Heather in Senegal

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

My dear friend Ellia has pointed out that I haven't said a thing about what I'm doing after Peace Corps. I've thought of this blog as a forum for my Senegal life, so I haven't been talking about life afterwards, but in truth, post-Senegal life has been a huge preoccupation lately.
So, the plan: I will fly out of Senegal on April 25th and go to London. After three days of museums and parks, I am going to Ireland, where I plan to attend a few music camps, hike and lounge in gorgeous settings, and study fiddling in small town pubs. Then comes the even more exciting part. After a month in Ireland I will meet Ellia, otherwise known as Sweet Soubrette (www.sweetsoubrette.com), the famed ukuleleist, in Brussels, and we will begin a two week tour, performing in venues and on the streets of Brussels, Paris, Marseille, and anywhere the wind takes us. I've been listening to her album constantly, playing along with it, and upping my violin practice schedule in hopes that when we meet in Europe I'll be able to sound good next to her.
Ellia and I have been close friends for twenty years now. Seeing her after Senegal would be great. Seeing her in Europe would be a thrill. Seeing her in Europe, working on music with her, and playing for audiences... I don't see how my close-of-service trip could get any better.

While I was at a party last week I spotted a woman with elaborately henna'd feet. I've been wanting to have this done to me for almost two years. I pointed her out to my sister, Assu, and told her I wanted her to paint me up. She offered to take me to a salon, but I was picturing something more intimate, so she agreed to do it. We set a date and I gave her money to buy the supplies.

When I got home last night Assu was cooking tea (a seemingly endless process of pouring it from one shot glass to another and back into the little kettle). On seeing me she passed off the job to another kid, and she and Nene, my older sister, sequestered themselves in Nene's room. After about fifteen minutes they sent out a little kid to summon me.
I took off my shoes outside the house, entered the front area, pushed aside the curtain, and found my sisters sitting on the floor slicing medical tape into thin strips on a metal platter. They beckoned me in, took one look at my feet, and sent me back out to wash them. Everyone picks on my foot-washing. When I came back they started taping me up.
Nene took my feet and ran full strips of tape along the sides like racing stripes. Then, thinking better of it, she went back and sliced the tape horizontally and pulled the pieces apart, giving me parallel stripes. While she did this, Assu took the thin strips off the metal platter and wrapped them around my fingertips. Nene used my free fingers to hold the roll of tape, and she cut off thin pieces and connected the stripes on my feet, making a series of squares.

After giving me stripes on my fingertips, toes, and the sides of my feet, they moved on to my palms. I had gathered by now that Nene and Assu were not terrribly experienced at this stuff. The tape was painstakingly but sloppily cut, and the placements were a bit haphazard. I caught the pair of them exchanging nervous looks when it came time to do my palms. They had no clear idea on what to do, and offered to write my boyfriend's name or mine. I passed on that, so they gave me squiggles and Xes.
The taping process to a long long time, and we were all yawning by the time they finished. Happily, the smearing process went quickly and involved a bit of a foot massage, as Assu rubbed the henna paste into my skin. I thought we were nearly done when they started applying the henna, but there was still the wrapping. They cut strips from plastic bags and individually tied off each of my fingers and toes, and then put my hands and feet into bags. They told me to put on socks, but I couldn't manage with my coated and mittened hands, so Nene had to put the socks on me. Before I could get into bed I had to call Assu and ask her to take the band out of my hair. I slept poorly, dreaming the henna didn't take or that I ripped off the bags in my sleep and my sisters were disappointed in me.
In the morning the process surprised me by not being over. Assu helped me scrape the henna off my skin, reminding me to be careful not to remove the tape. People had been telling me the henna would color my skin black, and they were excited about how good that would look on white skin, so I was pretty surprised to find myself bright orange. When we finally had all the henna off, Assu smeared a mixture that looked like water and large salt crystals all over my hands and feet. I have heard that sometimes this process involves rat poison. Already committed, I chose not to ask what was in the mix. I kept this on until it dried, and then Nene gave me permission to take off the tape and wash my skin.
I am still pretty orange, but the tops of my fingers and toes are black. All day long people have been complimenting me. Family friends, strangers on the street, they all seem surprised and delighted to see me henna'd. I get the impression it is taken as a sign of my fondness for the culture. I'll wave at people, and I know they can't see the design, only the color, but they'll enthusiastically tell me how pretty it looks.

