Africa: 1 month In

The Africa Adventure: Entering Month 2

It’s been 1 month now in to “The African Adventure...a few choice moments (not for the faint of heart!):

• night time bike rides: by the gardens, etc, electricity in the air, donkey carts, people wheelbarrowing their wares or carts stacked sky high full of flip flops cell phone head pieces & stuff lots of stuff 4 sale, bikin by the mosque with night time crescent moon & venus & mars overhead as people stand reverently in prayer facing my way....

• & Ramadan is over now praise Allah & the calls to prayer over 4 loudspeakers just over back fence only all hours of day now, not night. people not starving nor thirsting themselves sunrise to sundown to the brink of death or hopefully some spiritual vision of some sorts...food vendors out now, nobody givin you the evil eye for having a bite to eat or drink during daylight hours & it might be my imagination but seems like people also not dressed so covered up always all the time in the heat like during the holy month. why, allah, do you make people wear so many clothes when it gets so hot, cover up all over, African women dressed up like black little bo peeps?..

• my job: the school job kidz from senegal, niger, america, deutschland, schweis, hindustan, etc. 9 kidz to teach, down from the 30+ in USA. the easiest, best, best paying job with benefits I’ve ever had & it’s here in impoverished Niger..teaching bout native America, doing dances around the room, making paper & stick teepees, showing shadow puppets, making comix, meeting the kidz’ folx last week for the parent conferences, availing myself of the music room facilities and afternoon jam sessions with the kidz...

• shoppin @ the “petit marche” (“small market” for the non-francophones) all the stuff to buy, people to see, vat of peanut butter I do not jump into buying: that’s too much for me to stomach putting in my mouth & stomach @ this point.. things balanced on african heads, somebody sellin a shoebox of green beans & I buy a handful, the nomad & the bracelet I buy from him, the honey stand on the side o the road tastin sorta molassesy jarred in some olde sody pop bottle or such, but I taint complainin...

• security: & I am an american & 5 french kidnapped to the north of the country in uranium mine town of Arlit & somebody let the terrorists know that maybe some folx’ll pass the can for me back home, but don’t expect to get rich from this kidnapped american. still, there’ll be no going to the cool festival in northern niger with the dancing fulanis on account of “security concerns” and such, 80 French paratroopers flown in to get back their countrymen, Niger “on a war footing”...

• & the mosh up @ the bean place up the dusty road from mi home where we get a bag of hot beans for 30 cents, traded insults escalating to blows, rocks & hammer wielding between taureg roomie & drunken insulter...

• cholera outbreak sposed to be headed this way according to Mom wonderin bout my vaccines, one of the teachers @ the school may have typhoid...

• visiting big bro, his wife, my nephews over @ their house in the more Nigerienne/local section of town: more locals, kids playing on homemade foosball on the sidewalk, people walkin bout, open stank of sewers going 6 feet down we joke/fear bout stepping in to some dark night, everybody’s out sellin somethin or maybe watchin the telly under the stars with the family or neighbors...

• watchin football @ the “club” run by the very pregnant ex-peace corps gal with the missionaries, marine: am I really an american? are we from the same country/planet? why am I embarassed by other americans 90 % of the time I am travelling? but the peace corpse volunteers don’t seem half bad & the missionaries friendly when ya get down to it. americans in niger, is what it is & the gal with child in charge has visions of glory & realities of movie nights on the grounds: a “Jaws” screening by the pool, “Bad News Bears” on the rutted baseball diamond to go with weekend softball games, some movie about a stay @ home dad playing over at the playground, etc...

• my house: in the Kaoro Kano, meaning Beautiful Place: calm. not so much going on in this hood, but big dark places between houses watched over by guards sittin out front, goats eating loco weed as we call it back home on the side of the dirt road I take to work, people living out of the shanties to the side of the selfsame road, kids yell out “antasorra!” sounding something like “anti-sorrow” or such- the name for whities, them wanting a shiny coin or maybe a greeting & I give them a French greeting, “bon jour!” I buy stuff from the little store with the yogurt drink & dates & bubbly ginger citron drink, stop by the guy selling little black eyed peas by the vat: he puts them in my container not his plastic bag he usually puts hot beans in for like 30 cents american, enough for 3 meals. I’ll make it into chili with some tomato sauce & spices & corn. this place tain’t so bad in all it’s calm, especially when you find out it’s the last place in town to lose electricity during Black-outs & the first to have it turned back on merci...

