Monday, December 31, 2007

toys and/or trash?

dame got new sandals today -- they squeak when he walks. the best part is that he's afraid of the squeaky noise and doesn't understand where it's coming from. he thinks the noise is coming from behind him so he runs (or quickly totters), which only increases the squeaking and thus, it is a cycle he cannot break.

i've been thinking about the kids and their lack of toys, particularly because now that they are totally comfortable with having me around, they come in asking for the strangest things to play with. okay, not the strangest, considering that when i was a kid i played with buttons and spider carcasses, but i guess in my adult stage, i've forgotten how much fun a tictac in a tictac box can be or the entertainment value of a string tied around an old ring.

my american paranoid nature is also freaked out to see the kids putting plastic bags on their heads (suffocation!) and batting around old batteries (choking hazard! punctured battery = acid all over hands and face!). even a sheet of colorful paper (paper cuts!) will be passed around as lovingly as american kids would pass around a furby or tamagachi or whatever it is that american kids play with these days.

i complain about how creativity is not really fostered in the children here, but regardless of all the american art classes, crayons, coloring books, crafts, etc., american kids are equally -- if not more -- void of an imaginative spirit. some others & i were just recently musing about how we no longer even see tv commercials for board games anymore. these days, our mechanized, electronic world does the thinking for children and leave adults like me thinking that the kids in senegal will be better off leaving behind their plastic bags and bits of metal odds and ends for "real" toys. is that development? does "development" coincide with children losing the ability to find fun in filling an old can with dirt? i don't know -- because it makes me sad to see that, but it also makes me sad to see a child glued to a computer screen with only their eyeballs and right hand on a mouse moving.

i always felt that my mother gave me a good balance of toys and imagination. as a kid, i could spend hours pounding nails into a plank of wood just as much as i could play with my barbie dreamboat. i want to play with the kids here and introduce them to art and games and toys, but how much is too much? will i spoil them? will i give them a taste of a life that is only available when aissatou the volunteer is around? essentially, the kids are playing with what i deem to be trash, but who's to say that tickle me elmo or matchbox cars aren't trash either?

Thursday, December 27, 2007

merry belated christmas, happy new year

christmas in the bird park was fun and great and i got a few good photos up on my flickr. got to see pelicans (lots), warthogs, crocodiles, and a python wrapped up in a tree.

there are also some pictures of some people and my hair and other mundane details about my life on flickr.

hope you all had a good christmas. mine was nice and in good company but it definitely felt miles (or perhaps, kilometers?) away from what i'm used to.

will be at site and probably away from internet for the next 3 weeks. and then it is off to IST (in-service training) for a few weeks. how nuts is that? time is flying but not really either. weird. things are sometimes kind of shitty but i am trucking through and am too stubborn to give up yet.

love you all and happy 2008!

Saturday, December 22, 2007


so we slaughtered our ram today and maybe it is the mongol in me but i didn't really mind the slaughter at all. i found it to be quite decent and respectful. i'm also proud to say that it was my knife that slaughtered not one but four sheep. i helped cook by cutting potatoes, onions, and pounding spices. cutting potatoes and onions without a cutting board is super hard and i sliced my hand in the process so sheep's blood wasn't all that was shed today.

too bad they don't drink here because the fresh sheep meat would be perfect with a gigantic glass of wine and it almost feels like a waste to eat this meat accompanied by water. they stuffed me full of food and i don't think i've ever eaten so much sheep in my life.

in the afternoon, i was sitting in my room and kids started coming to my door dressed in their finest and with bowls. i remembered bamba had told us about this but i couldn't remember the exact details so we just stared at each other through the screen of my door while they mumbled some words and i just told them i didn't understand then. i went to ask aram and turns out i'm supposed to give them 25CFA?! who knew? i had no change and made a big fool out of myself in front of the kids who find me funny looking enough so now they have another reason to laugh at me.

then all the women got dressed up to the nines and we went and visited every compound, which is plenty of fun for everybody -- if you speak wolof. and i don't. so i just felt dumb and intrusive and rather left out and abandoned by fatou and aram but then again, how often do they get to get dressed up and get out of the compound and have fun with their friends? (the answer is: quite rarely.) i know that i would have done the same thing if i were going out with my friends and had to drag along the strange foreigner who has no idea what's going on in terms of language AND culture. still, i wound up feeling rather homesick at the end of the day and i've noticed that every major holiday here winds up making me feel that way because it just makes me think about how much i miss my family and friends and holidays back at home.

shelley, JC, and i are going up north to a famous bird park for christmas which should be a nice, albeit expensive, adventure. that should be cool because it already is exciting for me to see wild green parakeets in the trees (not cages!) around here so who knows what this bird park will be like.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

another list

1) happy anniversary, daddy and mommy!

