Monday, June 24, 2013

a post of lasts

Last marché day in Bassar.  Last meat sandwich from the brouchette guy in Bassar.  Last Mexican Night at D’s house.  Last ‘normal’ week in Togo.  

I got up this morning to bike in to Kouka and discovered my back tire was flat. Someone had borrowed it over the weekend and brought it back with a piece of wire stuck in the tire.  Oh joy.  I kicked something then went and dug out my tire patch kit that I havent touched in 3 years.  Luckily, I have seen so many moto tires being patched that I could do it in my sleep.  So, I patched my tire, took a shower, got my stuff together, and got my bike to leave. And realized the tire was going soft again.  Merde. I had to take the whole thing off and dunk the inner tube to find the other holes.  It took 2 patches.  Then I ran into a herd of sheep on my way to Kouka. 

One thing I will miss about Togo is the sound of silence.  I was biking home the other evening when I stopped to water the road.  I walked back to my bike and stopped for a minute.  The only thing I could hear was the wind.  No hum of distant traffic, no people, no roar of a soaring jet, nothing.  Just the wind swooping over the landscape sounding like its sounded for a millennia.  For a moment I was eternal. 

You know how there are specific names for groups of animals? Like a murder of crows? Instead of a herd, there should be an idiocy of sheep

Ntido is now officially an apprentice hairstylist.  This means I have accomplished something here

After 3 years here, I have been trying to get a grasp of the Konkumba psyche.  I love my community, but sometimes doing development work is like trying to dance ballet in quicksand.  A Volunteer once said that “you don’t know Togo until you know Dankpen” because of the difficulty of working here.  People from outside of Dankpen who live and work here, like school teachers, like to complain about how the Konkumba are unmotivated and ignorant.  I can understand that perspective, although I don’t really agree with it.  The Kabyé and Tchokossi have their own problems.  On to my anecdote.  I was motoing back to Kouka from Bassar a couple weeks ago.  We were outside of Kouka and racing with another zed who had 2 passengers because neither driver wanted to eat the other’s dust.  We came up on one of the new bridges that had just been completed.  My driver, we were in front, took the detour around the bridge because he didn’t know how smooth the new road was.  The zed behind us went over the bridge.  Which wasn’t all that smooth.  He about flipped his passengers off his moto.  My driver, who is Bassari, laughed, waved the other zed on, and was like “Ha, the Konkumba, they don’t like being passed.”  He’s right.  I pass people on my bike and find myself in a race.  Anyway, last weekend I was talking to Kader about the differences between the Bassar and the Konkumba in regards to our pump project.  He was like “yeah, the Konkumba were tricked a lot by the colonizers, so they didn’t trust strangers.  Now, the old people have passed that down to their children.”  If you look at the history of the Konkumba in the late 18th early 19th centuries, you’ll see a massacre/revolt, and a series of other revolts against the Germans.  The Tchokossi, an ethnic group from just north of us, incidentally, were used to rescue a German column that was besieged in a town near here by the Konkumba after they, the Germans, shot up a marché.  The Konkumba are renowned for being heavily decentralized and for not really liking authority, even that of their own chiefs.  That was probably why the Germans, who liked dealing with tribes more centralized power structures, tended to subdue them rather than deal with them. So, it is not that the Konkumba are unmotivated, it is just that they have a deep-seated, historical distrust of outsiders telling them what to do.  

I am all in favor of churches in the US sending their African brothers and sisters in the faith care packages.  I just wish they would think a little about what they send.  Last night a friend of mine, Namo, one of the resident fervent Pentecostals, tracked me down.  He had a sachet with a couple of cans in it.  Namo is one of the most progressive people I know in Nampoch.  He was the first person in my neighborhood to dig a latrine, and he’s really into women’s rights and health.  Anyway, he explained to me that his church had just gotten this package from the States.  He was like “we got bonbons, and tennis balls, and all kinds of stuff.  And these.  We have no idea what these are.”  He pulled the cans and I started laughing.  I couldn’t help it.  Namo was holding 2 cans of Playdough.  He was like “it says here that these contain flour, so we thought that maybe they were food, but it tastes like crap.  Then we thought that maybe they were some kind of medicine, but I don’t think so. Since they came from America, I came to ask you.”  I had to explain to him that Playdough is a toy for kids.  He was like “Oh. . .”  Playdough is about the most pointless thing to send to kids Africa.  The only kids who get actual toys are the ones from better-off families in cities.  Want to make the day, or month, of a bunch of kids in a village in Africa? Send them soccer balls. 
One of the most annoying things to come home to is chicken crap on the floor 

Remember about the toddler that died in my neighborhood last week? They did a ceremony for it.  Which means a charlatan (French definition not English) made a sacrifice and asked the child’s spirit if there were any extenuating circumstances to its death (like evil magic) or if there were any problems that the family needed to take care of.  The child said that there was great unhappiness in the family because a sister had been given to another family in exchange for her brother’s wife.  Sister/daughter swapping is an old custom that is dying out.  When Kodjo told me what the child said, I was like “so, basically, the kid’s spirit said that woman swapping is bad.” Kodjo was like “yes! exactly.” I am always encouraged whenever I see a community making positive strides in the arena of women’s rights here.  How these strides are made is sometimes interesting. 

I hope I make it back to the States before my computer finally gives up

the last marche day/Mexican night at D's house included a lot of dancing.  At one point this looked like the 4 of us jumping around D who was singing along to "American Pie" in her broom.  the best part was looking out her door into the wide eyes of a bunch of kids.  It was great fun. there was also the idea that we should burn something.  D and Saye compromised by cutting my hair instead.  Imagine Julius Caesar as a hippie.  That's what i look like now, instead of like a vagabond.

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