Yesterday had to be one of the best days ever. It all started with word from my mom that my aunt is planning a trip to Barcelona in December. I woke up thinking, "5 months and 1 day. You can do this." My day continued to get better when Casey, my fellow Sarahulligan (nickname courtesy of Duncan), returned from the med center. He had a 102 degree temperature and a bacterial infection in his throat that gave him a ticket to air conditioning, a hot shower, and the luxury of watching multiple movies and Simpsons episodes back to back. With him gone, I got a little taste of what it will be like in my permanent site when there are no "toubabs" (white people) around. Quickly, I realized how much I enjoy having companionship. Although I was able to read an entire book in a day, I was delighted to see him come back and even more happy to see him carrying chocolate!
It was my first fix since being in Africa and it was A-MA-ZING. Nuts and all! That could of made my day alone, because after all, it's the little things, but it continued to get better.
Shortly after going to chocolate heaven and back, my dad called to catch up and informed me he was sending me a package. Boy, were the heavens smiling down on me or what?!? He topped that by calling later just to say he loved me, causing me to wear a permanent smile for the rest of the day.
Feeling loved, I stepped out of my kompe (house) to carry out one of my TDAs (Trainee Directed Activitys) by shadowing one of my host mothers. At least, I thought I was going to be shadowing her. Turns out, one of the advantages of polygamy is multiple children who can work for you.
I started by sweeping the dirt with my host sister, Nema, who is 7. Sounds silly, but it really needs to be done. Throughout the day, the family throws anything and everything anywhere they please whether it be the skin of a mango, batteries, or leaves they've plucked from the trees. After cleaning the mess and depositing it into its designated area, I began to help Awa wash the dishes.
We had 3 large buckets, one used for washing, another for rinsing, and the last to place the clean dishes. Awa went to town on the bowls with a device that you would never think could do the job. It kind of looked like a kitchen lady's hair net gone bad or a lofa that had seen a million and one better days. But with a bit of extra sand from the ground for scrubbing, she got the job done. I was the rinser, and watched, a tad disgusted, as the rinsing water turned a murky grey. Nema had said that's how it was done, so I obliged, and stuck to my job. Meanwhile, Mariama, the one who I thought I was shadowing, sat, stood a little, and watched. Thankfully, during her monitoring duties, she came over to tell Nema to bring up clean water from the well to rinse the dishes one last time. Whew!
With much relief that the dishes I have been eating off of for the past month have been cleaned thoroughly, I thought I would then get to see Mariama cook. Instead, translated through Nema, I was told I needed to wait for Isa to return from Arabic school and then Isa would start the cooking.
Minutes later, Isa came strolling in wearing her black hijab, a smile on her face, and the cooking comminced. She left the compound momentarily to gather brush to start the fire. She neatly placed it between 3 large rocks, accurately positioned to support a pot, and lit 2 matches to get it burning. She added salt to the water, which made me smile, realizing somethings are universal.
The rice was done in no time. Isa drained it a ladel at a time, and then we sat in plastic lawn chairs and followed our nightly routine of singing "The Itsy Bitsy Spider," "The Hokey Pokey,""Do Do Somondola,""Ela Ela ee,"among many others.
As I looked up at the African sky filled with stars, I couldn't help but to feel blessed. My day was filled with love and enlightenment. Here's to hoping they all are...