Thursday, January 1, 2009

happy new year

before i left site for christmas, all the women made a big stink about me leaving and made me promise that i would be here and celebrate the 31st with them in the village. so i promised them and subsequently dragged chris back with me here. i bought 12 fireworks in dakar to celebrate the new year with and was really excited about sharing them with village and kept telling everybody that i brought "pitax" back with me from dakar. people were pretty impressed. i didn't find out until much later that they're called "pitar" not "pitax." in fact, "pitax" is a pigeon -- so everybody thinks i brought pigeon (and not just one but twelve!). whoops. no wonder they think i have so much money.

anyway, i figured new year's eve -- which they call "the 31st" -- would be kind of a big deal since the women had been talking about it for so long. but the day was rather normal and uneventful until around 7pm when fatou asked me for 500CFA (around $1USD). she and aram and some other women were pooling 500CFA each for a "really good dinner." i eagerly gave the money because the food at site has been so terrible recently and figured it would all work out well -- we'd have a yummy dinner and then light fireworks and we would all be happy and celebratory together, ringing in the new year.

around 8pm a bunch of women came over and started cooking. i helped cut a few soggy overdue potatoes and onions that had begun to sprout and complained with the women that our (total) 2,500CFA bought such shoddy vegetables. even so i was excited -- potatoes and onions are always likely to be a good thing. but then at 8:30ish, aram brought out dinner. i was slightly confused -- weren't we cooking it? weren't we going to eat potatoes and onions and instead this was just millet and leaf sauce. i figured that this was just to tide us over until the big dinner so we ate just enough to curb over hunger but left plenty of room for more food.

9pm -- no food. 10 pm -- no food. at this point chris and i are really tired -- it's bed time in the village -- but dinner still hasn't come and we want to be awake for the new year and light fireworks. i am growing increasingly impatient and irritated and wish somebody would tell me what's going on, but in the meantime the women are all crammed into fatou's hut screaming and laughing and drinking tea and having a hell of a time. chris and i fall asleep but in the half-quasi-anticipatory kind so it's nothing substantial and most of all, we are hungry!! i wake up at 11 and still no food so i wander around my hut until 11:20 when i decide that i'm giving up, closing my door, screwing the fireworks, and getting some real sleep. i am mad and hungry and cranky and annoyed that once again, i've been kept out of the loop and that this is the stupidest new year's ever and i have no idea when i even let them convince me to be here for new year's if NOTHING is going to happen. i think of all the other places i could be. i think of the champagne i could be drinking. finally, it's 11:30 and just as i am about to shut my door, aram sows up wtih a bowl and tells me that "dinner is here" (even though it had been sitting there in the kitchen for the few hours -- it's not like it takes hours to cook up some potatoes, onions, and macaroni pasta). she also mentions that there was no bread but we should eat until we are full. at this point we aren't even hungry anymore -- just really sleepy and disappointed -- but we settled down to eat. it was cooked in so much oil and salt that we could only stomach a few bites before essentially giving up. had there been bread (or coke) i suppose it would have soaked up the oil and lessened the saltiness. overall pretty disappointing.

despite having had dinner we nixed the idea of fireworks because other than the women in fatou's hut who were now also eating and still screaming and laughing their heads off, everybody else in the village was asleep. minus them, the place was silent. what's the point of fireworks if everybody is asleep?

chris and i stayed up until midnight, said happy new year to each other, i hummed "auld lang syne" (because i don't know -- nor will i ever -- the words) and we promptly passed out.

i realize now that the women probably don't even know the significance of new year's eve. they call it "the 31st" but made no mention of the new year or anything along those lines. i figure they just know the 31st as some holiday that in recent times has been increasingly celebrated and see it as an excuse to be festive. they don't care about the calendar or date, nobody said happy new year or cared when i mentioned that 2008 is over and 2009 has started. to them, tamxarit is the new year (or 10 days after the first day of the new muslim year), so why would my new year mean anything? i still don't understand why they needed me to be there, but oh well. happy new year. we'll see what kind of crazy adventures await me in this new year.

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