Friday, December 25, 2009

a (last) word or two...

also 9/2/2002:
a word or two about Tate/Shannon/Julie/Rob's visit. at Maggie's for brunch one day, Tate asks me about my faith. what i feel when i pray? what i love most about it?

hmmm... at best, connected/focused/serene, moved/emotional/present. at worst, just trying to get it out of the way. wal'iyyathu billah [refuge].

what i love most? my worldview. how i see/understand/judge/navigate things–life! it is, undeniably, me. muslim. hamdillah [praise].

Saidu and i were talking at the Lake [Wum] yesterday. 2 things he said he thanked the Lord for regularly. i echo the sentiments, even if i don't share them with many people.

...and 1/2 way around the world i keep making connections with people and, while learning that in sooo many ways we're all the same, i keep learning about myself:
who i am?
why i came here?
where i want to go?
what i want to do?
who i want to be with?


...so we ask for guidance and protection.

Midnight's Children

9/2/2002:
"Love, my child, is a thing that every mother learns; it is not born with a baby, but made."
(Amina Sinai to her "son" Saleem, from Salman Rushdie's Midnight's Children)

let me write. i haven't been lately. at least things i keep telling myself to. perhaps b/c this journal is coming to an end. i like this journal. anyway... all good things... AND the end of one thing signals the start of another. but let me write.

i've been reading Midnight's Children. good book. have i written about it yet? Rushdie has quite a style: rich vocab, colorful language, vivid imagery, imaginative character development... and a wonderfully intricate plot to tie it all together. reminds me of The God of Small Things [or is it the other way around?]... a lot. still, Rushdie is pompous. i'm probably biased. the vocab and the references... all over the place. he's obviously well-read, and he flaunts it. but i suppose he can't be blamed for that.

there are a couple of references to religion/faith/Islam. with his characters reflecting that same doubt in the religion that they were raised in. unsure of what is a worse fate, to believe in God or not to believe. culturally Muslim, intellectually agnostic... i should say culturally Indian. b/c Rushdie refers to both Hindu and Muslim myth/history as equally as each other. anyway... i hope to finish this book before school commences, insah'Allah.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

mountains of fruit!











 


also 9/1/2002:

OK... some basic arithmetic, from last night's dinner:
  • 2 bananas: 25 cfa here / $.50 there
  • 1 papaya: 125 cfa here / $2 there
  • 1 avocado: 50 cfa here / $1 there
  • 1 pineapple: 250 cfa here / $4 there
  • 2 bread-buns: 100 cfa here / $1 there
  • total: 400 cfa here / $8.50 there
$8.50 = 5,950 cfa... that's mountains of fruit!

pictures & portents













 

9/1/2002:
having bad sleeping nights. cough, stuffy nose, trouble breathing, stomach hurts, body itches... Allah ya'een [succor]!

strange thing happened last night. heard this noise. recognized that one of the [unframed] pictures must've fallen off the wall. didn't realize, until this morning, that it was mama's picture (Saidu asked to see it off the wall yesterday)... AND it landed right next to me on the bed!

Maggie says i should get ready for another visit!

what again?

8/31/2002:
in Wum after an aller-retour [round trip] to Bamenda hier [yesterday]. Saidu is here [a friend from Bamenda that came to visit]. had a good day... uneventful, but pleasant.

what again? my belly aches... my eyesight is bad. glasses hurt my head. perhaps its the prescription? it may need to change.

hmmm... the trip to Bamenda yesterday was tiring. we pushed the bus up Befang hill a few times. sat on no more than 8 or 9cm of seat on the way there, i swear! crossed the bridge over the Menchum [river] both ways. bad. scared old mommies and men. average of 4 hours en route.

anywho... did email in Bamenda. went well considering that i sent out 20+ messages in 1 hour, with a bad connection.

what again? nada/rien/zero/la-shayy'...

Sunday, December 6, 2009

3 more pages...

8/28/2002:
3 more pages in this journal!

short list of what to take to Maggie's this morning. we get 'tranger dem [we have guests]... Tate, Shannon R., Julie and Robert. had a great brunch this morning and simple dinner last night.

we had nice walk out to the lake [wum]... quiet, peaceful out there. they're leaving tomorrow AM. i leave Friday, insha'Allah. will come back with Saidu [friend from Bamenda] and the rent money... INSHA'ALLAH!

i spoke to the family... mama and khalto [auntie]. they're a riot! good to hear from them. OMZ started school today. senior year from him [in university]. subhan Allah, how time flies.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

tenant gripes, no change at school

8/27/2002:
on a different note... more frustrating. Kenneth [a friend, colleague and caretaker of the house i was renting] came over. we "discussed" house stuff. let's see... how to describe the dialogue?

not tense. not awkward. not loud. not angry, or bitter. i just kept repeating myself and Kenneth kept getting defensive... explaining away my gripes. so i kept repeating myself. and he grew frustrated. but he didn't really understand what i was saying.

i was saying that, against my better judgment, i need to and would pay rent. b/c i need to get the receipts to PC admin in Yaounde. but if it was up to me, i'd just hold on to the money until my door, water-heater and fence were fixed. the roof seems to be all right, for now.

so... in giving him the rent money i pleaded that it be used for all that. without much delay. b/c if it isn't done now... no rent again jusqu'à Décembre ["until December," as i paid quarterly rent].

again... our communication was off. way off! Maggie was in the kitchen. Kenneth actually wanted to get her in as a 3rd party [i.e. a mediator]. not sure why??? well, i am sure why... but i was cool as a cucumber. not angry, just persistent. we'll see what happens.

last note: there's been no administrative reshuffle at our school [GTTC Wum]. Auntie is our principal. the VP is the VP. both bad and good news, i suppose... still, a lot of us [teachers] are disappointed. will go on as planned with the workshops, insha'Allah. staff meeting on the 5th of Sept.

