Thursday, November 22, 2007

van gogh, vomit, & chickens

i am realizing that i really underestimated the beauty of senegal, particularly the kaolack region. i was originally somewhat disappointed about being sent to kaolack because based on my dymyst experience i thought it was ugly and depressing. but this morning i went out o the fields to help gather peanuts and i couldn't help but feel i was in a van gogh painting...except with baobabs. my village is blessed with beauty and we even have a valley with a pond and water lillies and reeds and birds who come to swim and rest. being out in the fields and the vast landscape i can completely understand the impressionist artists' fasciation with how light and color manipulates visual perception.

but of course -- as it has been proven to me time and time again -- the romanticism can't last and the comedy that is my life makes sure that amongst all this beauty and peace, i get sick to my stomach and find myself running out to the bush and spewing millet and milk (aka breakfast) all over the paftan (a common shrub here) in front of my brother (talla), one of his wives, and a bunch of other community members out in the field. this, of course, freaks them out and i am terribly annoyed with myself that the day i go out to the fields i have to get sick. i'm sure they are wondering what good i am if i going out to gather peanuts makes me blow chunks. whatever. i spend the rest of the morning trying to atone for my weakness while they all try to get me to rest. my stubborness (is that a word?) won't allow me to and i don't need it anyway, i feel a gazillion times better now that i've woccu'ed (woccu = vomit in wolof) and i'm tired of sitting around and not moving.

i tried to avoid lunch but could not screw up the nerve to refuse so i forced it down an then took a nap for most of the afternoon. after waking up i felt a lot better and went out to another village to make visits. i think the expectation is that i will work with them too and i have no qualms with that.

the highlight of the evening is that aram's (one of my sister-in-laws) dad gave me a chicken! a rooster who is balding at the neck. my first chicken! what generosity. i really am touched by this gesture. i named him pedro and everybody got a huge kick out of that. i had to explain that back in the states we name our animals and now they are all calling him "pedro" in one way or another. i've been trying to influence the kids to treat the animals better (sometimes i want to liberate all the poor donkeys!) by simply being really nice to the animals. they think i'm wacky for petting the horses and cooing at the cats, but whatever. when i introduced pedro to the chicken coop i said "bismillah!" (a term of welcome) and they all just about died laughing. the attempt has kind of backfired in that they paid TOO much attention to pedro and the poor little guy was terribly traumatized because all the kids gathered around screaming "PEDRO!!!!" and trying to pet him and help him, aka pulled him squawking and screaming out from under the stick bed he was hiding under. it's okay. he's a chicken and he'll get over it. i think a lesson was learned: not that we should be nice to our animals but that toubabs are nuts and anthromorphosize everything, even down to their very chickens. i figure he will be happy here and knock up a few chickens and help bring in some dough (quite the prolific gift!). i sure hope he doesn't give me bird flue. and i sure hope i don't ever have to face the situation of having to eat pedro.

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