2) i've just realized that fatou is pregnant. maybe 3 or 4 months? that or homegirl's getting fat.

3) i just got my hair braided for tabaski. it took forever. i also got "mees" (i think the wolof-frenchified way of saying "mesh"?) braided into it to make my hair longer and since it is textured i have now fulfilled my lifelong dream of having nappy hair.

4) we have a baby goat! it was born while they were braiding so i missed the birth. i guess it is such a common thing that they didn't realize it would be a big deal for me to witness. well, at least i'm getting to witness the afterbirth. it is way gross.

5) dame (pronounced "dom") the baby peed on me last night and again today. then he pooped in my hut. dame 4, me 0.

Monday, December 17, 2007

no electricity = over thinking

an interesting day in several respects, ranging from the superficial to more abstract realizations and "epiphanies."

superficial first:
1) luma (market) day in birkelane. more importantly, the luma before tabaski, so it was kind of nuts and moreover, SHEEP EVERYWHERE. tabaski is the "day of sacrifice," commemorating when abraham was tested by God (genesis 22). God told abraham to sacrifice isaac, his beloved son, as a test of his commitment. abraham was just about to do so when God was all "HOLD THE PHONE, IT WAS JUST A TEST" and there was a ram tangled up in the bushes for abraham to sacrifice instead. anyhow, tabaski celebrates that so everyone and their mom buys a ram and we will have a huge day of ram slaughtering in our nice new clothes and weaves (holidays here seem to always involve new clothes and weaves). back to the point, i've never seen so many freakin' sheep in my life. i should have gotten a picture but i didn't but there is always next year, inshallah.

2) i was recognized TWICE on separate occasions today in the market from that damn peace corps skit that was on RTS-1 that i performed in at swear-in.

3) for tabaski i bought the "henna" stuff that the women put on their feet and hands because i thought it would be fun and i just want to fit in. this "henna" isn't like the stuff in india, fyi. also, rumor has it that there might be rat poison in the black dye to give it its color. hmm. if i don't die from the rat poison, pictures will definitely be taken to document this.

"deeper" things:
1) what a friend i have in JC. in this case, not jesus christ (well, i always have a friend in jesus christ) but jean-camille (here, penda). i am glad that we can meet every sunday at the luma. getting to bitch and moan about how frustrating things have been for me helped immensely and i feel relieved. as silly as it is, i think i just needed somebody to agree with me and my frustrations and to legitimize how i was feeling and the acknowledgment that yeah, this is damn hard and i am allowed to feel like crap sometimes. moreover, JC said at some point "you are too hard on yourself." this is definitely not the first time i've heard those words said to me; many wise people (as well as unwise...) have told me this: my parents, leanne, sister peggy, professor sandis, all my trainers at the peace corps training center so and maybe it is about time that i listen and take it into account. i wonder why i am like this but more importantly: WHAT AM I GOING TO DO ABOUT IT AND HOW CAN I CHANGE?

2) being in birkelane and a lively environment again was invigorating. village life and its simplicity can really eat at my patience and makes me crave diversity and noise and fast-paced life and while birkelane is 1/100,000,000th what NYC is, it gives me a jolt of that craziness i miss. i don't feel so trapped and i get to dictate where i go and when and just being able to talk to so many people and go from conversation to conversation, i feel a little more like myself and in control (control freak!) of my situation. i often feel helpless in the village -- both because i am and also because talla can treat me like i am incapable. he is entirely well-intentioned but i think a) my lack of language skills gives the impression that i can't do anything and b) he has no inkling of what my life was like in the states. i've tried to explain to him that before i came here i lived by myself in a gigantic city and traveled by myself but i think that his lack of knowledge of what is outside of western africa and the male-dominated/patriarchal culture here does not allow him to fully understand that (neither factors are really his fault). personal goal #7543: by the end of 2 years, show talla and all men i encounter and work with that i am just as good (if not better!) than any male out there.