Friday, November 27, 2009

EE Camp

8/27/2002:
EE CAMP MEETING #2
Curric. Prep. w/Maggie

Schedule:

7:30-8am – Breakfast
8-9:15am – Activity #1
9:30-10:45am – Activity #2
11am-12pm – Demos and Games
12-1pm – Lunch
1-2pm – Guest Speaker

2 Groups:
-45 students (15 per school)
-23 & 22 per group
-Maggie, Me and Paul coordinate
-4 GTTC student-teachers per group

6 Activities total, associated with 6 Topics:
  1. Introduction – Define Environment and Ecosystem
  2. "Munch-line Monitors" – Food Chains & Energy Flow
  3. "The Great Spec-tackle" – Air, H2O & Soil Cycles
  4. "Connection Inspection" – Interrelationships
  5. " ? " – Diversity of/in Ecosystems
  6. "Magic Spot(s)" – Environmental Appreciation
Resources and Supplies:
  • Ground Rules – Brown-paper for Rules, Schedule & Map; 45 Manuals/Pens
  • Intro to Ecosystems – Brown-paper for Definitions & Topics Outline
  • Munch-line Monitors – Brown-paper for Instructions, Plastic Plates, Small Chalkboard, Rope, Poster-paper, and Plastic Bags
  • The Great Speck-tackle – Brown-paper, Stakes, Rope, Story Book, "Machine" (clay box), and Paper.
  • Connection Inspection – Brown-paper, Rope (4 colors), and Long Stakes.
  • Field/Forest/Marsh – Brown-paper, Long Stakes, Poster-paper, Rope and Labels
  • Guest Lecture – Brown-paper, Markers, and Chalk
  • Miscellaneous – Brown-paper, Markers, Chalk, Rope, Tape
To Do:
-Mohamad – Outline Introduction, Activities for any/all topics from different resources, and Definitions for key terms
-Maggie – Outline McKeever activities

Next:
-Thursday afternoon – scope out GBSS [Govt. Bilingual Secondary School], and discuss where activities can be held.
-Discuss guest speakers


Maggie and i met about EE camp curriculum. not so much a vague meeting as it was–hmmm... unfocused? i would've liked to identify key concepts in EE and then come up with relevant activities. we kinda went backwards. anyway, same result in the end.

it will be much work. logistics! preparation... scheduling people's time. students' time. one worries. especially here where the concept of time is–well... different. and the money issue, too. i just worry about these 1 day plus small projects.

the make you want to pull your hair out and just wish them over! anything you pull off–as a labor of love–is good enough. so we'll be scoping out the place on Thursday, insha'Allah. i need to look into more activities. we also need to discuss guest speakers: who & how... and what, as well!

Thursday, November 26, 2009

both beautiful & bitter

8/26/2002: 4 and 5 of 5
3+4. talk w/Shawn about sustainable development and Small is Beautiful: OK... Shawn and i spoke about a lot on the way to swearing-in in Dschang. development, of course. economic, social, educational, etc. interesting. a lot came up from Small is Beautiful. it's opened me up to more of an economic opinion on such topics... an economics with a human face! :)

basically both Shawn and i were for more efficient/effective development. cut the BS. if it doesn't work, get out. but don't give up. change the angle. here's my point: big-towns/big-schools (i.e. GTTCs) are inherently, for right now at least, inefficient & ineffective (let's not go there on why). let's get out. but not give up. how?

work with GTTCs from without... seminars/workshops/consultation w/admin. and, staying on the educational issue, put volunteers in the smaller towns/villages (w/villages meaning places like Enyoh/Weh/Befang, etc.) where teachers are needed and can be productive. not stifled.

but where is the CD or APCDs to hear all this? as for the latter, ours is chillin' up in the air-conditioned 4X4 and fancy hotels (out of reach and out of touch). the former... he promised to visit every PCV at every post. he got to Bamenda late... and, as Shawn put it, it's hard to get love with a bad road [i.e. the Wum road].

i'm bitter, yes. bitterly so. and growing angrier at the man by the incident. why so? don't know. projection, perhaps. i'm frustrated.

i've said my... PEACE.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

about our crowds

8/26/2002: 3 of 5
back and so fresh and so clean-clean! all right, na'eeman 'alaya [an old arab greeting for some who's just bathed, shaved, or gotten a haircut]. what's next on the list?

2. dinner with the young crowd (under 30)... din-din heir. Maggie, Greg, Alain and Kelly. we did pesto/pasta and garlic bread. interesting conversation. cool hanging out with a young, educated, opinionated cameroonian crowd. not that my other "crowds" don't do it for me.

Maggie and i joke about our crowds, they're a little different. mine isn't as classy! ;)

Saturday, November 21, 2009

about family

8/26/2002: 2 of 5
1. family phone calls and update: all right. family called yesterday and today. Rama 1st. spoke to her, Aboudi and Tala. all seems well. they're in Dubai! looking for schools. kids excited. Rama anxious but optimistic. Allah ya'eenha... [God help her]. OMZ called. he's all right. in his books. in the rap-thing, too. he's looking to pursue both. gotta love him! Allah yuwafiqah... [God grant him success].

mama called this morning. she's well. back in Damas. claims that Istanbul is the prettiest city on earth. has permission [from the security office] to renovate the new apartment she has in the city, not far from the foreign ministry. she's thinking about coming here again. why not?! Allah y'tawwil 3umrha... [God give her long life].

water is hot... gonna bathe! i'll be back...

i want to write about...

8/26/2002: 1 of 5
i want to write but i don't want to write. my head hurts. my eyes specifically. glasses seem to be hurting my head. prescription? also got a shot to my eye playing [basket]ball yesterday. not sure what's up?! anywho... i want to write about:
  1. family phone calls and update
  2. dinner with the young crowd (under 30)... PESTO!
  3. talk w/Shawn about sustainable development and
  4. Small is Beautiful
OK! i di come...

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

call it a day

8/23/2002:
same day [as the last journal entry/blog post], the 23rd.

swearing in was fine... good to see PCTs, now PCVs! they were happy to see me, too. saw Mike and Todd off. kinda sad. also saw Mirabelle [my host-mother]. still not sure when she's coming to visit? puet-etre the 4th?

didn't make it back to Bamenda in time to catch the bank or Jum'aa [Friday prayer]. the CD spoke for way too long! in English and French. he said they wouldn't take Paul's IVP stuff this cycle. that really pissed me off!

he, the CD, is coming to visit us in the NW province. Sunday or Monday Wum, it sounds like. you know, i don't like the CD... i don't like my APCD... the SDO thinks i'm a spy...

but it didn't rain today and tucker's sheets and my clothes from last night are dry! take what you can get and call it a day... right? right.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

relief - release - soaking

8/23/2002:
early morning hours here at chez Tucker... you will not believe what happened at a 1/4 past midnight earlier this morning:

i woke up to an all too visceral sensation of relief and release. warmth, too. yup... i woke up peeing. on Tucker's spare mattress! sheets and all.

won-duh-ful won-das!

and it wasn't just a tinkle... not just shorts and PJ-soaking, but all down the leg and sheets and through the mattress to the other side!

O Lord... how we are tested.

i got up and changed. the sheet and my clothes are soaking [in soap & water]. waiting for Sarah F. and Tucker to wake up so i can wash the sheets. they're getting up right now, actually.

what to do with the mattress??? hmmm... i think some soaping & soaking on both sides will do.

subhan'Allah
... hot to explain this one?

and i've got 1/2 an hour to do all this b/c my APCD leaves for Dschang by 7am.

