Random Notes I (June 2011)

Okay, I’ll admit, sometimes I struggle writing because I want to present a fair view and although I know most my readers are somewhat cultured, I still don’t want my reader leaving thinking, “my god, they live like monkey in tree…it’s true what they say about rural Africa”. Maybe I’m trying to save face for the village, maybe I’m trying to have pride in my new home, maybe I’m a little embarrassed, who knows? But as I said in my last post, its been a while and the readers deserve some entertainment.

-I was at Rhoko camp the other day and I was surprised by a lizard when I removed my bedsheet. It scared me for a moment but I soon realized I was happy it was a lizard, and not a cockroach or rat. Not that I was happy to share my bed with a lizard but actually, compared to the other options, I was.
-Our electricity problems in Calabar have grown. Apparently our block recently has had the transformer replaced and upgraded. Actually I should say attempted to replace because thieves keep stealing the parts. This has led to our block holding a meeting in which we have decided to hire armed guards to protect the transformer. We agreed that we would divide the cost of hiring these guys and luckily the neighborhood was very understanding of our NGO status and gave us a discounted rate.
-One of the things I dislike the most about the village is the shitting habits of kids under 5. It is basically understood that kids under 5 can take a shit anywhere. Literally anywhere. I’m constantly dodging small piles of crap as I’m walking through the village. Although people will eventually move it to a less disruptive location, I still think its gross and it makes me long for the days when I thought stepping in dog shit was gross. It did however lead to one of the more hilarious moments here…I was sitting on my bench outside my house when a two year old boy came running out of a room and popped a squat. Okay, actually not very unusual. He then called his older sister, who is about 9, and she comes running out of the house. She is holding a cob of corn as she talk with her brother. I can’t quite understand them but after a short while he bends over, she finishes the corn, promptly wipes his ass with the cob and they find this moment the most appropriate time to greet me with ‘good afternoon’. And what do I do? Well, there is a specific greeting in Iko that you give people who are working like those on farm or the local carpenter, so I casually greet them with ‘well done’.
-It should be noted that I spend most my time in flip-flops. This is a random detail but increases my displeasure when stepping in human poo.
-I don’t casually throw around the term gross misunderstanding. But it is a gross misunderstanding to think that drinking local booze is good for unborn babies in the womb.
-The other day I rode a half hour with five people on a motorcycle. That was really uncomfortable. I should also note that it is standard to ride with four people (three crammed on and one sitting sideways on the gas tank in between the driver’s arms) and although five people provides some shock value I should be fair and say that one was a smaller child that was positioned backwards on his mother, much like how monkeys carry their young.
-I burned one of my shirts the other day using the local iron. Apparently I put far too many hot coals in. Luckily Mom taught me to start with the back of the collar first so the shirt is still presentable.
-We had a few monkeys escape in the forest enclosure. Monkeys are damn clever and it took us three days to get them in. We try various door-prop-with-bait but this will only work once so we eventually have to use the blow gun. The ketamine here is very poor quality so even with a triple dose the monkeys still don’t go down. In fact,bafter the first failed attempt one of the monkeys was darted for a second time and grabbed the dart and started to chew and mangle the needle. Like I said,bclever bastards.
-I don’t want to brag but I am becoming pretty damn good at carrying things on my head. Some big and awkward shaped things can be carried on your head quite easily. I’ve also been expanding my native clothes collection and it is quite awesome. I apologize in advance for embarrassing you in public when I wear these awesome clothes upon my return althoug I promise I won’t talk with a Nigerian accent.

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