Thursday, May 31, 2007

Paycheck to paycheck

When I lived in America, I often heard people complaining about how they lived from paycheck to paycheck. I was probably one of them. Living here gives me a whole new perspective about wealth or the lack of it. Try living paycheck to paycheck when there is no paycheck. The phase hand to mouth is a more accurate description of many people's existence here.

A friend of mine came to use my phone today. She was trying to call various relatives who might be able to give her some money or buy her some rice. This woman has four children and a husband who sometimes works. Even when he does work, he often "punishes her" for various offenses by refusing to give her money for food. So she spends her day going to various people that she thinks might help her with a little money or some rice. If she get something, she goes home, cooks lunch and calls all of the members of the compound to eat (7 adults, 6 children). All will eat, even the husband who refused to give her money for food. That will probably be their only meal of the day and the next morning the process begins again. If her begging is not successful, they will not eat that day or at least she and her children won't. The men often eat somewhere else if there's no food in their own compound.

I have other friends who live like this as well. Some husbands will at least buy the rice (a 100 pound bag that will last 10 days to a month depending on the number of people eating) and try to give their wives some money to take to the market each morning to buy the fish and vegetables for the meal. Many women have to supplement what their husbands give them with money that they earn by selling or doing laundry or other small jobs. Imagine waking up every morning knowing that there is absolutely no food in the house and little or no money in your wallet. If you manage to scrape together some change, you go buy something to cook for your family. You eat, then there you are again, no food, no money. That is truly a hand-to-mouth existence.

As one of the "haves" in this society, I am someone that people come to for help. My friend comes to me almost every day, but I can't give to her every day. It is her husband's responsibility to provide for his family, not mine. I would be wrong to take over his job, but it's hard to know where to draw the line between compassion and creating dependency.

I am often reminded of the verse that says that a man who doesn't take care of his family is worse than an infidel. I also think of "He that doesn't work, shouldn't eat".

I know men who have very little money, but they hustle every day to be able to give their wives money to cook with. If they come up short, I don't mind helping them, because they are trying. The lazy ones and the stingy ones really make me mad though. I don't like it that they benefit when I help their wives. Today is one of those days when I want to take all the deadbeat husbands, line them up, knock some sense into them and then make them watch over a period of several days while their wives and children eat without them. Obviously I can't do that, but it would be nice!

Okay, I've vented enough. I'll try for a lighter topic next time.

I hate bats!

I know you're thinking that I have a weird animal encounter every day, but I don't really. I think the critters are just trying to help me get the blog off to a good start, but they can stop now. A few minutes ago a bat got into my house. How? I don't know. I heard some critter-ish sounds and then it starts swooping and diving all around the kitchen/living room as I was trying to make supper. I had to keep dodging as it buzzed past my head on each circuit of the room. Then it disappeared down the hall and I was left wondering where it went. I crept down the hall, cautiously turning on lights when there it was swooping out of my bedroom and down the hall toward me. I quickly went to the back door, propped open the screen door and blocked the hallway with the door and my body. I was hoping that the bat would escape out the door without hitting me. It did. This bat was smarter than its relative that was playing kamikazee with me a few weeks ago. That one actually spent the night in the house (while I hid in the bedroom). I eventually got it out the same way, but that one had defective radar. It actually ran into me before deflecting out the door. Yuck!

It's surprising that we don't have more bat encounters since our compound is over run with bats. They love the mango trees especially when the fruit is ripe like it is now. Visitors from the U.S. always ask us what the beeping noise is at night. It's the bats. They sound a little bit like a big truck when its backing up. My attitude is live and let long as they stay out of my house!

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Another day, another story

I killed a black mamba today. Granted it was only a baby one, but still... where there's a baby mamba there's a mama mamba. Today my cat decided that a baby snake was fun to play with, so when I was walking out my door, there she was toying with the snake just a couple yards away from the door. A friend who was with me warned me that this was a poisonous snake. So what's a girl to do? Scream, faint or pick up a rock? I threw a rock on it (which only made it mad) and then put a bigger rock on it so it couldn't get away. Then I got my shovel and chopped it's head off. The Gambian ladies who were cheering me on weren't satisfied that it was dead until I bashed its head in too. Take my word for it. That snake is really dead. I just hope mama mamba doesn't come looking for her baby's killer.

We know that there is a big snake that regularly tours our compound and the watchmen are sure that it's a black mamba. They haven't been able to find where it lives, but they have followed a large snake track all around the compound. My flashlight is my best friend when I have to leave my house at night. Hmmm, maybe I should have two best friends, my flashlight and my shovel.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

No two days alike

I have often thought that living here has spoiled me for "normal" life. Every day is different here with strange things happening or just funny things. For example, I go to work every day at the Literacy Center. The office is located in a Gambian compound so there are cows, goats, chickens, sheep, horses, ducks and of course children that wander in the yard around the building. The occasional curious goat or chicken (or child!) will venture into my office just to see what I'm doing. Yesterday our entertainment was provided by a goat that got its head caught in the handle of a bucket. The goat was jumping and running trying to get away from this thing that was chasing it, but of course, the bucket continued to chase the poor goat. One of my employees took pity on the it and removed the bucket.

One day a monkey came racing through the office yard and all of my male employees took off chasing it along with all the men in the neighborhood. Monkeys don't normally come into the village, so they thought this one was probably sick and should be killed. A few minutes later one of my employees emerges victorious holding up the body of the monkey for all to see. So how many of you have adventures like this at your work place?

Yal na leen Yalla barkeel. (May God bless you.)



Welcome to my Gambia blog. I am a missionary working in the Gambia, West Africa. I live and work in a rural village on the north bank of the Gambia river. If you look at a map, you will notice that The Gambia is basically a river with its two banks. I have lived in the Gambia off and on since 1993. On this blog I may talk about my work or my observations into the language and culture of the Wolof people. Questions and comments are welcome.