Friday, March 6, 2009

legitimize, recognize

there's much to write about but my writing's been a little lackluster recently and my motivation to write is wilting. i'll blame it on the weather. it is hot. i had almost forgotten about the days where sitting makes you sweat.

yesterday i had to go to kaffrine to see baay keba mbengue (jc's host dad) in the hospital. jc has left for a vacation in america, but keba's been quite ill recently -- an infected foot which has led to other problems -- and was taken to the hospital on tuesday. jc left her family my phone number in case they needed anything an on wednesday evening her brother called me about going to the hospital for a "meeting." i was caught a bit off=guard. i hadn't actually expected them to call me and i was worried that perhaps they would be asking me for money or to make some kind of assumed-informed crucial decision regarding his health.

i called shelley and asked her if she would go with me -- combined forces. she, thankfully, agrees despite her village being a bit further than mine (although she has a car that goes directly from her village to kaffrine, as opposed to my wild-goose chase for a charette out of my village).

the next morning (thursday) after catching a charette all the way to kaffrine, we met up at the hospital. a bunch of keba's relatives were there, including a woman i mistakenly thought was his wife for quite a while. it was interesting how much they trsuted me and saw me as somebody who could help. i guess they can also tell that jc and i are good friends and have each others' backs.

there was difficulty getting into the hospital. there was a very stubborn guard who insisted we could not enter until 1pm (it was 10:30am). there was even a scuffle between a man and the guard and a bum rush and crowded chaos that i got caught up in because i was trying to pull the woman-i-thought-was-jc's-mom-but-was-actually-xadi-wilane out of the way from the crowd and an approaching car. finally she managed to coax the guard, telling him that we were here to buy the medicine. aha! so we were here for our wallets, but i didn't mind too much because the last time i saw keba, he was really ill and it was quite worrisome.

we got in and i was rather impressed with the strutcutre and cleanliness of the hospital. the only other hospital i've been to was in thies when anne marie (my then-host sister) had malaria and that place was rather cruddy and hot and filled with flies. keba was in room 3 and we entered. keba hastened to sit up, which was really much easier for him than the last time i saw him, but he was shirtless and we saw how skinny this already skinny man had gotten. but he truly looked far better and healthier. he had had an operation on his foot (there had even been talk of amputation!) and was now in the recovery stages. there was a bunch of other family members -- including the real wife/mom -- and they were happy to see us.

after much discussion, we each lent 10mille to pay for the medicines he needed. it was not an easy loan but it would be foolish of us to not pay for his medications so that his healing would reverse and take a turn for the worse. it was teh right thing to do but medicine is truly expensive and they -- and i say this with no intention of boasting or disdain -- are lucky to have a community of american volunteers who may be poor in the eyes of other americans (my father laughed at my w-2) but are terribly wealthy in the eyes of villagers.

i spent the afternoon hiding from the heat of the day at lindsay's (the volunteer in kaffrine). ben was there too. as was rumi (jc's cat). i ate a very small amount of lunch because the little boy across from me had a lot of snot and was coughing into the bowl and the little girl next to me kept smearing her hand around in my place at the bowl. pretty gross.

i headed home around 5pm and squeezed myself into a very hot mini car that was loaded with people and 2 huge sheep as well as an entire roofrack crammed with sheep and goats that kicked screamed the whole ride home. one of the ladies from the hospital party was in the car too and she was very happy i was there and it impressed everybody else in the car that i had some kind of business beyond greetings with this woman.

talla and i had agreed that we would meet at the world vision office in mbirkelane where he would pick me up. so i went, and of course, i was early. luckily marin was there and we wound up having an impromptu meeting. i told him about my big village meeting on monday and how i was disappointed that nobody had come to speak to me about pepineres yet. he's very no-nonsense and doesn't take any crap or village-excuses. he's senegaelse so i guess he can do that without seeming too pompous or elitist -- i think he just tired of the crap and because he's senegalese, is ermitted to be a hard ass. maybe PCVs are too soft, but that's probably because we don't want to be culturally inappropriate or rude.

anyway, i told him my plans and thoughts for this year and gleaned a bunch of information from him about their work this year -- info that i would have never been able to get from talla. he was very encouraging and told me that we would have another meeting in the village to discuss my work. another gentleman working there was extremely impressed with my wolof (!!!) and said i spoke like i had been here 3 years instead of almost 2 (!!!). i was flattered and prettly pleased. i told him i was happy and he said that he understands how hard it is to learn wolof. that was a great acknowledgment to hear. i twas also great how muhc martin wants to help me because for so long WV has been a presence in my service here but now we are actually full throttle in a working relationship now. synergy is happening and it feels great -- especially since last year i secretly harbored unwarrented made up feelings of competition with WV.

when talla showed up, martin -- whom talla respects very much -- told him he must help me and that i had good work to do and totally legitimized me by putting me on the same plan as him (martin, not talla). i think talla is finally starting to see me as something substantial instead of some dumb little girl who wandered into africa. the whole charetted ride home we discussed work and found much common ground.

translating for gabe last week helped me a lot because i had to focus so carefully on wolof and i've recenlty felt like i've spoken very clearly. my language is not very complicated or grammaically sophisticated but it is clear and correct and lots of people are understanding me.

what was also amusing was that we picked up mansour diop on the way home -- the man who drove me home on his donkey charette the night i freaked out about riding my bike at night in the bush and could go no further than his village. all this time he's been a name and a saint but never a face (because it was dark) and i finally got to see what he looks like.

later in the evening martin called me and told me that he'd be coming tomorrow (today). i was surprised but again, pleased -- it feels so good to be taken seriously!

so today he showed up and had a small meeting with some village leaders in the valley and lectured them about me and my work and how nobody has taken me seriously about pepinieres. what was awesome was that muhc of what he said was verbtain what i told him -- that the WV trees would not be enough for individual needs. i even dared to speak up a few times which showed that not only was i following the conversation but that i was also serious about all this. it became quite an interesting discussion and i am indebted to martin and WV a thousand times over for helping me out. people were impressed with what was said and i think the point is finally being driven home -- people must have their own pepinieres and learn how to do it themselves. they can't just rely on WV and must acquire the knowledge for themselves.

afterwards talla came to talk to me. he says a man from another village wants his own pepiniere. talla is also finally owning up to his role as my counterpart -- he gets what i want to do and is offering help. tomorrow we're having one more meeting with everybody at the valley and we will start signing people up. talla knows of a few people in his mind who are good potentials -- many of them come from other villages and he offered to take me to these places to do pepinieres. we shall see what the outcome is tomorrow but i really feel like things are coming together and this year can't possibly be as much of a clusterfuck as it was last year.

but i won't get too excited yet and we'll see how tomorrow goes. however, i really think i've finally got my point across -- i was disappointed for a while because i felt like everyubody was just humoring me and not really seeing my purpose or point -- and i am finally being legitimized. i am also so thankful for all the people who have been helping me out -- trees for the future, world vision, and people like jc who have been encouraging me and understanding and giving me ideas about how to achieve this breakthrought.

i also harvested and ate my first papaya off of my tree today. the fruits are very small but it was delicious. i saved the seeds for this year's pepiniere. i'm starting to feel like a real farmer.

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