Two weeks ago I learned that I’m worth over 300 cows. While visiting our homestay compound, our homestay dad decided that he should take it upon himself to marry me off. Apparently he has talked to the son of the old woman that lives behind his house and convinced him to marry me. The first time this was brought up the man wouldn’t even look at me, dad did all of the negotiating. Our homestay mom and my supervisor, Melissa, gently reminded the man that I had good skin, long hair and that I had a really good face, this raised the price. Melissa asked him if he followed the Son and he replied that he would if she gave him me, his mother also said that she would follow if she gave me to him. Then Melissa set the price, she told him that she would need at least 300 cows for a finder’s fee and that my father would also need cows, goats, sheep and cash. Needless to say the man didn’t have any cows, let alone 300 so the deal was off. I thought that our homestay dad had arranged everything by himself, but the other man seemed to be quite supportive of the plan and even began talking to Melissa about me himself. Niether Lindsay or I had ever seen this man before last week, or at least as far as we can remember, but we do know is mom quite well. His mom is a demanding old man with only four bright orange teeth and a great big smile. It’s hard enough to understand the language when we don’t know it, but even harder when the person who is talking barely has any teeth. The next time Lindsay and I visited our homestay compound by ourselves and dad brought it back up again. Now they have begun calling him “gorko Say-u-doh” which translates into “Krissy’s man.” It’s mildly amusing, but completely embarrassing. I’ve adopted the statement “gorko walla, lafi walla” which literally translates “no man, no problem.” I’m sure my philosophy on that will change, but as for now it’s kept me out of trouble. The man did stay and listen to all of the stories we shared that day and told us he understood them and enjoyed them, so I guess that’s a plus. We did however meet this really attractive African doctor the next day when we took this kid to get stitches and I told Melissa that if he asked me to marry him I would lower the asking price to 100 cows. We all had a good laugh, but he didn’t ask. I don’t know why not.
Sometimes I wonder what it would be like to marry a bush African. People here don’t usually marry for love. Women rarely refuse a marriage offer, even to be the third or fourth wife. I can’t imagine my husband dating other women and marrying other women while I was home taking care of the kids. Women do a majority of the household labor. They pound the food, cook the food, feed the kids, have the children, clean the compound, wash the clothes (by HAND), go to the well, carry the water, and basically everything else. The only thing the men do is plant and harvest and the women help with that too. There is just so much expected out of a wife. I really don’t think I could physically handle it. This week I went to the well and helped pull up five buckets of water (really they aren’t buckets, they are more like small rubber tarps tied to a ring of fabric and rope but buckets are easier to say) and I pulled two all by myself and now I have a pretty good sized blister that had already popped before I noticed it was there and it hurts. I can only pound for a little while before I get blisters from that too. I’m sure after a while I would get calluses and I would get stronger and it would get a bit easier, but I already get depressed because I’m dirty all the time. I don’t think I would ever get to feel pretty. Not to mention other wifely duties that I’m sure are not designed to meet her needs, but his. I wonder if men ever tell their wives that they are pretty or that they appreciate them. Apollos told us that Fulani don’t kiss. I guess I never even thought about that before. They have no need for it and it never crossed their minds to do such a thing. I can’t imagine marrying a man and never being able to kiss him. It’s really sad because I dearly love to kiss. I can’t imagine a world without kissing and romance in general. I bet these women have never heard fairly tales of handsome princes coming to save the damsel in distress. But then again, maybe I’ve heard too many of them. It seems to work for them. They laugh and joke and smile just like I do. I guess it’s just different, not better, not worse….just different.
There’s been a lot of excitement at our homestay compound lately. Hajia, one of our homestay moms, has officially claimed the Son as her S*vior. Each time we go to her compound she gathers everyone around to come sit and listen to the stories. We’ve been averaging around 25 people (including children) each time. Hajia’s excitement has been overflowing to everyone else. We’ve been able to share six different stories and every time a new person arrives Hajia makes sure we start from story one and catch them up on everything before moving on. Hajia has heard the first story enough that she has it completely memorized. Earlier that week Hajia’s sister was also there and she was so excited at the prospect of hearing stories that she literally began to jump up and down. She lives quite a ways from us, so Melissa copied off some tapes of the stories and sent them with her so she could listen to the whenever she wanted. The only requirement for the tape was that she had to share with at least two other people after she listened to them. I can see Dad working all over the place in this village.
