Monday, October 06, 2008

A few weeks in review

The last couple of weeks we have had so many new experiences, met many people, and lauged a lot. So rather than write many blogs, I thought I would throw a summary into one post! Enjoy!

Random conversations

Paul ran into a lady on the street who was asking questions about what we do here. When she heard we worked for an aid organization, her instant question was “Why are you out on the street?” Paul didn’t quite know what she meant, but after a bit of talking he realized that the only aid workers she knew of and had met or heard of worked out of an office. They went from air conditioned office to air conditioned home and had national staff who got their groceries, ran their errands and interacted with the locals on their behalf. She was amazed that he was out, with the people, learning the language and “enjoying” the heat and community outside an office. Pray this would always be a noticeable difference, that we would be seen as among the nationals and never hide away in an office or home and set ourselves apart.

Tamasheq party

We went to a Tamasheq community party on Tuesday night. It was a party celebrating the end of Ramadan, so it was essentially their New Years Eve party. Paul and I both got traditional Tamasheq outfits to wear and headed out with some of our guards to the party. My Tamasheq language tutor is also a guitar player who loves music and was in one of the bands. I was surprised by how good the music was! I am trying to get a way to load videos to my blog with sound and I will post it here as soon as I can figure it out so you can experience a bit of it. We were really well received and people were really excited to see us. There were 3 other white people there, but they were dressed north American in their tubes tops and shorts. They looked so out of place next to all the locals who were completely covered and seemed elegant in their robes. Another good reminder on respecting their culture by following their dress styles and honouring them in this. My outfit was a pale blue bolt of fabric that was 4 or 5 metres long. Yup, that’s it. I wore a tshirt and light slip skirt underneath and then they wrapped me up. See the picture below of the dear lady (wife of a guard) who helped me dress and told me how to wear it. I gotta admit, I felt pretty awkward in it and was worried it was falling, wouldn’t stay on my head and kept slipping, etc. I felt I was wearing a bedsheet and trying to make it look good! Haha. The other women seemed much more elegant in their wraps compared to me. Oh well, I’ll get there!

Paul all dressed up in traditinal costume

Chantelle dressed up in traditional costume

So the courtyard where we all gathered became filled with 300-400 people by the time we left at 11pm and the party was going on until 1 or 2 in the morning. The dancing was great. Every time a new song started a few dozen people would get up to dance. Either same sex or mixed people would dance. Apparently it is taboo to dance with someone you are married to or interested in, so all the partners are pretty random or friends. If two men are dancing and two women come to the mat they immediately change partners to be man/women. The groups keep changing dynamics as people joined. We laughed that it really reminded us of a Junior High dance, the men on one side of a line and the women across from them in their own line, facing each other and shuffling back and forth. No crazy dancing here! We felt comfortable enough that we could shuffle along that we danced too. Paul went up several times in fact and even had an African woman match up specifically to dance with him. Overall it was a wonderful time, with good music and a good way to start to meet the larger community and become known to them!

My garden

Back home, i dabbled in gardening. I could plant nice flowers, which mostly grew and enjoy the greenery for the few months of summer a year. Besides some strawberries, I never really tries any fruits or vegetables. I don't think I had the patience or greenthumb to succeed much, and I really didn't have the need for it. However, I am launching myself into the task here. I figure with almost 12 months of summer a year here, even I can't go wrong!

There are a few reasons for this endeavour.
1) The food you buy here has no preservatives and goes bad really fast. I buy veggies at the market and within a few days they are going bad already. So I can either make trips to veggie stands or the markets everyfew days (which is a pain in the butt) or I can grow my own and take them off the vine as I need them.
2) It's good practice. Paul and I are looking at starting a small community project with drip irrigation outside our gate, mostly to benefit our guards and their families and the neighbor family. Before we start that I want to see what grows well and check out a few different planting/soil options. Right now we have good fresh goat manure mixed into our soil in the back and it seems to help the growing!
3) Why not? I like growing things and playing in the dirt, and would like to see what I can grow to reduce our expenditures on food and eat off my own backyard. Never a farmer at home, but I can try here!