Friday, November 6, 2009

you're the PCV!

8/22/2002:
look, listen, speak and do... you pick the order, you're the PCV!

going to Dschang

8/21/2002:
"l'homme propose... Dieu dispose."
this [italicized] part of the saying is the windshield border sticker on the green [toyota] hilux that took us from Esu to Weh the other day.

i've made up my mind to get to Dschang for swearing in. to see Mike and Todd off [on their close of service or COS]. to congratulate the PCTs [peace corps trainees] on becoming PCVs [peace corps volunteers]. and to touch base with Mirabelle, who'll also be in Dschang.

i'll leave tomorrow. spend a night in Bamenda. WHERE? je ne se pas? catch a ride to Dschang with my APCD... and back. and then back to Wum, insha'Allah. i've got a meeting with Maggie on Saturday morning–no, at noon. all about EE. so i gotta be back by then.

filled out my project report today. tedious. reflective. got some ideas and a little guilt-ridden motivation out of it. HIV/AIDS and HCN [host-country national] cooperation... need to do more of both!

Sunday, September 6, 2009

just say "jam"

also 8/18/2002:
sometime this weekend, i was telling Mu'aath how this one old Pa there in Ukpwa always asks about my children ("pu'kwa jam?"). i reply "they no dey [i don't have any] Pa, but yes, jam." so i ask Mu'aath what's up with that? what am i supposed to say?

he tells me that i should just say "jam" [good or in peace]... to keep things moving. not to rock the boat, if you will. and as we're discussing this he looks at me and says "Muhammad, it no bi reality now." hu-'uh! it be na weti if it no bi reality? i guess it was both funny and a little shocking.

it was certainly insightful... that the superficial character to the shibboleth of local greetings isn't just perceived by me. jam bandu? jam. jam nusumri? jam. usako. m'aathala. usako. m'aathala. yaowaa... [a series of greetings and replies in the local Fulani dialect].

Saturday, September 5, 2009

prayer punctuated path














8/19/2002:

na me dis o! weh ah dey fo' Wum... fo' inisde ma own compound. pidign is coming along. today was long. reached Esu by 12:30pm. left Ukpwa around 9am. the path was wet and muddy at times, but generally good.

Yusuf came along. he, Mu'aath and i talked the whole way... in a musical chairs of language. Yusuf speaks arabic well. likes poetry. good guy. well read. well spoken. has baraka on his face... on him generally. we laughed more than a few times. at ourselves mostly.

Esu to Weh wasn't bad. Weh to Wum was less than good. rain/mud/motrocycle. we made it though. prayed dhuhur [midday] in Esu. 'asr [afternoon] in Weh. wait–fajr [dawn] in Ukpwa. maghrib [dusk] and 'isha [evening] in Wum.

a prayer punctuated path. may they be accepted, insha'Allah.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

good people, ukpwa

8/18/2002:
evening #2 here in Ukpwa, aka Waindu. an uneventfully eventful day. relaxing. no pomp. no circumstance. Usmanu and Bub Sule came to visit. the gang here really cracks me up. good people. i read a bit. wrote 1/2 a letter to mama. tomorrow, we trek... insha'Allah.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

village life











 

8/17/2002:
by the light of a bush-lamp i di write. here in Ukpwa... chez Saleh. although it's just Mu'aath and i here. we dilly-dallied around Wum until around 4:30pm. got here. chilled. prayed. ate, a lot... fufu & ndjamma-ndjamma. chilled. ate more... dakiri. chilled.

the guys are funny. they talk. tell stories. crack each other up... you know. i relaxed instantly when i goth here. the setting, the quiet, the village. glad i forgot my phone... although there is service out here!

Mu'aath and i will trek to Esu on Monday morning... take a ride back to Wum, insha'Allah. Yusuf if here... from Ngaoundere. good man. modest. well-spoken. kind. i just met Yunus, from Niger. Saleh is a little ill, but off to Yaounde. village life seems to depress him. he wants to study.

Happy Birthday Mama!

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

FONCHAM Paul Babila

8/16/2002:
This will be a personal letter of recommendation. That is, predominantly, the nature of my relationship with Paul. We are counterparts at the local government teacher training college, but what I have come to know about Paul as a person, much more than just a professional, is what impresses me most.

Having said that, I feel obliged to note that Paul is by no means an unimpressive professional. He is a diligent, creative and experienced teacher. Both his current position and past experience attest to that. Paul is, by far, one of the most dynamic teachers at our school and an asset to our institution.

What I would like to attest to, however, are the personal qualities and values that set Paul apart. The important imperceptibles that only a next-door neighbor or close friend can perceive. I am both Paul's neighbor and his friend.

Paul is a man of honesty and integrity...

Paul possesses a strong sense of family and community...


Paul has the complement of foresight and work-ethic to plan and achieve...


Paul is committed to these values on all levels. Individually, he is committed to bettering himself and his situation by no other means than honesty and integrity. He is committed to contributing to the well-being and support of his family; no matter how distant the relation or significant the contribution.


This sense of duty then extends directly into his commitment to community. Paul has never, in all our discussions of future plans for self or family, expressed any desire other than to live and work here in Northwest Cameroon, in his place and with his people. He wants the best for himself and his family, but that cannot mean loss of a sense of self or identity.


That is what impresses me most about Paul; his values and commitments to them. What I hope a visit to the United States will do is impress Paul with the values we are committed to, allowing him to take back those he deems fit and incorporate them into his own. These will no doubt be transferred to some of his family, friends, colleagues or students and, I hope, translate into ever more committed individuals such as himself.


got this letter and Paul's biodata form out to the CD. seems they've already begun deliberating on candidates. hope it's not too late!

oh... my APCD thinks the CD will pay us a visit here [in the Northwest] to the posts along the ring road.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

bamenda to dos

8/15/2002:
what to do in Bamenda...
  1. bank (withdraw cash)
  2. post office (buy stamps)
  3. photovictory (develop 2 rolls, by new one)
  4. cyber cafe (email letter of rec and ask about computer)
  5. helvetas (inquire into water protection project)
  6. PC office (1/4 reports to APCD, letter to CD)
  7. jum'aah [friday prayer]
too long to-do lists (e.g. 9/01 & 7/02)! when will i ever learn? ce'st dommage. yet it was beautiful, the long ride back up from Bamenda. i'm back in Wum now. 8/16/2002

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

life is beautiful

8/14/2002:

Quotes from Small is Beautiful [by E.F. Schumacher]:
"I think the stupid man who says 'something is better than nothing' is much more intelligent than the clever chap who will not touch anything unless it is optimal." p. 231
"Much will be expected of the man to whom much has been given. More will be asked of him because he was entrusted with more (St. Luke)." p.220

will be mama's birthday soon. sent her a postcard + birthday card already. according to rama [my sister], mama will be in turkey come the 17th of august. so i won't be able to talk to her on her birthday... c'est dommage!

i'll write her a letter then. it'll be this saturday. i'll be in ukpwa, insha'Allah. musnt' forget. also shouldn't forget to get more film! gotta go-come from Bamenda this friday. need 150,000cfa from the bank. 50K for me. 100k for my friend's big purchase (a motorcycle).

and the rain keeps falling... in buckets. they're all over the kitchen, living room and bedroom. the roof leaks in a 1/2 dozen odd places. but all is well. life is beautiful.

