Wednesday, January 19, 2011

The People I Know

10 January – Kossouka, 1:21pm

So it's been a tiny bit of time since I last typed anything, mostly because there is somehow too much and yet not enough time to do anything here, and also because I didn't yet have anyway to re-charge my computer. Now that I've asked Sylvie if I can use her electricity, problem solved. Also, being here affords me a lot of time to ponder things so then you get blog entries like this – just warning you in advance.

Life here seems to be all about contradictions. You feel like you're settling in, you feel like you know no one. You feel like there's absolutely nothing for you to do, you feel like there are tons of areas that you could address in your work. You feel like all you do is repose and laze around, but at the end of the day there's still things you wanted to do that remain undone. You feel like you can be understood, you feel like no one is speaking your language (literally and figuratively). You feel all alone in the world, then you have a good conversation with someone and feel like you have a friend. You feel like no time has passed at all, you feel like time is racing by and you still have so much you were supposed to have accomplished by now!

All of these are true, sometimes at the same time. I've become a huge fan of the common phrase here “ca va aller” - it's going to go, it'll happen, it'll work out, just give it time. I've been told it is sometimes applied to situations when PCVs are frustrated and certain that it will not go but I think it does a good job of describing the common mentality here, which I kind of like. While there are sometimes when you do need to take active steps to make something go, it won't just happen on it's own, in general I tend to think that if it's going to work, it's going to work. Maybe not on my time frame, but eventually if I'm persistent and it's possible, it'll happen. Ca va aller.

What about the people I'm meeting? I've met a pretty good range of people despite feeling like I haven't. There are the old ladies at the maternity who sit and talk in Moore – I understand when they're talking about me and Lauren and how eventually I'll know Moore like she did. There's the guy who I first thought was overly friendly until I stopped and talked to him for a while and found out that he helped to build my house, was good friends with Lauren, and his wife volunteers at the CSPS. There's Moussa, the English teacher at the middle school who I can actually have semi-deep conversations with since I can use a mixture of French/English to get across concepts like “home vs. house” or how the American media portrays Africa. There's my CSPS staff – some seem indifferent, some are more friendly. I feel closest to my major – she's the person I stop and chat with the most and we're relatively close in age, or David who is very receptive to all of my questions about how the CSPS runs or makes decisions.

There's the student I met at the water pump who declared himself my “petit African” despite my protests that he couldn't be my boyfriend. I thought that was the end of things even though we exchanged phone numbers, but the next weekend he was back from school and upset that I hadn't called. We talked for another hour and I thought I had convinced him that we aren't going to get married, but he's still talking about how in 5 years I can call him and tell him I'm ready to be married and he'll be there. He seems oddly serious about this – I don't know if I should be flattered or what.

There's the guy at the Malaria conference who seemed to be flirting with me until he invited me to call him when I come to Seguenegua to meet his wife and 6 month old daughter. There's all of my stage friends – I haven't kept in touch with the vast majority, but after an accidental phone call from someone I realized that I could probably call up any of them and chat for a good long while. There's the woman who makes galettes (millet pancakes) at the market who I stop and chat with every market day, and the three guys I buy vegetables from, and the woman who sells bananas and peanut butter. There's Collette, the woman who volunteers at the CSPS and helps with the WFP distribution every week, who encourages me to talk to the women who show up but I always stay silent because I can't say anything in Moore to them besides “Hello” and “Thank you”.

There's Fatou, the mother of Carine, who came to my house for coffee one day after she insisted on helping me pump my water but who didn't pick up her food rations last week. There's the man who I see at the water tap filling up the big wheeled water barrel to bring water to the CSPS staff, who will fill my bidon if I show up while he's there. There's Aissa, the girl with the red beads in her braids who was coming to greet me every day but who I haven't seen in a while, perhaps because I'm not home as often as I was at first. There's the adjoint mayor, Francois, who just seems like a really nice guy and who I'd like to go visit just for the hell of it. The prefet reminds me of Uncle Steve for some reason – he's very tall and carries himself in a friendly but powerful way. There's the lady who sometimes helps Collette who reminds me of Aunt Sally for reasons I still can't figure out.

I guess I do know a lot of people, considering. Pretty cool!

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