My adventures serving in the Peace Corps
Wednesday, September 24, 2008
Ok, this is getting ridiculous. I know I lamented my being away from the internet for several months, but here I am, only a week after my last blog post. You'll never guess why I have internet access- I'm in the med unit! Again! This time, it's a yeast infection, probably from the antibiotics they put me on last week. They really should give all the girls treatments for this in our medical kits, instead of having us come all the way to Cotonou. Then, once I got here, I went to the bank. Over two hours later, because of “a glitch in their system,” they “forgot about my check.” The bank was packed and for that whole two hours I was standing in line. Maddening. Africans are very patient and I did my best, but the American in me was flipping out. I just keep thinking to myself: air conditioning, internet, and hommous. (I told you I would say it every time.)
So, there's not a whole lot new and exciting to report from this past week. My zemidjan driver on the way back from Cotonou last week took me a back way to my village and it was breathtakingly beautiful. I saw some trees that must have been around when the dinosaurs were they were so huge. When I got back to Lobogo, the carpenter, cushion-maker, and my homologue came over to work out the price for the dining room table, two chairs, and couch that I ordered. I ended up spending about $160, which is a lot here, but they are important items and should be well worth it. Once those are installed in the next week or two, and I hang a few more things on the walls, my house will finally feel like a home.
And next week, I will welcome into my home two more roommates- kittens! I was planning on buying a kitten or two at the market on Sunday, but on Saturday, I happened to notice two adorable kittens outside one womans house, so I stopped in to inquire. She spoke no French, so she had her son come over to translate. We worked out that I will pay her about $7 for both cats, and I will take them when they are ready to leave their mother, probably in about a week. They are really beautiful cats: one is light gray with darker gray stripes, and one is white with tan spots- see the pictures! I was thinking about giving them names in Sahoue, the local language, but it is to hard for me to pronounce haha. I am thinking about naming on Belle, and maybe the other one Baby? (They are both girls. I am definitely going to look into having them spayed!) Anyone have any good suggestions?
Speaking of creatures, this week I discovered that there are three monkeys in my village, but not wild- they are chained to trees as pets. How sad and bizarre. Also, I have decided that the spiders that live in the big palm tree in my concession should be classified and animals as opposed to insects based on their size. I put up a picture, but it doesn't do it justice in terms of showing the true size. (I also put up pictures of my family and last dinner in Porto Novo, my STUFFED taxi on the way to Lobogo, the huge and colorful grasshopper that sometimes visits me in the shower, and my first meal I cooked for myself- African eggplant and couscous in a tomato and olive oil sauce.)
There were several exciting happenings in my world of cuisine this week: 1. I learned how to cook beans! As I have said, protein here is hard to come by, so this is a big break for me. (Unfortunately, when you buy beans at the market, there are inevitably bugs in them. They're fine if you wash the beans before you cook them, but it still really grosses me out to look in the ziploc bag I store them in and see little bugs crawling around inside. This is another example, my friends, of something I deal with here that would NOT fly in the United States.) The second exciting thing was I met up with the woman at the market who is going to bring me vegetables each week! I am going to give here about $3.50, and she will bring me green beans, avocados, cucumber, apples, potatoes, lettuce, and carrots. She even brought some to me this week! One night I had a salad consisting of lettuce, green beans, avocado, cucumber, and carrots, with a mustard vinaigrette, and all was well in the world. Number three: my neighbor made me chicken. This may not seem earth-shattering to you, but since I virtually eat no meat anymore, and when I do get it on a rare occasion it is nasty fish, this was graciously accepted and consequently devoured. Finally, number four: I found huge cloves of prepeeled garlic at my market. This, once again, may not seem like much, but normally the garlic you find here is tiiiiny cloves that are in such a hard casing they can barely be peeled. Yay! (It's the little things, here.)
Anyways, yesterday I met up with another volunteer who is a few villages away from me at a bar right on the lake. It was lovely: we sat and had some beers and talked for several hours, and while we were there a thunderstorm blew across the lake. It was gorgeous! Afterwards we got some delicious beans and fish from a woman on the street. Seeing another volunteer is really nice and somewhat therapeutic when you're over here. And actually, Friday is another volunteer who lives in Lokossa's (the closest major city to me) birthday, so all of the volunteers in the region are getting together for lunch and drinks and supermarket and internet time. It will be really nice to see everyone!
This week I have been spending a lot of time with my neighbors, playing cards, doing puzzles, and just talking. They are very nice and helpful people. One man helped me put up this straw mat on my wall in which I put all the pictures and letters I receive from home (see picture. I also put up pictures of my house). Angele, the landlords first wife with whom I am becoming close, told me that I am one of the only reasons she still lives in this concession, because “her husband no longer likes or loves her.” That was really sad and hard for me to hear, since she is such a sweet woman. Her husband is quite nice to me, but I know how he treats his wives and kids. One of her children is albino, so everyone, including her family, calls her “yovo.” I really don't understand or like this, but c'est la vie. Also, one of the goats that lives in the pen in my concession had two kids this week- SO CUTE (see pictures).
Well, I think that's about it for now. I have gotten several phone calls in the last week or two which have been really nice since I am so bored and lonely! Keep them coming! Several small things before I go: on my letters and packages, you can now write “Angelina Hurst, PCV” instead of “Angelina Hurst, PCT” since I am now a volunteer instead of a trainee :) Another clever trick you can try to ensure their arrival: write “To Sister Angelina Hurst” like I am a nun, or write “Dieu vous regarde” (“God is watching you”) on the package. I have been getting some things incredibly fast, and some things that were sent not long after I left the States still haven't made it here and might not ever. I really don't think it is a problem with theft, I think it is the disorganization of the postal system here. I think I mentioned this in my post about my packages being missent to Belize, but instead of writing Afrique de l'Ouest on things, go ahead and write WEST AFRICA in all caps so that it's hard to miss :) Also, here is an update to my wish list for things to send to me:
-big ziploc bags
-envelopes (for letters)
-powdered drinks (preferably sugar free, vitamin enhanced)
-candy/snacks- beef jerky for protein!
-old textbooks/school supplies
-dried fruit (especially apples)
-games and puzzles
-tape (scotch tape, masking tape, and duct tape)
Well there you have it. By no means am I expecting any or all of these things, but I keep getting asked what I would like or need, so there you have it! Final thought: if you are looking for a good book that gives you an idea of what my life is like here, go get “The Sex Lives of Cannibals” by J. Maarten Troost. He and his fiancée volunteer for two years on an island in the south Pacific, and his anecdotes about the culture, heat, and bugs made me laugh so hard because it is so similar to my life here. It is a hilarious and quick read. Anyways, I love and miss you all! Only a week and a half until the boredom ends and school begins :)