I've hit the "sweet spot." After nearly two years in Kolda I am comfortable with my Pulaar, I have friends, I know where to go, who to avoid, how to joke with people, how to take care of myself, and I'm involved with successful gardening projects. I can greet a woman who is lounging on a mat under a mango tree, sit with her, eat with her and her kids when someone brings over a lunch bowl, and join her in teasing the people who walk past. I'm comfortable. Also, knowing I'll be leaving soon, and that I am doing things here for the last times, has a way of making things sweeter.

Yesterday afternoon Seck didn't come to the garden. A friend of his is visiting from Spain, so it was just me, his daughters, and two younger kids. All we had to do was water, and with a hose it's really a one person job. If we had a well we'd all be working and would probably finish faster, and we would never have to worry about the water getting shut off. Of course, then our hands would be far more callused and we'd be fantasizing about the ease of hoses. We tried to divide the work by using the watering can, but since the water has to come from the hose it doesn't save anything, so eventually Nafi took over watering and the rest of us just messed around.

Awa, the kids, and I chased one another around the garden trying to grab other peoples's hands and force them to hit themselves. We danced, pretended to threaten one another with rocks, and threw water. Eventually we mellowed. Awa took over the watering, Nafi sat on a rock, and I sat on the old tire beside her, eventually lowering in it so I could lean back on the inner rim. It was a golden, picturesque scene. The sun was setting, giving us pink and purple clouds and coolish air, Nafi and I were chatting about nothing, and Awa was singing. My coming departure makes me savor and focus more thought on times like these. I was fully at ease in the garden with these kids. It felt like a triumph, a comfort won by almost two years of time and work.

It's so odd that these two years are almost over, and that so much of my life here now reminds me of older parts of my life. Awa's voice took me back to times I've dozed with my head in her lap as she sang to me. The garden itself holds countless memories of interactions with Seck and the range of emotions I've felt while trying gardening techniques, laboring, and lounging here. Finding myself so comfortable sitting in a tire got me thinking about how much tires are part of my life here. I've pulled them out of dumps, had kids retrieve them, bought them off mechanics, transported them, cut them, planted in them, taught people to plant in them, planned days around them, swung from them, bounced on them, sat in them, smelled them burning, and seen them lying everywhere. Chatting in Pulaar makes me remember struggling with Pulaar and feeling so exhausted by it. I'm by no means brilliant at it now, but I can have conversations, hear stories, and not feel the once constant stress from the language.

After the final rains last fall, the Casamance River, which cuts across Kolda, rapidly went down. In the first rainless week it looked as though a dam somewhere downstream had been unblocked. Trees that had spent the summer standing in two feet of water were suddenly on land. The poles that supported the ramshackle walking bridge, the body of which washed away over the summer, became visible again. A month after the rains stopped the river no longer flowed visibly. On a windless day trees and clouds were reflected flawlessly.

The rains here, especially the first few, are much celebrated. Kids and Peace Corps volunteers dance in the street. Everything smells better. The sandy roads become bikeable again. The rains bring mangos, relief from the heat, thrilling thunder, stunning lightening shows, a glowing verdant landscape, mangos, gardening and farming opportunities, and the frequent occasion of being stuck indoors and forced to cozy up with a good book. And something about the rains just feels good. Once the season gets underway the rains come with dramatic, apocolyptic force. My first summer here the winds and pounding rain made me fear for my hut. It's exhilerating to bike through blankets of pouring rain or to wade calf deep down a muddy market road. Last summer I had a nice, "holy cow how did this get to be my life," moment one night while biking home in a thunder storm. After one especially loud crash the electricity went out. From then on I could only see the path during bursts of lightening. In the absence of lightening I was left in pitch black darkness. I sped as fast as I could during the moments of visibility, trying to sight any rocks, parked cars, or deep muddy sand traps on the path ahead, and then I pedaled slowly and hopefully during the brief dark spells. I made it home feeling triumphant.

I have delighted in the rains, and both years here I eagerly watched the river as a measure. Because it rains to the east before it hits Kolda, the river swells slightly before our rains begin. I remember stopping my bike on the bridge in town to gaze down at the dry river bed, then the muddy river bed, then the gorgeous sight of water forming a continuous line crossing under the bridge, and finally the day when it first actively flowed west. I watched the river rise, covering the garbage, the riverside gardens, my reading spot under my chosen tree, and eventually the footbridge. It was reminiscent of the thrill of watching snow accumulate.

