Saturday, May 30, 2009

back on my feet

yesterday morning was pretty crazy. i woke up from a disturbing dream which kind of put me in a weird place. i opened my door and within minutes, el hadji dia showed up asking me if i was ready. we were going to mbirkelane to buy materials for latrines. ready? i had just gotten out of bed! i told him to wait a little and dashed around my hut to get ready while wolf followed me everywhere whining for attention and breakfast.

after a few mouthfuls of (bad) breakfast, i hopped onto his charette and we headed out. no wonder he wanted to go early -- his donkey was incredibly slow and stubborn. walking would have been faster. babakar wilane showed up behind us on a horse charette in an attempt to catch up with me and get materials with us. during the hour and a half it took us to get there (under the blazing hot sun), i contemplated life's deep questions, like if donkeys are so slow and stubborn then why do people continue to use them as farm animals when they wind up being more trouble than help? and why do horses and donkeys have to stop moving to pee but not to poop? and why are they so gassy?

anyway, we got there and instead of souleymane at the hardware store, a little boy sat in his place. i went to the quincaillerie (hardware store) next door (smart business tactics here) to ask the owner where souleymane was. another boy of about 14 to 15 years old sat in the place of that owner. where was everybody? they had all gone to kaolack that day. damn!

not wanting to have made the trip in vain -- as the purpose of going on saturday was to avoid an all day trip to mbirkelane on market day/sunday for just a few minutes of work -- i called souleymane. he was a little annoyed i wouldn't come on sunday but agreed to have the boy write the receipts for my purchases. (the reason i preferred to have souleymane there is that he and i have had an agreement about the purchase of latrine materials for 18 latrines for a while and he is giving me a discount -- i don't want to bring my business else where.)

long story short, it did not come easily -- the boy was fairly new to things and didn't understand what was going on and insisted on charging me the standard price and we had to call souleymane about 7 times to confirm what i was saying was true and even when we had, it wound up that he hadn't listened to souleymane on the phone and was still charging me the wrong price. and then he couldn't grasp the concept of wanting to buy 8 meters of pipe cut into 2 meter pieces. and then some stupid old man came in and meddled about the price of cement AFTER souleymane had made things clear to the boy over the phone so ultimately he ruined things and there was confusion again. in the meantime el hadji and babakar, my village chief (who works in mbirkelane), and one other guy from my village just stood there and watched me yell and yell at this boy until he finally did things my way. i know that the problem wasn't me -- all the other men understood what i was saying -- this boy just seemed to have too much ear wax or was just really nervous about messing things up. i bet he was expecting an easy day of selling a few items and in comes toubab yelling at him about discounts and large purchases of cement. so while i was pissed at him and annoyed at his stupidity, i pretty much understand.

i've also been pretty productive since my several days of self-imposed confiment. i finally confronted the facts and went out to see all my farmers, documented all their problems, gave massaly (my boss) a call and got some good answers/suggestions, and ultimately, it's not as bad as it had seemed because a lot of farmers are getting good germination rates, just bad survival rates. getting things to survive is a lot easier than getting things to germinate. and, i talked to some other volunteers about these things, and they all say that this is pretty normal -- i'm just not used to it since last year i made one big pepiniere instead of working with individual farmers. so it's crappy that pepinieres are dying but it's not an abnormal crappy and for that i am thankful. alxamdoulilah.

also, have been running everyday and doing crunches. it's a nice way to end the day and running through the bush with the sun setting in the african sky brings back the feelings of romanticism and awe i had in my first year. it's been a while since i've felt that way.

No comments: