Monday, December 25, 2006

Happy Holidays from across the Globe!

Well, Merry Christmas! Happy Chanukah! Merry Kwaanza! Happy Tabaski! And, finally, Happy New Year!! The holiday season is upon us, and I have to say that it feels like it snuck out of nowhere. It feels anything but like a holiday. It isn’t that people here don’t celebrate Christmas, or other holidays…but without family it just isn’t the same. So, I have decided that I am putting Christmas on hold…a rain check if you will…that’s right ladies in gentleman. When I come visit next September we are going to have to celebrate Christmas 2006 and New Years. So, don’t throw away your tree quite yet, and keep those goofy 2007 glasses and crowns that I know you are going to wear on New Years in your drunken/partying stupor…if it goes poorly the first time, don’t worry, because when I return to the states for a visit in 9 months you will get to do it all over again. Sound like fun?!?! I think so…

It hasn’t actually been that long since I last posted. Thanks to the holidays I was able to come up with a good excuse to come back into Bobo, and bask in the glow of lights and the sound of television. I know many of you enjoyed my transport story from the last time, and I didn’t want to bore you with another one, but it was just so interesting I can’t help myself. With the onslaught of all the Christian/Muslim holidays, most people have decided to take a break…including all of bus drivers in my village. Which left me with no options to getting into the city from my village…well, no options that my mother would approve of anyway. So did I walk the 65K (roughly 35 miles) into Bobo, ride my bike, crawl? No sir, I did not! I stood out on the side of the road, stuck my thumb out, and hitched a ride on a Brakina Beer truck that was picking up empty bottle along the way to drop off in the capital. How very convenient for me!! I got to sit up front in the VERY small cab of the truck with 3 other friendly Burkinabe men, while we bumpily made our way into town. To be honest, it was the fastest and smoothest ride I have experienced thus far…and the best part was that it was free. I must have charmed their pants off. AND, what transport story would be complete without a chicken story??? I know Erica’s dad, Bubba Baker, likes them!! Hehehe! Halfway on our journey we stopped and picked up a woman holding 4 chickens and a pintard (a bird that resembles/tastes like a chicken). Luckily for me, but unfortunately for your entertainment, my travel this time included no bites or run away birds…

Life in village is slowly settling into my bones, and I am getting my house more and more set up everyday. I have to say, I am pretty pleased with the way it is turning out. My biggest thing was that I didn’t want it to look like a “hut”…it had to look as close to a “home” as possible. I needed to feel as settled as possible in it, and I think I have accomplished that…I will try and post a few pictures of it now, but all my pictures are currently in the mail on their way to the United States where my lovely brother will post all the pictures that I have taken thus far.

Since I last spoke to you not much has been going on. I started running in the mornings, and I am really glad that I finally got on this wagon. First, all I eat are carbs, carbs, and more carbs…and although being “gross” (or “fat” in French) is attractive to people here, I have no intention of coming back looking like a beached whale or a in my community, a “hippo.” Not only that, but I find that it relieves a lot of stress that builds up throughout the day. Stress you say? How could I be stressed, you’ve seen my daily activities schedule…it isn’t all the reading that does it. You would be very surprised just how stressful and draining it is to live in a village with no other French speakers, and to have to constantly be “on” when you walk out the door. Every time I want to go to the marchÈ I have to greet EVERY person that I pass on my bike, I have to smile, I have to turn down 4 marriage proposals, I have to laugh, and shake hands…and it gets tiring. All I want is a tomato or a cucumber, and I get mobbed everytime. Now I know what a celebrity feels like…and you know what…I don’t particularly like it. I know in time the attention will wane as they realize that I live amongst them, and they can see me everyday…but for the first few months I have heard it’s hard…and I am experiencing it now. I try to be as gracious and inviting as I possibly can…but come on folks…everyone has their limits…even selfless and helpful Peace Corps Volunteers…hahaha! I can see how people become hermits…I would prefer to sit and read or do a puzzle then go outside and fumble through my French/Joula to have a conversation with someone. It is a challenge. I never realized how therapeutic running was until I started and now I think I am addicted. I step out of my house every day at 7 a.m. to go on my jog (and at this time of the season I can see my breath in the air…it is about 55-60 degrees in the mornings), and there dutifully waiting for me is my homologue’s son, Ali. He trails behind me in his flip-flops with a glowing grin on his face. I went to all the fuss (and money) picking out the perfect running shoes for my gait and my feet, the perfect running shorts and dry-fit top…and there he is trailing behind me in his jeans and t-shirt with his foam flip-flops…and I’ll be damned if he doesn’t keep up with me for most of the way, and he NEVER stops to walk. I am really impressed! It is the one time in the day where my mind clears and I can just take in the scenery…I run past the hippo lake, and so far I have been lucky enough not to run into one (they may look like lovely creatures from afar, but from what I hear they are pretty vicious). I figure if I ever run into one then it’s just motivation to move faster right? Everyone needs some motivation every now and then. I hope this is a habit I can continue…for my sanity, my health, and my growing derriere!

