Sunday, July 22, 2007

(22 July 2007) Bowie Smells Beefy, PC Says Sharon Needs a Window & The Dude Who Showed Up In My Village

I know it's been a while since the last blog, but the adrenaline & excitement of being in the village wore off 3-4 weeks ago and I decided to wait for a more positive or at least amusing moment before I sent out a mass message. Hopefully, you've had a chance to check out the photos on my picassa page and are clamoring to come visit so that you too can shower at the top of a 100m waterfall. Recently, life in the village hasn't been bad; it just got more annoying.  But after 2 trips to Tamba & an awesome 4th of July party (no, the Senegalese don't celebrate it, but we PCVs do) I'm feeling re-energized.  Also the annoying teacher, who kept calling me his wife, has left for the summer break.

So to get to the title, until yesterday afteroon when I bathed her (yes, there are photos of this in the latest upload) Bowie smelled like beef flavored ramen. Why, you ask? I'll tell you why. In one of my mom's award-winning (this was agreed upon by most of the PCV's in Tamba & Kedogou) care packages she sent a package of beef flavored ramen.  As my mother hasn't bought ramen in years I can only assume this was left-over from the non-perishable food items that followed me home after I graduated from college (May 2004).  Nevertheless, I knew this would come in handy at some point when I was sick in the vilage & couldn't stomach village food.  Until recently the ramen was sitting in one of my trunks, waiting for a rainy day.

This past Wednesday our Safety & Security officer, Lamine, came to Sara (Koupentoum), My (Keur Ndongo/Lewe), & Erin (Saare Boyli)'s villages to assess our living quarters & make sure we are and feel safe & secure.  Lamine stopped in Koupentoum and picked up Sara on his way out to Erin & I.  Sara had been sick the night before, but the opportunity to hitch a ride with a PC car that flies at the speed of light doesn't present itself often so she came out our way despite her illness.  Lamine, Erin & Sara arrived in my village just after we had finished lunch and after an hour or so of talking with my host father & me and inspecting my hut, Lamine & Erin headed to Saare Boyli to check out her digs.

Though she made it out here, Sara was pretty exhausted and hadn't eaten much all day.  So, I opened up my trunk stocked with protein bars, dried fruit, vitamins, & a packet of ramen to find something that would sit well on her stomach.  We both agreed this was the perfect time to "jefandiko" (Wolof for "to use") the ramen.  As my family had used up all the fuel in my brand new lighter while I was gone for a week a month or so back, I only had a box of Senegalese matches to light my gas with. Before my s&s entourage arrived I used up half of the box trying to light my gas to make a cup of tea, leaving me with a half pack to use after Sara arrived.  Senegalese matches are awful and we used up the remaining halfpack trying to to get the darn thing to light.  So we got more matches from a neighbor and went through another 5-10 before one finally lit.  One of the great things about ramen is that it cooks fast, but you have to let it sit and cool down before you can eat it.  Just as it finished cooking and I moved the pot onto one of my new wood tables to cool, some guy came to the door and started going on about how my buckets aren't big enough and I need to carry a benwar (larger bucket) of water on my head so I'll have more water.  Somehow this turned into him teling me I came to Senegal to get strong muscles & become pysically fit.  As I was explaining to him that 1- I don't need bigger buckets/more water and 2- that I did not come here to improve my health, but rather to help the people here improve theirs and that being here is bad for my health, I heard a crash and Sara shout.  Bowie had jumped up on the table and completely knocked over the ramen onto herself and the floor.

Sara and I were too busy mourning the loss of the precious ramen and cleaning up beef broth & noodles to find Bowie right away, but she seemed more startled at the warm noodles & liquid she ended up covered in than hurt.  I finally bathed her yesterday, but she smelled pretty beefy until that.

I think I've mentioned in previous messages that my "cement" walls either weren't mixed or applied properly so they keep crumbling.  Also, my family never filled in the gap between the walls & thatch roof so bugs (giant milipedes, spiders, ants, etc...) and dust pass through all the time.  My grand-uncle/brother-in-law has had a mason working on his house recently so I got the mason to give me an estimate on how much to fix that stuff and install screendoors.  When Lamine inspected my hut he was glad to hear that I was already preparing to have the repairs done. Since all of these changes are to meet PC s&s standards PC will re-imburse me for any money I spend on them.  After getting the initial 35 mil (~$70) estimate approved I talked the mason into also painting the inside and outside of my hut.  I'd been thinking of getting a window, but didn't know that I could get re-imbursed for it as a s&s necessity until Lamine said that I needed one for better ventillation. So Sharon, or Kodou & whoever is placed here after me, gets: new walls, gaps sealed, screen doors, paint inside & out, and a screened window on the PC tab.  Granted, these repairs (except the painting) would need to be done anyways, but I'm excited to see my hut coming together.  Other things I'm considering for future projects include: a cement bed (more comfortable than it sounds and a lot less dusty), shade structure in my backyard, solar panels on the roof or shade structure sufficient to power a light bulb cell charger & maybe small speakers (thanks Kris for looking into this for me!).

Bit by bit things here are coming together. My Wolof is getting better, my hut is getting more liveable, and the weather is cooling off.  Yesterday Erin & I finally did the bike ride from my village to Koupentoum (27km).  It took us just under 2 hours, but I think I can make it in under one and a half with practice.  Also, Erin & I are talking about each getting a horse, which we could ride into Koupentoum and maybe even Tamba.  A decent horse here will run 150-200mil ($300-400). Inshallah, Erin, her horse Mildred, my house Alfred (yes, we already have names picked out), and I will ride into the Senegalese sunset to Koupentoum sometime soon.

I was hoping to end my blog here, but as I was writing it out some guy who I met in Koutia Ba earlier that day showed up in my village.  Thursday Erin, Sara, & I went to an Africare meeting at the health post and when we came out a twenty-something guy in a track suit came up to us and started trying to speak English.  With Erin & Sara both ill and myself tired, we only spoke with him for 5-10 min before we excused ourselves. Like most Senegalese people we meet, he said he was going to come to my village.  As women, men, & children all say this and never actually come to my village, I expected the same from him.  I was wrong. He showed up at my village Thursday night and even though I ignored him and his requests for me to teach him English and explained to him that I was very busy, he said he had walked from Koutia Ba (6-7km) and wanted to talk with me. I even went into my spcheel about how I don't want/need a husband/children multiple times when he started talking about marriage and the like (also multiple times).  A short while after dinner, which he stayed for, I excused myself and went to bed.

Friday morning I woke up, went out for breakfast and guess who was still there.  That's right, my creepy teacher/stalker guy.  Apparently he spent the night in someone's compound in my village and wasn't showing any signs of leaving. I thought that when school let out I would be free of the annoying teacher who kept calling me his wife. Well, the fates somewhere made an exchange and gave me another.  This guy is a teacher who's home in Koutia Ba for the planting season.  Throughout the day I went around to a few different compounds hoping to lose him, but the guy kept turning up wherever I went. Finally in the afternoon I gave in and hid out in my room.  Coming out around 6pm to get water from the well, he was still there, but he finally left around 7pm. Later on during dinner someone asked where the guy was. Someone else said he had gone home and when I followed that with a loud "Alhumdillay!" (Thanks be to God) my entire family started cracking up. It ended up leading into an interesting post-dinner conversation, that is until Bowie caught, brought into my room and ate a real live actual scorpion.  I nearly died.  Thankfully though, I'm currently in Tamba- away from creepy teachers, scorpions (at least ones that Bowie can bring to me) and close to cold water.  Alhumdillay!
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