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June 27, 2011

Blogo-Soundtrack: Electric President, The Violent Blue

I feel as though this is long overdue. For some reason, I’ve been having trouble sitting myself down to write; write a story, write a lesson learned, write anything at all, really. I have a sneaking suspicion that this is a natural bi-product of becoming more comfortable in this environment, but I’m not quite sure to be honest.

Daily life and all that that entails has been pretty great lately. There’s been a lot of laughter over the past weeks, and as it turns out, laughter is key. In moments of confusion, and frustration, and joy, and silliness, there’s really only one thing that transcends the palpable cultural barrier that exists now and will probably always exist, and it’s laughing.

All of this felt very clear to me the other day, over a lunch break in the marché. It was the day of the little marché of S—(my favorite marché) and I was sitting in the dolo bar with Josephine, next to the chief of S— and a few other village elders. The day was mellow and the marché was somewhat empty, as the rains have started and many villagers are out cultivating and preparing their land. As is typical, I was sitting on the concrete bench with Josephine holding onto one of the calabashes of dolo, while Alima was off chasing her little bandit who had just recently scampered off to take part some mischief or another.

Out of no where appears a village ‘fou’, or crazy, who plants himself right in front of me and begins to strike up a chat, not so much with me as at me. He was not a typical ‘fou’, as usually these men tend to be dressed in little or no clothing, and their hair is long from lack of upkeep. This gentleman, however, was wearing a navy blazer, with a golden embroidered crest on the breast pocket, and was clean-shaven. Josephine, assuming (naturally) that I am about as dense as a rock, felt inclined to whisper in my ear, “He’s not normal, don’t listen to what he says to you.” (Given the fact that he was calling me “Margot” and singing to me, I think that I could have figured that much out on my own).

Alima comes back with the bandit in tow, and is somewhat taken aback when she sees this man singing to me, waving his double-jointed fingers in front of my face, while the village elders sitting on either side of us try to calmly (but firmly) tell this man to take a hike. She says her bit as well, all while I continue to sit there trying to hide my smile (let’s not be disrespectful, Margot) as Mr. Blazer continues his spiel despite all attempts by the elders to dissuade him from his rant. Finally, the elderly man directly to my left says something to catch his interest, because Mr. Blazer shuffles away from me, presumably so that he can be in a better, more effective position to argue with this man who is kindly trying to save the nassara from being sung at.

So Mr. Blazer moves over to my left, and the heated argument continues. Argue Argue Argue, talk talk talk. Then, out of nowhere, Mr. Blazer sneezes this huge sneeze right into the elder’s face. Achooooo! Not a small sneeze, not a discreet sneeze, no. A big, snotty, loud one! I don’t think I’ve ever laughed so hard. Even the village elders were laughing; even the man who got sneezed on was laughing. It was perfection.

It doesn’t end there. After this incident, there are more words, and Mr. Blazer shuffles back over to where I am sitting. He looks me dead in the eyes for about 3 seconds, and then makes a grab for my calabash of dolo. My first reaction was to pull my calabash back, but then after a second I decided it would be better to just give it to him. I did this, but with a little bit more force than I had intended to. The resulting effect was that the calabash was shoved towards him, and dolo splish-splashed out onto the floor. Fine. Whatever. Or so you would think. But no, Mr. Blazer is pissed. “Who the heck is this nassara, throwing dolo onto the ground like it’s nobody’s business,” I imagine him yelling in Mooré. “Like this!” as he imitates my bold calabash-shoving skills a throws dolo onto the dirt floor of the shaded dolo hut.

Then, a very elderly and unhappy man gets up to complain about having dolo thrown onto his shoes! It just kept getting better, and better. Finally, after this last unhappy camper told Mr. Blazer to skedaddle, he finally got the message and sauntered off through the marché to be on his way.

I laughed very hard that day. The sneeze bit almost sent me rolling on the floor with laughter. And what I realized was that everyone was kind of nervous: is the nassara scared, or is she mad or annoyed with this man? I think that everyone got a kick out of the fact that I was laughing at everything that was transpiring, and they in turn laughed too. It was great, and everyone got a kick out of the absurdity of it all.

That’s all I’ve got for you today.

