Two Braids are Enough for Me

Trip Start Dec 28, 2007
1
6
Trip End Jan 15, 2008


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Friday, January 4, 2008

I woke up early to take my last warm shower before we headed into "the bush." I braided my hair, hoping it would disguise any dirtiness. I donned the skirt Allison gave me for Christmas along with a turquoise shirt-for my 'Aéropostale goes to Africa' day.
I volunteered to go into the market to buy the gifts for the village chiefs. We rode on the back of the truck-in the bed which was equipped with benches and a cage for this purpose.
While we were waiting outside the shop we met a boy who knew some English and was studying Spanish. We were sorry JaVon hadn't joined us because we knew she would have been so excited to use her language skills. Our guide, Hassan, explained to me what he was buying and for how much, as if he needed our permission (though of course we had no idea of what was going on). It was still nice to be engaged in the process. While Louis talked with the boy, we discovered that he was hoping we would buy him a new football. It was becoming more frustrating that every new acquaintance had an ulterior motive, but then again, it's hard to blame them for it. I helped arrange the bottles of water in the truck and even tried my first kola nut. I was discouraged by the bitterness of my bite, but I soon felt the energy boost. I was a bit jittery, talking quickly yet surprisingly without losing my articulation (which is generally the case).
I supposed we must have taken longer than expected for Baboucarr rode a bike in to find us. We hurried back and Baboucarr held on to the truck while balancing the bike. This was a difficult task considering the huge potholes in the road and how old and rickety the bike was. It was as if we were kids playing in the street, fun and yet probably very dangerous. (This is when I should probably insert the disclaimed-don't try this at home.)
The roller coaster of emotions I experience was realized literally in our bumpy journey. Still it was an adventure-though one with lots of bruises. I rode in the truck (a Toyota Super 4x4), hoping the fresh air would keep me from getting car sick. And it did for riding in the back was nothing like riding in a normal car. We stood most of the time so we wouldn't hit our backs on the bar. We were holding on to avoid being completely jostled around. I even sat on top of the bars. We had to duck to avoid branches and it became a sort of game that could be painful if you weren't paying attention. The driver was unbelievable when it came to navigating the road (if you can even call it that). Sometimes we'd be driving through a rut and the truck would almost be horizontal. It may sound as if I'm exaggerating, but it was truly unbelievable. One of the hills was so steep that we thought there was no way we'd make it up. It had to be almost a 45 degree incline. Surprisingly, on the second try, we did, so we broke out into (relieved) applause.
When we came to Dindi Fellow, the huts were much nicer than we expected-there was even electricity!! I was staying in a small hut with Grace. After putting our bags down, we all assembled for lunch. Some of the boys were climbing the tree and after Hassan climbed it, he encouraged me to do the same. I think he surprised that I agreed and took off my shoes. (I was wearing shorts under my skirt so it wasn't that big a deal.) Eventually several of us found a place in the tree and we took some cute pictures.
This lunch was the infamous meal when I decided to stop eating meat (for a while). I was put off by the "peanut sauce" (which had a strong tomato base). Then I chewed a piece of meat that was so tough and had a tendon. Now matter how I worked at it, I could not get around the tendon. I wanted to cry as it was just one of those sensations that was absolutely revolting. I couldn't even eat the rice because of the taste of the sauce. I decided to settle for a granola bar and peanut butter instead.
After lunch we went for a hike to pay our respects to the village chiefs. We climbed a grand hill/mountain-I'm not sure how best to classify it. For the purposes of story-telling, however, I will refer to them as mountains. The climb was challenging and once my wheezing became a walking symphony of gasping breaths (it's amazing the different sounds involuntarily contracting windpipes can make) I decided to use my inhaler. We were carrying two 25kg sacks of rice, 2 packages of soaps, 2 kg kola nuts and some tea. Being a girl, I was exempt from carrying the loads-after all I wasn't allowed in the mosque. Our guides carried the items for the most part, though the boys did carry some of the supplies in shifts that became shorter and shorter as we continued climbing. Like everything else, our timing was off and it was much longer than expected (it did not help that we had to stop for many breaks along the way).
Despite my breathing difficulties, I was in the front part of the procession and was the only girl as we waited a half hour for the other to catch up. (Again, I'm not exaggerating-I actually looked at my watch.) It was tiring and I was angry with myself for not having worked out before I came.
Hassan led us to a cavern with a "hut." The "hut" was used to create gunpowder. They would dig up sediment and pour it through so it functioned as a filter. They would then dry it in the sun. In the 18th century, the Fulani fought against groups further south (under Alfaiyaya). Alfaiyaya would raid the villages for slaves and subjugated the peoples. When the Fulani realized they couldn't defeat them, the cavern was used in hiding.
The first village was called Dandé, which means bed or refuge. When we entered, we were given a paper with its history that ended with a request for donation as they were working on developing tourism. We gave our gifts to the village chief's wife and interacted with the family. They gave us a tour of one of the huts, which was constructed with two walls for insulation and storage. There was a little girl who was absolutely darling, but very shy.
The second village was Akiya, where Cheik's family lived. (Cheik had worked with Professor Roberts in organizing this part of the trip.) As we waited, the little girls would come up to us, eager to shake our hands. I was so tired that it took all of my energy to try to keep my eyes open, so I would focus on them as they went about their chores. There was a French boy staying with the family who came to live there instead of having to serve time in jail (as part of a correction program).
I had put my skirt on before entering the village and wore it on the climb down. It was quite steep and a bit slippery with the rocks. Some members of the group fell, but there were no injuries. The boys were relieved to have no more gifts to carry. We made our way back to camp and rested a bit before dinner. I did not even attempt to eat the meat and had to eat around the sauce because it made me feel nauseous.
Outside of the pavilion (where we ate our meals), we could see fire near where we had been walking. It looked like lava coming down the hillside (or at least what I imagine that lava would look like). We were fascinated by the sight, yet felt a bit guilty in enjoying something so destructive.
After dinner some of the village's women came over and offered to braid our hair. I declined since my hair was already out of the way and I didn't want my scalp to be burned. Olivia and Patrick agreed and we were impressed with the speed and skill of the women's braiding. (I supposed this speed is necessary when dealing with squirming children who refuse to sit still.) It also helped that it was a team effort. Dan was convinced into having his hair braided after Taber promised to pay for it.
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