Well, last weekend was my birthday …it was also our first full weekend without electricity at Melissa’s. We go without electricity everyday during the week and we really look forward to it on the weekends. Last weekend, however, was a bummer in regards to electricity. The power usually goes in and out, but this was the first time it went out and stayed out for a while since we’ve been here. We came in on Friday night so I could my entire birthday at Melissa’s (my birthday was on Saturday) and the power was already out. We waited and waited for it to come back on, but it didn’t. That night we all pulled our mattresses and couch cushions into the living room to sleep because there was a slight breeze coming from the door and the window in there. I awoke the next morning to a lovely birthday surprise…SNOW!!! That’s right, there was snow in Africa for my birthday. Since the power had been off for quite a while the freezer had begun to defrost and Melissa had pulled a big chunk of “snow” out and proceeded to break it apart and throw it on us as we slept in the living room floor dying of heat. It was a wonderful beginning to the 22nd year of my life…snow in Africa. We had biscuits and gravy, scrambled eggs and bacon for breakfast. Linds and the other girls had decorated my place at the table with confetti and balloons. It was super special. Then we got dressed and headed into Maradi to use the internet and go to the pool. The internet wasn’t working so I had a minor breakdown and cried. Melissa and Linds felt really bad, but it had nothing to do with them, so they let me open up two of my birthday presents in the car. They were gifts that my mom had sent from home…two pickles in a pouch and some Reese’s peanut butter cups. My mother truly does love me. It brightened my day. We then hopped back in the car and went to lunch at a different place hoping that their internet might work. In the car, Lindsay and Lacey made ridiculous jokes to make me smile. We got to the place for lunch and their internet was horrible too. I was able to look at three different pages and send two emails to my advisor and we were there over two hours, but at least I got to do that. I would have posted a blog then, but blogger wouldn’t even come up at all. But anyways, from there we went to the pool and I had a pool party for my birthday. It was ridiculously hot, but fun. We are now in what they call the mini-hot season and the temperature gets up over 120 degrees some days. Most days we don’t look at the thermometer at all because it just makes it feel worse. As I sit here and write this at Melissa’s house, it’s 95.8 degrees, but the fans are on so I’m not even sweating. Speaking of Melissa’s house…so far this weekend the water has been out. We just came in this morning, but we don’t have any running water and we may have to go to the well if the water doesn’t come back on soon. Oh the joys of West Africa. I will never again take for granted running water and electricity. So, back to my birthday! The pool was a lot of fun. That evening we went back to Melissa’s and she made steak, baked potatoes and Italian noodles… all by flash light. I had a lovely rotic (romantic without the man) birthday dinner by candle light. That night we slept on Melissa’s porch because the house was too hot. We didn’t have power all day Sunday either and everything in Melissa’s fridge and freeze had thawed and some stuff had already begun to spoil. The power finally came back on around 8:30pm on Sunday night and Melissa hurried and cooked up all of the ras meat that had thawed but was still cold. We stayed in at Melissa’s on Monday this week too because we needed the rest and Linds and I needed to work on our Ethnographies. We weren’t able to during the weekend because our laptops needed electricity. Monday was restful and lovely.
Since we had a rather late start this week has flown by. We’ve been able to continue sharing our stories with the different compounds each day. Hajia’s compound is still as excited as ever. The chief has been gone a lot the past few weeks doing his chiefly duties in Maradi, so we haven’t seen him much. We are a bit concerned about him though. His kids have loved our stories and they ask to hear them often, but when the chief comes around his kids tell us not to share the stories because dad says it’s bad. We’ve questioned the kids about it, but they won’t give us any details, only that it’s bad when dad comes around. The chief claims to be a follower and we don’t have any idea why he would say such a thing. We’ve been yarping about a way to bring this up with the chief in a culturally appropriate manor and we’ve also been talking to our supervisor about it. Please keep it in your yarps too.
