Monday, October 4, 2010

I've Got Nothin' but Time ...

My Random Thoughts ...

On Mosquito Nets:
Every time I crawl out of my mosquito net, I invariably feel like I’m being birthed. Usually, I try to go for a ‘smooth’ exit, like a ninja roll, but have only ever managed ‘highly unattractive.’ This dilemma probably wouldn’t occur if I didn’t keep my net secure at all times, but I’m kind of paranoid about what gets into bed with me. I mean, this is Africa so most of those things are terrifyingly large and fond of biting. So, every morning, I pull up an edge and slide onto the cold floor like a wet fish (I also immediately re-tuck the edge … usually while still lying prostrate). It is a humbling experience, to say the least, and never fails to amuse me … or my three-footed cat, Steini. She stands there; adorably lopsided and staring at me with what I can only imagine is the most absurd internal monologue going on in her head. This alone has made me determined to find a better method – one that I wouldn’t be embarrassing to whip out if anyone comes to visit. Only, I’m pretty sure there isn’t a better method (and my vanity does not override my strong aversion to Malaria). So, until I figure out a way to walk through walls and mosquito nets, I’ll at least be assured of a good belly laugh as my cat rolls her pretty little eyes at me. It all counts for something, right?

On Steini, the Gimpy Cat:
Speaking of my three-footed cat – she has got to be the most adorable thing this side of the universe. She is the combination of both of my cats at home tucked into a tiny, gimpy package. Firstly, she chews on everything. She’s chewing on my bracelet right now. She also sits directly on my chest when I sleep. Coincidentally, she is little more than a cat-shaped shadow in front of the computer screen right now. I keep telling her she’s a pain, not a window, but I don’t think she gets the joke. When she’s not sleeping with me in bed, she’s circling the mattress, tirelessly, in an effort to find her way in. She quite literally walks around the edge of the bed until I create a door for her. Sometimes she manages a squeak, but most of the time I wake up to the jostling of my mosquito net as she stomps around above my head. When she thinks she knows where I’m going, she gets in the way of my feet and I trip over her constantly. The other day, she followed me half-way to the borehole before she decided she’d rather wait for me to return. She is also usually pregnant. So, imagine a three-legged, boat-like cat wobbling around my feet as I, in turn, wobble around her and you’ll understand why we’re so ridiculously made for each other. As much as she likes to stare at me while I’m making an idiot out of myself every morning: I think I may have fallen in-love. Also, it’s endlessly amusing to watch her try scratching behind the ear that coincides with her non-existent foot – it usually ends in her tumbling onto her side and looking at me incredulously as I giggle hysterically. Yep: I’m in-love.

On Latrine Etiquette:
Fact number one: I have a latrine. Fact number two: it’s located twenty odd feet from my house. Fact number three: there is a ledge running along the side of my house, on which all of the men consort before the day starts. This means that every morning, when nature calls, I have to walk past more than two-dozen men and their children to get to the loo. Now, if you remember, it’s customary to greet everyone you see – not doing so is considered rather rude, if not anti-social. So, not only do I have to walk past a large group of men (who all know where I’m headed and why), I have to go through the entire process of greeting them beforehand. It may not seem like a big deal to you, but here’s an example of the standard greeting: ‘Morning,’ ‘Morning,’ ‘How are you?’ ‘I’m fine,’ ‘How is your house?’ ‘It is fine,’ ‘How are your children?’ ‘They are fine,’ ‘How is your morning?’ ‘It is fine,’ ‘How was your breakfast?’ ‘It was fine. How are you?’ ‘I’m fine,’ ‘How was your morning?’ ‘It was fine,’ ‘How was your sleep?’ ‘It was fine …’ (you get the idea). Now imagine all of this wrapped in a two-yard of fabric, doing a sleepy-eyed potty-dance, wearing disheveled Harry Potter hair, toting a roll of toilet paper, and you get the idea. The really funny thing is: I might be the only person who thinks it’s even remotely embarrassing.

