Heather in Senegal

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

June 3
Last night was the first big rain. Today at the beginning of the brutally hot part of the day the air became alive with tiny flying insects. This will sound like an exaggeration, but a modest estimate would be to say no bug was ever more than four inches from its nearest neighbor on each side. Thankfully, they were a sun-loving bunch, so the air under the shade structure was free. I sat there cheering for the lizards who had come out in force to enjoy the easy hunting. About two hours after the bugs appeared they lost their wings, or, more accurately, dropped them in a pile outside my door, and became ugly crawling creatures who apparently wished to drown in my toilet and in my water bucket. I refilled my bucket many times today because I could not bare to wipe myself with a handful of wet carcasses. I could not go so far as to intentionally step on any of the not-yet-drowned bugs, but I took delight in choosing to look anywhere but the floor as I walked. Usually if I see a bug floundering in water I lift it out and try to blow-dry it with my breath. Today I found myself looking at a bug waist-deep in a puddle and actually hoping I would have the privilege of watching it die. I heard Peace Corps would change me, but I did not expect this. They were not a biting bunch, and they showed no predilection for crawling on me, as did the city of ants I found one morning in my bathroom. Their abundance during their flying phase encouraged me to breath through my nose rather than mouth, and my dentist says that is better for my teeth. Yet still, I hope any eggs they laid are being discovered and destroyed. I see seven lifeless bugs on my bed, and two on my knee.
The rain was incredible. First came the lightening. Huge portions of the sky burst into light for split seconds, illuminating the variety of clouds. Occasionally I saw a lightening bolt, but mostly it was sudden flickerings of a broad bright light. It was beautiful, and I stood gazing at the sky for a long time. I was surprised that no one seemed to understand why I was so infatuated by the light show. People kept urging me to go inside. When the rain became more than a drizzle I reluctantly joined my family in their living room. Their house has a corrugated metal roof. A sprinkling of rain on a roof like that sounds like a storm. Last night we could not hear each other’s yells beyond a distance of three feet. The rain did not fall so much as pummel.
After it had been pouring for a little while, my mother suddenly thought of my straw covered hut. We ran the ten feet from her door to mine, arriving soaked, to find one side of my bed was in a puddle, my books were wet, and my living room had a small pond. The family came to help mop up the water and move all my things into a dry corner. Earlier yesterday I had refused to tell my mother the cost of my furniture, and this had made her quite angry. Our very next interaction found her choosing to be on her knees scrubbing a rag on my floor to absorb the water. I was so grateful to her and my family for how they took care of me and my things. Today another relative and I walked to the market to buy plastic, and tomorrow someone will help me waterproof my hut. This evening, as a token of my gratitude, I finally let the girls braid my hair. Ever since I moved here I have been telling them they could have a go at my head tomorrow. They were stunned when I finally said today might be nice. It hurt, as I expected, and I was disappointed to find that when I turned my gasps of pain into cries of, “mangooooo,” no one brought me a mango. But the folks gathered to watch the evening’s soap opera, “Passions,” cheered for me and Salimatou, my stylist, when she finished, and I rather like how the braids look.

4 Comments:

At 7:35 AM, Blogger alau said...

Yeesh. I absolutely hate hate hate bugs.

I think that's why I like lizards so much. When I was in the internet cafes in Thailand, I would welcome the "click click" noises they made as they skittered around on the ceiling tiles.

Hang in there. I don't know what your straw hut must be like, but have you thought of getting swaths of tulle and or netting to cover things like windows? I'd be really surprise if they didn't have mosquito netting.

 
At 9:11 AM, Blogger Mom said...

Dearest Heather,

Sandy, my Ghanaian colleague, has been reading and enjoying your blog. He had a knowing smile on his face as he read about your bug problem. The bugs are attracted to water and light, so he suggested that you put an open pail with water under your light, and the bugs will fly into it. He stressed that you must cover your water bucket.

Keep yourself SHH!

All my love,

Mom (:-)

 
At 7:20 AM, Blogger Ellia said...

Heather,
Your letter was wonderful, and your blog--such amazingly satisfying detail! I'm so impressed, and your adventure sounds absolutely extraordinary, especially from where I sit in Brooklyn on an overcast Saturday morning procrastinating writing a paper. I'm going to try to be inspired by your tales of Africa.
LOVE and a letter soon.
Ellie

 
At 2:05 PM, Blogger Bex07 said...

Wow - I feel weirdly nostalgic. I once watched "Passions", the soap opera, in a class! My professor's husband was Senegalese, and even though we couldn't understand the dialogue, we watched it, studying the body language. How odd!!

Miss you!!!!

Glad your stuff got taken care of!!

 

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