Sunday, May 28, 2006

life lessons hard learned

So, being here the last few weeks has been like a constant attack on my pride. For all my years of striving to be strong and independent, able to fend for myself and rise to any challenge with success, I suddenly find myself a very weak, incompetent young woman. It does not really matter anymore what I could do back in the States, what I have studied, learned or have experienced. Here, I am “worthless” (at least that is the term that one of our friends has jokingly deemed us). Though she teases, I know in her eyes there is much truth in it. I do not know how wash out my clothes by hand (at least not as well as they do). I do not know how to cook African food. I cannot carry five gallons of water on my head without spilling it… I can hardly carry two gallons of water on my head without spilling it. Even something as simple as sweeping the floor shows my clumsiness for I am used to using a western broom and not the small handheld ones that they use, which require you to be bent over completely at the waist. Actually, I’m still trying to figure out how to keep my skirt wrapped around me without it falling off. (No, it hasn’t happened yet, but they are tricky little things.) And on top of everything the two of us can hardly put together a complete sentence that is understandable. Everything that is expected of an average woman here is completely foreign to me. And because the African way is to joke and tease constantly, I am rarely unaware of my incapabilities. Of course it doesn’t help that Reaiah has decided to add another insult to the list by telling our friends that I don’t bathe… so now every time we see our friend she asks, “Kacy, did you bathe yesterday? Did you bathe today?”… and, of course, it doesn’t matter what you say in response, you never convince them otherwise, or at least they don’t care enough to acknowledge that, yes, you actually ARE clean.
I’m not sure why their good natured teasing seems to wound my pride so much. It’s not as though I am not used to being made fun of by friends and family. Maybe it’s because for possibly the first time in my life I have no defense… what they’re saying is true. (well, except for the bathing thing…)

Fishing Day in K-town

Just before the rains come and the whole place gets flooded, the locals here take a few days to go and clear out the last of the fish caught in a certain part of the river nearby. So we decided to join them on the adventure and see what fishing in Africa was all about. They have no need for boats, so the people simply carry individual sized nets on poles or special baskets as they wade out into the water and try to scoop up whatever fish might be innocently swimming nearby.
We attempted the basket method ourselves, but it didn’t seem particularly efficient simply pushing the thing down into the water and hoping a fish got caught underneath. I think I would prefer a line and some bait any day, but that’s just me. The nets seemed to work much better, as they could be used in the deeper water, and we were able to get a look at some of the catches they brought back to shore. Of course, once on shore, the lucky fishermen get busy smacking the fish with mallet-like clubs to put them out of their misery (it’s all a very brutal process, and kinda amusing at the same time).
For the special event the normal dress code was set aside and many of the women could be seen with their wrap skirts pulled up to their mid thighs or even wearing the ever scandalous pants and shorts. But our favorite of the day had to be one woman we spotted in the water wearing neon blue spandex…
Not willing myself to get out into the chest-high water in my broom skirt, I spent most of the day just watching them and enjoying the sun. At least that is until the flood came. Yes, the day we ventured out of town close to the river in our truck, what seemed to be the very first of the heavy rains came and turned the road between the fishing spot and our house immediately into an almost continuous shallow rapids… At least that’s what it looked like to me and Reaiah who had to drive the thing home through the swiftly moving water (oh, I wish I had taken a picture of it…), while our friends with us were not concerned at all for the truck’s ability to drive through it (none of them know how to drive, or seem to have a clue what flood water can do). But we made it, with much intense prayer from inside the truck, and were grateful, once again, for the promise “when you pass through the rivers, I will be with you. And when you pass through the waters, they will not sweep over you.” Still, I don’t think we’ll be trying that again anytime soon.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

oh... just check out my teammate, Reaiah's blog... she sums it up pretty good.