The Rock Report - Peace Corps, Cote d'Ivoire

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By Admin1 (admin) on Wednesday, July 04, 2001 - 6:49 pm: Edit Post

The Rock Report - Peace Corps, Cote d'Ivoire

The Rock Report - Peace Corps, Cote d'Ivoire

The Rock Report - Peace Corps, Cote d'Ivoire

Stick a Fork in Me
Niki's email of 10/2/02 3:13 PM......

we're coming home.... they just decided. you can try to call me tomorrow noon your time, like planned. you may not be able to get through because i'm sure everyone will be calling. you can always get me on email. not so happy right now. i'll email more later.......... i love you
Niki's email of 10/02/02 7:46PM

well, another night, another beer, another evacuation. just kidding. peace corps admin has really been awesome. i feel sorry for them always delivering bad news to all the volunteers. i may try to call you guys tonight, but don't know if i'll get through. everyone is pretty upset, but i guess that's expected. don't know what we'll do from here. the actual cos process (completion of service) doesn't start until sunday and it will take 4-5 days.... and i think we may travel around ghana for a while then decide what to do. don't know. don't know. don't know. we're having a holy family meeting tomorrow to figure some things out. i can't wait to see you guys, but it's killing me to leave ganse. i love you and will talk to you soon...............

Here is a little bit of humor from Niki. My dad (Skip) asked Niki to sepreate rumore from fact, this was her reply.

rumor: ivory coast is going to bomb burkina faso

what i've heard: we don't have any bombs

rumor based on fact, but i don't believe it: we're going to use avocados

no news, we have our meeting in an hour... i'll email you again

For more news
If you are looking for a source of information, the best one that I have found is ALL AFRICA.
You can get it it here
If you are looking for another country you can select one in the upper right of the web page. If you here any new news, please pass it along. If you find another soucre of news, please email it to me at I would appreciate hearing from you. Thank you Eric Ladnier

Well, we all made it out safe and sound... but most of us didn't get to say good-bye to our villages. Thank you all for you interest and support in this website and my service in Cote d'Ivoire. It has been an amazing time and I hope that I will have the opportunity to go back and see my village again, and be able to say good-bye face to face. So, thanks again, and if you're still interested there will be about 6 more rolls of film posted from the vacation we were on when all this stuff went down. Now I think I'll go practice my driving :-) ......

If you have not signed Niki's guest book yet, please do so. I know that my entire family would appreciate it. (That includes all of the PCVs that may see this from CI as well as their families.)

# 32 …English student's effort pays dividends…
August 3 - August 12, 2002

Hey Mom & Dad!

It's been a long time since I've written… Is this #32? I've been in & out of the village a lot the last month & a half. And a lot has happened. All the latrines are dug except 2 at the school. So, I've had the cement & rebar sent to go ahead & cover the latrine holes. I've gotten an estimate for the school project too. So, I can start the proposal! - side note - I just ate the spiciest thing I think I've ever eaten. There's a Ghanaian woman who cooks in the morning to sell and this AM she made what's called "dokono". It's a corn based food (pounded corn in a kind of footoo consistency). It is served with a sauce. And this morning, I think she spilled the piment (hot pepper) in it. I LOVE piment. But this AM, it brought me to tears. So, back to what I was saying… I left July 25 to go to Kakpin for a funeral. (We went on bike as usual.) I got my first love letter too! The nurse gave me one. And it was in English. He said "I'm felling in love with you." This is quite common among female PCVs, so I've been told. Anyway, July 26 I left for Noungbo-yaga, Meridith's village (about 65 km from Ganse). July 27, we left for Bondoukou on our bikes - 130 km! We didn't rush…taking breaks to eat all the yummy beef jerky & Clif Bars you sent me. And we spent at least an hour in a Lobi village called Flake, drinking tchapalo with the locals. When we showed up, I asked "il y a tchapalo?" (is there tchapalo?) & they said "il y a de l'eau?" (is there water?) The words sound kinda the same and they were thinking surely these two girls didn't come here for the tchap! We drew quite a crowd after that. Then they took us to the pump to refill water & to meet the Chief of the village. It was cool. After that break, the ride was painful, but we didn't care anymore. When Brendan did the same trip, it took him 6 hours…it took us 10. Watch out Lance Armstrong. July 28, we took an hour & a half ride to this "dam" near Bondoukou - so cool. I have to get a picture of it. Then, July 29 we rode to Sampa, just across the border in Ghana, to go to the market. That was fun too. Everything is cheaper over there. July 30, we did one more day of exploring on our bikes, then rested up for the fete on Wednesday, July 31. That was a ton of fun. Brendan got 20 liters of bangi & 20 liters of tchap to hold us over 'til the evening. We ate so well & drank well & danced 'til who knows when. I got a ton of pictures too, that I want to give to people here. I think Brendan had a good last day. But Thursday morning was bad. I don't want to leave. I'm back in the village now, though, and I've started bringing in the cement & stuff to do the latrines. So, be sure to tell Bob & JoAnn that "their" project is almost complete. And thank you so much. Hossane just showed up to study English. (Hossane is Kouakou's little brother…he was the one I wanted you to meet in Bouake. He's back in the village now.) I'll be back later. ~ ~ ~ I think today has been one of my proudest moments. I was studying with Hossane when Kouakou came by the house. But he was empty-handed. After he said hi & welcome back, he said he can't study today because he has to go to his fields to "chase monkeys". That makes me laugh every time I hear him say that. The monkeys & baboons boof their fields all the time. So, often, even if there's no actual work, they still have to go. Then he continues telling me (still in English) that he's been in the park all week working with the Germans. And that he leaves Monday to go work with them for 2 months! He told me about the work a little & what days he'll be coming back so he can study. I've only been gone a week & his English had improved so much. He was speaking faster, with fewer mistakes and he caught everything I was saying. I wanted to jump up & hug him. (I did get up and shake his hand.) Come to find out, which he also told me in English, the Germans he's working with don't speak French. They speak English! And he's been practicing all week. I'm so proud of him. He must be so excited to finally be able to use his English. And he's doing it so well. We're studying tomorrow. I can't wait to talk to him more about it. It's been just about a year since we started the English class - it was August last year but I don't know the date. Guess what I'm eating for lunch…? Pesto pasta with tiny shrimp & it's so yummy! Thanks . See ya in a bit. ~ ~ ~ Ate at Ama's tonight & got back just now…9:15. WAY past my bedtime! Oh well, she really appreciates it. I'm about to fall over, though, so I'll catch ya tomorrow. Good night. I love you.

