Tuesday, April 03, 2007

I'm on it slowly slowly

It has been brought to my attention that I need to update this thing so here I go. I don’t really feel like I’ve been all that busy lately but I suppose I’ve been up to a few things. At the beginning of February I went to Mauritania. I thought that would be such a great thing to write about but then I remembered that I was just a tourist there and I don’t live there so what can I really say about it? I did have a good time and I met a lot of really nice people. The desert is a beautiful place and maybe someday I’ll go back for a camel trek. It’s really hot there and I’m glad I’m living in The Gambia instead of Mauritania. It really made me miss my host family.

Back in my village I’m anxiously awaiting the arrival of a new family member. Bana and her daughter Mariatou came to live with my family (Bana is my father’s brother’s wife) last summer. I didn’t realize until probably January that Bana is pregnant. She’s very pregnant now. When I first suspected she was pregnant I asked my sister Binta (about 14 years old) if she knew for sure or not and she told me, “I don’t know.” Sometimes I think that’s all she will say to me but she told me that when the adults want to talk about something when she’s there they talk in Wolof instead of Jola so she won’t understand. There are certain taboos about talking about being pregnant so I wasn’t sure if Bana would admit to me that she was pregnant but she did and I often ask her how the baby is doing and what she will name the new baby when she comes (I really hope it’s a girl). It all made sense to me Bana’s strange behavior once I found out. She seemed to be tired a lot and was vomiting sometimes but didn’t look sick. She was also always coming to me and telling me she was hungry and I would either share some food with her or give her some money to buy bread or whatever else she was craving. It’s not a secret anymore though. A few weeks ago she was coming from fetching water and someone passing by her in the compound gave her a typical greeting, “Bu kanee,” –How are you to which she replied very loudly and in English (she knows very little English), “I’m not fine. I’m HUNGRY!”

Right now I’m on vacation. It’s not really vacation; I just have leave days built up (2 a month since I swore in as a volunteer) and since I didn’t use them all I’m using some to just spend in Kombo and touring the country a bit. Before I left my village to come to Kombo this last time, I asked her when her baby is coming. She told me tomorrow. I hope that’s not true. For my own selfish reasons I want to be there when she has her baby. I hope the baby doesn’t come for a little while longer.

Along with Bana and Mariatou, Hawa, my father’s youngest wife, and her babies Nyanya and Effo came also. I’ve totally fallen in love with these girls. They are all about a year apart and I’m pretty sure they love me, too. I’ve maybe given special attention to Mariatou but only because she lets me hold her and sometimes falls asleep when I’m holding her. Over Christmas I was gone for two weeks. When I came back everyone was very happy to see me including the babies. Mariatou was very happy as well until she realized she was mad at me for being gone. The last time I went to my village a Peace Corps vehicle had come earlier the same day to drop off my mail. I was told Mariatou was again angry that I was not in that car but at least she wasn’t mad when I came. As I recall, she came running full speed until she crashed into my legs. That’s definitely something worth coming home to. I think I’ll miss them the most when it’s time for me to go home in July.

One of the things I’ve gotten a little involved with this year is my family’s garden. There is a community garden that anyone in my village is welcome to work in. My family has about a dozen beds. Mostly they grow sorrel from which the women can cook my favorite sauce kucha. They don’t have many different seeds so I think I’ve only seen carrots and maybe two or three other different plants. Garden work is very hard. Twice a day the garden has to be watered. Throughout the garden are a few wells to pull the water from. The women bring 3 large basins and a few smaller buckets to the garden. One person will pull the water and fill the basins and someone else will carry that water in the smaller buckets to the bed. This is a women’s project. There will be boy and girl children helping out sometimes but one would never expect to see a man helping out. It’s unfortunate since the women who sell things from the garden can make a lot more money than the men who only worry about groundnuts, coos or corn in the rainy season. I enjoy going to the garden with my family because it’s the one time I can really work along side them and be productive. My family is very protective of me though. Once I scraped my knuckles on the base of the well and they thought I just might die and I shouldn’t work anymore. I suppose it seems very serious because of the stark difference of blood on my white skin.

I guess mostly what I’ve been up to is getting closer and closer to my family which of course will only make it more and more difficult for me to leave. I’ve told them many times I will take them all back with me. While daydreaming I imagine bringing them all home with me to a giant kitchen with things to help them cook like running water and an electric or gas stove and attaya and liat for them to drink all day.