Thanks for being so patient with the blog…I'm finally back in Kara and at internet access! I hope this finds everyone well. Things have been very good at post…I was quite homesick on Christmas day, but overall can say that I am very happy here and have had lots of fun and adventures over the past month. I'll try and recount some of them here…
- I go to bed every night by 9pm and am up by 6am.
- It gets to 70ºF by early morning, 120ºF by noon, and 90ºF by bedtime.
- I still can't carry a full water bucket from the pump.
- I switch constantly between French, Kabiye, and English – and am always in a state of confusion. Joel (age 13) brings water to us each morning. One morning he showed up and asked for a DRINK of water. I handed him the bucket, he looked at me, and left. When he returned with the full bucket, he asked again for a drink. Whoops! I want to explain that in English or America, I would never be this rude!
- I often find myself exhausted, if not from the heat, then from trying to communicate.
- We eat dinner nightly with Pierre (Nathan's homologue) and Rachel, and I am slowly learning to like it (slowly being the key word). If I concentrate hard enough I won't think of pizza and chocolate chip cookies. Nathan of course eats everything – "please add more hot peppers!" But I am determined to love it.
- I ride my bike daily and it is getting easier.
- Our house is finally set up. We have curtains (blue and brown of course!), straw baskets in every hut for storage, and a new wooden trunk to hold our clothes. A young carpenter in town made it for us. It cost $60 US dollars and I could lie flat in it. It is large and beautiful – made out of red wood and stained! Nathan, being in natural resource management, says we have to limit our wood furniture. That being said, it is a wonderful piece to have. (Not to mention no mice in our clothes!) We'll leave it for Pierre when we leave.
1) There are five children in Pierre's family. The youngest is three and named Reine. She speaks no French; only Kabiye. One afternoon Pierre sent her the 50 meters to our house with a hammer Nathan requested to borrow. She knocked on the gate and said "Excuse me" in Kabyie. We looked out and saw her. She came in, didn't say a word, and handed the hammer to Nathan. She then took off her flip-flops and sat down on the plastic mat that was in the middle of the compound. She then proceeded to stare at us as we tried to speak Kabiye and/or French to her. She never once opened her mouth. I then decided to try Peanut M&Ms. She took a yellow one in her hand and held it there. Nathan and I proceeded to eat but she just held the M&M in her hand. Eventually her hand was bright yellow! She refused to put it in her mouth. I guess who could blame her?! What are these crazy white people trying to feed me? Eventually she stood up, put on her flip-flops and walked out the door! We are furiously trying to learn Kabiye so we can speak with Reine!
2) Pierre's family came over for dinner on Christmas Eve. Rachel still cooked but she brought everything to our house. After dinner, Nathan and I brought out cookies and Crystal light for the kids. Immediately, all the kids stood up and started jumping up and down and clapping their hands. They were SO excited! Pierre told us that they will always remember this Christmas. Nathan said it was the best $4 we every spent. It was a nice night.
3) The local market is every Sunday in village and begins around noon. Lots of local produce and local beer is sold. Nathan and I have been every week, if to do nothing more than meet and greet. Last week, it was very hot (our thermometer reaches 120F most days – bath water gets nice and hot when you leave the bucket in the sun) and I decided to leave early. Nathan was going to stay, so I began the walk home. It's about a 20 minute walk through the fields. I have a bad sense of direction and after 5 minutes was terribly lost. Every hut looks the same! Every path looks the same! Every field looks the same! I wandered up and down paths trying to stay calm. I wandered through random fields trying to get back to my starting place. And all the while children gathered along the paths and stared. I waved and said hi. They stared. Then they followed. Given their young age and my lack of knowledge of Kabiye, there was no way I could ask where my hut is. Again, "What is this crazy white person doing? Doesn't she know how to get home? That big rock over there is obviously on her route!" But I felt somewhat safe with them to guard me against wild beasts (yeah, there are none) and eventually got on the right path. I got home in 45 minutes! This week Nathan made me lead the way there and back – I was successful. I guess I learned from my mistakes and am too humiliated to mess up again!
4) There was a dinner party for the youth of the village. Nathan and I dressed in our finest for the event. Showed up 10 minutes late and found ourselves 2 hours early. There was no electricity and night soon fell. We sat in the dark. Finally the food came – spicy sheep. Yep, I got a plate full of stomach lining and feet. I didn't eat a thing. We went home. ;-)
5) I decided to bike to school one day in a skirt. I get tired of wearing pants on the bike and changing in the principal's office when I arrive. It worked OK – I blinded everyone with my white legs but no one stared too long. I got to school, went to get off, and…my skirt got caught on the seat and the entire bike toppled over. I was fine. But 300 students stood and stared at me. Very awkward silence. Thanks to middle school, I know what it is to be embarrassed. I kept my head high, picked up my bike, walked forward, and smiled!
6) We have five adult rabbits and four new babies. Nathan is helping Pierre raise them and ultimately sell them as a cheap protein source. This past week has been very stressful. We have old cages and they keep getting out and running around the hut they are in. Nathan tries daily to refortify the cages and finally has it rigged to last until next week, when he begins to build new ones with better wood and metal. I go daily to watch and stare and cheer him on. I also like to pet them ;-) And the babies – oh, they fit in the palm of your hand and are SO CUTE! I don't think I'll be able to eat them L
Finally…Our puppy comes next week! Welcome Asher (the male version of Asheville) to the Duncan family! Plus my English class stars on Jan 5. I'll have 97 students (23 girls) four times a week. Class is for one hour; there are 3 students to a desk; 1 book to a desk. The book was published in 1986. And girls' club at the middle school starts Jan. 7. I'm expecting 50 girls ages 14 to 21! Nathan…hmm…he'll be working with goats and chickens. Cows are coming.
Love to you all! THANK YOU for the packages. I seriously cry when I open them – Nathan hopes this will past, but I love little bits of Ameriki! I miss you all!