Monday, July 13, 2009

in local news...

8/13/2002:
  • Mu'aath is a new abu [father of] "someone"
  • a good friend here in Wum wants a 100,000cfa loan
  • another friend (and loanee) is MIA in Nigeria (3 months now)
  • Maggie is a little down and small sick
  • Mohamad is always in his head somehow

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

administrative grievances

8/12/2002:
10 past 1AM. latest i've been up on my own since . . . had a long apres-midi nap, rain and a visit from Todd earlier this evening. a little tired. should sleep. tomorrow will be busy. need to get my 1/4 reports done, a letter of recommendation for Paul and the GLOBE lectures. small-small...

had a long talk with Todd just now. PC Admin gripes, of course. around that letter from the CD. so here's the "specifics" he was asking for:
  • pre-service training (PST) interview... be frank about what the administration cannot or will not do for the new volunteers-to-be. be more transparent about posts and the requirements they may have.
  • general feedback (including in-service training (IST) and site-visits)... be forthcoming with information from past experience with PCVs and posts... don't just say this hasn't worked in the past, explain why it didn't work. give suggestions and explanations based on this.
  • open to "new" ideas and approaches... basically, get us off the need to know basis. share information. develop a mutual give and take, within the context of a supervisory relationship. explain why you do things this or that way, or why they're done at all.
Todd also got me thinking about any association with admin... WHY BOTHER? do your job. less frustration. more contribution. job satisfaction. we came for service and cross-culture, not paper-work and bureaucracy.

and i'm thinking about this EE position, NW Provincial Rep... WHY? travel, long not-so-fruitful but frustrating meetings and what else? i have done and will continue to do EE. someone else can attempt to coordinate. i'm unsure... maybe i'll keep an open mind through the first meeting.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

"the african way"

8/10/2002:
the CD passed by PST [pre-service training] today. he wrote me back in regard to the letter i sent him. interesting points. wants specifics. spoke a lot about HIV/AIDS in his "monthly mailing" and his talk with PCTs [peace corps trainees] and trainers.

i wondered how much sunk in today with the trainers. specifically with regard to one comment about jettisoning the parts of the "African way" that make HIV/AIDS such a problem. for me that translates into things like staying quiet about domestic violence, infidelity, sexism, etc.

i was talking to one of the PC trainers about all this on the ride back from Santa to Babadjou. about how we shouldn't be quiet or "indirect" about what happened happened [domestic violence at one of the trainee host-family homes] in Babadjou.

i know there are things like social norms, customs and community perception BUT all these need to take a back-seat. WHY? if those things keep us from tackling the vital issues (those stated above: HIV/AIDS, domestic violence, infidelity, sexism, etc.) head on, then they're just in the way.

yet part of me cannot deny the power of culture and, even more so, the hurdle of cross-cultural communication. often, "things just don't work that way" and if you try to force them (be it condoms or more direct communication) people and entire communities close up. it's counter-productive.

so where does that leave us? somewhere in the middle, no doubt. somewhere between beating around the bush and forcing it down people's throats. an art, if you will... subtle, flexible, courageous and compassionate. like giving your mother a condom and telling her to protect herself. ya Ilaah... [O Lord]

dreaming of the north

8/9/2002:
last night i dreamt of the North. that i joined the Sahel Agroforestry stage up there. i spoke to both the agro APCD and the CD about getting it all worked out. not my [education] APCD, though. i was gonna let him down easy.

the whole thing started when the agro APCD got 5 PCTs less than he expected. so i volunteered, of course... what a martyr! courtney and julie [both argo PCVs who've spent time in west africa], as well. i ended up being posted in Maroua [the Far North], in the city proper. as an agroforester!

anyway... i fell a little short of dreaming of the sun and sand. of the athan [call to prayer] floating on the desert wind. of hot tea and floor mats. of boubous and mud huts with grass roofs. Lord!... 2 years and i'm still dreaming of another place.

Monday, June 29, 2009

cycle of adjustment

8/7/2002:
  1. Intro & "Disclaimer"
  2. Goals & Objectives
  3. Processing (anecdotes, experiences, stories)
  4. the Cycle of Adjustment...
  5. Coping Strategies
  6. Q & A
...had this [training] session at Ma Flo's in Santa, like last year. much the same format. presented the cycle, quotes, personal anecdotes, etc. it went well. PCTs [peace corps trainees] vented, asked questions, listened. nice. glad we did it.

i listened to fellow PCVs talk about going home and got lost in my head. thinking, with what i have to admit was some regret and doubt, "why didn't i go home?" all is well, though... i'll get back there soon enough, insha'Allah.

i just want to say that i miss home. i miss family. that's OK to think/say, no? i hope so.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

your pain...

8/6/2002:
"Your pain is the breaking of the shell that encloses your understanding."

chez sandy

8/5/2002:
in Nkongsamba. @ Chez Sandy. cool town. i like it a lot. mini-big-city, "le petit douala." there's an "american store," all kinds of food/produce in the "marche centrale," paved roods, busy streets even at night, and it's big. i like it. good for Sandy!

as for me, i need to get back to Wum... and, as Maggie says, settle down and let some moss grow.

we ate pizza at Bob's yesterday. Alice is here, too... been with Alice and Sandy since Friday. we were in Bamenda at Tucker's place. Sarah F. and Traci there, too. Sandra and i stayed up LATE last night talking... about relationships. Sandy listens well.

