Thursday, April 3, 2008

faceless friends

it pretty much took me two days to get back to site when i had only gone for one night. it wasn't that i didn't want to be there, but i was struck with such exhaustion that i couldn't bear the thought of going back to site and working -- which is somewhat ridiculous because for so long all i wanted to do was nothing but fill sacks and now i have worn myself out.

i finally dragged myself out to site around 4:30PM. i had to wait for the 7-palaases to fill up for quite a while and in the meantime, made friends with the young, good-looking arabic teacher sitting next to me and a woman who sold me some bracelets through the window.

i wasn't really sure as to how i was going to get back from birkelane to site because i was unable to reach talla all day but figured that that was a lame excuse for me not to leave the house and hoped that something would come up or i would just ball up and walk the 7k in the heat.

i got to birkelane and was greeted by the charette drivers who tried to convince me to hire out a charette. i almost fell for it when a guy lowered it down to 1750CFA (instead of 2000CFA) but then realized that i would be setting a precedent and this would happen every time i gout out of a 7-palaas in birkelane and EVEN if he lowered the price, 1750 is a damn lot of money for a freakin' charette ride. just as i was heading out to walk, i heard thiam calling me over from the butig -- i had actually been avoiding him because i had forgotten to go to a wedding at his wife's house last weekn and i felt really bad about it.

but he was friendly as ever and got me a charette ride but i would have to "wait a little" and in the meantime, would i not go and see his house/compound in birkelane? so i agreed and went and his compound is huge and cool and a mix of seerer, pulaars, and wolofs. everybody was really friendly and kind and i feel like i have another place to seek refuge in birkelane if i have the need.

afterwards, i hung out at the butig and watched manchester play some other team with a bunch of men and felt like one of the boys. by then it was already dark and i was pretty sure that i was going to be having an adventure. i was also a little nervous because i had an impending night charette ride with a man i only knew through a friend of a friend: either a good situation for an accident or a rape -- and i wasn't sure if i should do it but then i would have to stay in birkelane which could turn out equally as shady.

the dude shows up -- his name is cisse ba -- and he darts out off into the darkness and i have to keep up with him carrying my bags and struggling in my pagne (a tie-skirt). he at some point offered to carry a bag but i wanted to prove a point so i continued to struggle and resulted in being drenched with sweat from dashing along in the thick humidity of the night. cisse walked faster than any senegalese i've ever met and moreover, seemed he seemed to have nightvision and did use a flashlight or anything. in the meantime he yammered away and apparently we had met each other before.

we show up at somebody's compound (we are still in birkelane but on the outskirts of town) and everybody greets me as if they know me but i can't see a damn thing because its dark out and there is no moon but you know, there's nothing else i can do but play along and try to figure out who these people are. i am sweating like mad and a little disoriented because i am still not entirely sure what is going on -- i have been passed on from one person to another and i just have to trust that this will get me home. after all, everybody knows each other and each other's business so it would be utter stupidity for somebody who is a friend of a friend of a friend and lives in a neighboring village to do something cruel or unkind to me. moreover, while senegalese can be aggressive ad pushy, they are ultimately kind and generous people and do not have bad intentions.

i am invited to put down my bags and sit and as i do so there is a lound rustling and my skittishness makes me jump and audibly yelp, to which everybody jumps up and goes "its a goat! its just a goat! don't worry!" my fears are assured -- i am with good people. and what more -- they are going to feed me! we eat a yummy dinner of ceeb and i impress them with my ability to eat with my hand. we chat and i like them because they ask a lot of questions and are patient with me as i try to find my words for answers. i am a little worried though because it is getting rather late and nnbody seems to be in a particular rush and i am hearing the option of spending the night tossed around. but if there's anything that i have really been learning here in senegal, its learning to be patient and not to stress or worry or freak out and trust that everything will work itself out (a big deal for somebody as high strung as me).

eventually, cisse gets up and gets the charette ready and we starting loadig up to goat. the goat comes iwth us. as does the other an who has been talking to me like we've known each other forever and was apparently at the ngente at our compound because he was asking about my friends. they shitty part about that was that i was planning on asking cisses what this homie's name is as soon as we got on the road but now i will have to continue pretending to know him and hoping tha the doesn't ask me if i know his name (which happens all the time). i at least knew the women's last name and had seen a little of her face in cnadle light but this guy i absolutely do not know what he looks like or heard anybody utter his frist or last name. at this point i am certain that these people do not have ill intentions but i am burning with curioisity to know who they are.

we head out and i will admit, it is a little terrifying to ride a charette at night -- but it is also beautiful to ride under the expansive night sky and stars, away from the glow of tiny birkelane and into the near complete darkeness of the bush. i have been down this road enough times now to recognize certain landmarks and can pick ou tthe dark outlines of trees that mark the path home. it really is a visceral experience and despite the terror of riding in darkness, its totaly worth it and by the time we reach my village, i almpost wish we could keep on going. i say "almost" though because at this point i am exhausted -- it is definitely past my beditme and the men were chatty with me on the ride and i was at this point really racking my shutting-down-brain for answers.

i know its really late because everybody is already inside sleeping when we approach the compound but eventually talla shows up and me and the two men -- who remain faceless to this point -- say goodbye with promises of my visiting them in their village (how?? i don't know what they look like!!). talla and i greet briefly but all i want is to sleep so i head inside. while i am unlocking my door, jamm rekk comes running -- zomming, really -- up from out of nowhere, which pleases me because she actually recognizes my voice and me and seemingly missed me because she won't stop pestering me and purring and meowing for attention while i stumble around in the darkness trying to get ready for bed and shaking off the dust that has collected on my bed. it really seems that she missed me because she actually spent the whole night sleeping with me on my bed (ew, i know) when she usually leaves after an hour or two to go cavort out in the night or to go sleep with the kids (she's known to spend the night in fatou's hut one night and then aram's the next).

i readily pass out and sleep harder and better than i have in a while -- since i was afflicted with hardcore insomnia last week and slept an average of 4 hours a night -- and while my mattress isn't the amazing one i have back at home, i love my straw mattress and bed as it is actually very comfortable and have an amazing night's sleep after an unexpected nighttime adventure that resulted in my getting home at 11PM when i left kaolack at 5PM, but what matters is that i got home through the help of friends and made new friends along the way -- even if i don't know what they look like.

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