Friday, January 25, 2008
After ten days of trekking around, eating food bowl style, being hassled by bumpsters, riding in bush taxis, motor boating down the river, using a latrine, making do with no running water and sporadic electricity, dodging the brutally hot sun, my parents took off back to the land where money grows on trees and roads are paved with gold. They were cool and tough. The went with the flow of both the chaos and the severe down time. They are rock stars!
It was a great change of pace hosting the 'rents. Everything that is home to Carson and I here, we were able to show and explain. It was surreal to have American home people here, but so eye-opening as well. Having both done the Peace Corps in the late sixties, being here reminded them so much of their experiences. They time travelled a bit, through their own experiences.
The best part of their trip was visiting Kerewan. We were floored by the hospitality. All of our good friends and co-workers came and offered food. They sat with the 'rents and talked for hours. My friend Njatu, who makes acra (fried beans), sent a huge bowl every morning. Friends brought groundnuts. The father of a girl we are sponsoring brought over a live chicken. Aja made beautiful lunches. Better than I have ever tasted. My parents and locals exchanged praises about Carson and I. Mom and dad even got local outfits! This isn't a culture that shells out compliments. I have never had a co-worker tell me if I am doing a good job or the right job even. But when the 'rents arrived to the primary school, nursery school, and upper basic school, my co-workers laid on the compliments. It was really awesome to hear, much more validating than a wall erected or a room painted.
We will post some pics later. There are some cute ones of little Liisa in a pink t-shirt with "liisanding" written on it, as well as mom and dad in African dress! Oh and also, we saw a lot of monkeys when visiting a nature reserve, so Carson was jumping with giddiness and joy.
Thanks mom and dad!
Sunday, January 13, 2008
There were some students in my class that couldn't read or write in English. They shouldn't be in the program or teaching for that matter. But with many development projects, there are quotas. The international donor has their own development markers to meet, never mind what is actually going on on the ground. People who failed the first year are supposed to be weeded out, but then the quotas would not be met. So what all the students see is that whatever grade they get, they are going to get certified. Where is the accountability in that?
I did the program with Jim, Dan, and Colleen. So we had a rad time working together and making meals together. A bunch of people were around for the new year. Carson and Becca came up. It was a nice and rousing party. We celebrated in style of course with Julbrew and cheap gin!
Aja getting Binta ready for the evening. The kids go around and ask for what is called "salibo," or one or two dalasi coins, some times a five dalasi bill, or sweets. But all the kids and teens look just fabulous!
A little side note: That morning I helped the women cook. Aja and I cut the raw mounds of meat as the men were bringing it in from just slaughtering the ram. Jaa, Aja's sister-in-law, first grilled up the liver and kidneys, that is custom. So there I was cutting up bloody raw meat, dirty intestines, while eating grilled liver.
So we hopped on a bush taxi and rattled 100 km up river to Wassu. We trekked across the wind blown, scorched sandy roads to find Fatou. She lay in her mud brick two room home, resting her elderly body. We are not the first Peace Corps volunteers to come and “get scarred.” In fact, she is quite famous in our circle. I’m sure we bring in good income, as she charges D100 per head (about 5 bucks).
It hurt for a couple of seconds. I yelped and Carson was stoic as stone. We are marked by this experience. We felt that we earned these battle wounds living here for a year and a half. And just five and a half months to go. Call it crazy; we call it a milestone, an adventure that will be with us for life.