Thursday, February 16, 2012
I went to Alima’s house early this morning and we drank tea before we, along with another girl from her concession complex named Batoma (Remember what that means? She’s actually named after an older female relative and so goes by the nickname of Batoma), headed out into the bush to cut wood. Moose went with us and had probably one of the best days of his young life, since I set out a bowl of water and let him run wherever he wanted. We walked about 20 minutes outside of town to an area I’ve never been. I guess we call it “the bush” in Africa because aside from a few trees here and there it’s mostly just lots of dirt and lots of scrubby brush. That was our target: cutting limbs from the scrubby brush. Which, let me tell you, is way harder than it looks.
|Alima chopping wood.|
Alima and Batoma each had a djeli, a sort of hatchet thingy, that they used to cut limbs. Malian tools aren’t the most stable equipment, and this particular tool is formed by wedging a piece of metal into a hole in a wooden club, so every now and then the metal part drops out of the wood handle and you have to pound it back into place. It pretty much doubles the work, so it’s not exactly a walk in the park. I was always slightly terrified that Alima would rear back to hatchet up some wood and the metal blade would go flying off and knock me in the head, but luckily it always seemed to fall out when the tool was near the ground, and the closest I came to injury was when I slung it over my back to carry it and the blade fell out, scraping my leg on the way down.
Alima also used the handle to run through the dead leaves collected around the bushes before she chopped: she was checking for snakes. I never would’ve thought to do that, but according to the Commune meeting I attended last Hot Season, we have cobras, pythons, and vipers in area, so it’s a good thing Alima had the presence of mind to check! Luckily we didn’t see anything.
The girls chopped for awhile while I stood around and watched, and eventually Alima called me over to chop. I’m so thankful that we’re well past the stage where I’m not allowed to do anything. Now she doesn’t protest when I do stuff that’s easy (like sweeping my yard) and she humors me and lets me try stuff that’s hard (like chopping wood) before taking over again. She watched and giggled as I huffed and puffed and grunted and chopped that tree (ok, one bush limb) down! All I could think about while trying to chop the same place over and over was the scene in Titanic when Rose has to use an ax to hack Jack’s handcuffs apart. Jack was one brave man! If I’d been there instead of Rose, there’s a good chance Jack would’ve walked out of that room with only one hand, or at the very least, missing a couple of fingers.
I don’t have any pictures of my awesome feat, but by the time I finished, sweating profusely and out of breath, I felt about the same as I did in this photo, when my dad made me chop down the whole Christmas tree the month before I left for Mali. He said since I wasn’t going to be able to help for the next few years, I had to do it all by myself this time instead of tag-teaming it. This is how I finished:
(Just imagine dirt instead of snow, bushes instead of trees, and me without a coat).
After that, I figured I’d made my point. Alima took over again and my contribution was limited to helping drag the limbs around. The rest of the time I watched, played in the dirt with sticks, and borrowed the dieli long enough to hack a stick into a perfect baton so I could play with that, too. Occasionally I got smacked in the face from a flying sliver of wood. My presence was redeemed when it was time to go home: I got to help carry the wood! We divided it into 3 piles: a big one for Alima, a medium one for Batoma, and a little one for me. But still big enough to look respectable. No one has to know that out of the 40 or so branches, I only chopped one. That’s right, at least 40! And all of this in the heat (high 90s, if not low 100s), no shade, and the girls hadn’t even eaten breakfast, because for some reason there wasn’t any. And all without complaining or whining. My sister and I would NOT have done well in this childhood!
|Carrying wood home.|
I managed to make it back into the village without dropping my load, and Moose made it back after walking through only one mud puddle, so I’d say we Sogobas had a successful work day. We grabbed the deck of cards and some cashews from my house and headed back to Alima’s house to play until lunch was ready, and then again after lunch. For some reason after awhile all I could think about was how it’s been a year since I’ve gone to a movie theater, and how much I really wanted to go. It wasn’t even that I really wanted to see a show, or that I wanted to be away from the village, I just really wanted to be in a theater for some reason. The most random things come to your mind out here, when there’s so much time to think!
I went home alone and did some chores before my mom called for our weekly chat. I noticed while on the phone that my clock (which has a built-in thermometer) had ended up in the sun and was now reading 118° - Hot Season is a-coming! It’s not so bad yet though.
Alima came over to teach me how to cook farani, one of my favorite Malian foods, which is basically fried dough. You can put various things in it; we chose onion, garlic, and tomatoes – no hot pepper! Alima knows I have an unreasonably low tolerance for spice. I tell her it’s my dad’s fault, because he can’t eat spicy foods either.
Cooking farani turned out to be a way bigger task than I’d imagined. Almost right away Alima ran off, saying she’d be right back. When she didn’t come back soon, I washed all of my dishes and sifted the flour we’d need. I spilled a bunch of flour on the ground, which Alima’s 7-year-old brother Yaya pointed out to me. I knew if Alima came back and found flour all over the ground she’d lecture me, even though it’s my flour, so Yaya and I quickly found some dirt to spread over the top and hide it. Alima still didn’t come back so after 30 minutes I went out and found her doing a neighbor’s laundry.
I don’t get it either.
By the time we made the batter and waited for fire to arrive from Alima’s house, fried it all, refried it, and ate it, it was about 3 ½ hours later! It was a nice evening though, and lots of kids came over to hang out and watch. We had one scary moment when Alima accidentally tipped over the entire pot of boiling oil and it spilled on the ground mere inches or less from where all the kids were sitting, but thank Allah it didn’t land on anyone. I really enjoy hanging out with the kids at night, they have such personalities!
Conversation came around to the fact that I have 3 flashlights. Amadou, my little pistol, said, “Michelli, give me one of your flashlights!” When I asked why, he said, “So I can go walk around with a girl!” Everyone cracked up! Then his older brother Sidiki said, “Michelli, I have 2 girlfriends. Adjaratou and you!” I responded, “Who’s your first girlfriend?” He said it was me, so I accepted that. I’m not about to be a 2nd girlfriend to anyone, not even an 11 year old! :D