Saturday, November 20, 2010

Family, Mornings, Fun Day in Koudougou!

8 November – Romongo, 9:13pm

As usual this morning I wake up multiple times before my alarm goes off. Most of the time I can't identify what has pulled me out of sleep – the heat, my sweat-soaked mattress, the donkey or rooster who are obnoxiously loud, trucks and buses passing on the major road just outside my window, or the sounds of movement outside my screen door as the women start working before the sky is light. I get up and finish typing my blog, keeping my screen door closed when it's usually open by now. My host mother (Zalissa) brings my pot of hot water for my Nescafe with Nido followed by my Lipton with Nido (my 2 liters of liquid in the morning are a good part of all the water I drink in a day). I pack my bags for the day, adding a swimsuit and grabbing a little extra money for food, the internet, phone credit, and the pool. I leave my tea to cool as I go and greet the family, starting with immediate family if I haven't seen them yet (Zalissa/Saiedou/their 5 kids), then greeting the crowd of young kids as a I venture out into the main courtyard with sticky/damp handshakes and a grinning greetings of “ca va?”

If the old man (Moussa?) is out I greet him first, but after that I either greet any women who happen to be crossing the courtyard or I turn the corner to visit the oldest woman (Alimata) and the other old man (not sure of his name – Mohamad, I think) who lives in the house next to her. Then I swing out to all the other houses, greeting the women I missed on my first entrance (Mariam, Rosmata, Fati, Aisseta) and re-greeting most of the kids a 2nd or 3rd time. If the young men are in their small courtyard I greet them too, but I'm not actually sure if they live there or who they are. They must be the nephews (according to my family tree – Ibrahim and Balguissa?) – I'd say they're students, perhaps around my age, but we don't really interact at all. If a lot of people are missing the kids direct me to the yard outside where I'll greet my family and any neighbors who have stopped by to pilé with the women, as well as yet more children.

That's a pretty typical morning. Usually I go back to my room, gather up my things, and as I start to move my bike through the door frame my host brother Alassane is there, waiting to take it from me and start navigating it outside through the too-narrow doors while I lock my door. But today I have extra time, so I stand outside and talk with the working women, taking a quick turn pounding peanuts out of their shells. I explain that I'm going into town for a birthday, and my host sisters/cousins look amused and disappointed as they ride the donkey cart out to the fields – they wanted me to come help them even though I'd probably only be useful for comic relief. I kind of want to stay, but the lure of the internet and food I can choose for myself beckons. I return to my room and pull my chair outside to work on a TDA, fill out my site-placement questionnaire for Dr. Claude, and eat bouille with Saeidou and Mamu. He said it's made of rice, cooked into a kind of viscous gruel that you then add milk and sugar to, although this seemed to have chunks of something like bread added to it. It's a little sour, but not bad – I'm amused that all the women are out working and my father is still in his pj's, eating with his 3 year old.

It's time to go, so I head over to the CSPS only to return home to get my phone (glad I did! My parents called!). I find my host father in the front garden pulling something up – at least he's doing something, right? The labor division here is...different – another post for another time. We start biking to Koudougou, and somehow it seems shorter than it did that first time. We go to the cyber cafe, which is awesome – I love being connected to the world! It's kind of weird getting off-line, like I've been back in my known world for a little time and now I've had to return to my current reality – that outside there are still women selling fruit on the side of the road in front of sketch food places where you go up and ask what they have that day, then decide if you want it or not. They may have a menu, but they probably don't have more than one or two things from it on hand, so it's best to just go and ask immediately. This also applies to “sit down” restaurants. Maybe it's not that getting off-line is weird so much as getting on-line is such a break from my current reality that it's a little disorienting.

After that we bike down the road to the infamous second story of the gas station that I keep hearing about, which is actually a 2 story building behind a gas station, not a balcony above the gas pumps as I assumed. We order, blow up balloons for Kayleigh (the package said Happy Birthday but they turn out to be wedding balloons!), welcome more people, and talk and laugh. It's nice being out of the village, and while my chwarma isn't fantastic it's at least ok and the beer is cold. I decide to leave since I need to be home by 4 to start the beenga (beans and rice) my father has decided I will learn to prepare, and I'm ready to go by myself when 4 of the six village people decide to come with me. I get home a little later than I said I would, but the company was worth waiting for, and we talk and laugh the whole way home.

When I get home the beans are already cooking in a giant pot. I saluer the family, ending up across the road with all the women and the old men removing peanuts from the roots. There is a small mountain of peanuts, and they assure me that there are more in the fields. Good think I like peanuts? They give me another peanut butter cookie/ring thing, but what I really want is peanut butter. Mmmm... My father calls me across the street to go look at the unattended beans, and my mother tells me that in a little bit we'll add the rice. Ok. I return to my peanut removal, lost in my thoughts as people come up to chat and say hello. We start to go inside as the sun is setting, and the beans and rice mixture has turned red, probably from the Maggi cube that goes into everything here. I take my shower – it's actually a little cold out so I ask for some hot water from the pot over the fire reserved for this purpose. I should have done this sooner! The warm water is amazing, and actually seems to wash the soap off my body! Warm and toasty, I wrap myself in my pagne and go back to my room to change.

I sit down to eat my beenga but as usual the moment something is served I just can't possibly eat more than a little bit. Eating here is weird – I'm hungry all day, but when we get to meal times I seem to have no appetite whatsoever, even if I was just hungry. I mix some of the beans with the sauce and salt, then add curry to a little more. My mother asks if I've eaten all of it and gently chides me for not eating very much food. I tell her it's the peanuts I ate while removing them from the roots. I go outside even though I can hear a lazy patter of rain on my roof and join Mamu on the sheet-covered mat, curling up with her fingers around my pinky, and we fall asleep in the cold and light rain. I'm invited to eat with the men and decline since I already ate, and go back to sleep, finally waking up and coming inside when the rain intensifies. So now I'm in my room, typing this and listening to music. I think my iPod is stopping me from going insane – I love having a little bit of home that I can hold onto whenever I need something besides Mamu singing “Ma Main” at the top of her lungs (that song haunts me! I only know the three words she can pronounce in French, but it won't ever leave my head).

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