and welcoming the unfamiliar.