Much love.


bugs like red velvet

May 31, 2011

Blogo-Soundtrack: a fantabulous mix of goodies from my awesome friends (Sydney, Sara, Lil’ J, Kyle, Ryan – for realz though: THANKS).

I am finally back in village after what was my longest stint away yet: a whopping three and a half weeks. Trainings followed by more trainings followed by meetings had me in Bobo and in Ouaga for what felt like forever. As the time away began to wind down, I found myself feeling nervous and anxious about returning to village. For some reason, so many uncertainties were running through my head. Will they be angry with me for having been gone so long? Will they have thought I’d called it quits and jet-setted my way back to the States (or France, since so many of them think I’m a frog)? Will they realize that I haven’t really done anything productive as of yet, or that my so-called integration level isn’t what it could and/or should be.

I rode my baby blue Trek, decorated with what look to be snowflakes (a small stab at me every time I mount the bike), from the big city back to village. On my ride back, I ran into a woman who I didn’t recognize, but who clearly knew me. “What’d you bring me from Ouaga?” she demanded. “Cookies.” So, we chatted a bit and I sent her and her 3-month-old baby off with one cookie each. As I made my way through the back paths of the route home, I ran into a 6th grader from my village. She helped guide me since my sense of direction is worthless. At a fork in the dirt path, she directed me towards my neighborhood’s mango trees as she veered off towards her courtyard.  She got sent home with a cookie for her troubles.

Finally, I found my favorite mango trees, and as I rode under them towards my house, all of my neighborhood kids on their way to the pump spotted me and started screaming with excitement. “Kailey!!!” (or some variation of that).  It was AWESOME, and possibly the best welcome I’ve ever had.

Since then, it’s as if I’ve been walking on Cloud 9. It’s amazing how much perspective you can gain from just taking one big step back, one deep breath, and then jumping right back into it. In this case, my step back was a prolonged amount of time away from site. My deep breath was discussion with my peers about all of the difficulties we face on the daily and with that, realizing that I am actually pretty happy to be here, despite some of the hardships that naturally accompany the living conditions mixed with the fact that I’m am so far away from my usual support network. I came back and found myself comfortable with my villagers, with the women from my association, with my neighbors and my petits (little ones).

I’ve realized, too, that this is the same thing that always happens, no matter where I find myself in the world. Leaving behind what you know in order to see and learn and do, in order to live new experiences and expand your horizons – well, that’s never easy. We make (seemingly) educated decisions to change our worlds and our lives, but the truth is that we step into these new chapters in our lives completely blind; no one ever really knows what awaits them on the other side. Yet, we do it.

Once we’re in, we’re lost and we often find ourselves so jolted and thrown off balance that maybe we question our sanity when we made The Decision To Change Ourselves. We’ve stepped out of our comfort zones and, as a result, we’re initially on the defensive; we have to be, in order to maintain stability. We feel out of place and feel suspect. But then, something pulls you away momentarily, and once you go back into it, you find yourself mumbling to yourself, “Holy s***, I’m not longer out of my comfort zone; on the contrary, I’m now in my comfort zone. I’m exactly where I am supposed to be, and I even sort of know what’s going on.” It’s quite possibly one of the best awakenings ever.

With that, I can’t help but feel reinspired: I’m here, for better or for worse, so I may as well give it my best shot.

On a separate note, I’ve seen some pretty silly stuff since being back in village. First, a baby goat fell into the well right next to my house (don’t worry, this isn’t where I get my water from). My petits spent hours leaning over that well, navigating buckets around the well’s bottom, patiently trying to rescue him. Luckily for everyone involved, they were successful. Second, because we’re now heading into the rainy season, there is a slew of bugs and birds and whatnot that were non-existant my world before. Below is a picture of the latest creepy-crawly creature to walk the soils of my courtyard:

my velvety friend

And lastly, it’s “grape” season. This means that grapes are growing on trees scattered throughout my village, and throughout this entire region. These grapes are small, with a seed taking up about 75% of the grape itself, and they taste just like what I’ve come to know as synthetic grape Robitussin flavor. Yet somehow they are growing on me.

Much love

of course i don’t look busy

May 3, 2011

Blogo-Soundtrack:  NEW NEW NEW iron & wine?  Yes please!

