I’ve had requests (Dad) for general descriptions of the sights and sounds around me. The sights and sounds are not necessarily congruent, but I hope my words and pictures provide a general view into this world I keep writing about.
26 January 2012
It generally starts around five in the morning, although I’ve heard it as early as four. As my sleep is wearing off I roll over to the rhythmic thump of women’s pounding. They say sometimes they go back to sleep after an hour or so of work, maybe they work in shifts but their percussion is constant throughout my morning routine. Between 6:45 and 7:00 I’m aware of a buzzing that fills my hut. After several flashlight searches in the early hours, I confirmed the source was not inside my hut, and it was, as impossible as it seems, the buzz of millions of bees inhabiting the hollow branch of the big tree at the heart of Fodé Bayo.
I still step into my backyard and look toward the tree to see kumkumburro leaving their hive, some coming to feed on flowers in my yard, to assure my sanity. At this hour I start to hear the waking peeps of my (now one-and-half month-old) chicks. I sneak into their coop while they’re still nestled together to pour in the day’s scoop of feed and clean their water dish. Since Nacho had an unpleasant run-in with a monkey a few weeks ago, and we are both nursing a nasty gash on his leg, he is not running with me right now and I let him sleep in. My runs these days incite the crunching of dry leaves and always the call and flight of birds in every direction. More people have stirred when I return, and so begin the repetitive greetings that fill each day.
Here’s an outline of of how they go:
You and the morning – [State other person’s last name.]
Peace laid? – Peace Only
You got up? – I got up well.
You slept? – I slept a little.
There are specific greeting for each time of day, but they generally run similar to this. Here are the rules: know everyone’s last name, say everything is in peace or there. And at eight in the morning I try to smile through these quickly to hear the roar of my gas stove, which promises hearty peanut butter oatmeal and rich Starbucks instant coffee. As I digest these luxuries, I listen to “English,” as my brother’s call the BBC news they hear over my fence.
After breakfast I go to the well to gather water for my garden. Greetings come from all sides along with the obvious question “Fatoumata, you are going to the well?” My day is constantly echoed with “Faaatou” or the more staccato “Fa-tou-ma-ta.” Other familiars include: The whine of young goats lost from their mother or of mother goats who have found a good food source. Volunteers have discussed creating a website with sound bites of goat cries and children cries, where guests are asked to select the correct whaling creature. #kidorkid.com. The squawk of chickens (not mine) as I chase them away from my fresh vegie transplants. And my favorite is the universal chitter-chatter of toddler talk. No matter what language, it sounds the same. The rise and fall of intonation in incoherent sentences. Their ability to keep on rambling with a simple “di” or “really”?
When night falls, I often find myself bucket-bathing to the sound of all the men in my village singing their evening prayer. Clean and refreshed, I head to the “women’s compound” a partially fenced-off area around the kitchen and the large women’s huts, where girls frequently burst out into song or clap to accompany their impromptu dance parties. This is also the focal point of laughter in my laugh. Women make jokes about their niece’s dance moves or daughters sneak tastes of dinner from their mom’s pot. My friends lie to me with grins on their faces that I have learned are snide jokes. The amount I laugh in village is still much lower than in the rest of my life, but the women in my life are becoming accustomed to my giggle. After dinner it is the kids time to giggle as I exchange “Round and round the garden” for the Mandinka version, and their moms sing stories and rhymes.
Other nights I listen to the recited French verse my sisters spout in their dedicated studies (the boys are less likely to join in these study sessions). Both the songs and the study have been known to lull me to sleep. Despite my going to bed before all other adults (and many kids) in village, I don’t always reach sleep much earlier because my ears work is not finished for the day. Radios blare outside my hut, playing the news in French, Mande music from Guinea, or the football broadcast. And donkeys reach the peak of their hollers around 10:30PM. I’m not sure what their ventures are at this hour but it often startles me from sleep. Nevertheless, I always reach the point of utter exhaustion and the world goes quiet, as it would anywhere.
M.Cad. (and Nacho)