3) because of today i was reinvigorated and determined to quit being such a baby and suck up my misery. as a consequence i was super chatty today and discovered that once i force people beyond the same old conversations, we can have decent talks and i can see that my wolof hasn't completely gone out the palanteer (window). it's still there, i just have to use it. i was chatty mchatterson today and surprised myself as to how motivated i was to talk and learn. everybody seemed very pleased by my efforts. now i just have to keep it up.

4) i give a certain amount of money to my family for my food and water expenses a month. its a bit too much considering that we garden most of our own vegetables (a good thing!) but at the same time, there are 13 of us here living on subsistence farming so i don't mind too much if that money goes towards family expenses such as books for the kids or new clothes because this is my family and how can i sit here with my pimp hut and nice things and an allowance that is more than sufficient in senegal while the rest of them squeeze into two huts and kids run around in clothes that are more than worn out (that's putting it nicely)? now, i really don't understand the dynamics of this family yet, particularly one that is polygamous and i don't want to pass judgement and i want to remain culturally sensitive but today was kind of confusing. because talla has two wives (fatou & aram), usually one goes to the market while the other stays at home (they take turns). today fatou returned with LOTS of really nice new clothes and ornaments for herself and the kids (the majority for the kids) for tabaski. i don't know if that money was hers or mine or maybe my money went to buying a sheep or maybe talla uses the money for my expenses only. plus, i have seen loads of women in the market making the same purchases for the holiday, so the money isn't really the issue. what did make me uneasy was that she had bought clothes for both sets of kids and had gotten really nice pretty dresses and outfits for her kids and nothing very nice or special for the other set of children. BUT THEN AGAIN, aram had been at the market last sunday when i went to kaolack so i never got to see what she brought back so who knows, maybe she got pimp clothes for her kids and plain clothes for the others last sunday so who am i really to make any suspicions until tabaski comes around and i see what everybody is wearing. i think i am still rather close-minded about this polygamy thing and i will probably remain this way as i personally don't really want to share my husband with anybody else -- and that's fine. what IS bad though is that i am still attaching my westernized negative stigma to polygamy -- that there is internal, unspoken (or maybe spoken) tension and competition between wives and that they will maliciously undercut each other or what not to win out. all the books and novels and movies have made me believe this and this is the first time that i am PERSONALLY experiencing polygamy in action and i want to understand how it works free of all the assumptions that books and media have made for me. basically, while i watched the scene unfold before me, i sensed myself making up a situation that may or may not exist based on preconceived notions of a system i don't condone when i really ought to just observe, hold my judgement, and then assess when i find out/experience/see what is REALLY going on.

anyway, it is late now and my parents just called me and i cried like a baby (my first time since getting here, other than when lamine passed away) and i feel a million times better and am ready to take on this week. thank god for them.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

one month in

today marks a month since i've been here on site.

unfortunately, it is also marked with some disappointment as in the past week or so, i have developed some increasing frustrations with my life here. perhaps the romanticism of village life has worn off and the city girl in me is growing restless and impatient.

i am learning -- or quickly realizing -- the reality of "social change's" slow moving ways and as i am 1/3 of the way through my "community integration" stage, my progress has been slow. my language skills have not developed. if anything, i feel that they have digressed as there are no patient speakers here to prod me along as there were at the training center in thies. i can't remember the last time i had a real conversation with anybody in wolof. most conversations here revolve around who i am (many times this can last quite a while because i must insist repeatedly that i am american and not chinese or japanese), where i am from, why i'm here, why i can't bring anybody to the states or give them money, and why i don't have a husband (which to most people is shocking as i am past the marrying age, here i am probably already considered an "old maid"). i have grown tired of these "conversations" very quickly.

life here is slow and monotonous. the daily routine of life is predictable and i have completely lost the anonymity and fast-paced life i once had in new york and i now realize that i should have treasured those aspects of my life far more than i did. my unhappiness here has nothing to do with not being able to deal with the lack of electricity or internet or the western luxuries that i thought i would miss. it doesn't bother me (too much) to not have a toilet or running water. in fact, that's been the easiest part of adjusting and i am pretty sure that i can do all of this for 2 years. turns out, it isn't very difficult to give those things up.

