Tuesday, December 27, 2005

On Burning and such

My neighbor, Sini
Originally uploaded by mchughtie.
On Christmas eve I learned that my favorite restaurant, the place whose salads I dream of when I fall asleep after dinners involving powdered milk and bidik margerine, burned down. Information like that is hard to understand from here, too many questions pop up. I want to know how severe, what they're doing, whether the community is helping, why no one told me. It also brought up the bigger issue that I'm confronted with here, the fact that I know nothing. The place I used to bop around in, my homeland, in my mind, is exactly how I left it until someone informs me otherwise. While I'm studying a basket of rice for grains that crawl, things are happening outside over there. Will I return to a Western Mass I cannot recognize, where flowers on bridges have been pulled up, where the health food store has introduced self-checkout, and where cousins occupy former apartments?

Sunday, December 18, 2005

More Local Stats.

Mami and Sibo
Originally uploaded by mchughtie.
Over 90 (The failure rate of Gambian students on the 9th grade West Africa examination)

4 (Number of wives legally allowed here.)

"About three quarters" (Percentage of teachers, according to a group of upper basic students I met on the road, who beat them.)

8 (My estimate for how many people can fit around a food bowl before it starts getting uncomfortable)

80 (Percent of The Gambia's total exports of which peanuts comprise. Also the percentage of females reportedly circumsized in the Senegambia region)

100-200 (Death rate per thousand for children in TG)

60 Cents, US (Cost of filling a jar with local peanut butter at the market.)

78 or more (Percentage, estimated by local health worker, of all hospital and health clinic visits reported to be malaria. Actual percentage unknown since clinics do not test for Malaria in most cases.)

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Statistics, approximated

My commute
Originally uploaded by mchughtie.
270 (Dalasi spent on Postage stamps in the month of November)
300 (Dalasi spent on rent in the same month)
25 (Percentage of eggs I crack open whose contents scream "Don't eat me!")
6 (Number of holes in my bicycle's tire tubes after returned from secretary)
0 (Number of times I will loan out my bike again)
1 (Minutes until they will "off the generator")
To be continued...

Friday, December 02, 2005

No one likes the blue

Originally uploaded by mchughtie.
I was tutoring the kids, teaching an eleven-year-old the letter sounds, and Fakeba was painting their house a color I can only describe as "smurf." Personally, I liked it, and encouraged him on, and he was incredibly proud that he even had the money to buy the stuff, but I looked over at Betembo, his wife of 26 years, (Who's 39, folks)and she was rolling her eyes and shaking her head. "A mulunjawyatta," she said, to poor Fakeba, who was dripping with paint. "It's ugly." The kids all chimed in with their enthusiastic agreement. But by that time he was done, and a little late for dissent, so the blue remains until next year, marking our compound as by far the most colorful on the block.

Sometimes I wake up

Amelia and Mama
Originally uploaded by mchughtie.
Sometimes I wake up to the Imam calling prayer, long before my body is anywhere near ready to move itself in an upward direction, and I think, "Oh yeah, I live in Africa now." My second thought is often, "What is crawling on my leg?" or "Is that a baby crying, or a goat?" I give my mind some time to re-form, to recognize my surroundings, to connect to my limbs and senses, and wait for some other sign of morning as I know it, be it light, rice pounding, the sound of the pump. There's no sense in missing the sunrise when you're already awake, so I usually pull myself out of my netted cocoon, coax the spiders out of my sneakers, and make my way out of the village. My neighbors yell to me as I pass, greeting me in no less than four languages. They've been up for hours, praying, working, trying to keep ahead of the sun. Still, I'm a curiosity, going out just to go, no bucket or bundle or machete in tow, just me, roaming, me, trying to sneak away for a bit, looking for that perfect space in the day when no one notices the Toubab brushing past on her way to nowhere. It's a strange hobby, being an individual in a communal society.