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Friday, May 29, 2009

the center of the world

7/28/2002:
in Wum again. getting up here [from bamenda] took 5 hours! we had a [volunteer] house meeting this morning in bamenda. our last one. and our last party in the slum last night.

it was traci's birthday. we made pizza and cake. good to see everyone. hang out. talk. with various people. on a variety of subjects:
i think that's it... though many more people were there. in fact, i slept on a chair in the living room. a more forgiving spot on my allergies.

at one point this morning... b/w talking to courtney and mike i had a little revelation. about Africa... how much happens on this continent. how it could easily be the center of the world, so to speak. the most dynamic place, at least.

sooo much going on. all interesting and intriguing. one could never leave the continent and find it all. what is "it?" i don't know... this revelation was mostly me thinking I could never leave Africa and be happy. what a thought!

early matin, apres-noon

7/25/2002:
rode out to Eric's farm this morning with Maggie. that man is always working. always on top of things. turns out he's been putting his eldest child through school with the njamma-njamma [greens] he grows from them! no joke... bags of the stuff in exchange for school fees. he even had a balance of 12,000 cfa that the school owed him at the end of the year! won-duh-ful wondas!

i'm fatigued now. was debating – well, no real argument – whether to get out of here and get over to the delegation. need to try and talk them down into a more reasonable project, at least for me. b/c if they're expecting me to come up with the funds, then things gotta be smaller. but my brain just couldn't convince my body to leave the house. let alone walk to the delegation.

i'll do so first thing demain matin [tomorrow morning], insha'Allah! i'm gonna nap now... my nap yesterday apres-midi [afternooon] went way over! today, we'll see...

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

the road less traveled?

also 7/22/2002:
bought an MTN mobile SIM card. great reception throughout the house. spoke to Rama. waiting on mama to call. she sent me this Robert Frost poem, along with the big package i got in Babadjou.

Rama says mama's been on this spiritual/poetic/oratory kick. i don't mind. the poem was nice. i like it. always have. seems all the more relevant now. the road less traveled...

said seminar

7/22/2002:
good morning. in Wum. got in yesterday afternoon [from Babadjou via Bamenda]. off to run an errand or 2: post-office. market. SNEC [national water utility]. DDEDUC [divisional delegation for education]. hospital. the last 2 to do a little research on the 1st Aid Project.

tomorrow... Binjam [a small village not far from Wum] for the day with Ibrahim and Maggie. gotta find her today!














it's still raining. i'm eating. w/out Maggie, though... i think the rain held her up. today passed fine. spoke to Pa at the Delegation about the 1st Aid "seminar." that's what we're now calling it.

i'm trying not to let it get too big. small is beautiful (though i've yet to finish that book)... more tomorrow. about said seminar. Binjam also, insha'Allah.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

go in search of your people

7/19/2002:



Go in search of Your People:
Love Them;
Learn from Them;
Serve Them;
Begin with what They have;
Build on what They know.

But of the best leaders
when their task is
accomplished,
their work is done,
The People all remark;
"We have done it Ourselves."

-Lao Tzu?



the wise words above are from a book [David Werner's "Helping Health Workers Learn"] that Traci used to end her training session today. her session with Mike. went well. funny–no, interesting that we, as volunteers, do truly take a vested interest in the concept of development; studying and discussing it, as well as working in it.

i'm listening to Youssou N'Dour. famous Senegalese singer. done a lot of work with international artists like Sting, Wyclef, etc. "How Come?" good stuff, West African music. i asked Sandy earlier today on the phone if she fell in love with West Africa? of course. me, too. was she down about coming back? of course. me, too. is she staying [here in Cameroon]? of course. i miss Sandy.

talked to Rama. all is well, relatively well at home. all is well with me, too. i should be happy. i am. tired, but smiling toujours.

a family dinner

7/18/2002:
just came back from chez Tchouffo. chez nous [our place], that is. Tim, Sherrie and i, and the rest of the family. we all ate a wonderful dinner. pomme pile [sp?] and spaghetti. it's all about the company! and it was as close to a family dinner as – well, yes, a family dinner. jokes. smiles. laughs. jesting. kids making noise. AND even some awkward/dysfunctional moments.

i am much more comfortable know... in homestay. amongst Cameroonians. with myself in this culture/context. part of it is language. i speak french better. part of it is confidence. part understanding. i speak my mind more. yes, indirectly... through jokes and suggestion. but it's better than nothing, and getting better insha'Allah.

Monday, May 25, 2009

dr. babila

7/17/2002:
Dr. Babila
Upper 6th Mathematics
Lesson: Differentiation

...so i'm not even going to pretend that i understand the #'s and symbols being put up on the board here [in the santa model school]. will also not copy them in here. just keep them on the board. at a distance

Dr. Babila is working with minimal notes. in fact, he wrote them out this morning, b/w 7:45 and 8am. the man has a brain on him! masha'Allah.

what an interesting mind it must be. not just the powerful, logical, mathematical foundation but also what's built upon that... culture, spirituality, mythology, sociology, psychology, etc.

it makes me regret my math ignorance. would be nice to see the world that analytically or have a mind that thinks things through with logic that sharp/clear... or maybe not? and maybe he doesn't?

maybe the math isn't the foundation. just another aspect. maybe one of the other fields – any of them – are a foundation? maybe all? maybe none?

Dr. Babila just made a joke about something no longer being mathematic after a certain point but "Chinese"... LORD! all this might as well be Chinese.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

1st Aid

7/15/2002:

1st Aid Session (Tate & Eli, in Babadjou)
  1. Story
  2. Intro: Purpose, Goals and Objectives
  3. Activity: Heimlich Maneuver and Abdominal Thrusts
  4. Scene Assessment
  5. Patient Assessment and Triage
  6. Splinting: Hard, Soft, Anatomic; Sling and Swathe
  7. Log Roll & Carry (moving a severely injured person)
  8. Cross Culture (expectations vs. reality)
  9. Q+A
...hey, EE training session went well! smooth. engaging. informative. good evaluation. i'll do the post-eval write up, insha'Allah.

1st Aid Session [outline above] went well, as well. i paid close attention for future reference. they spoke about the accident to close the session. powerful, moving experience.

i'm still ill.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

a day or 2 in the life...

7/13/2002:
it's been a long day. in fact, 2 long days. we've not accomplished everything on our site-visit agenda, but came close. here and there, a little bit at a time. i'm comfortable saying lisa and mark experienced a day or 2 in the life of a PCV:

teaching...
lisa seems to have learned much about the TTC [teacher training college] program. which is good, b/c thus far it's been vague in PST [pre-service training]. we saw the school. met administrative staff. our principal, included. even a fellow teacher. quite informative.

we also visited the delegation [of education]. met many a teacher. and, of course, my friends around town. unfortunately, paul isn't around. up in Bali [his hometown]. too bad. they would've learned much from him.

mark may not be as satisfied with his 2-3 days here. i cannot really relate to secondary and high school info... we passed the GHS, but did not meet or speak with any teachers. should've arranged for that. he's been sick, too. stomach issues. a good sport, though.

patience...

both mark and lisa have been such good sports on this trip. both such nice people. glad they came! both bright, motivated and positive people. already patient and understanding. a 7-hour Bamenda-Wum journey will do that!

we walked a lot yesterday. today, too. yesterday, to school and back... in the sun. today, out to Lake Wum and back... through the market and up to Maggie's.

food...

we had ice cream on both days, vanilla and strawberry! good stuff. they were impressed. tuna salad and corn last night. pesto tonight. more good stuff.

friends...

glad they met Maggie, as well. she did most of the cooking this evening. Lisa helped, too. Muhammadu and Ibrahim came to visit.

illness...

