Wednesday, January 19, 2011

LPI, Movie Night, Visiting Chad and Tana, Mystery Flower Vegetables

12 December – Romongo, 9:45pm

Yesterday was our last language proficiency interview in French, which went really well, much easier than my first one. For one, I didn't have any theoretical situations (I think my first LPI involved me floundering to describe what I would show a visitor if I was taking him/her around Denver) and it's just a lot easier to speak French fluidly after two months here despite not actually learning all that much in terms of new vocab or grammar. And I “know” the grammar in that I have a notebook with how you form all of the tenses, but can't use any but passe compose, the imparfait if I want to say “I was” or “I had”, and the near future (“I'm going to...”). Still, it's been enough to get me by, especially here where most people don't speak perfect French either. My LPI involved talking to him about my morning, then my “question” card was to speak with him as if he was my host mother and we were having a conversation while she was cooking dinner. I asked about her day and about what was being cooked, and then we digressed on how one makes riz gras, the advertisement practices and overuse of Maggi (a bullion cube added to just about every sauce I eat), and tasty alternatives like adding veggies and select spices. I was actually sad to end because I was enjoying talking to someone I hardly ever interact with.

After our morning session we went out to lunch, where I actually got to hang out with a bunch of SED people that I hardly ever interact with – it was a nice change. Then we went in search of a place to print photos. I started with the one nearby, where Bridget had gone, but it was out of paper (and still open – the people there were watching TV and turning away customers). So I went further down the guidron, to another I'd seen as we drive into town. They only did film prints, so I went further, to the photo place Miriam had pointed out. Turns out they only do film as well, but the guys there were super friendly and seemed sincere when they asked me to come back the next day to hang out and chat (there's a good verb in French, but I have no idea how to spell it). I told them I'd be back on town in Monday, but since it's our good-bye ceremony to our family's that afternoon I don't know if I'll actually make it back there. Still, it was really sweet and I actually think that if I get the time I'll drop by and at least say hello.

My quest unsuccessful, I headed to the internet cafe where I updated the blog, sent emails, and Skyped. All of us intended to meet back at Abbe-Pierre at 6:30 for the movie, so in my hurry to be on time I stopped at the alimentation to buy VQR and crackers for dinner. I should have known that after two months here we're on West African International Time and I was the 3rd person to arrive even though it was exactly 6:30pm. Shoulda stopped for real dinner. I was a little disappointed that I didn't get to the NAK (a week long evening festival being held in Koudougou – yesterday was the last day), but I still think my time was well spent.

Went home with Chad and Tana for the evening and was so impresed with their home. Not only do they live in an actual house (you know, multiple people sleeping in separate rooms but in the same building connected by a hallway with a living room and a bathroom), but they have electricity, tiled patios (vs. dirt), and a toilet. It might not have a seat or flush, but you can pour water in the bowl to make it flush and after using my latrine for 2 months it was incredible. Their host mom insisted that I bring my tent inside and even though I initially didn't want to, when I woke up cold indoors I was glad I had agreed to be sheltered in their living room. After my alarm went off twice I went ahead and started to pack up my stuff. Their host mom then came out and seemed very surprised, and told me to go back to sleep! I explained that I needed to be at Abbe-Pierre at 7:30am, buffering 30 minutes so I'd have time to find breakfast after leaving. But I apparently got up way too early and found myself sitting around reading, not wanting to leave at 7am for a trip that would only take 20 minutes even stopping for gateaux. I was then summoned onto the patio to a tablecloth-covered table with baguettes, Nescafe, Lipton, Nido, and sugar, next to an aluminum thermos of hot water and a real tea cup on a saucer. Eh? It was so sweet of them to feed me breakfast, and I made sure to thank the women profusely, all of whom spoke wonderful French.

So we showed up to the center, stopped for gateaux on our way home (fried dough beignets = delicious), and then I biked to my house with Emily, who wanted to avoid going home while also fixing her bike. We certainly got some good practice – it's a lot harder to take a tire off the rim than Al's demonstration made it look, and my patch kit with directions dated 1996 came with 6 patches but barely enough glue for the one we used, the rest having dried up or maybe condensed down into just a few drops. I had to remove one of my tires because the tube was misaligned – the valve was at an angle and I was afraid it would develop a tear from rubbing against the rim. Once I fixed it I realized that the back tire had the same problem, but after fixing 3 tires (both of Emily's and my one) I just couldn't bring myself to do another so I left it for now and I'll fix it in Koudougou when I get help replacing my bike seat. I also went ahead and cleaned my bike, oiling the chain, checking the gear shifter alignments, identifying the parts that I'd read about in the maintenance manual. Yay for learning new things!

Once we finished playing with our bikes, Emily kindly stayed while I did my laundry. It was nice to have company, and I know her presence certainly slowed down the rate of shouted Moore words (I'm expected to repeat them, but the kids don't know enough French to tell me what they mean so I usually don't) and demands for gifts. I was glad that someone else got to see it, because now she gets it when I say that they just ask for things constantly. We finished at about lunch time, and after washing the puppy she went home and I started packing. Somehow it seems weird to be packing up all of my stuff yet again, although now the problem is that I have a 2 foot tall stack of new paper and books, plus some care package stuff I haven't eaten. I consolidated the food to one box, put dirty clothing in the other, and all the books went into my hiking backpack and purple bag. I'm trying to get everything for the next week or so into my carry-on since I don't know when or how often I'll have access to the rest of my stuff, but I'll have to carry my sleeping-pad separately since I plan on sleeping outside while we're at Abbe-Pierre in Koudougou.

I was called outside by my host mom and got to watch the distribution of some kind of flower? Vegetable? It's a small bud shaped thing, ranging in size from a bean to a strawberry, a pink bud surrounded by a green pedicle. Much to my surprise, you pull out the bud (kind of a firm, almost waxy tightly clumped bundle of petals around a bunch of stamens which are more developed on bigger flowers) and keep the pedicle that surrounds the base to cook into sauce to make it viscous, like a super-okra (which they also use liberally in their sauces). For a while I worked with my host mother, then she left and I was absolutely very bored and wishing for company. My wish was answered by a herd of pestering children, and then I was glad when they left me alone to my work. I was very pleased when my host mom corrected a visiting boy and said that my name is Alimata, not nasara. Now if only she would tell the old man who lives in our courtyard, although I guess it's only fair since I don't know his name either.

My mother read my mind and called today – I wonder how she knew I needed her to call, to hear from home? I imagine it's about as hot there as it is here, but I'm glad they set up the Christmas tree anyway. I wonder if people here have Christmas trees? I have yet to see a pine tree, so my bet is no, at least not as I conceive of them. Dad called right after - two calls in one day is a new record! It was really nice to just have non-Africa contact, to feel part of the world out of Peace Corps for a moment.

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