Friday, November 7, 2008

a few days in palmarin

i'm still incredibly sad about jamm rekk. there was a really sad and empty moment this morning when i opened my door and there was no little kitty zooming across the compound to greet me and scamper into my hut for 10 minutes of cuddle time. losing a pet is a really terribly, awful feeling -- especially when she was one of the strands of sanity in my topsy-turvy life in the bush. she was one of the best cats you could ask for -- super smart, cute, affectionate, friendly, social, a great mouse hunter, independent, and everybody in the village liked her. i am really going to miss her presence in my life.

in other -- less sad and tragic -- news, i am finally out of dakar and back in the village. dakar was quite nice -- with all the luxuries and amenities one could ask for. my home-stay host was super kind and generous and hospitable and let us full access to his house, kitchen, and everything we needed. one of my last days there i made pork and shrimp dumplings from scratch! chris made the dough and i made the filling and they turned out pretty delicious and enough to feed 7 people.

jc's parents flew into town earlier this week and invited me to go to palmarin with them. of course i agreed so i said goodbye to dakar, chris, and the 1.5 weeks of wisdom tooth extraction and fun and headed out to the delta with the kollmorgen's. palmarin was quite nice and the hotel we stayed at was really impressive. the first night jc and i stayed in the famous (and worthily so) baobab tree houses and her parents stayed out in a "lagoon house" (a house on stilts in the water). the entire grounds of the hotel was very beautiful, neat, well landscaped, and each hut was creatively designed and well decorated. the french owners of the place had really invested a lot of time and care to create a little oasis and we found out later that it was solar powered (enough to power computers, washing machines, and all the lights, fans, fridges, etc very reliably), environmentally friendly, and the local community was highly involved in its building and running. the tasty and pretty food was all prepared by local women who had been trained by the owners and very few of the senegalese staff had ever been to hospitality school. the owners and the staff seemed to have a very friendly relationship with each other and jed (the eco-t volunteer there) seemed to think very highly of them.

the treehouse we stayed in was so neat -- the bathroom built around the base of the tree (one showers in the groove of two gigantic roots), a second floor balcony/terrace at the middle of the tree for a hammock and finely crafted table and chairs, and the third and final level up amongst the branches housed a little room with gigantic west-facing windows and a terribly comfortable bed. the entire place was magical. the first night jc and i stayed up late on the second floor balcony with a bottle of wine (her early birthday present) and chatted and caught up, as we hadn't seen each other in some time. we also anxiously waited for news about the election, but alas, even what we thought was late was too early in america and we headed to sleep drowsy from south african wine, american and filipino treats, and the talk of deep friendship.

at 4am i woke up to pee and made me way down the precarious steps in my sleep daze, having to stumble over a fat dog who had climbed up to the stairs between the second and third levels and was sleeping and snoring on a step. when i was done and back up in the tree, i checked my phone for election updates (i had commissioned several people with internet/tv access to text me updates throughout the evening) and found that my phone had no more space for new messages. i promptly deleted them and my phone was then flooded with news of the election. it was very exciting and just as i was finished reading them, i got a text declaring barry the victor. i was elated! after an hour or so of texting excitement i fell back asleep.

when i woke up later that day, there was a feeling of great excitement over obama's win. the french owners were quite elated as well and invited us to celebrate with them and we drank 2 bottles of champagne and discussed politics with our new friends (the owners spoke a little english and their daughter and son-in-law were fluent). it was amazing to see how invested they were in our american election and it really helped me see just how negative of an impression we've managed to make ourselves abroad in the past few years.

later that evening jed stopped by to say goodbye to the owners -- he's cos'ing and out of the country soon. he was with his dad (american/real dad) who was a really interesting guy to talk to. we all had dinner together - the owners, their daughter and son-in-law, jed and his dad, jc and the kollmorgens, and me. the dinner was delicious and the owners were generous with 2 bottles of (free) white wine and we all had a lovely evening together.

the next morning it was away from vacation and back to site and i found that despite feeling a bit apprehensive about being back in the village, i was looking forward to it. i met this cool guy who i hired to take me home and we had a nice talk. i found out he is from a village right by mine and i asked him about trees and if he wanted to make his own pepiniere next year. he seemed very interested and gave me his phone number and a watermelon as a gift. i am getting excited about next year's work season and i kind of just want to fast forward through the next few months.

of course i then came home to the saddest news i've received in country and it quickly took muc hof the past few days' joy from me. i called chris and cried and then called mommy and sobbed (both handled it very well). i wasn't at all expecting to lose my little cat and as old as i am and as much as i've been through, the loss of a pet is still absolutely devastating to me. it's also been really frustrating because there's no word for "sad" in wolof and i haven't been able to express to anybody in my village just how much of a loss this is to me. they don't understand the attachment americans develop to our animals. well, i hope she's having fun in kitty heaven -- maybe scampering around with all the cats we've lost in this country. raising a pet is hard in africa.

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