|By Catherine M. Kuble on Sunday, April 13, 2003 - 2:27 pm: Edit Post|
Per usual I started my daily routine enjoying a cup of sweetened tea while sitting down to my writing desk. Wearing a simple robe and flip flops, I pulled my hair back and opened my journal to record my dreams and then plan my day. The wooden shutter of the window on the opposite wall was open and with the heat rhythmic sounds of the women pounding cassava leaf in the mortar wafted in. The cassava leaf would be pounded for an hour, and then simmered all day with red palm oil, magik cubes and fava beans. Dinner. I still had some left from the night before. I’d eat it in a few minutes. The chalkiness, more enhanced cold, no longer bothered me. The rice and green paste served well to fill that empty hollow in my belly.
The farmer was doing well. We’d be harvesting the pond in a month. His was of a construction I hadn’t seen before. Quite innovative. He promised it would drain completely in half a day. Most took two. The effort they put in to build it so high must have been more than exhausting. The stream came in to fill it on one end and then where it was to drain the land was cut away allowing a sudden drop back down to empty it in the stream. No need to go there today, although I enjoyed seeing and working at Joseph’s farm, his family teased him to no end about his white woman. His young wife seemed sweet, but with no English, took even more teasing about her husband. My limited Kissi didn’t help. What to do? PCV is a PCV, male or female.
I didn’t have an excuse to walk to the market at the end of the road, where the river served as boundary between Liberia and Guinea, as I still had bread and I didn’t want to eat at the cook shop today (I only ate there on slaughtering days, fresh meat). I did enjoy walking that mile. Puddles of little purple butterflies fluttered as I approached them, unseen monkeys cried out their warning and great hornbills flew overhead. But no, I’d better not today.
I grabbed the calendar and flipped to the day. March 17. Oh wow, St. Patrick’s Day! Well, that was that. I downed the cold rice as I dressed in my white jeans and only green shirt, a batik the PCV teacher in Kakata gave me as a going away gift…the one with the yin yang symbol. This was going to be fun! If the president can call a national holiday when the soccer team wins a match, well, then, I can call a holiday for my favorite drinking day of the year. I put the bottle of green food coloring I had brought with me from the states into my fanny pack, checked the windows and locked the door. Today I would search out another Irish at heart American to drink green beer with.
I rolled out the motorcycle (well, okay, dirt bike) and went to speak with the women. Tried to explain I was going on holiday, but would be back in a couple of days. Please tell Wata. Foya Tenga was about ½ hour away. The road had seven bridges. Three of the bridges were just iron rails laid out. They scared the dickens out of me when I crossed them, but not as much as the other four that were just a few logs stretched out. I vowed I would never ride that road at night. I made it up Suicide Hill just moments before a huge Mandingo truck flew down…..the road curved as it climbed and nothing could be seen or heard from above…I said my little “let me live to the top of this hill” prayer and made it, like I said, just moments before Death rolled by.
I checked in at the Lebanese store, no messages, no mail. And no PCV’s... All were on business in Monrovia. I chatted for awhile with the Lebanese wife and she fed me some fresh yogurt and flat bread. Tried to explain the holiday, but, well, she’s Muslim. Headed toward the next village where, I heard, the volunteer was home. He didn’t feel well, but accepted a ride into town and back to get supplies. He tried to load me up with guava’s from the tree in front of his house…I loathe guava. I said farewell after we planned a day in the next week to share a kwi (American) dinner. I hoped he’d feel better. Runny belly is runny belly; it came and went of its own accord.
I headed toward Calahoun, another ½ hour away. Due to the rains and heavy trucks that road looked different every time I traveled it. I went straight to Sherry’s house and found her sitting on her porch writing a letter to her friend Patty. “What the ?” she said. I took that as a welcome and parked my bike. Told her I thought I was lost again. And, again, she reassured me that was the ONLY road between Foya and Calahoun. After wrestling off my helmet I opened my fanny pack and produced the bottle of green food coloring and asked her if she knew what day it was. “Uh, Saturday?” she replied. Geez! “Well, yeah,” I said. “Maybe, but do you know what DATE it is?” “No.” So I told her. She asked what the green food coloring was for. Apparently I was only person on the continent who knew about green beer.
She got pretty pumped after that because she didn’t know what she was going to do either. Drinking always sounded good. She dug up a green t-shirt and we headed into town. Though the merchant there was Muslim he sent for some bottles of beer and clear glasses. We sat there and toasted each other and others long gone and wished that so many PCV’s weren’t in the capital on business. I expressed how glad I was to find her, or I’d have to travel to the next town, an hour away, to find the Irish volunteer. Hey, when I’m on a mission, I see it to completion! Speaking with the merchant was always enlightening. He was well educated and as generous as my favorite uncle. We shared stories and I learned so much about the world. (His worst story was when he had tried traveling back to Lebanon and was detained, questioned, practically starved and lived in fear of torture for 5 days because of his ethnicity.) We told him of St. Patrick and talked about the traditional foods. He performed magic. Canned corned beef was always available, but he actually had real potatoes and two small cabbages. A feast!
Sherry and I went through a LOT of green beer. We sat on our helmets in the store and talked all afternoon. We ate our special food in front of others without guilt and enjoyed every bite. People stopped to wonder at us. One man, late in the day, sporting an umbrella for a cane, climbed up the steps laughing and shaking his head. “It’s true, it’s true!” He kept saying. Sherry and I looked at each other. Quite buzzed we welcomed any story or form of entertainment. This guy looked promising. We pulled up a stool and invited him to join us. He did. He took a glass, looked at it, smelled it, and drank it down. What a smile. After much laughter and head shaking, we finally got him to open up. “Well,” he said, “I was up in Voinjama and I was talking with a cab driver. Of course I asked him ‘what news from Calahoun?’ And he told me the white women there were drinking green beer. I didn’t have anything else to do so I asked him to bring me down…This I had to see.” He said. “Now, I’ve seen it, drank it, and still don’t believe it. WHY are you drinking green beer?”
Well, it was St. Patricks Day...