Whatz up? Did you ever get my tape? Mail run comes next Fri and I expect a letter from you. So I won't get on your case yet.
Today is - shit can't think of the word - but yesterday was the last day of Ramadan. Today is Corenting or something. It's a 2 day party. Every one, even the kids, are in their best outfits. Basically everyone dolls up and goes visiting each other. They're finally in a good mood after a month of fasting. And everyone is asking for "Salibo". Like trick-or-treat. Most people give 25 buttutes. Of course I act like I don't understand the language so I don't have to give :) ! Well, they know I do understand but I can't afford to give that much. (there is 700 people in this village) because I don't go out collecting. Basically no one makes anything. But I'd be broke unless I spend 2 days going out and collecting.
I know it sounds cute but actually "begging" is one of the basis of this society and it's rather foreign to me and I tend to look down on it. Wherever I go children greet me with "toubob, give me 1 dalasi." or "Toubob, give me pen." My "family" is constantly asking for money, milk, candles, shirts, etc...
In the cities there are tons of beggars outside every shop and in the Koranic school, begging is part of the curriculum. 60% or more of school time is spent on the street, begging.
1. To raise funds for school
2. To learn humility
In my opinion it teachers defeat but... it's a different culture. One of the pillars of Islam is to give to charity so you have to give to get to heaven. So it should all balance out. It is just annoying because we're not used to it and white = rich so EVERYONE is always begging. And no one is THANKFUL because giving is expected. No matter how much I spend on this family they ask for more. (Wow, what a tangent).
So there's a party going on... music and such. Bill's not around. He refused to be here for Salinou. He's down country and Abhijit's been down for 2 weeks with a boil on his throat. Now his aunt is here. So we won't be together for another 2 weeks. I'm going crazy. I'm going to meet her but he's introducing me as "a friend". I'm kinda ticked. But he told his mom about me which is a major step for him. He's never told his family about any girl before. Gosh I love him. He's so handsome! and hardworking. I miss him. I miss home!
weird letter huh?
March 4, 1995
Hi Mom, It's 2:30 afternoon on Saturday. I spent all day at the resource center preparing for my conference to be held in one week! I just came home and started eating my durungo when I heard it. The unmistakable sound. The death wails. Even though people are always dying here, I haven't heard the wails since October. The end of the hunger season. I heard them a lot during the hunger season.
It's the wailing and howling of the women in a compound when someone dies. You can hear the anguish and you immediately wonder who it is. I know you mom, you would cry just at hearing the sound. So any women with in hearing distance rushes over to either give comfort or to wail herself. (Remember practically everyone is related) The men don't take part. So it was a young woman who died. She has 3 young daughters. I don't know how yet, but one of my mother's (Sarta) come home and then went into their house to pray.
So 7 minutes have passed. It's all quiet except for one or 2 women crying loudly. Everyone else has disappeared.
Me, I'm very lonely. Bill and Abhijit are both down country. At least I go to the Lumo market tomorrow and Abhijit should be back. BUT his aunt is here from England for 2 weeks which means I get to spend no time with him. I'm going crazy.
SO that's all I got to say. Just wanted to share the moment. This conference is a huge deal to my PC future so it better go well!
Mail comes Fri. I hope I hear from you.
March 4, 1995
Hi Grandma and Grandpa.
How are you! Thanks so much for the Soap Opera Updates. I love reading them and the comics too. I got both envelopes. But, I think I thanked you already! Well, thanks again!
Like always it is hot! It's 8 pm and 80 degrees. And to make matters worse I have to write by candlelight. Which makes it even hotter. It is going to be a busy week for me as I prepare for my 1st conference. I have to buy all the food (that is not so easy. I have to go to separate vendors for everything and transport it on a taxi, including a block of ice. We have no refrigeration so everything must be brought that morning, (maybe the night before.) Plus confirm the speakers, clean the center, write my speech, make mud for the stoves we are going to build, and lot's of other things. Plus I'm all alone. Bill went to Kombo until Wednesday. I've been all alone all week! Gosh I hope this thing is a success! It's the beginning of a busy season for me. I won't have any more spare time until April 15! I've been asked to be a speaker for a British organization plus I now work with the clinic one day a week. There's a St. Patrick's Day party that will take 4 days (2 days to travel there and back) plus another training workshop and of course my birthday! Busy! Busy!
