"Goodbye is bad." This is a common saying among the Fulani. As a whole, the do not like goodbyes, and I don’t blame them. Personally I hate goodbyes. I’m not a fan of change. But as our time here comes to an end we are preparing to say “Fi alto” (goodbye) with no intention of coming back unless “Allah jatbe,” or “Father accepts.”
The past few weeks have been hard. Last week was Thanksgiving, a traditional American holiday celebrated with family and I was 6360 miles (thanks to the GPS) away from my family. We had no turkey or pecan pie, matter of fact we didn’t even celebrate Thanksgiving on Thursday, instead we celebrated on Saturday with ham. Lindsay and I did make a box of Stovetop stuffing for lunch on Thursday and we spread out some leaves that Linds’ mom had send to decorate the table. We held hands and prayed over our stuffing and told Dad some of the things in life we were most thankful for. This year I was thankful for things that I had always taken for granted before.
This year I am thankful for:
Fast Food chains (nothing about food is fast here)
Before Africa I would never have thought to be thankful for most of those things and if by chance I did think of them I would never have been genuinely thankful for them. Now, I am genuinely thankful for electricity.
Now this is going to sound silly, but I was more upset about missing Black Friday shopping than I was about missing Thanksgiving. That sounds very materialistic, which I am, but that’s not the reason I love Black Friday shopping. I love Black Friday shopping because I get to wake up before the sun is even close to rising and spend the whole day hanging out with my mom. My mother is pretty much the single most wonderful person in the world. She’s reason I’m in Africa now. No matter what challenge I am faced with in my life, she always assures me “it’s do-able.” For as long as I can remember my mom has always allowed me to go Black Friday shopping with her. We always take some leftover turkey to munch on and stand in line at Wal-Mart to be there when the doors open even though there’s really nothing that we need. We just go for the experience. Then we hurry to Menards then to K-Mart, because they have cheap pop and my dad is mildly addicted to Diet Mountain Dew, then we hit a few more stores and stop for lunch at Village Inn or Perkins. Mom and I always get a big meal and split it because we’re hungry but not that hungry due to the fact we’ve been munching on turkey all morning long. I wonder who she split lunch with this year? After lunch we go back home to hide the goods. Then we take a long nap and wake up in time for dinner. But the fun doesn’t stop there. From that day until Christmas, mom and I know all the presents. It’s our secret. I get to help wrap everything and I know almost every present before it’s opened. But… this year I missed it. I won’t lie, it made me cry. But now next year I have something else to add to my thankful list.
Praise to the Father, our Ethnographies are turned in! Now we only have a few more things to do before we leave. Ever since we turned them in I’ve found multiple things each day that I wish I would have been able to add to it. It seems so incomplete now.
This week was our last full week in the village. We got out to the bush late Monday afternoon after stopping in town to use internet. As soon as we arrived at the village everyone began telling us about a dance that was to happen that evening. Lindsay and I were super excited. We finished dinner and got ready to go. The drummers were staying at our place so we waited until they had finished eating then we left. It was dark by this time. The kids told us that we would need some money so Linds and I grabbed some small coins on the way out. The kids grabbed our hands and we ran through the millet fields to a clearing where the band had set up. The band consisted of five African men, four drummers and one shouter/singer. We thought we were late since we had to run through the field to get there, but it turned out we were the lame kids that got to the party before it started. We watched the drummers warm up and we wished that the temperature would do the same. The later it got the colder it got. Finally other people arrived and it was time to dance. The girls went first. They held their brightly sequined scarves above their heads and twirled about moving their feet as fast as they could. For a while Linds and I were convinced that you could tell how good a dancer was by the amount of dust that they kicked up. They tried to get us to go out there but we told them we didn’t know how. Finally they convinced Linds to go and everyone LOVED it! I was still unsure how I felt about the whole thing. After all it was just a huge circle of people standing around watching one person dance at a time, I like being the center of attention, but this was a little much even for me. After Linds danced twice I finally got up the courage to do it too. It turned out to be quite fun. Linds and I both did it individually once more, getting a little braver each time. Then we gave the drummers some money and the shouter yelled a lot of stuff in Hausa which we were told meant thank you. Then people started giving money to the shouter and they would tell the shouter something and then he would yell it everyone. Sometimes people would give money to see certain people dance. Some men would pay for their sons to dance, and others would pay to see the young girls dance. Men and women would give money and say something to the shouter and everyone would laugh and people would get up to dance. Linds and I were pretty much clueless for most of the evening because all of the drummers were Hausa and even though everyone there to dance was Fulani they still all spoke Hausa. Linds and I only know a few words in Hausa so we weren’t able to understand much of what was going on. After a while we were getting tired and it was getting cold so we moved to the end of the circle and sat down for a little bit. Then all of a sudden everyone was looking at us and the shouter and some other men were shining there flashlights on us and everyone was saying our names. Apparently someone had given money to see us dance. However, since the last time we dance their dances had gotten a lot more complex. Plus, there were a lot more people around now, probably around 50 at least. But we hopped up and we quickly planned what we were going to do and out we went. I followed Linds’ lead and we walked around the circle moving our scarves from side to side then we counted to three and jumped, from there we moved our feet as fast as we could and spun in circles. We made it our goal to kick up as much dust as possible. In the mean time, I broke my shoe! So I had to exit the circle. I found some of the palm leafy plants and fixed it by tying a leaf through it. It worked for the evening, but it would have to really be fixed later. Linds and I got called out to dance once more before the evening was over. It’s kind of creepy knowing people are paying to see you dance, but it was most definitely a family affair, so that helped a little. Jemma, Tetdari, Jimma, Sambo and Doodoo were all there dancing the night away with us. Ardo didn’t go because he was said he was too old, but Doodoo has to be much older than he is. He missed out. It was definitely a night I’ll remember for the rest of my life. We didn’t take a camera, but now I’m glad because a photo could never do my memories justice.