I dare you to look at the temperature in Ouagadougou at this very moment. If it’s anything less than 100 degrees, it’s probably because it’s nighttime over here. Ouaga hit 130 degrees just last week. The heat is oppressive; it sits and sticks around you, seeps into your skin, right down to your bones, and once it has hit your core, it turns right back around to make its way out of your body in the form of waterfalls of sweat. This, in turn, has me looking like a soggy rag: the wet mop in Fantasia comes to mind (though I look even less elegant than that…)

Despite the state of my appearance, everything is going pretty well here.  Things are, for the most part, back to normal. Burkina seems to be heading back into a state of calm and I just hope that everything stays as mellow as it has been for the past few days.  It was nice to get back to my village, and to see all of the faces that have become very familiar and that always brighten my day. As I’ve mentioned before, the women of the organization I work with are all pretty spectacular, and I can’t help but think that I lucked out with my site placement.

The past month has brought with it a lot of ups and downs: a lot of those nagging questions that are always looming somewhere in the back of my mind came to the forefront on several occasions. The big one of late has been, If I can’t measure the result or the effect, does it mean that I have accomplished nothing? My instinct is to say no, but day after day of having nothing to put on a platter, stick out in front of me, and say, Here, Look, this is the good that I’ve done, this is a step in the right direction – well, the truth is that it really starts to wear on you. My latest thought is that I just need to readjust my concept and outlook on what it means to be successful and accomplished in this environment. This is not to say that I should lessen my drive or my desire to be a positive force in my community; I think it’s just a matter of redefining and, if I’m to be honest with myself, of broadening my definition of what it means to be a positive force here.

That being said, I think it is important to sit down every now and then and take stock of what exactly I’ve been up to. In addition, everyone back home seems to have the same question in mind: So, have you started to make a difference out there yet?  (Just so you all know, this is likely every Peace Corps volunteer’s worst nightmare of a question, for reasons that only people in our position can fully comprehend).

In an attempt to share with everyone reading what exactly have been some of the (small) accomplishments (in my definition of the word) since arriving in my village, I’m going to try my best to throw some stuff down on paper.

First and foremost, I’ve become an expert at making an ass of myself. Be it in the realm of language, cultural matters, or just the way I look, I’ve become a pro at taking a deep breath and laughing at myself along with them (I believe the phrase is “Rolling with the punches”). As far as I can tell, this seems to be the cardinal rule to surviving here: if you don’t have a sense of humor, find one.

The women of my organization have become lovers of my famous Pasta with Tomato Sauce and Tuna. About two times a month, I cook a big pot of something and bring it for them to try. This falls into the realm of Goal 2 of Peace Corps’ three goals, which essentially seeks to share my culture with the community that I am working with. Other culinary delights include curried couscous with onions and raisins, and of course how can I forget that time I made red lentils over couscous (it wasn’t a big hit). The tuna dish seems to be the winner so far (and to think, I used to hate tuna and now I like it – another huge accomplishment of mine since coming to Burkina).

I’ve sold many scarves woven by the women to fellow PC volunteers and to PC staff. As it turns out, I’m not a bad scarf slinger; the bubbly waitress personality that I thought I’d misplaced comes right back to me.  The important part about this is that it’s reassurance for me as well as for the women that their product is of great quality (volunteers Oooh and Ahhh when they see the goods) and the fabric is priced in Burkina terms, meaning that for foreigners, especially the ex-pat community here, the stuff they make is a steal. One of my goals is to tap into this market, and to set up some connections between the ex-pat community and the association. I’ve also sent some scarves home and they seem to be well liked, which only adds to the sense that the product is good.  And with that, I am starting to accomplish Goal 3 (share my work here with those back home).

The liquid soap formation that I did a couple of weeks ago also went well:  I taught the women how to make liquid soap (profits are about 90%) and they bought up their entire stock. The proceeds from this will go to purchasing more soap making ingredients, and it will hopefully save them money on buying detergent and hard soap (both ultimately more expensive) for washing clothes and dishes (which they do often because they have a lot of kids, and there is a lot of dirt). I am hoping to teach them how to make hard soap as well; and ideally we’ll find a good way to sell that to where they can benefit from the sale of that.