My cats are doing fine. In addition to cockroaches and rats, they now hunt lizards. They bring me the corpses. Yuck! How is Mike (the cat)?
So, is it almost fishing time? It's always fishing time here! Only here they set the fish out in the sun until it rots. Then they sell it. It's in the sauce so you don't notice it too much.
I love you very much and can't wait to see you! Can you believe it's already been 8 1/2 months!
March 9, 1995
Hi! I don't have much time to write. I'm on my way to site, in a major hurry! Plus everyone's standing around talking to me!
What I want to say is I'm up in the air about coming home. As of now I am staying but the situation could change at any moment. I just want you to be prepared that I could drop home at anytime, no prior notice. I don't think that will happen but, you never know. Right now things are good.
Now I am in a bigger hurry. I gotta go.
Oh, about your package. I know you won't really like the two outfits. But the yellow outfit is for you and the brown one is for Mr. Brown. You can wear it doing yard work or cleaning the house. The metal bracelet is for Mr. Brown. All the other bracelets are made from cow horn. They hollow out the horn and cut various size bracelets. The white necklace is really a string of Sex Beads. You wear them around your waist. Men are supposed to hear them jingle when you walk by and get excited. In the bedroom the man is supposed to whisper a sweet nothing for each bead.
The little spoon is a split gourd. It is actually a type of spoon we use to eat. (Good for soup). I got you the little elephants because you wanted "miniatures" and they were the smallest things in the market. The white ones are ivory from elephant tusks. The big one is wood.
The long cloth is a group of placemats. You can cut them into 4 or keep it as a runner for your counter. And the bag. On the film, I took a picture of the guy making your stuff.
I love you, please send me doubles of both roles and keep the beef jerky coming!
I'll write a real letter this week.
PS Dear Mrs. K-
I'm in love with your daughter.
March 19, 1995
Hey, What's up with not hearing from you for 2 months and getting this chincy post card! But it was cool to show everyone where you work. transferring to Euclid is cool. It's closer, yeah? How is the job anyway?
Don't sweat a wedding for me yet. Realities starting to set in. Time will tell. Sadly, I think I've decided I want to live in Lake County for (ever?). And he refuses. I can't explain it, but I wanna stay in the area. After a lifetime of trying to leave.
So, it's my birthday. ABHIJIT (check your spelling) bought me a Gibida. It's a clay pot to keep your drinking water cool. I'm gonna take pictures. I went to a St. Patty’s party yesterday. Pretty fun. Good food. Bean sandwiches, warthog, goat, okra, benechin, vegetables, banana, papaya and beer! Abhijit didn't go. No one from Gadabout went but me. (Gambia has 5 districts. I'm from Baddibou. It's a district of couples. 5 couples and 2 single guys.
Abhijit's out now, working on one of his endless projects. Mine is going great. I'm majorly busy through. I'm losing the time and inclination to write home. As I get used to life here, I don't need to write every night. Steffi has mentioned she'd like to visit. That's be nice. I want someone to see my life here.
I don't even know what else to say. I don't feel like going in to my projects because I think about them all day. Nothing freaks me out in food or culture anymore. I AM surprised I now eat tomatoes, bean sandwiches, powered and sour milk. I'm just starting on bitter tomatoes and still trying to master spicy foods.
I found a good pizza place D.C. they just opened and even serve salad. I wonder if it's really good or if my standards have dropped that low :)
I'm still thinking about nursing school but this clashes with my need to stay in Lake County. Maybe 2 months back home and I'll be ready to split. (Probably). We'll see. I also want to get into politics. I wanna legalize drugs, strengthen unions,... I have no idea what I'm gonna do with myself.