So here is what I have planted so far:
Sweet potatoes - just started
Sweet pumpkins - already sprouting several inches high
Peppers (mini and red,yellow,green)- just starting to sprout above ground
Spinach - sprouting two inches above ground
Tomatoes - 5 large plants, but no flowers and fruit yet
Basil - three big bushes that are taking over my front flower garden. Free basil anyone?
Chives - they keep failing. I think bugs are eating the little shoots
Mint - slow growing but several plants are 3-4 inches high now.
Dill- to be planted soon in new herb garden

So i will keep you updated on our project, and eventually the community garden! Any experts out there in desert weather garden watering strategies? let me know!

My day Guard Sidimou, and gardener extraordinaire, helping me plant the first seeds

What breaks my heart
You have heard me talk about the neighbor family in the hut next door. Right now, the children are sick. The one boy, Mouktar, has pussy sores erupting on his body in 6 or 7 different places. He has worms, and an obvious nasty bacterial infection. We can assume that the other children also have worms and various parasites,etc. This family often comes to us with the scrapes and cuts and Paul bandages them up and put ointment on them. This time was different in that no bandaid or antibitoic cream will help. The root is much deeper. You see, the mother next door is so beaten down by life that she doesnt even care for her children. After it rains, she lets her kids go run and swim in the deep puddles, even though everyone knows the other long months of the year it is a bathroom area, worms and bugs and animals are there. So the kids play and get infections and sick and gross things I can't even mention here. We gave him a three day course of antibitoics which hopefully helped his body fight the bacteria and his sores seem to be hardening over and healing a bit. The problem is, the root of the problem remains. We can't pump the kids full of medicine every time they are sick and take control of their health and responsability for it. I have tried to talk to the mother, but she seems so worn out and not interested. How do you convince someone that they cant let their kids play in sewer puddles, that she needs to show them how to wash their hands multiple times a day, and to keep their food utensils, pots and supplies off the ground, as well as the food itself? This seems all so new to her and I don't yet think she is really wanting to do it. I don't know why. Maybe with so much loss in her life and struggle, she has just stopped caring. Please pray for us as we face this daily struggle and sadness in our hearts. We need to find the way to love this family, to play with their kids and show them joy and hope and help where we can, but we also can't be their only solution and enable the behaviours that make them so sick. Some days we don't know where that line is either. It isn't the childrens fault that they don't know anything and lack parenting that we all are so blessed with back home. How do we best love them and care for them?

My neighbor Fatima

Funny moments

I was taking photographs one day around my yard. It was the middle of the day and quite hot. This fly would not leave me alone, or my bottle of coke. So i decided to photograph him too!

Me (before going to the tamasheq party and asking questions about my dress: “Is it ok if my hair shawl falls and my hair is exposed? Will that offend them?”
Dalain (A tamasheq guard): “Oh that’s Ok. You can even open your shirt!”

A man came to our house to ask for some money for a light for his children at night so they could study. At least that was his story, and he is a random stranger to us, but we are white so they come to ask for money anyways. Anyhow, he saw our yard and said "Your yard is big enough, you should buy a CAMEL and keep it in your YARD. You know, if you drink camel milk in the morning and at night, you will stay in good health!" So first of all, can you see me with a camel as a pet, and secondly (and most importantly) can you imagine me milking my camel twice a day!!!

Well, thats all for now from this side of the world!
Love to hear from you!



Anonymous said...

You all look wonderful...warms my heart when I see those beautiful smiles. heather

Carrien said...

I can totally see you milking a camel twice a day. :)

About the neighbor kids, could you teach the children? Offer to give them a lesson once a week and make most of it on basic health and hygiene. Maybe the older kids could help the younger kids?

I mean, would it stick, with the children anyway if while Paul is patching them up he tells them these things. "Don't play there it's unclean. It's a toilet. That's where the worms come from. was your hands before fedding yourself or a child."

Just wondering. I don't know what the language barrier is like.