Thursday, June 16, 2011

Signs of Assimilation

We’ve noticed some things that we feel are signs that we are indeed adjusting to life here, slowly slowly.  Things that 6 months ago we wouldn’t have done or understood, we are now doing with little to no hesitations.
The other day, walking back from the garden, some young girls called out for me to come sit at a compound I regularly pass by.  I spied some baobobs and quickly veered inside the compound.  These girls were making baobob juice for a graduation and offered me some.  In the past, I would hesitate, thinking of the unknown water source that was in the cup being offered.  This time I quickly agreed and slurped up the deliciousness as any villager would have done (Its okay, it’s been a week and I’m not sick!).
Later, I was contemplating on what I would cook for dinner because based on the lunch received, we would not be eating too much of dinner.  Sibou informed me that there was a small marriage meal that was occurring at our neighbor’s compound (I still have no clue why this meal occurred).  Previously, I would think about my current hunger pains, run inside to eat a cliff bar of some sorts before heading out because I was most likely not going to be eating much of the food prepared at the ceremony.  But this time I just went. We sat down, chatted and in 20 minutes they brought out a platter of chicken skins and some unidentifiable part of the chicken that was left for me to eat – whatever it was, my appetite for anything remotely chicken made it taste absolutely delicious!  Later, they busted out a big platter of pasta and chicken cooked in oil and told me to bring it home to eat with Sana (This is what they do for honored guests).  I complied and we easily cleared our plates.  Back in January, we maybe would’ve stomached half the platter.
When the Spaniards came, they brought a lot of things with them. You can do that when you have a car. When I was over there waiting to bee keep, they offered me a coke – not only a coke, but a semi-cold coke! An extremely precious commodity in village.  Back in the states, I rarely drank cokes for reasons I won’t bore you with, but now consider it a wonderful little taste of America! I noticed how when the Spaniards asked me if I wanted something, I responded just how our villagers do when we ask them if they want something – with an eager, emphatic Yes, barely waiting for what is being offered to be said, and never saying no. 6 months ago, I would have hesitated, thought to myself ‘do I want to drink a coke right now? Do I need this sugary, carbonated substance in my body?’ but now, if someone offers me a coke – oh wow, what a foolish thing it would be to say no ;). I even went home to Ben and bragged how he missed out on the semi-cold coke by leaving early!
I got my hair braided, but this time, I didn’t take it out immediately that night.  Not because I love it - I am fully aware of how ridiculous it looks - but because it took Jeneba a really long time to do it, and all the village women love it.  Everywhere I go I get ‘dibayro ninyata, Juma le dibya?’ (Braids are nice! Who braided your hair?)  The funniest part about getting my hair braided is how the women all say how much Sana (Ben) will like it!

We both already have some different views on things by living here for 6 months.  Last night we were listening to the BBC on our shortwave radio and they were doing an interview with a Syrian refuge.  He was explaining how he was having trouble getting milk for his family and that they were running out. 6 months ago we may have thought, Oh man, those people need help.  However, last night, after hearing this I said ‘What? They have milk?! I want some’.  Ben laughed, as he was thinking the same thing. (disclaimer: This doesn’t mean we think the situation in Syria is not bad, it really sounds awful; I was just giving an example of how our train of thought have been altered in the past 6 months)
During our IST, we received another language test.  Much to our surprise and delight, the Peace Corps has determined that we both are now ‘Advanced’ Mandinka speakers.  And that fact will be proudly displayed on every resume for the rest of our lives.

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