24 April 2012
On the day I texted several people bragging about mango season, I saw a scorpion in my hut. I think this may be the perfect metaphor for hot season. When I returned home from summit and grant writing Fanta told me the garden had grown well, my tomatoes got so big. Did they have flowers, I asked. They got eaten by cows, she responded. Half the garden we share was eaten by cows. Cows desperate enough for food that they found a way to open the rope-tied, pole-reinforced gate.
I got big hugs and smiley visits from my whole family. I finally figured out the right question to ask about what happened while I was gone. And as I was finally getting answers that weren’t “hani feŋ,”“nothing,” I found out that my brother Maalaŋ, the one I milked cows with, robbed bee hives with, am raising chickens with, left two days ago to go work in the Gambia. He warned me this was coming but said he’d wait until I got home. He didn’t wait for anyone, however, and snuck out in the middle of the night. But it’s hot season and money is getting low, so the family needs the money and no one can complain.
Also, some other “volunteers” came while I was gone. I’m pretty certain my village thinks volunteer is the nice word for foreigner. Two women and a man came. They threw a big fête. Oh, and we dug the wells deeper in the garden. Are these things related? I can’t figure it out. They seem to have happened on the same day. But whose money was spent? The dance everyone does around this subject is dizzying and leaves me resigned to unknowing. Is this a win or a loss? We have more water. It’s white with clay soil when we reach the bottom. The women did not use the money they’d been saving as a group in the lock box I bough them. Fanta says she tried to stop them from deepening the well, but had no say in whether or not it was dug. Maybe this tells me that the women’s group is ineffective without a volunteer and won’t listen to its elected leadership. Maybe this tells me they are finding ways to do this without aid. Maybe the other “volunteers” gave them money to do it. I’ll let you know when I find out whether this one goes in the win or lose column.
Our whole region is in for an influx of win and loss as the second-year HE/EE volunteers leave and we prepare for new ones (plus, a few Aggies transferring from the canceled program in Mali). On Saturday we had a meeting of the Dabo Work Empire to say goodbye to its first ruler, King David Samba Seydi Glovsky. An obviously bittersweet event made sweeter by visits from our local Master Farmer, Gano, and my counterpart, Seyni, and more bitter with the cold I woke up with the next day. Although kids cannot get it into their heads that my uncharacteristic sitting around all day is not so they can bombard my hut, the adults have expected my every need. Someone to water the garden, someone to pull water, hot cereal for lunch, and mangoes for snacks.
It’s a healthy dose of reality in village life. Every win and every loss changes my plans for the day and the week and changes my perspective on work and life here. Oh, and my brother nearly cut Nacho’s tail off while collecting firewood. His perky say now has an odd bend in it, but as this is not his first fall, I know he’ll heal quickly and we’ll be back to running in the bush together.
Sweaty, sticky, hot season love,