Well, it’s officially harvest time in the L.O.K (our village). The last few weeks have been filled with harvesting millet, beans, corn, peanuts and sorghum. It’s an exciting time to be out in the village. There is always work to be done and the scenery changes every day. One day Linds and I went out to take some pictures and ended up helping pick peanuts. I never realized what a peanut plant looks like until I a few weeks ago. The first time I ate a freshly picked peanut I was surprised that it wasn’t hard like the peanuts we eat out of a jar, but then Linds mentioned that all the peanuts we eat in the States are roasted in some way, shape or form. Fresh peanuts actually have a texture that is close to that of beans. Oh the things you learn in West Africa. I had also never seen women actually use the wind to separate the seed from the chaff until. The story of separating the wheat from the chaff from the Word has never been so real before. I made sure to take lots of pictures of it because I thought my dad would enjoy them back home. The Word comes to life in West Africa. Oh and I also never realized that you could eat field corn. Being from Nebraska, I grew up eating corn on the cob and I loved every second of it but we always ate sweet corn, never field corn. Field corn was for feed only. Here the only have field corn, so that’s what everyone eats. Also, they don’t usually boil it like we do back home, but they roast it over the fire and push the kernels off with their fingers and just pop it into their mouth. Only little children eat the corn off of the cob with their mouths. It’s actually pretty good. We’ve also discovered that you can pop millet similar to the way you pop popcorn. It doesn’t make fluffy white bite size pieces, but it does expand and tastes pretty good…especially for millet. I never would have thought in a million years that I would actually enjoy eating millet, but I do if it’s roasted like popcorn.
One of the perks of being in West Africa this time of year is the Marine Ball. I guess the birthday of the Marines is November 10th, so they hold a ball every year in honor of their birthday. This year Linds and I have chosen to go. I’m really excited. I guess all of the Marines in the country will be there…all nine of them. Melissa and Rachel will be going with us to the ball too. It’s been a really long time since we’ve been able to dress up and look cute and I can’t wait! Since we didn’t happen to pack any ball appropriate dresses on our way over here we get to have them made here. We were able to pick out fabric two weeks ago during our stay in Maradi and now the tailor is in the process of making them. My fabric has this bright blue, lime green, black and white firework-ish pattern all over it. It’s going to be a floor length strapless dress with a black satin sash. My mom also sent my bright blue high heels to go with it. I can’t wait!!! Plus, how many people ever get to go to a Marine Ball in West Africa? (And Marines are extremely attractive in their uniforms).
Food in the Bush
We’ve been getting a little more creative when it comes to meals in the bush. Lindsay and I have discovered how to make corn bread with tuna cans and a make shift Dutch oven. We’ve also been even braver with the can meats. Just a few days ago, we had fried spam and eggs for breakfast. It’s really not that bad. We’ve also been able to make the best salmon patties ever out of a pouch of salmon, one egg, some milk powder, stale Pringles and a little bit of oil. We’ve also discovered tons of different uses for laughing cow cheese and pepperoni. I really enjoy trying new things for dinner but I’m really scared that one of these days it’s going to turn out horrible, but so far so good. Oh and for my birthday my mom sent me Macaroni Grill in a box. It’s similar to the same idea as hamburger helper. It was a nice change of pace to eat Macaroni Grill in the bush of Africa. Mom also sent homemade salsa and a small box of Velveeta cheese so we had nachos in the bush last week too. I lost a bit of weight during homestay, but since then I’ve been able to gain a little bit of it back and for the past two months I’ve been able to maintain my weight. My body has finally adjusted to Africa and I’ve been able to adjust my diet to my body. I’m healthy and happy now. Please continue to keep our health in your yarps though because a lot of people are getting sick this time of year and we are realizing how short of a time we have left, we don’t want to be sick for the rest of it.
More of My Heart
The past month has been hard as always, but it’s easier than it was. The “wall” part of culture shock is gone for the time being and now it’s just the struggles of day to day living. I’m not sure how much I’ve mentioned in the past about the storying we are able to do with an MP3 player, but we’ve been able to download a series of 34 stories in Fulfulde from creation to the return of the Son and also so some indigenous pr*ise music in Fulfulde. Melissa also gave us some battery powered speakers so we can share the stories with large groups of people. Our days consist of going from compound to compound sharing the stories and music and then asking if they understand and if they have any questions. We are around story six in most compounds and it’s about Abraham and his sons. This is a big place for division among followers and Muslims. So, please yarp about this. Since we’ve began going from compound to compound we’ve been able to establish a little bit of a routine. We go to Hajia’s on Mondays and Wednesdays, we also go to the old woman behind Hajia’s on Wednesday, Sambo’s on Tuesday, and on Thursday we go to Adamo’s. We leave Friday open for the chief’s and anyone else’s that we missed throughout the week. With our schedule has come a sense of accomplishment that was much needed. I now feel like we are accomplishing significant things each day. It’s really helped me find purpose in being here and has helped me to stay. Currently I’m saddened by the thought of leaving and I never thought that day would come. Don’t get me wrong, I love home, but I love things here too.