On a weeklong training to a city called Koupela, I visited another women’s association that wove fabric; from this little field trip I brought back two little table napkins with interesting and intricate motifs that our association hadn’t yet done. The president of my association has learned how to copy this design and there is already an order for this fabric design. The technique is time consuming, but they will be charging accordingly. Their design turned out to be better quality than the sample I brought, and now they can add that to their repertoire of possible fabric designs. This bodes well for me in my goal to help them learn new techniques as well as help them develop new products. A lot of the fabric designs are designs that would be found in high-end shops in the States, but the trick seems to be helping them pair the right fabrics with the right products. So, in addition to helping them find new concepts and ideas, I am going to try to help them when conceptualizing their final products. We’ll see how this goes…

Today, I helped at the village health clinic with the baby weighings!!  It was wonderful. I am planning to make this part of my weekly routine, and with this I will get to know the mothers of the village and get to know the staff at my health clinic much better. This will help me improve my mooré, and this may be a potential venue for other projects, such as sensiblizations on family planning, illnesses, malnutrition, etc.  But, yeah, 25-50 adorable babies at 8 a.m.?  Yes please!

That’s about it so far. Does this help paint any kind of picture in your mind? I hope it this is helpful. On top of these little things, every day that passes by I can feel myself changing, hopefully for the better. I know that when I return home after the time I’ve spent here I will be more grounded, more patient, and that my mind will have been blown (pardon the Bill-and-Ted speak) in ways that can only come from this type of experience. I find a lot of comfort in this reality.

Oh, and I saw a newborn porcupine!!!  Crazy!  And so cute!

Much love

Ps.  The latest shirt is one that Celestin, the president of my organization’s husband (a big, stern looking fellow) wears. It says, Of course I don’t look busy – I did it right the first time.  My dad would wear this shirt, and so whenever I see him wearing it, it cracks me up.

Pps.  Below is a picture of a canary. Apparently, this isn’t a word in English. Or at least, it’s not the right word. I don’t mean to have you all thinking I store my water in a bird.


this is absurd

April 18, 2011

Blogo-Soundtrack: I still get chills when I listen to Slow Show (The National is where it’s at today)

I’ve recently gotten my paws on two things that are going to make my life a lot more luxurious: canaries! Two of them: one for drinking and one for showering. I’m told that the powers of evaporative cooling go beyond the limits of the possible. Actually, I haven’t been told that. What I’ve been told is that canaries can keep your water up to 30 degrees cooler, which I’ve transformed into going beyond the limits of the possible. (I’ve never been strong with the sciences, and for me, the thought of drinking anything but hot water seems unreal and slightly incomprehensible).

The president of my organization, Alima, told me about a month ago that she had ordered some for me. The days and weeks passed by, and I sort of assumed that they were not really, truly coming. But there they were, one day.

Jinnie contorted a piece of cloth into a holder of sorts and balanced the canaries (two trips) on her head and dropped them off at my house. I asked for specific instructions from Alima and Joséphine, my counterpart, on what EXACTLY to do. I was instructed to keep the canaries filled to the top for the first few days, or else they will break. “That’s all? Where should I put them? In my house, or…?”  I ask. “The big one goes outside, the little one, for drinking, goes inside.”  “And that’s it. Nothing more? Just put water in to the top and I’m all set?” I press.  “Yes. Yes, that’s all.”

I spent about 2 hours trying to filter enough water to put into the drinking canary, the one that I housed in my “bedroom”, the only place I could find for it. Have to make sure it’s filled to the top, I kept telling myself. I shuttled cups of water into my new canary as they filtered.

I should have assumed that I’d manage to do something wrong, despite the fact that I asked at least three times: “Is that all?  There is no other trick to this canary business??” I woke up the next morning to a huge puddle of water in my bedroom (I had slept outside). Apparently evaporative cooling means that the water seeps through the clay and splish-splashes around on my bedroom floor. I’m sure the mice, lizards and termites thoroughly enjoyed the new bathing facilities.

Ironically, I spent a lot of time in my old job dealing with just this issue: flooding. Flooding: the bane of my (and every property manager’s) existence. It was lovely to stand back after this flood and think to myself, Thank god my floor is cement, thank god I don’t have anything worth anything here, thank god I can stand back and laugh at my futile and insistent questions (“and that’s really ALL I need to do??”), thank god I don’t have to worry about mold or ruined expensive belongings or insurance. All I have to do is watch the water dry and hope that my mouse doesn’t get any ideas (if you give a mouse a swimming pool, he’s going to ask for…)

Joséphine stopped by my house this evening. I called her in to show her the water is continuing to pool up in my room. “What!? Kailey, you didn’t put a large plate of sand underneath it? AyeAyeAye!”