Signs of our distance now from the last rains abound. The ground is littered with dead leaves, the cows, who thrive on rainfed growth, are showing their rib bones, the sandy roads are getting impassible on bike, kids playing soccer create field-wide auras of kicked-up dust visible and smellable from far off, we had to lengthen the well's rope to make the bucket reach the sinking water, and every day is hotter than the last. (I got a kick out of a new volunteer asking, "Is this as hot as it gets?" We're just getting started.) And, most of all, the river is very low now. At its lowest point it's a muddy garbage dump. There's a thin coating of green grass, the only grass in town, on either side of the river showing how much it has recently sunk. I have barely a month left in Kolda, and every day now I can see the water line changing and the river growing more narrow.

I have such mixed feelings about leaving Senegal. Simply, it's really really strange to know I'm going soon. Often I can forget about it, or at least quiet the idea, but the sight of the dried up river, which I won't be here to see refill, is like a kitchen timer that has nearly ticked down to zero, and it always brings me back to the fact of my imminent departure, which I'm at a loss of how to deal with.

My host family's cat, Aqua, trotted into my hut last night after I turned off the light. She's taken to visiting me as I'm going to bed. I love this habit of hers. I began petting her and felt something stuck to her hind quarters. I turned on the light and discovered it wasn't to so much as in. There was a plastic bag protruding from her anus.

Everything here comes in plastic bags. Juice, vegetables, coffee, peanut butter, and anything else you want, is available in a plastic bag. Take it out of the bag, and it leaves a bag with some tasty residue left in it. The poor cat must not have been able to resist the temptation.

I tried to pull it out, but she emphatically refused. I snipped it off, close to her body, so that no one else could tug, and so it wouldn't get caught on anything. Never has a bag smelled so foul.

I had a nightmare about the plastic getting tangled in her intestines, but when she hopped onto my windowsil in the morning, she was as merry as ever and had no plastic sticking out of her. She's not too bright. In a few minutes I caught her chewing on one of my old bags of peanut butter.

Garbage is everywhere. I recently saw the classic example of the danger of having no trash management. A cheefuly little girl was playing on the rubbish heap beside her mother's boutique and came back holding an old water bottle, a D battery, and a syringe with a very long needle on it. The more official doctors have disposal methods: they drop syringes down their toilet holes. This one probably came off the black market.

The garbage system here has it advantages. Everything gets reused many many times. One person's broken bucket might be the perfect plastic for another person to melt onto an old oil drum and patch its holes. Old powdered milk bags can be new gardening containers. In the US, garbage goes where most of us will never see it, so there's no chance of some discarded object inspiring a passerby to adopt it for a new use. Here, the average trash heap has extremely little that is still in good enough shape to be identified, excluding plastic bags.

I came to the garden once with an art magazine. A featured photographer had a spread of photos of garbage. In one picture it was tires as far as the eye could see. Another had couches. My gardener's daughter was most struck by the landfill overflowing with cell phones. She asked what was going on in the picture, and when I explained that they were all broken, she scoffed. "Send them to Africa," she said. "They may be broken to you, but we'd fix them." A few months later I found my cell phone in a bed sheet that I had soaked and was washing. The phone wouldn't turn on anymore. I gave it up for broken and bought a new one. It doesn't work as well as it once did, but the guy I gave it to found a way to fix it enough for basic use.

I spent December on vacation in Italy. It was wonderful as European vacations are meant to be, so I'll just give it a quick description. Mom and Jim met me in Rome. I had my biggest taste of culture shock at the airport when I found myself wanting to talk with strangers and realized they were shying away from me. I was acting like a Pulaar, expecting everyone to be willing to chat and reveal personal information. I nearly teased a taciturn fellow about my being his wife, just to get the conversation going, before I caught myself. After this, everything felt familiar and natural.

It was great spending time with Mom and Jim. We visited the Pope and got his blessings, toured the Vatican, the Pantheon, the Coloseum, the Capuchin monks, and many other fine sights. The food was stunning, and the Christmas decorations and markets were charming. My mother kept a daily journal which I hope she will post.

