I promise that after this I will stop talking about snakes. But I'm freaked out now. So last monday, when I was biking into Kouka, I saw a big one crossing the road ahead of me. When I got back home that night, Kodjo came over and we eventually started talking about snakes. I described this snake that Alisha and I saw when we were biking back from Kante last month. Kodjo was like "yeah, that was a spitting cobra" (awhile ago he told me that those are good eating). So after that, he told me that the chief's daughter got bit one night last week but that Kodjo's father-in-law, who is a local fetisher, was able to save her using traditional methods. It was about this point that I realized that he was making a distinction between snakes ("serpents" in french) and vipers (same). When I asked him about vipers, one of which bit the chief's daughter, he was like "oh il y a beacoup ici." Crap.
My parents called me right after that talk and I sat out under the magic reseau tree and shined my flashlight in the bushes the whole time I was talking to them.
Speaking of flashlights, that was probably the 5th flashlight I've had since I've gotten here. They are cheap. I can get one for about 600 CFA. They are LED and put out a lot of light, even with the cheap Chinese batteries here (C- batteries shouldn't be squishy. enough said). However, they have to be handled doucement. The little metal plate that the battery touches under the bulb is really flimsy. If it is bent at all, your flashlight turns itself off all the time. I spent a month beating my first flashlight against things to make it work until i figured out what the problem was. Now, if I am feeling ambitious, i pry out the little metal plate and bend to back into shape. If I'm not, I give it to N'tilabi after I send him to go buy me a new one. He likes tinkering with them.
I had a really weird moment in Kouka last Sunday. I stopped at this boutique to buy phone credit. While I was negotiating with the shop owner in French, a guy asked me "are you the guy who speaks Arabic" in Arabic. I found myself holding a conversation in Arabic while getting my phone credit recharged in French. I had a huge headache afterward and found myself mixing up languages for the rest of the day.
Kouka on marche day is kind of crazy. The main road through town is laterite, ie packed red dirt (the nearest paved road is about 25 miles away). Trucks roar through town along with overloaded bush taxis (vans) and a sprinkling of cinq-places. Zeds dart through this dust storm, dodging vehicles and each other. A few lonely bikers are usually included in the mix, as well as the odd pedestrian and random livestock. Last Sunday I was headed into town on the back of a zed. there were two trucks coming toward us, side by side, as a car passed them on the "shoulder". We got around them, and another zed, by going through ditch.