I then did as I was told: I found a broken plate, filled it with “sand” (dirt) from in front of my courtyard gate (metal sheet that I pull back and forth) and set the canary on top and proceeded to fill it yet again. Funny thing about the “sand” in front of my house: it’s really dirt mixed with goat droppings because apparently a whole family of them sleeps right in front of the gate at night. So when I came home after work the day I had reinstalled my canary, my entire house smelled like a mixture of manure and barn, and there was still a huge puddle on my floor.


So this brings me to my next point: life here is absurd. Not a day goes by where I don’t snap awake from whatever daze I’ve been in and realize just how absurd all of it really is. There are so many moments that feel like snapshots being burned into my brain: is this really happening? and/or Are you for real? A lot of them are small, nothing to write home about; they might, however, help you paint a slightly more well rounded picture of my life here.

–       Every day, I watch at least two toddlers grab a handful of dirt and eat it. The surprising thing is that watching them scarf it down you’d think the stuff didn’t taste all that bad.

–       I’ll bet you didn’t know that goats can climb (that’s right, goats can climb). I sometimes look out of my hut to see two baby goats facing each other atop a stone wall, crying like babies; or one little buddy chomping on leaves in the tree right next to my latrine.

–       Snot rockets (if your imagination is failing you, look it up).

–       The women in my village open bottles with their teeth when there isn’t an opener around.

–       A large black rat ran over my foot not to long ago. It. Was. Horrifying.

–       The old men here mysteriously all wear the exact same style of sunglasses: very opaque black lenses, and very square. They look as though they all belong to some secret society. (I desperately want to get my hands on a pair).

–       At the market a few towns away (not my market), I got hissed at (not unusual here) only to turn around and see a man in his twenties holding up a magazine cut out of a golden retriever wearing reading glasses. “Nasaara!” he yelled. “Look! It’s you!!” he seemed to say.

–       Baby scorpion inside my hut. Just think about that. Yikes.

–       Julienne trying to repeat the words I am telling her in English:  “Virgin Mary” turns into “Gertrude Hairy”. Priceless.

–       The priest going on in mooré-suddenly-turned-French:  “And now we’d like to ask l’Etrangère to say a few words on religion…” Mortifying (mostly because I wasn’t paying attention and I only realized what was going on once ALL eyes were one me –  ALL OF THEM).

–       Sometimes, if you are born on a Monday, they will name you Monday. If you’re born on a Saturday, they’ll name you Saturday.  (This actually isn’t absurd. Absurdity would be naming the goober named on a Monday, Saturday).

–       There is no way to say, “I miss you” in Mooré. Instead you tell someone you haven’t laid eyes on him/her in awhile. How nuts is that?! No way to tell someone you miss them.

–       Brand new baby pigs look a lot like brand new baby dogs. I can attest to this because I saw my first newborn piglet dead on the side of the road today. (I’m usually not easily shaken by this kind of stuff, but for some reason this sight shook me).

–       I still like extra-hot hot chocolate on extra hot days.

Much love

the low hanging fruit principle

April 5, 2011

Blogo-Soundtrack: paying new attention to Yo La Tengo

Life here has been peachy keen lately. I don’t quite know how to describe what is clearly a tangible change: on what day, at what moment, do things somehow fall just oh-so-slightly more into place?

Don’t get me wrong: all of those large, looming, Peace Corps questions are still always on my mind. What is the right way to proceed? How can I help? Where do I fit in? What is my role? I guess the difference is that I am suddenly feeling a little bit more at ease with all of these uncertainties. In the end, I’m here. When all is said and done, I should be able to tell myself honestly that at the very least, I put myself out there, I opened myself up to others, I let go just enough to make myself accessible to those who are looking to take advantage of whatever skills or pieces of knowledge I may be able to transfer to them. In the end, I’m nothing but a connector. What I’ve realized is that the truly difficult part is not finding ways in which life can be improved upon in the face of poverty and difficult conditions and always-present obstacles; the difficult part is becoming a member of the community, acting in a way that is non-threatening to those around you, and above all opening your heart and your personality up so as to create connection and trust on the most basic level. It seems to me that if I can achieve this, then the rest will slowly come tumbling into place.

