Wednesday, August 13, 2008

panic in the bush!!!

i spent the past few days out at JC's site helping her out with some outplanting and her girl's group meeting. we had a good time.

however, getting back was a mess of a day (yesterday). i tried to leave in the morning but left too late -- all the charettes going to kaffrine (where i had to catch a car to mbirkelane and then bike 7k back home) had gone already. we sat and waited for several hours until we gave up and decided we'd try again after lunch. after all, the sun is hot. (actually, "naaj bi, dafa tang" which is something that senegalese people say all the time.) i was a little bit worried because getting out of kaffrine is always a pain in the ass and takes longer than i estimate and i didn't want to be out in the bush during/after sunset. at 3 we started to wait for charettes again and i finally caught a slow donkey charette at about 4:30.

got into kaffrine after an hour on the donkey charette and sped walked to the garage (on the other side of town) and waited for it to fill up until a bit past 6. i was increasingly nervous - how was i going to make it back before dark? the ride wasn't all that bad -- probably one of the better rides of my life here -- but because i was pressed for time, the trip was excruciatingly slow and my apprehension was building. not only was the sun setting, but it was also getting very cloudy -- either rain or blocking of the near-half moon would occur.

arrived in mbirkelane and practically ran (ignoring the thorn in my shoe) to moussa's shop (where i leave my bike) and he asked me if i wanted to stay over at his house until the morning , as it was getting dark. i should have said yes, but am a coward about sleeping over a senegalese person's house and dealing with that kind of social situation, so i declined. i hopped onto my bike and sped off into the bush. i started out at an insane pace -- probably from the adrenaline of trying to get home before dark -- and managed quite well but by the time i was 2/3 of the way there, the sun was gone and a dark cloud loomed over me and it started to rain lightly. it was dark and scary. then i heard the call of prayer emanating from some loudspeaker from some village off in the distance and suddenly felt terribly alone and vulnerable in the bush. i was tired, thirsty, sweaty, far from home, and desperately had to pee. i started to hear things -- was somebody following me? what was that rustling in the bush? what was that creaking over there?

finally i stopped to pee under a kaad tree (Acacia albida) and tried to gather myself. i got back on the bike and tried to push on towards home but for some reason, started to imagine up all the terrible things that could happen to me -- alone in the bush at dusk with 70 mille on me, a phone with barely any battery power left, and a tiny bit of water. terrible thoughts of robbery, machete hacking, rape, wild dogs, and silent, lonely deaths were conjured up in my mind. (it didn't help that there has been a recent influx of violence in the area, including somebody going after talla with a machete in the middle of the night.) i guess my mentality started to fall apart and i lost my composure. i was panicking. i got all wobbly on my bike and kept getting stuck in the sand and falling over and my bike chain started to give me problems. i was getting nowhere and almost in tears -- why was i panicking like this?!

i tried to go on for a while -- wobbly and meandering and losing control of my bike or my footing on the pedals and falling. i must have looked like an idiot. i berated myself for my stupid decisions and was shaking from this strange fear that had suddenly so strongly possessed me.

finally, i saw the familiar walls of mbanda wolof -- a village i've never been to or met anybody (formally) from --but know of my name because it is a landmark and close (enough) to my village. i decided i couldn't bike anymore in the horrifying darkness and entered the village, sweaty and exhausted and still stricken with panic. i went into the first compound i saw, certain that they knew my village. i greeted several times and was ignored until an old man looked up and saw me. i announced that i was "aissatou" and he told me he knew that (i guess there aren't that many other chinese-americans in the area). i asked if he could help me in a quavery voice, blurting out "i don't want to ride my bike in the dark anymore!!" could i sit in his compound while i called talla to come and get me? i guess he could sense my panic because he immediately came bustling over to help me with my bike, repeatedly told me to sit down, and ordering one of the kids to go and get me some water.

i called talla twice but it wasn't getting through. i sent him a text message telling him where i was and could he come and get me? and then my battery died. i was disheartened and groaned audibly. the old man asked me what was wrong and i practically wailed to him that my battery was dead. when this happened he said, "come on, i'll tie up my charette and bring you home." so he and his son got their little donkey charette together, roped my bike on, and drove me the remaining distance home -- even though i've never met them nor talked to them. i gave him a little box of tea (that i had intended to give to my family) and thanked him profusely. my panic made me at a loss of words so all i could keep muttering was "thank you so much. thank you. thank you!!!"

it was a totally weird and bizarre experience but i guess i did the right thing (although i'm sure nothing would have happened to me had i grown some balls and gone on) and the old man was so nice and kind. the bush is scary at night!!!! and i am never venturing out there alone at dark again. i can't explain the panic but i'll just say that the genies got to me...?

No comments: