Peace Corps year 1

index, month 5

Books read: 6

Baby rats found living in a cabinent in my hut: 4

Adult rats caught in a glue trap placed on top of my other cabinent: 1

Times I had to drop an ax head onto said rat to kill it: 2

Donkey carcasses seen on the side of the road: 2

Rides hitched to Missirah in the back of a bread truck: 1

American visitors to my village: 5

Price of a kilo of mangos, in cfa: 200

Equivalent price, in cents: 40

The rats: Dropping the ax on that poor guy was traumatic for both of us. I had to do it twice because I was outside at night, the rat and the cardboard he was stuck to on the ground, and I still had to turn off my flashlight and count to three before I could get myself to drop the ax. All I could bring myself to do with the babies was toss them over the back fence, apologizing all the while. I had rodents as pets, dammit. And now it’s a bit strange to walk into my hut and not hear frantic scurrying up the back of a cabinent or out the top of my roof.

Hitchhiking: Don’t worry, Mama, I plan to only get rides from strange men when I’m traveling with someone else (Cory was with me; we sat on boxes of instant yeast). Or if I’ve been waiting for a bus for over two hours. Or maybe if it’s raining.

Mangos: You folks back in America may have air-conditioning, cable TV, microwave dinners—hell, you might very well be reading this on your PowerBook over a wireless internet connection, sitting outside in beautiful spring weather, eating a slice of cold cheesecake and sipping a raspberry mocha latte.

I get fresh mangos for 40 cents a kilo.

Who’s laughing now, hunh?!

That’s what I thought. Raspberry mocha latte hurts when it goes up your nose, doesn’t it?

6 replies on “index, month 5”

Oh, honey. I thought of poor Woodruff immediately.

I printed out a bunch of your pictures and showed them to my classes. I am addressing an envelope at this very moment. Expect about 50 highly amusing letters from 8th graders in about a week. (Among the questions: “Do people get drunk in Senegal? What do they drink?” It’s funny until you know his parents are abusive alcoholics.)

I served in Kenya from ’97-’99. My girlfirends and I agreed that the “apple mangoes”–called that because of their unusual apple shape–were better than sex. They were worth the two-day trip to the Coast to get. Ahhh, the good days!

Okay, one more comment. I just read your March 14th wedding entry and I remembered all those feelings from being called mzungu (whitey). Someone who had never lived overseas told me that I was feeling paranoia, that something was wrong with me for not being able to just blow it off. Until you have experienced it, you can never truly understand the unreasonable irritation that comes with hearing it over and over every day. And when I went back four years later, I only had to hear that magical word a few times and those old feelings came flooding right back (Iwas near a primary school during recess when I was retuning to my site for a visit–egads!). It did, however, get me used to being called white. I now live in an area with a large Hispanic population and I always tell the girls I work with to not worry about calling me white. Like, they say it when telling a story and then throw me a guilty look. It became more an adjective than an insult. After that two year experience, it really doesn’t seem like a big deal to be called “white” here. It’s just what I am. White.

Just wanted to let you know that the crack about mangos was justified. I just paid 2.99 for a mango in the midwest.
Say HIGH to Conquest and everyone for me.

Catharine – I definitely haven’t made peace yet with being “White” to strangers in the market and every single kid on the street. I mean, yes, clearly I am, but does that mean I have to be OK with having it shouted at me constantly? I’m still not sure if I should interpret it as harmless adjective or casual insult.

Ryan – The only thing I’ll pay three bucks for around here is a double hamburger! Senegal greets you.

Comments are closed.