I am trying to diversify my diet a bit, and I have started to venture out to the various meat sellers in my village. I will admit it, I am a carnivore, and I love it. Chicken is my favorite, but with all of the killing and feather-plucking it seems like too much work. So, I have moved on to easier “viande”…the meat of “mutton” (sheep) and “bouef” (beef). Men set up little grills all around town, hang a few sheep legs from a hook, and all you have to do is pay them some money and they will give you some hunks of already dead meat…no killing involved thank you very much. I like this much better. So, the other day I was dead set on having some beef for dinner. I stopped by the meat sellers shack and sitting there on disply was the ENTIRE head of a sheep! I know this is gross, so if you don’t like this kind of stuff stop reading here (Morgan, I know you love this crap and can’t wait to continue reading…hehehe). Blood was still seeping out of the thing and I immediately turned around…I was seriously re-thinking my desire for meat at this point. But, my stomach won over and said…”you want meat…this is where meat comes from…deal with it!” So, I pleasantly asked them to remove the rotting “tete” (head) from the table…which they did promptly. I could continue. Sitting on the table was a gigantic hunk of meat that was entirely covered in flies…and once again I started to rethink my decision to buy meat…but I forged ahead, Hey, a girls gotta eat! I asked them for a “filet” of beef and he pointed at the rotting cut of meat on the table. I quickly told him that “homey don’t play that”…and I pointed to the gigantic beef leg hanging from a hook under the hangar. This at least had less flies on it, and it looked like a “leg”…I don’t know why that helped me, but whatever. So, with the quick slash of his machete I had a bug chunk of beef leg handed to me in a paper bag…TASTY! I got home and realized that the skin was still attached so worked with my knife to get that off. They tell us that the meat should be red and elastic in texture…and this was definitely neither of those, but the hunger in my stomach overrode my fears of e.coli or bacteria poisoning. I then proceeded to attempt to tenderize the meat, because if you don’t, then it will be as hard as a brick. Without a mallet or a hammer I had to turn to my broomstick handle. Now, as a white person I am already an oddity, but as I stood outside beating a black bag with a broomstick handle, I became the CRAZY ASS white girl. About 4 people lined up to watch me. It wasn’t until I revealed to them what was in the black bag that they finally all laughed, said “toubabou feu” (white girl crazy) and walked away. Oh well…I had soft and chewy meat that night…so whatever. After 30 minutes of cooking (because of my fear or worms and disease) my meat, that started out about the size of a dinner plate, was about the size of my palm…it was still good. Man did I feel accomplished at the end of that meal!

My kitten, Gateau (here is a cute picture of him enjoying some lounge time on my hangar), is doing very well. He is definitely my companion and my family here, and I don’t know what I would do without him. I do fear, however, that he has narcolepsy. Now, I know you think I am crazy, and maybe it is the heat of the day…but I swear…that cat runs around my house like a wild banshee and literally two seconds later he is passed out asleep on the floor. I can’t understand it. Is it the fish I am feeding him? Is there some disease? It’s pretty funny to see him one minute playing in my backpack, and the next minute his head is half hung out, mouth open, sleeping like a baby. It provides me with entertainment I guess, and a reprieve from him wanting to get into everything.

Well, anyway, I am probably boring you to death with the mundane details of my village life…the cat fell asleep reading this…so that can’t be a good sign (or it is just proof of his narcolepsy…I don’t know of which). I hope that everyone is enjoying the holiday season…because for the most part I am trying to push it from my mind. I would rather ignore it than think about what I am missing. I hope that everyone enjoys the holidays, and think of me as you dig into your turkey, roast beef, leg of lamb, wonderful side dishes…because my mouth is watering already.

I am heading out to my village tomorrow, and I actually don’t know the next time I will be back in town. I am going to try to stay out there for 2-3 weeks or longer without escaping to the city. I feel I need to have a constant presence in village so that people get used to seeing me, and realize that I DO actually live there. It makes a difference on how I am perceived…trust me. My phone always works so feel free to give me a call or pop a letter in the mail…I will respond to EVERY letter, and that is a promise. Take care. A plus. A la procieme.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

nice description of the sheep's head steph:) i wish i was there to witness it for myself, but i think i'm more interested in the parasites you can get that i learned about at cofc! i hope you are doing well, i think of you all the time, love you! morgan