Mark and i are still small sick... he with those stomach issues. me with what we all think but don't want to say is malaria. we'll see tomorrow.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

site-visit

7/11/2002:
back in Wum. with Lisa and Mark. my 2 site-visit buddies... future PCVs. both very cool. in fact, their whole stage [training cohort] is a great group. i'm impressed... especially b/c i kinda underestimated them on teaching experience. they can teach. know their science and math.

it's been a looong day. met @ 6:15am in Babadjou. went to Mbouda. then a bush-taxi to Bamenda. then it took us 7 hours and some change to get here [to Wum]. bad tire... first we fixed a flat. then all the bolts fell off the hub! but we were all patient (especially Lisa and Mark), and we got here.

tomorrow we sleep in... i'm a little cold/fevery/achy (c'est normale?). then we do protocol: the Delegation [of Education]. GTTC/GHS and Auntie. the market. prayer for me. pesto for all. insha'Allah...

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

back in Babadjou

7/9/2002:
in Babadjou. got a "guest room" at the staff house by ADP [the local bar/restaurant]. good to be back here... stepped out to get bread and couldn't stop smiling. WOW!... 1 year. back in Babadjou.

talked to Jean for a little. just he and Pa Simon [peace corps drivers] here. Francois, Michelle and Jeane [peace corps trainers] upstairs. PCT's [peace corps trainees] at home... in bed?

finally got my package. a lot of music from OMZ. including his 2 singles with T. kinda cool... though i can't here it well. he's got a smooth/funky style. kinda funny... Omar Curly rapping!

by the way...

Monday, May 11, 2009

a little less than happy

7/8/2002:
-in the slum and down in the dumps, again...
-in bamenda and a little less than happy, still.
...all is well, though. riding this roller coaster of emotions. it will end. right now, it's just tough being alone. i'm in need of people. a presence. friends. family... i guess that's what i'm longing for. i'm dreaming of home. WHY? WHO?

anywho... i've got work to do. got into town late and the previous page [previous post] of "to dos" remains, more or less, undone. so... b/w tonight and tomorrow morning – b/c i need to get to training in Babadjou by afternoon... let's get to it!

things to do in bamenda

7/7/2002:
things to do in bamenda [tomorrow]...
  • email: Boniface about 1st Aid Project in Wum, APCDs/CDs about EE work in Limbe
  • letters: Sue Martin [former boss @ USNA], Dr. Yeide and Dr. Wells [former profs @ GWU]
  • forms: quarterly reports to APCD, and EE application [not sure what this is?]
  • misc: pack up stuff at the Slum, gas cooker and food (veggies, basil, yogurt and cheese)
  • talk to Mike & Shanna about EE session! (GLOBE video, evaluation and resource update)

Sunday, May 10, 2009

all is well in Wum

7/7/2002:
back in Wum. in my own bed. spent most of the day with Maggie. a lot to catch up on! a lot... talked about peace corps, of course (PCV talk). but also family, relationships, motivation and work. so good to see and talk to her. good to be back.

and all is well in Wum:
  • Paul is here and OK. the house is fine. clean. Muhammadu was checking on it.
  • nothing is fixed, though. the caretaker hasn't "taken care" of anything. need to see him... when?
  • MTN is up in Wum. we are now connected! well, not me (i'm on Orange) but we. Wum.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

i am here

7/6/2002:
at Symbol park [the bush-taxi station]. just did email. wrote to Sue [my old boss], OMZ and Rama. all LONG emails. Mike and Nick showed up at the [volunteer] house this morning. before i left. good to see them both. they're who i need to be around. positive and on. always.

training will be good. kristen echoed that. she was talking to her mom last night... told her i was missing home, stressing about being here. but that she – i.e. kristen – knew i'd be here for another year. INSHA'ALLAH!

i miss home.
i love my family.
they love me...
and miss me, too.
but right now, i'm here.
i am here.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

problems seem smaller











 

7/6/2002:
in bamenda. 2 nights in a row in the same bed... a recent record! haven't done that or eaten more than one meal a day for the past week or so. all this traveling!

in other news... spoke to family last night. Rama and the kids are moving to Dubai. which came as a surprise. a little sad. talking to OMZ made me lighter, though. he cracked me up. he's doing well.

kristen is here... good to see/talk to her. both b/c it's her and b/c i really need someone to vent to. about a lot of things. she's going home, of course... i'm not. not right now. not for another year, insha'Allah. things i want to do here.

kristen
and i also spoke about EE in Limbe... b/w the botanic garden and the WLC there are legitimate and exciting volunteer opportunities. will see if we can help get them connect to PC.

thank God kristen was here! and that i talked to OMZ, mama and rama... they all helped me put my problems in check. funny how problems seem smaller when you just tell someone.

need to go to Wum. back here in Bamenda by Monday. then off to training in Babadjou.

peace

love
smiles :)
mohamad

Monday, May 4, 2009

do i finish the thought?














 


7/3/2002:
i'm in room 222 at the Holiday Inn in Limbe. alone, with a few key articles of clothing drying in front of the AC. the Limbe [volunteer] house is closed and empty. i did not know this. and i'm not sure where kristen is.

the only reason i didn't leave Limbe this afternoon is b/c i feel compelled to let the people at the botanic garden know, in person, that i won't be working there this summer. WHY?!... i'm not sure. i think throwing myself into work may help. and Limbe may keep me happy here in the tropics.

but that's all academic. no house, no job. besides... i can stay busy and be happy up in Wum, i'm sure. just have to want to. right now, i'm a little less than happy here. in fact, in many ways i don't want to be here. but i know that's a confused/complicated emotion right now.

i miss home. i miss mali. the grass was much greener in West Africa... all my frustration here comes to mind all too quickly and conveniently, of course. i need, as always, to settle down and think. i know i can do another year here... i can do another year here and excel. be busy & happy.

do i finish the thought???... do i write "but..." and go on? or do i make the best of it. as i have been... look on the bright side. find the silver lining. think of the things that keep me here. give them a chance to keep me here...

