Part III – First Days
Sequentiality1) is overrated. Plus I don’t remember the exact sequence of events, so I’ll just give random things from here on out.
This first week is a blur, so much has happened in so short a time. I can barely remember the trip anymore, and I feel like I’ve been here for ages and ages.
Ugh I wish I had my journal2), it has bunches of details that I’ve since forgotten. I’m currently sitting in the nicest place I’ve been in so far, called the Blue Mountain Inn, a hotel. It has free wifi and pretty good food, though expensive. Speaking of food I just discovered that I’m nearly out of money. I’m not quite sure where it disappeared to. They gave us about 300R3) for the trips to visit other volunteers this weekend. Oh yeah, that’s why I’m here. All the new trainees are off to visit the volunteers currently at their sites, to catch a day in the life, so to speak. This is supposed to include food and transport. I really hope transport isn’t too much so I can spend it all on food haha. I mean to cut down on spending here, but so far have been rather unsuccessful. We were here in TY yesterday, trying to get phones (a long story) – which only 5 people got, because they only had 5 phones in stock – and though I didn’t get a phone4), I did manage to get a towel (65R), a mug (6R), some sandals (90R), gum (20R)…and I think that’s it. Plus spending around 100R on food. They had given us money earlier, or I’d already be out. Soo…yeah. TY is like any 3rd world medium-sized town, full of shacks and shanties, pedestrian unfriendly in spite of the fact there are /rather/ more pedestrians than cars, and a few big stores, all mostly on one street. Dirty, but I’ve seen much worse.
Let’s see, how ‘bout a typical day. And a description of the general area, yeah? Sound good? Excellent.5)
It’s gorgeous here. We’re in an open plain, with rolling hills and steep gorges, all opening to the mountains to the east. The mountains seem like a veritable wall, dark against the light blue of the sky, rising abruptly up from the plains to great heights. The sun rises over them, changing the sky from dark to light blue, framing the mountains in an orange hue.6) I, and whoever will accompany me, have walked miles through steep-sided sandstone river valleys, to rise up out of them and up steep hills, commanding distance views of the south-western rolling hills, with the mountain-wall to the east and north. The plains remind me a bit of Utah, light red dust for the most part, remains of sandstone and basalt, with more vegetation – mostly grass. It is the dry season, as the dust keeps reminding us. The visibility is good for the most part, as it’s sunny here most of the time7), but the other day there was so much dust in the air we could taste it, and could barely see to the next hill.8)
The nights are quite chilly, cold enough for me to need a jacket9), but the days warm up enough to easily have short-sleeves, especially with the intense sunlight.
HEY I just thought of a solution to my money problem! I can’t change USD here, but there’s an ATM where I can withdraw - @#$!! I don’t have my atm card. Crsniglickt. Ugh. Anyway.
Usually I wake up to the sound of roosters crowing and the sunlight streaming into my room, but I just turn over and keep sleeping for at least another hour, until my abuti (Brother/male kid, ausi – female equivalent.) knocks on my door to wake me up.10) They feed me a breakfast of something like oat bran, and something called shili-shili. Which, let me tell you, is absolutely nauseating. It’s a gelatinous mass of porridge, dark brown and uniform in color, which holds the shape of the bowl and has absolutely no flavor. (Grrr I wish I had my headphones. Didn’t think I’d be sitting here quite this long. Ah well, time to write.)) It’s made out of sorghum, and I wish it stayed sorghum. But still, I eat about half of it, since I won’t eat again ‘till teatime. TEATIME! Oooh boy. So, it turns out their instant coffee is /amazing/. Absolutely terrific. Sort of a chickory flavor. And they have these butter cookies which are ridiculously addictive.11) I think I may like the coffee so much just because the cookies go so well with it. So after eating breakfast I dress, empty my pee bucket12) and bath water, and go to language class. Language class is held at our LCF’s hut (Language culture facilitator.), for an hour or two every morning, with tea break included. During which we go out into the fresh, sunny day and drink coffee, eat cookies, and do handstands and pushups. 13)Bliss. After, we walk to the ‘Hub’, a central location where we have other sorts of training. Training involves a lot of sitting in plastic chairs and trying to look like you’re paying attention while reading LOTR. Blah blah blah HIV, blah blah blah safety, etc. It’s all common sense. It’s common, not universal.14)
After a few hours of this, we break for lunch, which is either potatoes, or pasta, with a small helping over /waaay/ over-salted swiss chard, and stewed carrots, and a bit of ground beef or chicken.15) We chat16), and play Frisbee, and then settle back down for our afternoon session. We usually get out around 4-5, and then we’re pretty free to do as we like until sunset, around 6:30. I usually go on hikes, or runs, or just do exercise. Speaking of which, it’s extremely frustrating. Doing exercise, I mean. I’d love to go outside and enjoy the fresh air and the setting sun, but the instant I do anything besides walk, I’m surrounded by gawking children who crowd me and imitate me. I like kids, but on my terms. So I have to shut myself in my hut if I want to do anything but run. It’s interesting, because in spite of the amount of space, outdoor privacy is nearly unobtainable. There’s always a kid around, and where there’s one, there’s dozens in minutes.17)
Then dinner by candlelight18) , again mostly carbs. They have this wonderful bread though, which I really want to learn to make. Apparently it’s cooked in a pot, on top of grass with boiling water as the heat source. They’ll usually give me a large bowl of that, which I smother with peanut butter, and beans or eggs. Funny about the peanut butter, they spread it super thin with the back of the spoon, and when they hand it to me like that, I reach for the PB and get a huge glob.19) I chat a bit with the abuti and ausi, and go to my room. I heat up my bath water in this enormous kettle, and write and read while that’s going. The kettle is on a little two-burner stove, connected to a large, narrow, container of LNG. By this time it’s dark, and I’ve lit my gas lantern. Bath, then read, then bed. Rinse and repeat.