Upon reaching this conclusion, I’ve been making a conscious effort to just jump into this reality. I can’t quite find the right way to describe it, but the feeling is something like standing at the edge a very, very high diving board and finally overcoming that fear of jumping that sits like a tight knot in the center of your stomach. With this comes a huge loss of control, and so is a very scary move to make. But it’s so worth it. I guess this is why I’ve felt so much more stable and content lately: I’m feeling more prepared to just let go and see what happens.

On top of this newfound calmness, it’s mango season! Yesterday I spent my lunchtime with two girls from my organization, Julienne and Sarata, underneath the huge mango trees surrounding our neighborhood catching mangos being tossed down to me from the highest reaches of the trees. At times like that, I can’t help but think to myself that life can’t really get any better than this: here I am, in a village I am beginning to call home, in a small little landlocked country in West Africa, catching delicious fruit being flung at me from the depths of huge trees. Even better is the fact that nothing on earth seems more natural to them (or to me in this moment) than to spend a lunch hours shimmying barefoot up a huge tree to collect succulent fruit.

This is when I realized that the reason my favorite economic principle is the Low Hanging Fruit Principle. I love this one most for two reasons. The first is plainly because of the awesome imagery that you can’t put out of your mind when you say it: you can only think of being in an orchard somewhere, or under a huge mango tree, searching frantically for the best and ripest fruit to satisfy your hunger. The second is because this is essentially the way that I’ve been functioning these past few months here: everything has felt so difficult, so I’ve tried to counter the simple challenge of growing accustomed to my new life here by taking advantage of all of those brief, little moments when things feel a little less difficult. I have found myself taking full advantage of the moments that feel easiest, that way I can conserve more energy for all of those moments that seem insurmountable. I think this is a huge factor in my newfound contentedness: make use of those opportunities to go climb a tree, because that’s easy! Don’t opt out of those small moments where it’s all too simple; there will be plenty of other small moments where things are all too complicated.

So for those of you back home wondering: am I having an impact out here? Have I made a difference? The most honest answer to this is: absolutely not. This isn’t an easy thing to say out loud, to own up to, but at the same time, I know it’s the natural process of things in this nebulous world known as Peace Corps. And who knows what will come in the months and years to come. All I can assume is that if a person can leap from a first week spent in tears and in utter terror of what’s ahead (not to mention a severe feeling of being so far out of place) to a place of what can only be described as normalcy, calm and contentedness (despite a true grasp on what exactly is in store), then who knows what else is in the realm of the possible.

Much love

PS. The latest in a collection of the most wonderful Burkinabe tees: The image: Barrack Obama (with a glorious bald eagle regally sitting behind him) wearing a cool set of shades. The print: Barrack Obama. Changed!!!! We Need. Or, A yellow shirt with a blue heart on the front. Inside of the blue heart is written: Red Heart.

for your viewing pleasure (snipets into a fete and some daily life).

March 22, 2011

pillows (covers and pillows alike hand crafted)

traditional burkinabe cloth

thanks, lil J!!!

and this is where i cook (mam seglde)

oh i'm sorry. did i say giants ants? i meant TERMITES.

just workin' away at their underground house...


this is evarest - he's one of two of my favorite little toddlers au village

some of the children

alima, the president of my association

yours truly (decked out in the pagne du moment and all) with the women of my association

this is simon, possible one of the cutest kids around

the ones who hang around my courtyard (they're pretty legit)

awa 🙂

sarata et moi

nathalie, josephine, sabine et moi

josephine, julienne et pascaline - mmmm meat!

el bandito!

the queen


african storm sunset

soggy nights

March 17, 2011

Blogo-Soundtrack: as always, I am still so much in love with Iron & Wine (will Sam Beam just come and steal me away already??)

“My land, it was a hot day today. Earth soaks up all the heat and lets it out at night. It’ll be soggy sleeping.” So writes Ray Bradbury in Dandelion Wine, the book I’m reading at the moment.

Sometimes you read things and it feels like a forecast, like the book or the passage or whatever it may be is speaking directly to you, for you. That’s how I felt last night as I read that: the beginning of the heat is now upon Burkina, and you can feel it. It seeps into your pores, into your bones, and there are moments when all of a sudden you become fully aware of your body simply because of the fact that you are sweating so profusely, though not moving an inch.