Saturday, May 2, 2009

do it 'right'

7/2/2002:
on a plane towards Dakar [then Douala, "direct"] from Bamako. a day late and ~$80 dollars short. that's how much changing the departure date cost... but c'est la vie!

saying goodbye was somehow easier this time. i'm very happy with what i saw/experienced/learned in Mali. happy i came here. questions, yes. those will come to pass... will be answered. no regrets.

people in Mali have this custom. if you think you'll not be seeing the person you're saying goodbye to again you shake hands with your left. you do it "wrong" so that, one day, you'll be forced to meet again and do it "right." there's wisdom in Africa.

'old school'

7/1/2002:
i was thinking about school earlier today... found reflecting on what i did & didn't like insightful. i chose to take classes i enjoyed. that was good. the reading was stimulating/interesting/relevant and, sometimes, the various fields of study overlapped or reinforced each other. that was great.

i did not like the deadlines. the large classes. the burdensome loads. i'd rather have the time/effort to focus on 3-4 courses, in depth/breadth. to discuss with a professor and/or colleagues on the various topics. to have an advisor guide me, personally, through my studies.

i want to enjoy learning... not rush through requirements. or courses i'm totally uninterested in, with no relevancy to me. i suppose i'm interested in a more traditional education... "old school," if you will. now i know. you live and learn.

DGT

6/29/2002:
wrote an old friend an email today. we updated each other on future plans... grad school, basically. i went off about "sitting down to talk" about things. something about reflecting on the past, without regret, but for insight into what we should be doing / going to do.

a sense of regret, doubtless, brings about this vague sense of duty... what we should have been doing with our time/money/efforts. i guess that's what time alone here does. reflecting on what we did with what we had and what people here couldn't dream of.

and we'll be asked about all that... so maybe we should ask ourselves 1st. we've got a lot to talk about. many of us. a lot we could/should do. will do, insha'Allah.

goûts de culture

6/28/2002:
Mali to Memphis... a CD of malian music & blues. will tell OMZ about it. bought 4 CDs on the street today [ali farka toure, habib koite, salif keita and youssou n'dour], as well. i'd like to send copies back home.

day 2 in bamako. didn't do much. prayer. a little shopping. ate out. everything here seems lebanese owned. at least all the restaurants. like the good Tex-Mex place yesterday, with the ambiance. seems like there are so many expats here... but if i compare it to Douala, i suppose not.

hmmm... not much else to say. except maybe that i sometimes find myself getting bitter and angry (though not for long) about not being posted in Muslim West Africa. c'est dommage. it's really a shame. someone neesd to hear this...

yummy yassa




















Yassa Recipe
-veggie oil and marinated meat
-pepper corns and maggi cubes [w/MSG]
-vinegar and diced tomatoes (in water)
-onions (a lot), mustard (spoonful) and salt
  1. cook meat (not completely) in a lot of oil, adding spices gradually: pepper corns, maggi, tomato sauce and vinegar.
  2. when meat is almost done, add enough water to make it a stew/soup.
  3. add onions and mustard then salt to the stew.
  4. let cook/simmer until onions are fully cooked.

6/27/2002:
i watched and took notes as the yassa was being made yesterday... yummy! and it seems easy enough.

in Bamako now. at the volunteer house. came in on the train a short while ago. was supposed to leave yesterday morning, but the train was delayed into the evening. 11pm, in fact. probleme tala ["no problem"], though... once we got going, we got going. decent time. 15 hours.

my writing in here has been erratic. long days without much downtime alone. makes for poor reflection. at least calm, collected reflection. still haven't written about the garden. i will, insha'Allah... gotta pray now.

i'm looking forward to eating a cheeseburger tonight! feels like the lack of fresh veggies in my diet here (just rice & sauce) has me craving meat, ironically enough.

gifts from mali














 


6/24/2002:

Gifts & Stuff

woven cotton shirts, mud cloth, bracelets, fabric and music (CDs) for...


Paul
Maggie
Principal
PS Wum HM
Sandy
Mike
Nat
Kay
Kristen
Manjou


moving













 

6/23/2002:
i'm somewhere b/w Diamou and Kayes. the train has stopped. coming back up from Mahina [SW Mali, photo]. was there for a PCV 'HIV/AIDS Day' event. which went well.

this dynamic theater group that performed last night was great. drew a HUGE crowd! i was very impressed and quite entertained. great music and dance, too.

spent a couple nights in Mahina sleeping outside. still hot, but cooling off. rain not too far off. sometimes falling.

i'll be back (lunch break!) to write about another thought/emotion or two...

...right. bon appetit! actually a surprisingly good meal here on the train. rice & sauce. i prayed a shortened zhur [midday prayer] outside but no time for 'asr [afternoon prayer], b/c the train started moving again!

anyway... the thought was about the garden and this book i'm reading [2 Ears of Corn]. but i'll go there later. the emotion is, of course, about what all my emotions are about right now. and i'll go there later, as well.

changing











 

6/20/2002:
been a few days. still in and out of my head. up and down emotionally. but i won't go there b/c i'm not coming back.

i've said a lot... and perhaps changed a little. not thinking as much. but still thinking. accepting. drifting. yet not completely letting go... and i need to. enough.

remind me to write about the garden! Musa & Haider's.

Friday, May 1, 2009

in my head...

6/17/2002:
I AM ALWAYS IN MY HEAD!

rooftop clarity

6/16/2002:
up thinking again this morning. back in Kayes. on the roof of the volunteer house. amazing how well one can think up here on these roofs.

Senegal just scored!... Kayes erupted. it's 10 to 6am.

diamou relax













 

6/15/2002:
in Diamou [Western Mali]. beautiful place. particularly where i'm staying. great view of these prominent cliffs across the river. and it's a short stroll to the river. the Senegal. no lights. no water. very much a typical PC experience. not to take anything away from it, or this beautiful place.

it's quiet and peaceful here. i can see why PCVs enjoy coming down here from kayes to relax. i've spent just a few days there myself and i need to relax. lots of questions. some answered, more some raised. more closure? less doubt? or bitterness... anger? have i let go? i need to. i will.

on rushdie

6/13/2002:
i finished reading those Rushdie essays yesterday. glad i read them. know a little more about him, his thoughts/views and his book [The Satanic Verses]. he changed my mind on a few points:
  1. the reaction to his book was barbaric and embarrasing. muslims could/should have gone about it differently.
  2. we need to have the faith, courage and insight to question. to critique. to judge. to change. not our faith. but ourselves. we need to not be so rigid/inflexible/intolerant.
  3. people should be free to speak their mind. express themselves. the extent to which this goes (if there is a limit to that extent at all) i will not go into here b/c, candidly, i don't know.
...the problem is that Rushdie can be blamed for doing precisely what he accuses people of doing. e.g. interpreting the Qur'an literally. and failing to understand/respect that having faith can be a dynamic/critical/brave/empowering process. i believe – at least by emphasizing that lack of faith is all of this – he takes that for granted.

finally, with regard to #2 above... i don't think Rushdie is at all capable of taking a bold lead on this. he has neither the insight/understanding nor the credibility/mandate to critique/question effectively or acceptably.

moving on... i'm now reading Two Ears of Corn [download book in PDF]. more on that later.

the goddess

6/13/2002:
"worship the goddess in rose petal garden. drunk when, bitter after."

after the last sky...


















