December 30, 2010

sweet nectar of life.

My current MO is "I do what I want". I was sitting in a botique talking with one of my friends when the man that works with my village watertower walked in. I proceed to demand why he has not invited me to climb the water tower yet.
I regularly demand outlandish things. One, it helps my psychological health. This culture is what I call a "give me" culture. It's not considered rude to say something like "That's a pretty bag. Give it to me."; or if you come home with a pack of cookies all of the children will swarm with hands out stretched saying "give me". It is exhausting. I combat it by regularly demanding that people give me ridiculous things like cows, herds of goats, and I've been known to walk away with a baby or two. Next, I get some fun experiences out of asking for wierd stuff. Enter the water tower.
After I shamed him into not inviting me to climb the water tower, he said let's go right now. Um okay! I scramble up the inside of the 100meter owl infested tower and sit on the top to see miles around my little village. It was awesome!

Keeping with the water theme let's flow right into my next point. I've always known that water is life giving miracle juice, but living in Satan's asshole has burnt the reality of just how precious water truly is to existence. My village ran out of water for two days and life was miserable. No water means no showering, minimal drinking, no watering garden, restricted washing of hands and butts (remember no toilet paper), and no washing dishes.

I know the exact amount of water I use every day.
1 bucket for shower with hair washing
1/2 a bucket for drinking/ teeth brushing
1/2 a bucket for "toilet paper"
4 watering cans for my garden
2 buckets of water to cook lunch for my family of 20
1 bucket for washing all dishes

While I dream of the day when I can again stand under running water showers, I want to remember how precious water is and continue to be aware of my water use.

December 08, 2010

Birds taste better

I recently headed to the North for Thanksgiving celebration with some of the other Senegal volunteers. It was a beautiful celebration; and since we slaughtered our own dinner, made headdresses, and shared weird parasites with one another, it was probably as close as I can get to the original Thanksgiving.

Just traveling up to the Futa (northern region) was an adventure. My friend Emily, living in a neighboring village, amazingly set up what we thought would be smooth travels through the bush. Her dad, we'll call him Fat Cat to protect his identity and let you in on his character type, regularly makes the trip from her village to the Futa to transport goods between markets. He assured us that he would take us from her village to our desired destination in the Futa. Done. Let's go.

Well...we end up waiting in the village for Fat Cat until around 11. I live in Senegal, my life is waiting. No big deal. We, myself and five volunteers, climb into the back of a pickup truck and form a giant spoon pile. Compared to usual travel in Senegal, this is pretty high roller. No urinating goats, crying babies, or stinky Pulaar milk, just the 6 of us and one overwhelmed Senegalese guy starring at the amazing stars as we cruse through the bush. Perfection.

We pull into a random Pulaar village, Irai, around 3:30am. At which point Fat Cat says, "Get out. We spend the night here." Without questioning we pile out of the car and plop down onto dirty pieces of foam spread over the floor in a woman's bedroom. We nap for three hours then Fat Cat informs us that this is where he is leaving us. WHAT?! Oh, and he wants more money for our "tickets".

I have no effing idea where we are and I can count the number of Pulaar words I know on my fingers. Not okay. Fat Cat assures us that there is a car that goes from here to another random village, then from that village to where we intended on going. This wouldn't be terrible, but in Senegal "ci kanom" (in a bit) can mean anything from 5 minutes to the next rainy season, usually closer to the latter.

A packed truck and a rocking bus ride later we make it safely to our destination!

The Thanksgiving feast was beautiful, alas we were without a deep fried Turducken. We ate mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, stuffing, pies and killed 5 chickens and 2 turkeys. The process of slaughtering, de-feathering, cleaning, and cooking a bird was intense. The delicious convenience of genetically modified, giant breasted, frozen Butterball turkeys has my gratitude.

Post Turkey day the trip home was even more ridiculous. We were instructed by Fat Cat that we needed to meet him in the village he abandoned us in at afternoon sharp. We climb in the back of a crowded truck to begin our trip. Every bush village we pass adds people. Not to mention, the further into the bush we get the amount of luggage per person exponentially increases. I now have a bucket engulfed by my ass, cutting off the circulation to my legs that are woven around a sack of rice and three laundry buckets. A nine year old child is on my lap.
The driver ends up trying to screw over the white kids. The pass is 1000cfa, the white kids are told to pay 1500cfa. Our local language skills, sharp eye and constant vigilance bring this to our attention. Options are: pay the extra dollar, throw a fit and make a scene about equality and racism, obviously name dropping Rosa Parks for the irony.

I chose the lesser traveled third path. I did a little dance number. Looked kind of like a line dancing chicken. Works every time. I walked away without paying a cent.

We meet up with Fat Cat to find giant sacks piled three feet higher than the top of the cab. Goats are in bags tide to the back and approximately forty chickens are hanging tied upside down along the sides. Nice. We scramble up the steep grade, barely able to stay seated while the car is parked, only imaging the ninja like skill required to not fly off once we are hurtling down the bush roads or ducking to avoid a thorny branch in the face. Oh and Fat Cat wants more money for the inconvenience of letting us scramble up the side of his over packed car.
We crash into one bush village and the men on top with us start screaming ndyiam and ndox, meaning water. Next thing I see women are scrambling around their compounds to bring their plastic drums full of water. The first thing I think of is how far they had to go to fetch that water and how precious it is. The second thing was what kind of new parasite I am going to get. As I am half way through drinking this water, the car lurches forward again. The man beside me tears the cup from my mouth and flings it back in the direction of the village. I am thirsty, shocked and once again brought to the hysterical giggling of never truly understanding this weird place.

Amidst the potentially drama filled moments where I could have easily gotten mad, I found myself laughing. I was safe, I mean 'ish', and in good health. In the scheme of things what really else matters? No sense in getting mad; it doesn't change anything. I am learning more and more the uselessness and even harmfulness of frustration and anger. I am far from a zen master, but I have a feeling when I re-enter the world of everything, America, not much will be able to "get my goat" (Thank the lord that "goat" will be figurative. Goats are currently the bane of my existence.)

Thank you Emily for the beautiful photos!