Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Christmas, Real Food, New Friends, Musings

26 December – Kossouka, 8:34pm

Yesterday was kind of normal and kind of sad because it was so...un-Christmas-y. Granted, I didn't go out of my way to make it so, but it was still a little disappointing. Not that it was a bad day, by any means. They weren't kidding about the roller-coaster effect here. I woke up, read and had some chai, and when I went to get water the woman there with her daughter followed me home. We had coffee and I listened to her talk while her daughter kind of listlessly played (I think she's ill). I hardly understood most of her French, but it was so nice to just have someone come and sit in my courtyard and I think we probably spent a good hour or two just sitting and chatting. I did my dishes and my laundry after she left, and made my first real meal, having biked to Seguenega on the 24th to buy flour, rice, milk, and veggies. I made rice with eggplant, onion and garlic, and of course wildly overestimated how much I needed. I did the same for dinner – the tortilla recipe even in half made 5 tortillas, way too many, and stir-frying an eggplant, an onion, and a green pepper with diced tomato topping made for too much filling. Still, with some salt, pepper, and cumin, it was delicious, and the leftovers made a great breakfast over spaghetti this morning. :D

I did get to talk to lots of family and friends, which was fantastic but did make me really wish I could be home having Christmas with family instead of it just being another day here, albeit with the holiday Moore greetings instead of the usual ones. I got a lot done, I made a friend (Pre-k style, I wanted to call my mom and tell her because I was so happy when I realized that someone was finally talking to me as a friend, not as a colleague or as someone telling me that I should learn Moore faster), I met my neighbor – a boy of maybe 17? who sent a kid to lure me out of my house before coming over to introduce himself which was pretty adorable in a 6th grade kind of way. And then today I went to the marche too early and nothing really was out yet so I went to the CSPS to sit with the nurse. We chatted, and a friend of hers was there so I listened as they talked in Moore, and I hung out in the pharmacy and asked a bunch of questions. The friend very kindly took me around the marche later and helped me find where to buy soap and credit for my phone. It was kind of funny that someone who doesn't even live in my village was the first to offer to take me around it.

Michel (my neighbor) called and said he was coming over, but when it was apparent that he wasn't actually coming over I took a quick nap and read and generally lounged during the repose. I meant to leave around 3pm, but didn't end up actually getting out the door until Aissa came to greet me again like she did yesterday. It made me inordinately happy because even though I don't have much to say to the kids when they come over it's still nice when they show up, and she seems really sweet and friendly even though we can't say that much to each other. I followed her out of my courtyard but told her to go ahead when her friends called from across the way and I continued on to the CSPS. One of the women had given birth so I watched the paperwork being filled out and made faces at one of the kids who was there with the many women attending the birth.

So far life here doesn't feel exactly like I'm serving under conditions of hardship. When I go to Ouaga next I might get an internet key, and I'm thinking of a car battery or solar panel next month, thus turning my 'hut' into my own internet cafe/charging station and eliminating the need to ever leave my village except to get mail and money once a month. I mean, sure, it would be nice to have running water that I don't have to haul or filter or bleach. I miss being able to microwave foods that are ready to eat when I'm hungry instead of having to plan ahead or just be hungry while something cooks for an hour. I miss the variety of foods and the convenience and quality of a grocery store. I miss having a refrigerator for when I make too much food, and lights that don't run on batteries. But I don't feel like those are going to be huge adjustments when I go home, not the way people talk about them. I might feel a little shocked and awed, but not in a “what am I doing here while people are suffering?” way. Perhaps that's the trap – you think it'll be no big deal but then it is and suddenly you feel like a stranger in your own country.

For all the fears that seem to surround being foreign in Africa, I feel very safe here. Out of place, but respected and generally safe. While I don't think a lot of people are to the point of liking me as a person, I think they would all respond if I was in need of help. People are hesitant to come into my courtyard, and even if they do let themselves in my gate they don't even look in my screen door until I come out to greet them, and never ever make a move to enter my house. For all we worried about negotiating boundaries, it seems as though Lauren either did a fantastic job or everyone is terrified of me, but either way my boundaries are already set exactly where I want them. People can come in and sit if I invite them, or to say hello if I don't hear them, but I'd rather they don't come in my house without my express invitation, which I will not be making to anyone unless they are my very good friend.

I put up my maps and some photos today. My Denver poster is crooked, but I'll live. I still want to re-paint, but it can wait, and my walls were just crying out for help. I feel pretty lucky that my house is becoming my home!

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