 


6/12/2002:
The Earth is closing on us
pushing us through the last passage
and we tear off our limbs to pass through.
The Earth is squeezing us.
I wish we were its wheat
so we could die and live again.
I wish the Earth was our mother
so she'd be kind to us.

I wish we were pictures on the rocks
for our dreams to carry as mirrors.
We saw the faces of those who will throw
our children out of the window of this last space.
Our star will hang up mirrors.
Where should we go after the last frontiers?
Where should the birds fly after the last sky?
Where should the plants sleep after the last breath of air?
We will write our names with scarlet steam.
We will cut off the hand of the song to be finished by our flesh.
We will die here, here in the last passage.
Here and here our blood will plant its olive tree.

Mahmoud Darwish, The Earth Is Closing on Us, translated by Abdullah al-Udhari, in Victims of a Map (London: al-Saqi Books, 1984), p. 13.


[note: i'm pretty sure i read and transcribed this poem from Salman Rushdie's Step Across This Line, as i was reading it in Kayes, but i could be wrong. in any event, the poem and citation above are from Mehbooba Poems & Poetry.]

salman rushdie

6/12/2002:
i'm reading some essays by Salman Rushdie [from Step Across This Line]. a few on his The Satanic Verses and one on Palestine. interesting, to say the least. i'm asking questions and he's answering many. nevertheless, i don't find him very convincing. on the contrary... full of himself, irreverant and contradictory. i will elaborate further later.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

fail better

6/12/2002:
"Ever tried. Ever failed. Never mind. Try again. Fail better."

heat rash


















 


6/11/2002:
i've already developed heat rash. like 2 days ago already. on the inside of my arms (opposite my elbows) and a little on my chest. it's hot. not heat like i've never experienced in terms of intensity... it's the duration that's a problem.

all day. all night. it's hot. it just barely cools down at night. and that's the problem. the day's heat slows you down, yes. but the night's heat wears you out. and week after week that's frustrating, exhausting and stressful. physically and mentally.

'my graduation speech'

6/10/2002:
i think in spanish
i write in english

i want to go back to puerto rico,
but i wonder if my kink could live
in ponce, maygüez and carolina

tengo las venas aculturdas
escribo en spanglish
abraham in español
abraham in english
tato in spanish
"taro" in english
tonto in both languages

how are you?
¿cómo estás?
i don't know if i'm coming
or si me fui ya

si me dicen barronquitas, yo reply,
"¿con qué se come eso?"
si me dicen caviar, i digo,
"a new pair of converse sneakers."

ahí supe que estory jodío
ahí supe que estamos jodíos

english or spanish
spanish or english
spanenglish
now, dig this:

hablo lo inglés matao
hablo lo español matao
no sé leer ninguno bien

so it is, spanglish to matao
what i digo

¡ay, virgen, yo no sé hablar!

Tato Laviera, Aloud: Voices from the Nuyorican Poet's Cafe.

thinking in circles

6/10/2002:
there's actually a cool breeze blowing out on the veranda. just got out of the shower, so that's also keeping me cool. the boys next door are reciting their morning Qur'an.

i'm thinking too much. wondering even more. have so many questions. a lot to say. even more to write. but i don't know where to start and, even if i did, where it would end. because, like my mind, my words would just go in circles.

"But when they made love he was offended by her eyes. They behaved as though they belonged to someone else. Someone watching. Looking outside the window at the sea. At a boat in the river. Or a passerby in the mist in a hat.

He was exasperated because he didn't know what the look meant. He put it somewhere between indifference and despair. He didn't know that in some places, like the country Rahel came from, various kinds of despair competed for primacy. And that personal despair could never be desperate enough. That something happened when personal turmoil dropped by at the wayside shrine of the vast, violent, circling, driving, ridiculous, insane, unfeasible, public turmoil of a nation. That Big God howled like a hot wind, and demanded obeisance.

Then Small God (cozy and contained, private and limited) came away cauterized, laughing numbly at his own temerity. Inured by the confirmation of his own inconsequence, he became resilient and truly indifferent. Nothing mattered much. Nothing much mattered. It was never important enough. Because worse things had happened. In the country that she came from, poised forever between the terror of war and horror of peace, worse things kept happening.

So Small God laughed a hollow laugh, and skipped away cheerfully. Like a rich boy in shorts. He whistled, kicked stones. The source of his brittle elation was the relative smallness of his misfortune. He climbed into people's eyes and became an exasperating expression.

What Larry McCaslin saw in Rahel's eyes was not despair at all, but a sort of enforced optimism. And a hollow where Estha's words had been. He couldn't be expected to understand that. That the emptiness in one twin was only a version of the quietness in the other. That the two things fitted together. Like stacked spoons. Like familiar lovers' bodies."

Arundhati Roy, The God of Small Things.

the kayes heat













 

6/9/2002:
there was more than a few times yesterday when i had to put stoicism aside and admit (at least to myself) that it was hot.

1st... as soon as i stepped out in the afternoon and turned the corner, i met with this gust of wind... can you believe that even the breeze here is intolerably hot? it was like a blow-dryer in the face.

2nd... right before bed, i passed out on a small mattress in the living room. i woke up to go to the roof and sleep a little later and my thigh/arm areas were clearly visible as sweat marks on the mattress. they still are. nasty hot.

3rd... sleep on the roof is tolerable, if only b/c it's a relatively cool day. yet one still has to keep drinking water. at one point i was having a tough time sleeping, so i wasn't thinking about drinking (just itching!)... i woke up, not too long ago, with my tongue fat and dry in my mouth.

days are a continuous balance of sweating and drinking here... all without peeing! with that kind of dynamic equilibrium who needs to urinate?

bamako-kayes











 

6/8/2002:
on the train [from Bamako to Kayes] now. early morning. left last night. can't write now [it's too bumpy]. i will soon. i will write about Bamako and this scenery i'm seeing on the train now, insha'Allah...

...nice day in Kayes. still hot. really hot. but not unbearable. Kayes, much like Bamako, is – i won't say under-developed but not over-developed. buildings are low. trees (mostly neem) cover them. lots of trees planted. streets are relatively clean and really quite organized.

i'm impressed. both towns (they're cities but feel like towns) are refreshingly modest. they fit.

anywho... i can't stop sweating so i'll stop. Mali reminds me of the SW. United States, of course.