The second visit to Hydraulique last Monday was successful—I brought Gretchen along with me, and after only a minimum of sitting around and waiting for aforementioned Important Guy to show up, I was holding a revised estimate for digging the second village well. After I.G. gave a rather condescending explanation for why it was about 300,000 CFA higher than the last one, he begrudgingly made me a copy of the first estimate, keeping the original for himself for some unknown reason. Whatever. Progress was being made.
Then things went kinda downhill from there. The pizza that night was an abject failure and shall never be spoken of again (hey, you’ve gotta hit those lows to make the highs better, right?), and Tuesday morning I stood at the package window at the post office for a very long time only to confirm that I still, in fact, had no packages despite the fact that I knew four or five had been sent to me (remind me to tell y’all about the glories of the Tamba post office sometime), then sat at the tailor’s waiting for him to finish my clothes which were supposed to have been finished the Friday before (a dress and a jacket, pictures eventually), then had the joy of riding back to the village past hordes of children doing their usual “toubab” screaming thing.
…which I got to hear twice on Wednesday when I rode back into town for the day to email my program director about the new well estimate.
I made an honest effort to be constructive in how I deal with the screaming kids… never again. At least not for a while.
Instead of yelling a greeting in Pular and pedaling faster like usual, I stopped in the middle of a particularly large, loud group of them, who’d been yelling since they spotted me at 100 yards or so. I smiled, said hi, and told them (in Pular) that no, I’m not a toubab, in fact my name’s Djenaba Bah, and next time they see me they can scream that instead. A few of them nodded and said “Djenaba Bah!”, then I asked one or two what their names were, smiled again, and told them I had to go home now.
The second my foot hit the pedal and the bike moved forward: “TOUBAB! TOUBAB! TOUBAB!”
Friday was great, though—I took my first solo Alham trip, headed to Josh and Cory’s village (about 40 k, I think, down the road to Kedougou), managing to only get mildly lost between my village and the main road and then find Josh and Cory’s hut relatively easily after getting off at the wrong stop at their village. They’ve got a great hut and a great yard in what seems like a very cool village—friendly people, a huge village garden, and, best of all, a bread oven no more than fifty yards from their front door.
We greeted people, sat around and ate, shelled some peanuts, pulled some water, ate some more, and then went to chat with the bread oven guys and purchase some of their gloriously warm, freshly-baked village bread for 75 CFA (15 cents) a loaf.
I slept outside on the stick bed, enjoying the stars, the wind in the trees, the braying donkeys, and a breeze that was cool enough to justify snuggling down under a sleeping bag. Then at 5am their mom started pounding grain, the roosters started announcing “Hey, guess what, in an hour or so it might start to be dawn!!”, and the Koranic school kids started chanting, but it was all still very enjoyable and pleasant in a morning-in-Africa kind of way.
We had breakfast (village bread toast!) and then biked the 12k or so to Jessica’s village, where Molly had also arrived for Jessica’s painting project work day. We spent the morning painting some very attractive wildlife on school buildings, ate the Christmas fudge Molly’s mom had sent her, and I had a joyous reunion with my iPod, recently carted back across the Atlantic by a fellow PCV and to Jessica’s by Molly. Then we had lunch and sat around discussing development work, Peace Corps, our current frustrations, our expectations for the next two years, etc. It was a good day—the painting was fun, and somehow even just sitting around in someone else’s village feels constructive since it’s someone else’s village.
Now I’ve got a made-by-Josh cake to look forward to, care package goodies to eat (thanks, Suzanne and my lovely parents!), and music to drown out the screaming kids on the ride home.
Mmmmm, music. It also helps with the goats.