Monday, September 29, 2008

Two weeks in, chugging along!

It was my first Saturday night in Zana and I heard the tinkling of keys and a tap tap on my corrugated iron window shutters which means Esayi, my homologue, was coming to give me a visit. He announces when he's coming by making these noises because I'm so jumpy and I really appreciate it because it means I don't scream every time he comes to see me which is daily. I was in my kitchen cooking dinner, my hair still dripping from my nightly bucket bath under the stars. Esayi said folks were meeting at the church to sing and if I'd like to come, was welcome to join. I finished making dinner and eating it and made my way over to the church which is an unassuming mud structure no larger than my house, which is just the right size for me, but makes for a very compact worship space. I sat in the back on a cement bench and watched the evening unfold before me. Esayi stood at the front of the church with another boy, Emmanuel, and they led the singing. There were maybe 10 people there, but as the singing progressed, more people came out of the woodwork and joined me on my cement bench and others. I felt cozy and at home sitting there, listening to music I couldn't understand but could feel the emotion in the people's voices. A single kerosene lamp was all we had to light the room and it made the two men up front's shadows loom large before me and made everyone around me glow.

Top Ten Zana:

1 Cute little pigs run around everywhere

2 No cars - it's safe and eco-friendly out here!

3 Stunning sunrises and sets

4 While it's hard on the back, it is very soothing to sleep outside under the stars and with a breeze

5 Zana is filled with patient people who like to laugh

6There's an interest in ultimate frisbee! Little by little (Donni donni in bambara) we'll get a team going so we can play a game

7 Folks will listen to me play "Lyin' Eyes" ad nauseum (just like my college roomates :)

8 I don't have to worry about cutting the grass (or neighbors eyeing my overgrown lawn with weary eyes) because people just come into my yard and hammer stakes - with their livestock attached - into the ground. It's like my own petting zoo - goats, horses, donkeys, chickens. You name it, it's likely in my front yard.

9 There's a harmonious mix Christianity, Islam and animism which means I get to celebrate 3 times the holidays!

10 There's an endless supply of babies to play with and coo over.

And here's a little anecdote to give you an idea of what life is like here when I come to San, my market town:

Two of the other newly installed San volunteers were out shopping for house things at the market and as they walked, a child wouldn't stop pestering them. The kid kept waving an old book in their faces - and they kept shooing him away and, with their fragmented Bambara, trying to explain they weren't interested. The kid followed them throughout the market until he gave up and handed the planner to an older man who then approached the two volunteers. Now, with the children here, it's expected that they'll accost "toubabs" or foreigners, but older people generally tend to keep to themselves. The older man didn't bother with words - he just put the book in the volunteer's basket and left. The two volunteers were so confused - so they opened the book, which they now recognized as a planner, and flipped through the pages and found, written in small print and in pencil, the name of a volunteer who has ben here for two years and is extending for a third. The little boy had just wanted to return the lost book and knew our community is so small here, he knew toubabs would return this book to whomever it belonged.

This is just one example of why I know I've found another place to call home here in San/Zana.


Anonymous said...

I really love the picture you paint of your new home. Your chronicle of your experience is fascinating, and the experience sounds exhilarating. I can only imagine what it must be like to sleep beneath the stars. What kind of food do you eat? Any special delicacies you really like? What kind of instruments do people play? Any unique games you all play there? Inquiring minds want to know.

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