Anyways, I wish you were here. I come home in 1 1/2 years. Yuck! But Ill make it. Write soon and tell me what's going on. Barry and the parents and Bill. My brother's in love. Lucky him :)
Did you ever get my tape and letters? It's weird not to hear from you.
March 20, 1995
How's it going? Things are hot here, like always. but I'm sitting in front of Abhijit's fan. He is at school. I am trekking about the country side working and vacationing. I went to a ST. Patty's party Saturday. It was fun. The food was good. Abhijit bought me a Jibida for my birthday (A large clay pot that keeps drinking water cool.) I'll take a picture of it.
Steffi H says she may visit. That'd be nice. I want someone to see my life here.
I'm still thinking about what to do when I leave here. I think I want to settle in Lake County but I don't think I like any colleges in Ohio. So, who knows?
I'm busy on trek and working until April 20. So the time goes by quickly. I think about home less and have less time to write. But I'm adjusting to life here. I'm starting to enjoy and actually accomplish a few things.
I've found a good pizza joint Down Country. I like getting a pizza and ice cream and watching a video at the embassy. I usually spend 1 week a month Down there. So I have fun.
Not much else to say. Sounds like Robb's happy. Maybe he'll come sometime. maybe next month or May I'll have more time to write, but I hope not. I want to stay busy. It makes the days go.
I hope you got the pictures I sent. (The film).
I'm getting my next roll developed here. I hope they can do a good job. It's pictures of my workshop for my work file. (Sorry, I'm having problems with my pen. Pens don't last long here. I guess because of the dirt in the air. It ruins the tip or something).
I especially want to thank you for the birthday money and for the package (even though it's not here yet.) Thanks Dad, it means a lot.
March 26, 1995
A quick note to say Hi. I'm trying to send everyone one package from here to encompass all holidays so...
here it is.
The bracelets are made from the horn of a cow! Cool huh?
The spoons (1 serving & 2 eating sized) are dried gourds. These things come in all sizes. From tiny teaspoons to bowl 4 times as big as this wooden one. They use them all the time.
The material is a fanno. You wear it like a towel wrapped around your waist. (You can pin it since you don’t be used to wearing it like a towel.)
The colorful scented "necklace" is not a necklace. They are sex beads. You wear them around your hips, under your fanno. When your man hears they rattling, he knows you're in the mood.
That's it for now.
March 27, 1995
It's a beautiful evening, not too hot. I just ate Ramen Noodles and drank some of your Incrediberry Kool-Aid. I always appreciate the Kool-Aid (and letters!).
I'm super busy working. I'm on a high this month. I'm thinking of extending another year or traveling after. I've made plans to go to Mali (Now if I can just save $300) by September. I'm beginning to realize there is not many places in the world where I set up my own hours and my own job. No one tells me what to do. I'm totally free (until guilt kicks in). My cats are still good. Lamin is a crazy hunter. Everyday I'm sweeping out lizard and mole carcasses. Plus she eats cockroaches, crickets, and rats. She's got a big belly rite now and I don't know if it's from good huntin or if she's preggers (oh, she could have worms).
I'm writing a summary of my projects and I was going to send you a copy but I forgot to photocopy it. So, next time.
So, did things work out with Barry? (I'm sure they did.) And how was the CAVS game? I didn't know there was a new arena. Where?
Does Ken still have the same address? I guess that friendship is over. What's his problem?
Oh yeah, you say you got your ring fixed. What ring? You never told me about it or maybe I didn't get the letter. (I'm just getting you're January letter this week).
Abhijit and I are fine but slowing down. I'm seriously doubting a wedding to this man. I'd have to be crazy. He IS my father. It's so scary. I'll write more when I mail my project summary.
Love ya sister,
To my PC Table of Contents