Saturday, November 20, 2010

Laundry, Peanuts and Thinking Time, Fried Chicken, "The River Why"

14 November – Romongo, 9:16pm

My first Sunday with the family! Re-set my alarm for 6am but my mother pounding up dried okra in the kitchen outside my door didn't exactly allow for restful sleep. At least she's not being put out by my presence? Finally got up, said hello to people. I had preped my laundry pile and when my mother told me after breakfast we were going out to the fields I asked to wash my clothing instead. I went out to the yard with my small pile and the wash basins, and the older girls were so bemused at my pathetic attempts that they helped me, which certainly resulted in cleaner clothing than last time (plus there was less of it). I had to re-rinse a couple of things before hanging them up, notably my sheet about 3 times, but it was worth it and everything dried really quickly.

I went outside to remove peanuts for a couple of hours (I gathered that this was what my host mother had meant when she said “the fields”). It was simple (and dusty), and would have been a good “talking” work except that talking here takes a lot of effort and I was with the women, some of whom speak moderate French, some who don't really speak any at all. I alternately had periods of time when I was being ignored, and times when the women were SPEAKING LOUDLY SO I COULD UNDERSTAND THE MOORE BETTER despite my assurances that, volume aside, the issue was that I don't speak Moore. They didn't get it. I was happy for the excuse to go clean up and get ready to go to Emily's.

It was such a nice break to the day! Alicia and I were the first to arrive, followed by Al and Anna, and finally by Stephen. We ate a tasty mix of lentils, onions, tomatoes, garlic, and the inevitable Maggi and oil, courtesy of her family. It was really very good and I enjoyed just having something we had made and seen prepared according to US hygiene standards (sorta). The neighbor generously killed a chicken for us and cut it up regardless of our request to let us (but did a pretty “American” job, so we didn't whine). We walked over to the market for spices and oil – it was time for fried chicken. We returned, added eggs, pepper, salt, garlic, and two mystery spices, then a handful of flour and went to town. It was delightful, and I will absolutely be doing this at my site.

Went home around 3:30pm, continued with the peanuts for another 2 hours or so. Being around people speaking a language you just cannot understand at all is very isolating and left me very much trapped in my own mind. My thoughts played hopscotch through my memories – merging onto 6th Ave from Sheridan while talking to Caitlin, scrapbooking with Deidre's family when we were probably about 7 or 8 years old, going dancing in Denver with an assortment of friends and flings, Divas in NoHo, watching championship races from the beach at Woostah, my neighborhood, my dorm rooms, my friends from elementary school up through just kept going on and on. On the one hand it was really nice to recall old memories, to turn them over and shine them up a little bit before letting them move on to another montage. On the other hand they were downright depressing – I'm here in Africa, pulling peanuts off of roots and being laughed at and pestered by every.single.person who walks by. And then I realized that I'm in Africa shelling peanuts. I've wanted this, I've waited for this for years, and now I'm here doing something that 99.9% of the US population will never do – shelling peanuts with a family in Africa. Is it glamorous? No. But it's real, and it's that little day-to-day activity that helps you fit in with a community, to let people know that you're here and you're willing to help them. And here I am.

My mood kept fluctuating between “God this sucks” and “Wow, this is so surreal and awesome” but I was generally able to pull it back to the later after my little realization moment. I babbled about it in bad French to Alassane, one of my host brothers – I'm sure he didn't really get all of it, but he patiently just listened as I talked to myself out loud. I think he has a bit of a crush on me – he's the one who is magically always there to carry my bike inside or outside, and tonight he walked me to my door from the big courtyard outside before returning to rejoin the group. Awww! He's probably 14. :p Overall it was kind of an odd day, but I appreciated the time to think as much as the fun time cooking with friends. Not a bad way to spend a Sunday – next week it's my turn to cook and I'm thinking Africa mac and cheese with Laughing Cow cheese, onions, tomatoes, and green peppers. Maybe a touch of curry powder. Delicious!

Finished “The River Why,” the book about a boy who grows up obsessed with fly-fishing and his journey of self-discovery while living in a cabin on a river in Oregon. It didn't end how I expected it to, but I definitely enjoyed it and feel like it's the kind of book you could read over and over. In fact, I'll probably ask David if I can borrow it again over the next 2 years. If nothing else it's great for a laugh! I'm sure I startled my family more than once with my failed attempts to suppress my giggles and amused snorts while reading at night or during breakfast. Even if you know nothing about fly-fishing or don't generally go for “self-discovery” books, you should try this one – the humor will win you over and the out-there but somehow believable characters will keep you into the story.

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