what is difficult is constantly being misinterpreted and misunderstood and having to deal with people's assumptions about me. there is little i can do to assert myself or make myself clear or to express who i am. moreover, nobody really cares to know the specifics. i can see how i have probably done this to others back at home. i think back to the times when i failed to recognize this and in my own curiosity asked somebody questions that probably everybody else asked. challenge: when you meet somebody new and clearly not from the states, don't ask them all those typical questions (where are you from, what are you studying, etc.) but something interesting like what did their house look like or who is their favorite national author. it gives them a break from the same old crap questions and also a chance to work on their language skills.

it is also hard to know what to do, as my incentive here are to integrate myself into the community, which is quite abstract. as a task-oriented person, it bewilders me to wake up to a day with no clear plan or idea of what to do or what to get done. perhaps i should undertake some projects, but i have limited resources and there requires steady patience as obtaining materials requires trips out to major towns/cities and this in and of itself is quite difficult to do.

we were well warned of the frustrations we would encounter in these three months but i suppose i did not prepare myself well enough. i am not happy just sitting around waiting for things to happen nor do i find satisfaction in a life of constant confusion and misunderstanding. for example, yesterday i went out to another village to witness a baptism but even though i was told where i was going, nobody actually explained to me what was going on. they used a word for the ceremony that i had not learned and rather than anybody trying to explain to me what i was about to see, they gave up and just dragged me along. i didn't figure out it was a baptism until the baby was brought out and i gathered some hints from the gifts that were gathered. why did nobody try to explain to me what was going on? because i failed to understand where we were going and what for, i arrived at the baptism improperly dressed, bearing no gifts, and completely unprepared for the enormous amount of people that i would have to talk to and introduce myself to.

it doesn't help that i have just finished reading nelson mandela's autobiography "a long walk to freedom" and working my way through che guevara's "bolivian diary" where there are these great revolutionary minds working and striving for active social change. meanwhile, my striving for active social change involves cleaning poop off of children and sweeping my hut.

one month in and i am unsatisfied and frustrated and somewhat unhappy in many aspects, from the stupid little things such as my increasing weight gain from food i don't even enjoy very much (empty carbs, empty carbs, and more empty carbs) to the more grandiose such as the somewhat apathetic attitudes about life and change i encounter in the village.

analysis (in the spirit of che guevara):
in the past week or so i have been plagued with nagging feelings of going home and it is not good for me to have more negative moments and thoughts than positive ones throughout the day. i can only hope that this is a phase and i will soon get over it and enjoy my life here again. i have also found myself looking for excuses, people, and situations to blame for my general unhappiness and frustration, and this is not good either as i am not taking responsibility for my own feelings and looking for scapegoats. i need to confront my frustration head on but often find that retreating and moping around in my hut is a lot easier than...what? i don't even know what to do in order to combat this slump.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

take a tour of my hut

if you want to see what my hut looks like these days, take a look at my flickr page.

there's also a picture of pedro for your viewing pleasure. he is a very handsome fellow.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

puup ak saw

so i was lying in bed reading nelson mandela's autobiography and he is just about to be released from 27.5 years in prison when awa (one of the kids) hollers for me to come outside. ugh.

i begrudingly drag myself outside and there is beye (the kid i like the least -- he is spoiled, dirty, and quite rotten) standing there with his pants at his knees sucking on a lollipop with shit running down his legs. you have to be kidding me. i look around and there is absolutely nobody in sight as once again, i have been left alone at the compound to play reluctant babysitter so i guess i can either suck it up and do something about it or let the damn kid stand there with poop all over his legs until his mother gets back. i really don't like this kid so i was close to choosing the latter but i guess my more compassionate side came out and after cussing at him in english, i started the awful procedure of cleaning him up.

i just ran out of toilet paper the other day and since tp is a western novelty and luxury (that i've been trying to wean myself off of), i wasn't going to find any on this compound and would have to do this with my hand (left, of course) and water. iv'e seen what this kids eat -- everything, all the time -- so it's not like cleaning up baby poo or horse crap, this is legitimate nasty ass shit that is smelly, chunky, and sticky.