After two weeks in Rome I was left on my own, and I traveled up to Florence. The train was ridiculously nice. After the potholes, heat, tight quarters, smells, hours and hours, and hours of travel in Senegal, which happens on no schedule and only takes place when the car fills, it was a pleasure to have a spacious, cool, smooth, swift, and timely mode of transit that had a bathroom on board. Not to mention the scenery. I gasped at the sight of snow.

I passed a few days in Florence's museums, my favorite of which was a small one filled with mosaics, and I took a day trip to Pisa (which is so much more than just a leaning tower). I found that at least half of the street vendors in Florence were Senegalese. It gave me a kick to be able to practice my Pulaar, but none of them seemed especially surprised by it. I can go down the path from my hut and find people amazed at a white girl speaking Pulaar in a region where the majority is Pulaar, but in Italy it didn't much phase anyone.

From Florence I traveled to Venice with a few people I met at the hostel. We arrived at night, and I think this is the best way to meet this city. It felt like we were entering a majestic and lyrical world. After the intense touring of Rome and Florence, I meandered around Venice and spent a long time lost. The highlights here were the pigeons, the church with a wall to wall mosaic floor, the Guggenheim museum, the island of Murano, a visual candy store, where nearly every store is a stained glass shop or factory, and the other travelers at the hostel.

Next was Cinque Terra, one of the most beautiful places on earth. I arrived on Christmas eve. On Christmas day the Brazilians who were staying with me at the hostel and I hiked the trail along the coast, past the narrow shelves of vineyards, and up and down the hills. Christmas day was the perfect day to do the trip. There was nearly no one on the trail besides us and the fat felines who sat preening at every picnic spot. I spent the next week at Cinque Terra and saw the five towns and the trail steadily grow more crowded. I hiked on side trails, sat by the ocean, cooked broccoli and mushrooms with every meal, and attended a klezmer and a gospel concert. LOvely!

The day before I was to leave Italy I took a train to Milan where the Brazilians met me, gave me a three hour tour of the city, and took me to their apartment. They live with a couple and their new baby. I was received with open arms and great warmth. We had no one common language, but using English, French, Portugese, and hands and grins, we were able to joke and compare life in Brazil, Senegal, and Italy. It surprised me how sweet it felt to be at home again with a western family.

Getting home was a small fiasco. Senegal has an agreement with Europe and the US about not letting people enter Senegal without proof of residency or proof of intent to leave within three months. I learned this from the woman at the airport who refused to issue me a boarding pass. My Peace Corps passport and ID would not suffice, and no airline nearby sold easily refundable tickets. My request to see a manager brought me a man who yelled at me about the US treatment of Mexican immigrants. When the plane was due to leave in thirty minutes, the woman finally printedme a ticket to Lisbon, where I was scheduled to have long layover. When I tried to get my ticket for Senegal in Lisbon this woman told me Milan had called about me. International sensation, dying to sneak into Senegal and wreck the place, am I. She told me to wait a while. I couldn't get through to Senegal, so I called my mom for advice. She phoned Peace Corps and got someone in DC who said, "Yes, this happens. Sometimes volunteers have to wait a few days before they can return to their countries." And yet it is never mentioned in training, and we are not given any papers to satisfy the airlines. Cute. The head of security in Senegal was more willing to help, but he had no luck speaking to airline personnel. Eventually I found a merry man who decided to give me a New Year's present, and he overroad the computer program to issue me my boarding pass. When I got to the airport in Milan I wasn't thrilled about returning to Senegal, but the ordeal got me so wound up that I leapt with joy when I finally got the pass. I returned home to Senegal in a far more gleeful and grateful state than I would have otherwise.

