May 26, 2003 - Raging Face: Just Like There's No "I" in "Team", there's no "Saturday" in "West Africa"

Peace Corps Online: Directory: Mali: Peace Corps Mali : The Peace Corps in Mali: May 26, 2003 - Raging Face: Just Like There's No "I" in "Team", there's no "Saturday" in "West Africa"

By Admin1 (admin) on Monday, May 26, 2003 - 1:04 pm: Edit Post

Just Like There's No "I" in "Team", there's no "Saturday" in "West Africa"

there's no "Saturday" in "West Africa", Just Like There's No "I" in "Team", there's no "Saturday" in "West Africa"

Just Like There's No "I" in "Team", there's no "Saturday" in "West Africa"
by O.Beer

I stood, bent over at the waist, wearing flip-flops, a wide-brimmed straw hat, light cotton khakis rolled up to the middle of my calves, a button-down short-sleeved shirt open to the middle of my chest, and rashes of various kinds. I held a short hoe in my right hand. It had a rough wood handle and had given me a few splinters. My left elbow rested on my left knee. I used the hoe to scratch at the muddy row of planted millet, trying to scrape out and kill weeds.

Jeneba, the young, buxom wife of Kolon, one of the men in the village with whom I raised chickens, in my most significant Peace Corps project, laughed at me. In Bambara, Mali's main language, she told me, "You don't know what you're doing! You're a child! You don't know how to work hard!"

"Bitch," I muttered, in English. "I'll fucking cut you." She didn't understand, of course, unless I was getting scammed by some international consortium and the people I thought were subsistence farmers in Mali were actually well-trained, proficient-in-foreign-language con artists from Cleveland or Philadelphia or L.A.

She laughed again, shrieked, on hearing me get angry, clearly angry, no matter what incomprehensible words I said. Her laugh said to me, "You sorry-ass son of a bitch. I don't care if you're calling my mother a whore right now -- watching you not know how to farm is the funniest thing I've seen in a long time."

"Why don't you go home and rest," said my host father, Bakari, the man who watched over me each day. "Go ahead, it's fine. You've worked hard enough for today."

I pulled up from hoeing.

"Yes, go home, little boy," Jeneba said.

I looked right at her. I smiled. In English, I said to her, "Fuck you. I hate you and I'm going to go back to my hut and eat pasta I make on my gas stove and Laughing Cow cheese and think about how much I hate you."

She laughed and slapped here knee, repeatedly, as if I had told a great joke. I stormed off.

One of my green flip-flops got stuck in the mud. The piece of plastic that went between my big and second toes popped out of the base of the sandal, so as my foot continued to step forward, the front of the sandal flopped down and the back of the shoestuck to my heel.

Jeneba and the others, watching me, laughed loudly. I turned around, smiled and laughed. "Bye!" I said.

I fixed my flip-flop and went back to my hut, my little square mud hut with the tin roof, like an oven baking under the West African sun. I made macaroni and cheese. I listened to the BBC. They said it was Saturday. I pulled out the Cuban cigar I had bought on a vacation trip to Paris, poured a shot of warm Scotch, which I had also brought back from France. I wrote the following in my journal:

There's no Saturday in West Africa.

The day exists, of course, like it does everywhere else. But it's not like it is back home. There's no waking up late, there's no eating a special breakfast, no cartoons, no three cups of coffee, no hangover from Friday night, no excitement because it's a sunny free day, no calls to old friends, no taking a nap on the couch in the afternoon while watching golf or basketball or ice skating, no blasting the stereo to listen to the same Led Zeppelin song over and over, no avoiding checking messages at work, no watering the plants for their once-a-week drink, no bourbon at 5 pm on the dot, no not brushing your teet until 1:30, no walking around in your underwear, no reading the magazines that came on Thursday . . . .

Saturday's no different here from Tuesday or Thursday or eve, God help the West Africans, Monday.

The Scotch had gone to my head and thick, white cigar smoke surrounded my head. My head sagged forward as I fell asleep.

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Story Source: Raging Face

This story has been posted in the following forums: : Headlines; COS - Mali; Stories



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