first, pants and shoes must go. i get no help from the dumb kid and his two sisters just stand there and watch. as soon as i grab a pant leg i realize that i've landed straight in poo. this is not going well and i just want to push the kid into the dirt and let him handle his own problems. i get his sandals and pants off finally and get a stick and try to scrape off the crap but really just manage to smear it around some more. i give up on the stick and decide to just use my hand already. it's an awful awful sensation to have to do this but i try to think that there are grosser things in life that i've done (but just can't seem to think of any) and that i can do this.

finally i remember that i have baby wipes! yes! i brought them from the states and was actually chastised for bringing them but little did anyone know that i would have to clean up kid poop, right?

hooray, the baby wipes work! i get to scrubbing him down and i'm on my third baby wipe when i hear my name being called. i forget my manners and don't even bother to finish my greetings and just yell out "CAN YOU HELP ME?!?" in comes our next door neighbor -- i shamefully don't remember her name -- and i flounder around for some words but thank god "poop" is the same thing in wolof (except spelled p-u-u-p) and she immediately gets it. she takes over for me and is twenty times more badass than me and doesn't hesitate to use her hands and to really get in there and clean the kid up.

to make the story even better (because it can always get worse even when i think it can't) a few hours later i'm sitting around with the women and dom, the baby i actually like a lot, had crawled into my lap and is sitting there gurgling away and all of a sudden all the kids are freaking out and dragging him off of me because lo and behold, he peed all over my lap.

just livin' the dream, folks. just livin' the dream.

Monday, December 3, 2007

biking through the bush

yesterday (saturday) some of the kaffrine area volunteers met up for beers and tangana sandwiches. even though i had just been in kaffrine the other day, i decided to go for it and what more, i decided to bike there, knowing that it is a pretty intense trip, about 15K through the bush but it has got to be done at some point and my fat ass hasn't done much strenuous activity.

just as i'm about to go the route i learned taking the charette the day prior, talla tells me to go a different way that is "moo genn yoom" (easier) because it goes to the paved road. i debate in my head for a little bit if i should follow his advice but figure what do i know about the bush over somebody who's lived here for years so i take the road recommended.

i essentially don't know where i'm going so i can't really estimate how far i am going, how long it will take me to get through the bush, and what the distance will be when i finally get to the paved road. of course every village i pass through i have to greet and answer questions and deal with stares and comments and it's also quite amazing as to how far the news of my existence has gone. everybody knows me but i know nobody. at some point, i take the wrong road and am chased down by a bunch of kids who show me the right path. i suppose the benefit of having to answer all the questions about "fooy dem?" ("where are you going?") is that it is quite impossible to get lost since everybody and their mom (i love that that phrase is totally appropriate and accurate in this country) knows where i'm going.

i sweat and pant and suffer through the bush -- more than half the time i am plowing through sand and luckily it is one of the "colder" days because i am pouring sweat and can't even imagine how it would be if it were one of those searingly hot mornings. the ride is really freaking' hard -- up and down hills and through sand and everything in the bush looks the same which only increases the feeling of "WHEN IS THIS OVER?!"

FINALLY i get to the main road and feel triumphant and ready to take on this paved road to kaffrine. it is a long stretch of road but i've already ridden through the bush for what seems like forever -- it can't possibly be too far. i start biking and realize that my front tire is flat! not entirely noticeable in the sand (in fact, i've been told that flat is better for sand?) but completely noticeable on the paved road and makes biking 10 times harder. no worries -- i can deal. i'm trying to stay positive despite the fact that i'm sweaty, aching, exhausted, and very well aware as to how out of shape i've gotten in the short time i've been here (quite discouraging). every now and then on the road is a stone marker indicating how many K is left to the next major city and i approach one and can't wait to see how close i am to cold beer and speaking english and friends.

i roll up to the stone and what does it say? 10K. kind of disheartening as i was expecting something like 4 or 5K left. the road just seems to stretch on forever with little sign of any city or town in sight and there are big trucks whizzing by me and my tire is getting flatter and my motivation is dissipating. i'm at the point of no return though and the only option i have is to keep on going. at some point, a 7-plaas barrels by me with a gigantic ram strapped to the top and it is bleating its head off and i can't believe it but i actually say out loud (to whom??), "i would give anything to be that sheep right now!!!"

