2 November – Romongo, 9:13pm
A sharp rapping noise interrupts my dream. I'm back in Africa, sweating under my mosquito net as my host mother raps on my door – I've overslept my alarm and it's past 6am! Time to get up and start another day.
Breakfast is my usual Nescafe/Lipton routine (one very large cup of each, with Nido and sugar), but today I get a corn gruel called buille (“bweee”) with my bread. It's served hot, and my mother tries to explain the use of the little hollowed out half-gourd she has handed me with it. I think I'm supposed to use it as a spoon...we'll go with that. It has a hint of cornbread, but mostly tastes warm and slightly sour. I eat a little but I've filled up on my tea and coffee, so I save the bread for later and pack my bags before going to greet the whole family. As I return my host mother is standing there laughing at me – apparently I was supposed to add sugar to the buille before eating it. :p She demonstrates with the small bowl and packet of sugar being held by the nearest child, who howls in indignation as his sweet treat is dumped entirely into his breakfast, depriving him of the ability to save a little for later.
Our last class today was on making soap! We already learned liquid soap on Demyst, which sells well and enjoys a decent profit margin in some villages, but in other places people prefer hard soap. It can be less profitable depending on what oils (shea butter/coconut/sesame/etc) you are using – one village group was actually losing money when the PCV pointed out that perhaps they should try liquid instead. After a powerpoint that breaks down the financials for a village where liquid soap was more viable vs. one where hard soap was preferred, we go outside to mix the lye now so that it can set and be ready for tomorrow. We've been warned numerous times by Sara (our PCVf) that the caustic soda reacts quite violently to water, fuming and giving off heat. We add our powder to the 4L of liquid and...nothing happens. We stir. We dissolve completely. No heat. Maybe it's salt? We call over Andre, who purchased it. We hand him the bag with the remaining kilo for inspection. He looks. Our eyes widen as he moves to touch it, and we all audibly gasp and jump back as he licks his powder-coated finger, as though he might explode or crumble to the ground in excruciating pain. But neither happens – it's salt. Oy! We dump out our salt water, and Sara says she'll start the lye when the actual caustic soda arrives, but it's time for us to go home.
We stop at the grande alimentation on our way home. I kind of want something to horde in my room in case I don't really like dinner, but can't find something I want so I leave empty handed. Lucky for me, dinner is wonderful! Well, rice with sauce, but I added some madras curry powder and salt, and it's fantastic. My host mother was stung by a scorpion today – her finger is noticeably red and swollen even though they aren't poisonous here. I check my room but all I have are spiders on the ceiling and dead crickets on the floor. I do my homework outside, getting bitten and smacked in the face by innumerable bugs attracted to the flashlight I'm holding in my mouth – I think I'll just have to be antisocial next time and do my work in my room. I fall asleep in my chair as usual, being woken to go inside but then subjected to a lesson in how to learn Moore. I'm expected to have a list ready tomorrow night of words I want to learn and my father will go over them with me. *sigh*
Still, overall I'm feeling more at home with my family. I like greeting everyone, and listening to the kids babble in Moore. Mamu (the youngest daughter) held my hand today as we walked around the courtyard! Small things, one step at a time. We got cards today from PSDN, which were surprisingly helpful and sweet. I hope when Shannon comes tomorrow I have some mail! And I found out today that my language is Moore, so at least I know I'm going to the central or northern region!