Sunday, October 28, 2007

My husband

Some of you are probably saying, "What ?!", but it's true. I have a husband. Okay, he's only 2 years old and is really my great-grandson. I hear your voices again, "What?! How can you have great-grandchildren?" It's very simple. When I arrived in The Gambia 14 years ago, I was named after the matriarch of our village, Aji Suun Kebbeh. In bearing her name, I also claim all of her relationships. Her children call me mother, her grand-children call me grandmother etc. Thus, most of the village calls me mother, grandmother, aunt etc. Are you with me so far? When it comes to male grandchildren, however, particularly little ones, grandmothers always call their grandsons "husband".
So let me introduce you to my husband. Mohammeh is staying with his grandparents who own the place we rent for the Literacy Center. His mom just had twins, so he's living with grandma for a while.

Every day he greets me as I arrive. He's just learning to talk, so his greeting is usually a bit garbled. His grandmother is always telling him to greet his wife (meaning me). The other day as I arrived, I heard this little voice coming from inside the house, "Jabar, jabar" (wife,wife). I almost fell on the ground laughing. I'd never heard a kid do that spontaneously before.
As you can see, he was having a wardrobe problem that completely distracted him.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Aaaagh, they're taking over!

We have had another sneak invasion at the Literacy Center. We were sitting listening to a lesson about David when one of the men in the group says, "Did you see the termite mound under that cabinet?" Well, those termites had filled in the entire space under the cabinet and moved inside as well. Their construction was so solid that two of us tugging on the cabinet could not break it loose from the wall or the floor. Yuck! We had to leave it until the next day because we couldn't get to it. I dug some dirt from underneath and left it so the housekeeper would see it when she came to clean in the morning.

Impressive, isn't it?

Our housekeeper, Suna, chopped and hacked at that termite mound with a machete to break it up. She had already removed part of the dirt from around the edges before I arrived and took this picture. She still couldn't get the cabinet away from the wall though, so the majority of the termite mould was left so that you could see the fun we have. (Suellen heard that we had another major termite invasion so she loaned me her camera because mine isn't working. She said I had to get pictures of this one.) I eventually managed to pry it loose by tipping it first one way and then the other.

The other employees arrived and joined the fun as we found that the inside of the cabinet was also invaded. We are having training sessions right now, so we have extra people around too. They were all watching or helping with the removal.

Suna told me that she took out 8 of the trash cans full of termite dirt. Then she said, "And that's not counting what I just carried outside with the dustpan!" The poor woman spends a lot of her time on termite patrol. I even made her go check the building once a week when we were closed in the summer. If I hadn't, the office might have been filled to the brim before we opened again. Those termites are industrious little buggers!
I can't wait until our new office is built. It at least will be cement with solid cement floors. Our current building is cement walls with a dirt floor that was lightly coated with cement. There are many holes in the floor so the termites don't even have to work very hard to get in. Maybe by this time next year we will have our new building. Until then...the fight goes on.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Termite invasion

One of the things that we deal with at the literacy center on an almost daily basis are termites. Yes, I do mean those little antlike critters that love to munch on wood, paper and any number of other substances. One of the housekeepers jobs is to check for "guests" each day. Some days she hauls out a bucket or more of termite dirt. Last week, I returned from a weekend in Banjul and found that they were making themselves comfortable in my office. They had built a mound of wet, red dirt up the wall and around a gallon jug of oil. A few days later, the housekeeper found them using the battery cabinet (where the big car batteries for the solar power are kept) as their latest condo. They have been evicted from in and around this cabinet many times, but after trying other locations they always come back (after the poison wears off!). Gibril and Ebou, two of my employees, helped the housekeeper dig the mucky red dirt out of the cabinet. They hauled out 7 big platters full of dirt! Suellen arrived in the middle of this process and decided that she was so NOT happy to have seen this. For us, however, it was just another day at the office.

Monday, October 15, 2007

I'm back

Sorry I haven't posted in a while. I logged on one day ready to post a deep and profound blog only to find that I couldn't access my own blog site. Obviously that problem has been mysteriously solved, but alas, the deep and profound thoughts I had for you are now lost in brain space. So, don't get your hopes up for this blog.

We just finished the month of Ramadan, the Muslim fasting month. Yippee, hurray! I don't fast during the month, but it is painful for me as well. People are not eating or drinking from sunrise to sunset (approximately 6 am to 7 pm this time of year). At sundown, however, the eating and drinking begin. They "have to" break their fast with a hot drink and bread, then they drink cold water (ice sellers make a killing during this month since most people don't have refrigeration), then they eat a meal. Around midnight, they eat again and some get up to eat breakfast at 5am. They spent lots of money (that they don't have) on food and drink during this month of fasting. Of course, during the day, since people are fasting, everyone droops around and spits. They aren't supposed to swallow their saliva during the fast, so people spit constantly during Ramadan.

During the month, I get lots of requests for help with food, cold water and clothes for the feast day that ends the month. About a half hour before sunset, the water seekers come bearing their containers. I keep about 12 liters of water in the frig and give it until its gone. I didn't have as many water seekers this year, so many days I had water left over for the next day. It's nice to have that over with for another year.

Well, I guess that's all I have to say for today. I'll try to post again soon.