after two hours of plowing through the bush and 10K of a flat tire, i finally make it to kaffrine and am rewarded with seeing two of my favorite people (JC and shelley) and they buy me biskrem (biscuits with chocolate creme filling) and later we get beers and tangana sandwiches with egg, onion, potatoes, mustard, and adja with a bunch of other PCVs.

i don't know how much of me can handle the ride back so i decide to leave my bike at joel's and pick it up when i return to kaffrine to get my furniture. i go back to wilanene (JC's site) but only after sitting on a log for about 2 to 3 hours waiting for a charette to bring us there during which we are approached by a lot of dumb guys with stupid crass and inappropriate things to say and ask us. it is unfortunate how these dicks behave particularly because there are so many good people here but then there are these douchebags who are just so awful and make me angry and i want to kick them in the babymaker.

woke up at 6 this morning to catch a charette into kaffrine to get an al hum to birkelane for the luma and to meet talla for my ride (charette ride, that is) back home. we get there early but are so tired it is hard to be enthusiastic about greeting and walking around or what not. turns out talla did not go to market but luckily i can't do anything without everybody finding out so a gazillion people tell me this and they've all figured out that mbay (maybe talla's brother?) will take me back to d. that's nice. it's weird how sometimes that lack of privacy is so annoying but most of the time it has actually helped me out in the long run. everybody knows my business and somehow it works to my benefit?

we have lunch with thiam and his wife and i meet his brother who is a teacher and wants to help me with wolof. nice. JC & I are so tired and worn out (from what??) that we are definitely not as on top of things as last sunday but what is notably good is that even though i'm exhausted and hungry and not feeling well and spacing out, my wolof is up to par and i can have conversations -- unlike the times where as soon as i lost focus i was completely unable to speak. i think it is an improvement or at least an indication of getting used to things.

i manage to remember that talla brings back oranges for everybody every sunday and do that as my sariche (a gift one brings back from having been away) and that was a totally good idea and everybody was happy. i am really really tired and i think tomorrow i go to kaffrine AGAIN to pick up furniture, inshallah.

Saturday, December 1, 2007

furniture escapades

i have a bed! it's amazing. i can't wait to sleep in it. and i have a bookcase and desk coming -- inshallah. but it was a long and arduous ordeal to get these things and i'm glad that it is a one time deal and all PCV's who inherit furniture from their anciennes are freakin' lucky (i don't have an ancienne -- aka predecessor -- because i am at a new site).

in order to get furniture we had to go to kaffrine which is about 15K away by charette. we stopped by toune, where talla's dad lives and where there used to be a PCV in order to measure his old furniture so that we knew what to tell the carpenter in kaffrine. we went to a guy that talla is friends with, hoping to get a good deal, but as soon as he saw me i saw the dollar signs light up in his eyes. it's frustrating sometimes when everybody assumes that us toubabs have a lot of money and subsequently don't mind paying astronomically jacked up prices. he kept trying to make my requests for a desk and shelf unit fancier and a few centimeters bigger. we also wanted him to make my bed, basically just the base board with crappy planks (seriously, we aksed for the leftover pieces of wood) nailed together across enough so that it would support me and the straw mattress. this dude wanted to add varnish and give me high quality wood when all i wanted was a few planks of wood nailed together so that i didn't have to run my life on the floor anymore. i was terribly annoyed as it is so hard to express myself right now and i knew i was being taken advantage of, but there was no way to verbalize my dismay or let the punk know that i knew what was up.

so, for a "bed," a desk, and a shelf unit, this dude charges me 37,250 CFA!!!!

i almost punched him in the face. $74USD for that shit?? no way! i could get a desk and shelf unit of better quality from freakin' IKEA for $74. he kept trying to give me this crap about how part of the price was "paying for the sweat" (aka labor) and if his labor cost me that freakin' much, i was better off buying the wood and trying to nail this crap together myself. man, was i really ticked off. what we were asking him to do was a $20, no more than $30, job.

