Heather in Senegal

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Last night, holding a copy of John Steinbeck's Cannery Row, freshly flown in from the USA, I got a craving for an idyll reading spot. Two hammock support poles are in the ground immediately outside our compound, but the man who dug the holes takes his hammock into his hut when it's not in use, and I've been lazy about commisioning one for myself.

So I had to walk three households away to Hawa's compound, where I have noticed that not only does she have a hammock in front for her husband, but also a smaller one towards the back of her yard. I chatted with her family for a few minutes and then explained my need. They smiled sympathetically at my seemingly quixotic plan, and reminded me that they don't have electricity. I whipped a candle out of my bag and they invited me to go swing.

The hammock is tied to two poles stuck in the ground directly under a mango tree. It is close to the toilet hut, a straw roofed round hut with a six foot diameter and a hole in the center of the floor. The shape of the hole is held by a sawed off ceramic canister. When not in use it is covered by a thick pot lid, so there is no smell. As bathrooms go, and especially in comparison to the usual small rectangular tin-roofed stinky oven, this one is pretty aesthetic.

I lit my candle, lay back, and began to read about the whores and gamblers, or saints and martyrs, of Monterey. The already dark night was exagerated by my candle's flame, so that all I could see was my hand, the book, a vague feet-like shadow, and the stars above. After a few minutes Hawa sent her daugher over with a wooden bench, which she placed next to me and, using hot wax as glue, turned into a giant candle holder.

The scene was so perfect that it felt decadent. Hammock, mango tree, stars, grasshopper and frog serenade, distant conversation in Pulaar, darkness, and Steinbeck.


At 12:33 PM, Blogger Ellia said...

Have you read East of Eden? If not, I will send it to you.

At 12:09 PM, Blogger B. Y. Clark said...

As a former PCV from Richard Toll, I occasionally long for the dark dark Senegalese nights... the commotion of daily life in the US has its advantages, but the tranquility of a good book and the starts can't be beat.

At 9:10 AM, Blogger Nathan said...

hey there... you need to update!

At 5:33 PM, Blogger Phyllis said...

My Dearest Heather,
Your writings are making me anxious. How will you acclimate to U.S. life after hammocks, frog serenades, mango trees, and Steinbeck all at the same time?
All my love,


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