The next day everyone slept in a little and drank a lot of ashi. I had left my shoes outside that night and someone had come by and refixed it by tying a new palm leaf to it and cutting off the extra. I was very thankful. It’s amazing how many things they use those palm leaves for, they are so strong. We met with Ardo for tea that afternoon. When Ardo saw what had happened to my shoe, he set about to fix it for me too. He takes good care of us. He untied the palm leaf and had one of his kids go get some coals, a knife and an old flip flop. He used the coals to heat up the knife and cut the part I was missing off the old broken flip flop. He then heated up the knife again and melted the part he had just cut off on to my shoe. He heated up the knife a few more times to smooth out the edges and make sure it was on good. In the states, I would never have thought about fixing a flip flop, we would just go buy more. Here they don’t have extra money so the save everything they can and they fix even their flip flops. Since Ardo had the stuff out, he went ahead and fixed another broken shoe too. I really felt like family.
That evening when Linds and I were eating dinner all of the women from the village came to talk to Ardo. Ardo had moved his chair over by us to let us listen to the radio with him, so everyone was sitting right by our house. It’s inappropriate for a Fulani to watch people eat or to eat in front of people, so Linds and I hurried up to finish our dinner and gave the women our extra food. We happened to be having corn bread and chicken alfredo that night. They eat up all of the corn bread and continued passing the alfredo around trying to get someone to eat it. This was really funny because our homestay mom’s were there and this was the first time we had been able to cook for them since they had cooked for us for a whole month and they didn’t like our food. We considered this pay back for the multiple times a day they fed us millet. Finally Ardo’s mom gave the food to some kids to finish. Then all of the women began to say that they had heard about our dancing and were sad they missed it. Then Jemma started making drumming noises with her mouth and all the women began asking us to dance for them. Linds and I agreed and I got my scarf and we performed the same routine we had the night before and they absolutely loved it. We all laughed for a long time afterwards. They told us we knew how to dance well and told us that we were Fulani. Then the women got down to business. They told the chief the concerns that had brought them there that night. They spoke quickly and it was hard to follow. Many numbers were thrown about and lots of mention of money and the lack there of. After the women left, Ardo told us that every six months he collects a certain amount of money from the women of the village. He then takes all of the money he collects and puts it into a bank account in town. I didn’t even realize that there was a bank in town. The women had come to discuss how much money would be collected and debate how much money should be collected from each woman. We’re still not exactly sure what the money will be used for, but we think it acts as their insurance policy.
After the women’s meeting, I got out the hot tea and hot chocolate mixes my mom had sent in a package earlier and Linds and I began to boil some water. Ardo, Jemma, Laidy, and Ardo’s mom were all still hanging around our compound so we decided to make some for them too. We had made hot tea for them several times before but this time we had quite the variety to chose from so we spread them out all over our mat and asked them to chose whichever one they wanted. We tried to explain what each one was, but it’s hard when they don’t have words for it in their language. Laidy and Ardo’s mom chose raspberry hot chocolate, Ardo chose wild berry tea and Jemma chose Earl Grey tea. We made each one their own cup and they were overwhelmed because ashi comes in a shot glass so I think they thought they would only have to drink a little of it. Laidy and Ardo’s mom loved theirs and they let Jemma and Ardo try it. Ardo liked it so much that he had Laidy pour some into his tea and then proclaimed it to taste like chutum. At first I was greatly offended by this and then we all had a good laugh. How dare they tell me that my specialty hot chocolate tastes like spoiled milk mixed with dirty water and millet! After a while I realized that in a way it was a compliment, they thought it tasted like something a real Fulani would make, and they liked it!
Wednesday and Thursday went by rather uneventfully. We spent the days giving away all of the stuff that we would no longer need and trying to get things organized. We also continued to story at each compound. On Wednesday Mike went to the next village over to pick up Sidi, the man whose ‘swimming’ we were able to attend a few months ago, so that he would share the story about ‘swimming’ with Hajia’s compound and the new believers there. It went over really well. The women asked really good questions about if they followed this path would they still be able to have bouki’s (baby naming ceremonies) and other good stuff like that.
We have only two more days out in the bush. I’m not good at goodbyes, so yarp a lot! I’m looking forward to seeing you all soon.