Garden plots dug in backyard: 2
Small animals killed by Steven: 2
Village toddlers with squeaking cartoon character shoes: 2
Sixteen-year-olds married off to other villages: 1
Brides offered to Steven: 1
Minimum number of farmers who planted their Peace-Corps-distributed seed two weeks before I found out they’d planted: 2
Depth in meters of my villages well: 35
Depth in meters of a Kolda region PCVs village well, where fish sometimes come up in the water bucket: 3
Garden plots: not seeded yet, as I didn’t want to plant before the rains really started, when I’d have to haul water from the well, and because I do not yet have a shovel handle for my new shovel head.
Small animals: a very unlucky mouse whose tail got stuck under the gas stove and a runty baby chick whose mother abandoned and then viciously pecked on the neck whenever we tried to give it back to her.
Squeaking shoes: no longer squeak.
Farmers who planted early: one of whom was my millet demo plot farmer, unfortunately. Very patchy germination since the seeds were sitting in dry dirt and/or being eaten by birds for two weeks before it rained again.
Fish in the well: how awesome is that? The only stuff down in my well is fruit that the kids throw down there that makes the water green.
There was a death in the village at the end of May, while I was in Dakar. The chief’s youngest daughter from his first marriage, Bounkone, came to our village because she had been sick. She apparently died the night after she arrived, leaving a three-month-old son in the care of her sister, Salimata. The baby seemed ok for a while, but on Saturday was sick and died Saturday night.
I’m glad that I wasn’t in the village for Bounkone’s death. I didn’t know her since she was married and lived elsewhere, but I do of course know her family, and I wouldn’t have wanted to hear the women wailing. I know I can’t avoid it forever—the rainy season is the sick season, and more than a few volunteers from my group have already lost village friends or family—but I’m so scared that someone from my galle will die a seemingly sudden, entirely preventable death.
Sickness here is something I don’t understand—caused by injuries that would be minor inconveniences in the States, or by nutritional deficiencies that could be solved by a few boiled eggs a week. Sometimes people go the hospital, eight kilometers away in Tamba, sometimes they sit and endure ear infections or oozing wounds or mysterious aches and pains. If they go to a doctor they come back with tabs of folic acid or painkillers. The baby that died this weekend looked awful—staring listlessly as the women took turns holding him—but as far as I know he was never taken to a doctor. These are all things that I’ve wanted to ask about, but I’m just now feeling confident enough in my Pulaar and comfortable enough socially to try starting those kinds of conversations.
The rainy season has finally, actually, for real this time started. As in, it’s raining every few days instead of pouring one night and then not raining again for a month. This is a very good thing both for the farmers, who can now seed their fields in earnest, and also for me, since I can now walk from field to field pretending like I know what I’m looking at and talking about.
It’s still hot and still humid and there are still too many hours in the day to fill, but the storms are amazing and the air cool afterwards. No staph infections or weird fungi yet, so I figure I’m doing pretty well. Plus, the funding for the new village well was finally approved, so with any luck digging can start after this rainy season.
To celebrate Independence Day Senegalese style, we slaughtered and roasted Freedom the Goat on a homemade spit, a four-hour process. Photos of the process from loud, furry goat to skinned, roasting goat will go up sometime soon.
And, yes, Freedom sure tasted great.