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Earlier this week my sister, Nene, came to my window while I was eating dinner and tossed me a mint sucking candy, inviting me to a baby-naming ceremony. In place of invitations families buy bags of candy and hand them out with verbal notice of the upcoming party.
I was running around this morning, going to a garden and visiting a friend at her hut, so I didn't get to the party until after lunch. By the time I arrived there were about two hundred sitting together in an outline of a square in the sandy road outside the newborn's compound, fully blocking the road. The women were all dressed in fancy outfits, most in bright oranges, reds, and blues, and many had their faces done up with an extreme amount of make-up. The beauty standard here involves a lot of heavy face paint. Everyone had their hair done up in new mesh. I sat with some friends of mine who were selling bags of frozen juice to the other guests and helped distribute the bags to people who were passing their money down the line of chairs.
The newborn's family is wealthy, so instead of a simple gathering garnished with some cookies, or a bigger one with a drummer, this party had a stereo going inside the compound and a live band setting up outside on the edge of the square where we all sat. While the band tuned women brought out buckets of water which they sprinkled on the sand; if they didn't dampen the ground the deep loose sand would make for awkward dancing and a cloud of dust.
My friends teased me, telling me my boyfriend was here so I better plan on dancing well or else they'd lure him away. They said something about putting my name on a list, but I thought they were just joking. However, when the band finally got started a singer performed one verse of a song and then said that before anything else could happen Dienabou Ba had to get up and dance. I'm used to being the center of attention, but this surprised me. I demured for a bit, but with two hundred people staring at me, the music drawing more by the second, and all waiting for me to dance, I had little choice. After I did a satisfactory amount of wiggling in front of everyone, I took the microphone and sang my friends's names and taunting them, daring them to come dance. They laughed appreciatively, but only much later, after many dancing old women had filled the square, did they rise from their seats.
The band had two electric guitar players, an electric bassist, a drummer, and three singers. The two women singers wore head scarves, as most women here do, and when there were lulls in the dancing they would swing their scarves around and lay them on the ground in front of their friends or atop their heads. This forced their friends to start dancing, either to return the scarf, or to dance with it briefly and then lay it in front of another woman. Aside from the musicians, men were absent. Young boys stood close outside the square, watching. Teenaged boys sat further off, but within eyeshot. Only one male rose to dance, and he did so in a clownish manner.
I left long before the party ended. The music was too loud for me. The band had four gigantic speakers that appeared to be playing at full volume, and the stereo inside the compound sounded like it had a similar set-up. Straw huts and wells all around, but music amplification to put rock stars to shame.

Taking a bike on a subway will never again feel like a hassle, for I have now taken a dog in a sept-place. Alexis left Kolda, and her dog, Guinness, was far too accustomed to Toubob life to be left on her own, so Kristal volunteered to adopt her, and I volunteered to handle transport.
I tried feeding her a tasty bowl of milk and Nyquil before the trip, but she expressed her distaste with a colorful puddle of puke. She was one very awake and frisky puppy when we went to catch a car, and while we were at the garage she slipped out of her leash. Many men and I set off running after her, though after she trotted right past a few men I realized I was the only one actually trying to make contact. Eventually she stopped to relieve herself and I pounced.
I expected the worst in trying to buy a seat for Guinness, and accepting this ahead of time led me to being taken for four times the correct price. Clearly, resignation doesn't help matters. I should've just demanded what was fair for two seats.
Guinness and I sat in the back with one other person. She was beside me, on top of me, bouncing on me, trying to nuzzle people, vocally expressing her views on the road's swiss cheese condition, and occasionally making ominous moves towards the window. Luckily, she's an extremely good natured dog, so pinning her to me and grabbing her by the face to hold her mouth shut brought me no bites.
We spilled out of the car in Kristal's road-town six hours after we'd left the house. We looked at each other with the tired but proud expressions of victorious athletes too beat to do more than acknowledge the win. Then she stretched, yawned, and lay down in the sand. I wanted to do that. Kristal and I sat in the shade, waiting for the heat of the day to pass before we started walking to her village. We attracted a crowd of little girls. We greeted them and chatted briefly with them, but mostly continued our conversaton in English. The girls watched us, and when there were so many that it was hard to get good views of us, they sat between us so we had to lean and twist just to see each other's face.
The day cooled, and the three of us walked out to the village. Guinness, off a leash and in the bush for the first time, was a picture of delight. She ran in the fields, frolicking like her life depended on it. She kept tabs on us, never getting too far away, but for the most part we only saw her when she was an orange and white arc leaping over the weeds.