Unsurprisingly, my hut with the corrugated tin roof holds heat like a sauna, and without so much as a breeze or a draft to relish in sleep is impossible. Everything is sticky, the foam mattress I bought radiates heat so I feel like a cookie in the oven, and the mosquito net only traps the already sticky air so that it clings ever closer to my body.

Village life consists of a life lived out of doors. A hut is simply a place to sleep; living and cooking and eating and gossiping – all of that takes place outside. So far, I still live in a way that’s familiar to me: inside. I cook inside, I store everything inside, I listen to music inside, I wash my dishes inside and, up until recently, I ate and slept inside.

Two nights ago, I started sleeping outside. I broke out my Bug Hut – perhaps the single best investment I reluctantly made while spending exorbitant amounts of money shopping to join the Peace Corps – and set up camp under my shoddily constructed straw awning. I slept better than I had in weeks. It’s still hot but for a few hours in the dead middle of the night, the temperature seems to drop to a reasonable level, reasonable enough to where sleep becomes a reality.

I arrived home yesterday afternoon and started off with my usual evening routine: sweep my outdoor shower clean of all of the leaves, dirt, and chicken feathers that have floated into it throughout the day; get water ready for my bucket bath (no more heating the water – it’s “cold” bucket baths from now ‘til the next cold season); munch on raisins or whatever other “treat” I scrounge up from my food bin; read or write while it’s still daylight; sweep my hut. Then I boldly (ha) decided that I was living my life too much indoors. I thought to myself, It’s way to hot to be functioning inside this hotbox, I am going to move some activities outside! This really only amounted to me moving my dishwashing station and my sleeping arrangements outside, but the point I am trying to highlight here is that I consciously made the decision to relocate out of doors. After all, the “earth soaks up all the heat and lets it out at night. It’ll be soggy sleeping.” Very soggy, as it turns out.

One of the things I find interesting about climates like the one I will be sharing an existence with for the next two years is the predictability of the seasons. There is the cold season, the dry season, the hot season and the rainy season. Of course, the reality of this predictability is that it exists only in my mind. I should know better than to believe in it: doesn’t the law of the universe dictate that when we go to great lengths to make what we believe to be a well educated and logical decision, we usually end up relocating out of doors and sleeping outside, essentially under a sieve, on the night that a HUGE thunderstorm hits?

I should have guessed. About two hours after I went to sleep, I woke up to the sound of what I thought could only be children (or the sky?) throwing dirt and small pebbles at me and my Bug Hut. Of course, once I started getting sopping wet I realized it was just the beginning of a storm that I thought would surely rip the tin roof that is the bane of my existence right off.

Awesome. I spent the next 45 minutes in a discombobulated state, pacing my hut because of the noise (like someone dropping a trillion pins onto a sheet of tin) and the thunder and lightning. I thought to myself, What if my roof rips right off? Then what? And what if my Bug Hut (which I didn’t have the time to pack up) gets so ruined that I am doomed to sleep inside until I somehow get another one shipped to me?

Perhaps the best part was when I shone my flashlight to the corner of my hut that I’ve had my eye on for a few days now. There are two little holes and unusually large piles of dirt keep magically appearing like a halo on my cement floor. Well, the giant ants that have been building their farm must have gotten a scare with the rain coming through their recently constructed tunnels, because the ENORMOUS suckers all evacuated (see pictures below). They dispersed into the room with my mattress in it. Thus I found myself sleeping in the middle of my kitchen, listening to the rain and the wind hit the roof, watching as the lightning illuminated the hut and waiting to hear the delayed thunderous roar that is her partner in crime, wondering what possessed me to neglect my Bug Hut outside to drown or fly away, and trying to shake that imaginary feeling of bugs (giant ants, to be precise) crawling all over me, starting at my fingers and toes and working their way up my limbs to the center of my body, to end at my nostrils or my mouth or the holes in my ears!

I woke up feeling far from rested, and yet ready to take on the day. It’s national women’s day today, which means only no work, lots of dolo, and the pagnes of the moment, if you are lucky enough to have stumbled upon a tailor that completes things on time (which I was not).

Much love