Wednesday, April 25, 2012

I wrote this several weeks ago . . .

 . . . and i dont really remember what it was about, so happy reading

There are a couple of things I miss about the US:
~1. The ability to buy a $1 candy bar with a $50 bill.  Do candy bars still cost $1?  Here, breaking a 10 mille note (what usually comes out of my bank’s ATM machine, when it works) requires foresight and planning.  Like knowing which store is likely to have enough small bills to give you change without sending a kid on a 10 minute search for more.  You have to plan your shopping trips in order of the denomination of bills you can use.
~2.  Fans
~3. Decent haircuts.  Seriously, I’d come back just for a good haircut.  Here, haircuts for me are like Christmas—I never know what I’m going to get. Like today for example.  My barber sort of knows how to cut caucasian hair, although he shares the Togolese dislike of anything resembling bangs.  Hence why I look like I have a huge forehead in all my photos.  His clippers sort of cut my hair, after several passes.  He plays catch with the guards because they fall off constantly.  I sweat under the sheet.  I usually go home and use scissors to even out the random clumps he didn’t get.  Today, though, was especially special.  My barber shares his power line with a welder.  Every time the welder welded, the power went out. And he must have been building something big today. For every 10 seconds of cutting, there was 30 seconds of waiting.  Oh well, I have short hair now, that’s all that matters.

There is this little lake near Nampoch that was built sometime in the misty past by someone with a bulldozer for the purpose of watering cattle during the dry season.  Over the years, the lake filled up with mud, thus reducing its storage capacity.  A local NGO organized, and found funding for, a project to dredge the lake.  A lot of my friends are working on this.  I go down there some days to drink tchackpa, an essential part of a gathering of any type, and hang out with them.  Basically, people are paid a certain amount of money (1 mille 350 CFA) per day for a certain number of days (40) to work on this project.  Men shovel mud into piles, then into basins that women carry to the edges of the dam and dump.  There are like 5 wheelbarrows, but they are used more for lounging than for hauling dirt. Its not easy work.  Yesterday I shoveled an amount of lake bed in about an hour that I could have moved with a Bobcat in 5 minutes.  Or less.  Paying 100 people for 40 days of work in the dry season is better, and probably cheaper, than hiring a bulldozer or something like that to come do the same work in a fraction of the time.

The next time you are unhappy with life in the US, google images “noma”

I just worked out how about 1,350 CFA is in dollars.  About $3. 

Tomorrow is the start of a funeral fete in my cartier.  The simplest way to describe funerals is like this—the funeral doesn’t end after the burial.  There is a certain period of dancing/feasting/drinking etc that I’ve talked about before.  Then, after that, there is another period of the same thing.  This second period can happen a year later, or several years later.  Usually is what seems to happen is a group of households who have outstanding funerals get together and have a huge party every couple of years.  March is the month for this in the north.  Last year I went to one of these parties in a small village near Nampoch.  One of the traditions is that each household butchers pigs and gives chunks of meat to visitors.  I’d never seen so many dead animals in one place before.

1 comment:

  1. Great reads, as always, Daniel.

    The end of this, about funerals, reminds me of Orthodox cycles- 40 days of prayer, with the first three days being days where some say the soul and corporeal world are very entangled still, as if conscious of one another; and yearly Panakhedas with koliva and visits to gravesite, etc. Right now, I'm enjoying the Alexander McCall Smith series "No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency" set in Botswana. The author is a Scot born in Zimbabwe. He incorporates an term for death 'late.' In of the serials, he explains that death is too final and that ancestors aren't so far away. Do they have terms like that there? Do they use similar terms?