I just got back from visiting my friend Laura in her village. It's such a pleasure to be in a place where I can speak Pulaar, bask in the beauty of Senegal, and have no work or social stress. I'm never so relaxed as I am in other people's villages. I love lounging in another volunteer's backyard (village volunteers have fenced in land around their toilet holes), out of sight but within earshot of Pulaars and the animals, reading in the shade or having a long rambling conversation. I might do virtually the same thing in Kolda, but never without some level of guilt about excluding the Pulaars. In most villages that I've visited, the locals understand that I have traveled far to talk with my friend, and they might joke about how we ramble on for hours in our fast English, but they appreciate that we need this and might go so far as to instruct my friend on how to be a good host.
We went to the nearby cashew-apple orchard every day. I regret that I did not bring my camera. When Laura gives me her photos I'll load them to this site. The orchard was planted one generation ago on a spot where a few fields meet, making it a sudden burst of trees on an otherwise flat landscape. We would go after lunch, in the heat of the day, so the orchard looked like a heaven-sent oasis. As soon as we got under the leafy awning the temperature dropped significantly. I've only ever bought cashew-apples in town, so I had to be taught to pick them. The first step was obvious: we told the kids who followed us to get us some apples. Then we started hunting along with them, and Laura taught me to scour the ground for small bursts of the red and yellow skins. No one plucks these apples from trees; they are only believed to be ripe if they have fallen. Some of the boys hurried this along by climbing up the trees (vertical, limbless trunks, and the boys looked as if they were walking up stairs) and shaking the high branches until apples rained down. At first I would pick up an apple, see it was half-eaten, and drop it, but Laura and the boys quickly corrected me. The birds only go for the best, so a half-eaten apple is considered a great find.
The orchard's caretaker is a middle-aged deaf man whose father planted the orchard. He sweeps the ground daily, making apples easier to find, and giving snakes, who are attracted to cashew trees, fewer places to hide. He keeps a bucket of water on hand so people can dip in the apples and rinse them off. Of course, before eating an apple one must twist off the cashew. He asks that diners toss these in a pile, and he sells them in town. One time when we came he was collecting honey from the woven structures he had attached to the trees, and another time he and the boys were cutting stalks into thin strips that will be woven into rope. He owns one of the gardens in the village. In all, he and his wife have one of the wealthiest compounds in the village. He was never taught an official sign language, but Laura and I were able to converse with him via the boys, who seemed to be able to communicate perfectly with him.
An NGO helped a womens group in Laura's village start a garden shortly before she came. When they divided plots for this spring's crop Laura asked for a section. She was away when they divided the plots, and saved nothing for her. When they saw she was hurt to be excluded they explained that they thought she would just help with everyone's. The group's leader gave Laura a small corner of her own plot. So, every morning and afternoon she had to go water. I slept through the morning shifts but helped in the afternoon. I loved how the women got such a kick out of me. It wasn't enough that they got one toubob who speaks Pulaar, but now another appears? We exchanged the usual teasings and jokes, and additionally they taunted me about not being able to pull water from the well. So, of course, in I stepped, and in no time was pulling in rhythm with one of the women. Faster than the eye could see, our hands were flying over each other's to pull the rope. The others cheered me on, and delighted at their approval, I insisted on pulling until all the buckets were full. Tom Sawyer and these Pulaar women.
Every morning and every afternoon the women line up by the well, have arguments about the line, pull innumerable buckets of water, and lug the pails to their garden plots. It won't end this ordeal, but I talked to a few of the women about mulching, and this should help. The women got it, and were quick to tell pass it on to the women who were still hauling water. "It'll block the sun and keep the ground wet longer," "the material will decompose and help the soil," "it'll reduce the number of weeds," - it feels so good when they really get it and are excited about it. Once they saw I knew something about gardening they asked if I had any advice on their pest problem. The next day Laura and I brought garlic and soap to the garden, one of her friends brought a pounder, and we made and applied an organic pesticide. I answered a few other questions about gardenting. It was glorious to be the visiting specialist.
Mostly, Laura and I walked. Her family chastised her for taking her guest out in the heat of the day, but we both loved strolling deep in the bush. We found a cemetery in which each grave was surrounded by waist-high walls of wooden stakes sunk into the ground. We sat under a mango tree until a bull pacing near us started giving us dirty looks and facing us with a disconcerting stance. Locals here will shoo bulls away as they would cats, and I have never heard of a bull goring anyone, but I figured I'd feel silly later explaining a gash in my side with, "I didn't think big horned bulls did that kind of thing," so we moved on. He promptly sat in our spot. We traversed fields, followed cow paths, speculated on the changes to come with the rains, and sweat rediculous amounts. It was lovely.
Laura's family gave us lunches, and we had dinner with one of her coworkers. The meals were delicious affairs, but by the second day I was craving vegetables. I do like village life. People are kinder there. Everyone knows you. The landscape is far prettier than in the city. The air is cooler. I could live there. But it may be a better place to visit.