On the Bolga Market:
The only thing you need to know about the Bolga Market, besides the fact that it occurs every three days, is that it is a completely unprovoked assault on the senses. I walk in, expecting to buy a few things and head home, only to get karate chopped in the face and held ransom by the entire experience. Today, while doing my best to keep up with Sylvester (and wondering where the smell was coming from) I got assailed by a cloud of thick smoke flying at me from the left. I had very little time to prepare myself before numerous specks of charcoal were in my eyes, nose, and mouth all at once. It was like being hit by a thousand tiny fists – which caused me to make the same face Brad Pitt makes whenever he gets punched in movies. 95% of the time, Bolga Market makes me feel like Indiana Jones…’s nerdy cousin (who also happens to be a mountain goat). I’m constantly dodging puddles of ‘unknown,’ small children and giant moving carts, only to find myself perched atop random high-standing objects. With ‘Saleminga’ (AKA ‘yo, white-y!’) being shouted out from every direction, it’s easy to get confused and distracted. One has to keep their wits about them; staying calm is the key to getting out. I’m lucky I keep finding my way home – bread crumbs would be eaten immediately by a number of animals milling about and I bet they’re just waiting for the day … but I’m rambling. What I mean to say is that, in Ghana, every day is your birthday … wait … that’s not what I mean to say … where am I, again? Where was that exit? And what is that god-awful smell?

On Roommates:
A word of warning: at any given time there are a number of creatures who will, undoubtedly, plop innocently onto a number of body parts – the suddenness of which, undoubtedly, solicits panic on the part of both parties. Despite frequent run-ins with arachnids and other bug-things, it seems I’ve got quite a few little roommates who aren’t of a creepy-crawly persuasion. Using my latrine one night, torch in hand, I shut the door to find something large had found its way onto my head. Flailing around in the dark, I tried finding out exactly what it was, but the culprit was no where to be found. Not knowing if said creature liked to bite and appreciating its relative size, I shut the door carefully for weeks. It wasn’t until my heavy, tin door slammed shut one day that I figured out what it had been. Once again, something heavy plopped onto the crown of my head; we both froze. Not again, I thought, making the first move … I bent over and tried to frantically rustle it out of my hair. In the same moment, he decided to make a run for it, jumping spread-eagle off of my forehead and into the cat litter. What was it? A tiny lizard. I had to admit, I was slightly relieved as he (presumably shouting expletives to himself) scrambled his way up the wall and out of the house. Now, I’m not sure it’s a coincidence, but since then every time I go to the latrine, at least one lizard runs across the door – usually two. This prompts both of us to pause dramatically and stare as if to say, “you again,” before he scuttles off in the opposite direction and I inspect the top of door just in-case. Considering how many different things live inside of that latrine, I think I have a new motto: if in doubt, assume it’s a lizard … because anything else is probably just gross

(Speaking of Gross) On Flies:
There are a lot of flies in Ghana. As annoying as any other fly might be, I’d be willing to bet that Ghanaian flies take the cake. Why? Ghanaian flies seem to think they are great deal more important than ‘normal’ flies. I’ve yet to have a run-in with a fly in Ghana that wasn’t punctuated with violent buzzing and the kind of urgency flies just shouldn’t have. At least two or three make it directly into my cornea, daily, and causes a great deal of thrashing and cursing as I swing myself in circles. Sometimes, I wonder if they’re trying to tell us something really important … I can’t think of any other reason to hurl oneself in the direction of an eardrum, if it’s not because one assumes the person just isn’t listening. Today I had the thought that some of them are pesky gossips, stopping to dance around anyone (or anything, for that matter) willing listen (or hasn’t a choice … like a cow tied to a post). This would, of course, account for their persistence and lack of tact. The flies that frequent my latrine have made our relationship rather awkward lately – buzzing angrily out of the hole and hurtling themselves at my bum. Aside from interrupting their disgusting little meetings down there, I often find myself wondering what flies possibly have to be so angry about. Maybe, because their lifespan is ridiculously short, they spend it punishing those of us who live longer than 48 hours; maybe they resent the fact that they’re diseased and at the bottom of the food chain. (Who wouldn’t be angry if everyone constantly swatted at you and refused to listen as you attempted to tell them the secret of the universe?) One things for sure, if I didn’t hate them enough already, my feelings have definitely hit an all-time low … I mean, if learning the secret of life means getting pink-eye from one of those little bastards, I’m not sure it’s quite good enough a reason not to send them happily into the next … am I right?!

On a Serious Note:
Jokes aside … it’s worth mentioning that, when I’m riding home on my bike – Harry Potter hair fluttering wildly in the wind – and receiving the most genuine smiles in return for my attempts at Guruni: I’m truly satisfied. Radiating from the soles of my feet, pumping in-time with my heart, and reflecting in my eyes – anyone can see that I’m content in ways that can’t be explained. As hard as it is to follow conversations (though I do try) or leave the safety of my house to explore, all anyone needs to know is that I’m happy. I’m right where I’m meant to be.