i decided at that point to call emmy (a PCV who's been here for a year) and see if she would be willing to help me out -- at least with translating and to give me an idea of what is and ins't a reasonable price, because who knows, maybe 37,250CFA is accurate. i called her and nobody picked up. my heart sank a little because at that point i didn't know what to do and i wasn't understanding what talla was telling me our alternative was and i was just so set and eager on getting some freakin' furniture because it's all i've wanted for the past two weeks. just as i'm starting to stress and my high strung side is emerging, emmy texts me telling me she's not in town but tells me to contact joel (another PCV in the area who's been here for 9 months). i don't even know if joel remembers me but what the hell, i need help. luckily, he picked up and seemed to recall who i am and he's not busy! AND he's willing to come and help. and more so, he confirmes that 37,250 is outrageously expensive and this homie is trying to rip me off (jerk!).

so joel shows up and tries his magic on the carpenter but homie refuses to lower the price -- not even by a mil or two -- so we bounce because joel knows a guy who made him a decent table and stool and a place where we can get a bed. we first go to joel's carpenter who immediately recognizes him (a good sign) and offers to make my shelf unit for 10 mil which is still kind of expensive but cheaper than the first guy and the wood he is showing me is far better quality. moreover, he points out why it costs what it does by telling me the prices of each piece of wood he will use and it does seem to make sense. i agree.

we move on to discussing the desk. i originally wanted a big desk because i like to sprawl out but this will be 10 mil as well. this seems a little insane because how can a desk which is far less complicated and smaller be the same price as a gigantic shelf unit? joel mentions that his desk which is about a meter in length suits him fine and he paid 7 mil for it. the desk i wanted was to be a meter and 20 centimeters and somehow that costs me an extra 3 mil? i tell the guy i want the same desk as joel's and he tries to tell me that joel's desk is smaller than a meter. joel's not really sure if it is a meter or less so i am about to take the carpenter's word for it when he asks me (not so smartly) if i've seen joel's desk. i say i have -- even though i haven't, i don't even know where he lives -- but this makes me suspicious. i am 5 seconds away from giving into the 20 mil for a desk and shelf unit when i decide, what the hell, i'm going to joel's house to measure his desk regardless of how inconvenient it is for everybody. talla and joel agree and joel's house is only around the block anyhow. we go and measure the desk. it is a meter! AND, i want it a little shorter, anyhow. we go back to the carpenter and we all bear witness to the desk's length and i get my price of 17 mil for my desk and shelves which will be done monday (inshallah).

next, the bed. joel takes us to where he got his bed and it is a METAL bed with fancy tracery and sturdy and pretty and 20 times more quality than a baseboard make of leftover wood. moreover, the guy (boy, more like) has just finished painting it so it is fresh and ready to be sold. he says 15 mil. joel tells him he bought his bed which was the same thing at the same place for 13 mil. the guy agrees. just as i'm reaching for my money, the boy takes a look at me and changes it back to 15 mil! what?! i swear to God, i don't dress like a rich american here -- i wear a shirt and pagne (wrap skirt) -- most days the same one -- everyday and no make up, no fancy jewelry, my hair is always just piled on top of my head and i am always sweaty and grimy. i get pissy and screw manners: i call the kid out on the fact that i can understand him and he just changed the price from lower to higher and you can't do that. he sheepishly agrees to the 13 mil.

the paint, however, is not fully dry, so me, talla, and joel spend the next few hours at joel's place literally waiting for paint to dry. thankfully his family feeds us lunch and joel is an interesting guy and makes for good conversation. i feel al ittle bad because talla doesn't speak english and joel and i are yammering away in english but then again, how often am i the quiet one left out of conversations? just about 95% of the time, so i get over it but do go and make some house visits with talla where yes, the situation is immediately reveresed and i just sit there dumbly while everybody chats away.

finally the paint is dry and we load up the charette and say goodbye and head out. it is like, 4:30PM at this point and i am tired and hungry and filthy. but of course we can't just go straight home and stop by talla's dad's (so i guess my dad too) village where we are served another lunch (hooray!) and given a bunch of trees from talla's dad's pepineer. it is dark by the time talla and i finally make it back to d. and i am tired and so is he and so is the horse but we eat and assemble the bed and now i have a bed and can't wait to sprawl out in it.

i also realize that this is the first bed i have ever bought and also the largest bed i've ever had and it is in the first house i've ever had. well, it's a hut but its more than a rented room, so to me, it is a house. look, ma, i'm growing up!