• next day I go to load up on provisions at the bustling “Petit Marche’” where everything can be gotten...i’ve come on bike with my green army backpack/duffel bag to load the goods into. I’m getting familiar enough with Niamey to bike around the narrow streets, not get too freaked out by the cars passing close by this shared/strained resource: the road...i get to the marche, lock bike by the nicer restaurant with good pizza & parking lot attender for safekeeping, almost immediately accosted by everyone wantin to sell me somethin, lots of wheel barrows filled up with produce: oranges, tomatoes, potatoes, onions, eggplants, etc. I’m dressed in a nice shirt I cut the sleeves off of, thinking after a spell I shoulda dressed even a little more down, especially after the guy approaches me to sell laptop cases and a knife, switchblade knife, he pops open to show me its dangerous magnificence. is it my imagination? ”americain, americain.” is there malice in this display? he repeats, “americain, americain.” pops the knife open again. he knows from my lack of french speaking, accent, that I am american, or did I unwittingly mention it at some moment? there is something dastardly in the way he says, repeats, “americain, americain.” I don’t like the way he brandishes the switchblade, tell him so, move on to the potato seller. but I realize that I’ve spent my change & my smallest bill is worth $20 American, 10,000 CFA (Central Franc Africaine), the local currency. read recently the per capita income here in niger somewhere between 300 and 700 dollars depending on the source, though they all agree niger is one of 5 poorest countries in the world. you do the math on how much that 10,000 CFA note is worth & to who...I need go elsewhere to break my bill, don’t want to break it here, make a break for the heart of the market, past the meat sellers and their long knives, trying unsuccessfully not to consider my images of africans with machetes in the Sudan. but here in niger the locals mostly smiling, kind, yes...i find a little shop in the bustle where I can get some cheap imitation corn flakes, dried milk powder, juice, where I can break the bill...i load up, go back to get the rest of my goods including bunches of mint & basil, taters, onions, zucchini, eggplant, oranges, get back to the bike, get a bracelet from the turbaned nomad, hop back on the bike, lug my backpack full of stuff home, done shopping, back to the island of tranquility, my home with 5 rooms & 2 roomies & one guard out front & 2 dogs & one green swimming pool, etc...

• oh yeah, except that I forgot to mention the garbage. the piles of it all about, even this nice neighborhood. kitchen scraps, the ubiquitous plastic bags, yard trimmings, etc...i visualize an army of commando master composters organizing this into something useful, the neat piles of goat food here, kitchen scraps there, plastic bags being made into some building material or another, compost, etc...not such a far off reality in a place where not much is wasted, everything used...and then the ecotopia visions of grandeur sees that most people also are not dependent on cars for transport, the urban gardens all over, the goats roaming the streets, the possibilities of rain cachement?...someday africa, someday ye shall arise in such splendor again!!!...from the trash piles ye shalle arise! like an african sunrise, a beauteous array of sorted rubbish!...am I crying, or is that my eyes smarting as I bike by the toxic burn piles I gag upon biking home from work?...

• and then there’s the whole subject of “shiting one’s brains out” and the debacle this night, the bent over praying to some god that must have been offended, “mercy” “mercy.” oh merciful allah, I take back at least half way the condemning of the blaring loudpeakered calls to prayer coming from ye place of worshipe over back fence...it’s like I discovered some years back upon my 1st trip to Niger: it ain’t like, ”guess I had a little too much spicy food last night.” no, it’s like I’m going to fucking die right here, all of my fluids fleeing the body like americans after the coup...this is not the way I pictured it while picturing it listening to Tom Waits singin “How’s it Going to End?” though there is something entirely too Waitsish about such a hellishly beatific & grim ending of bodily fluids & prayers...yes, all exaggeration aside, mortality never too too far away here in africa...and with that cheery note:

• that’s the way it was it was....

Comments

1 Response to 'Africa: 1 month In'

  1. eviljen
    http://www.spooncafejournal.org/2010/09/africa-1-month-in.html?showComment=1285971359033#c5795979489409002571'> October 1, 2010 at 3:15 PM

    Wow, wonderful graphic account. Thanks Dougy.

     

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