Sunday, August 4

I got up this morning to run & Kouame was on his way to the garden…before church. Everyone is going crazy now. They hardly have time to breathe. With all this rain, they have to weed twice as much. And on top of that, they've started cotton fields AND a new co-op on top of the co-op they already have. WWF (World Wildlife Fund) has financed a village co-op. And Ganse is doing a garden - a huge one. So everyone is super busy. They have 2 "hectares" right now. One hectare is 100m X 100m. But they want to do 6! I don't know how they're gonna do it. The guys are all up at the school digging 2 latrines. The ground is all rock too…hopefully not for 3 meters deep, though. Not much to say right now. I need to start on this proposal. Be back later. (Lunch today: rice with beef bouillon cube & fish steaks in mustard sauce )

Monday, August 5

I'm starting to get a little anxious about this school project. By trying to save money, it's making us take a more difficult path - which is fine, if I knew I'd be here. But I don't know anything about the mason - meaning how he works, and I'm beginning to wonder if it worth more money to get a real builder to come in & be in charge. There are too many loose ends to watch the way we're doing it now. We're having a meeting tonight to talk about all of it. I'm starting to get antsy too because there's a lot I need to do that I can't do from here. So I have to hurry up & wait. Sorry I'm not writing much. I haven't felt like I have much to say. (Hush, Dad.) I'm gonna go work on this proposal some more then take a nap. ~ ~ ~ Here's a funny one… I see a snake cutting across the yard & tell "la vielle" (the old woman - Badoo's Mom). She grabs a stick & goes tearing after it. We're sitting in church & a frog comes hopping up to the women. They all either get out of the way or pick their feet up off the ground. I finally pick up the stupid thing to get it out of the church and they think I'm the bravest soul around. A FROG! Go figure.

Wednesday, August 7

This is my true test of being here. This place has got to be the most frustrating place I've ever been. We've been figuring out this school project for about 3 weeks now. Shouldn't be too hard, right? When I was in Bondoukou, the mason came to give us an estimate on materials and supposedly his price. So I look at this when I come back because I need to check on prices. Let me remind you how difficult it is to travel here. So, if you need to do something somewhere, make sure you have all the info you need before you go. So I take this "estimate" and go over it with the guys in the village & start asking questions… The first on that jumps out at me is the cement. He estimated cement to make the bricks, to build the wall and to cover the walls. What about the floor? Oh. He must have forgotten. This is a good start…and you guys have faith in his ability?? Fine. Let's forget all the things the mason forgot to tell us we need. Let's get to the MENSA candidates in the village who are working with me. Kouame (the one who MC'd your welcome ceremony) had the job of finding a carpenter. Great. He knows one. OK, Kouame, find out how much it'll cost to make 40 new benches and repair 26. He goes for 2 days & comes back.

So, whaddya got for me, Kouame?
He said he'd build 40 new benches for 4,500 cfa a pop.
Great. What about repairing the others?
Oh… I didn't ask him.
OK. How much wood do we need?
Uhhh… I don't know.
Did you ask?
Is he providing the wood?
Let's start with an easy one… What village is this…???

Then I'm talking with Jean-Batiste, the guy who runs the church here. He's in charge of talking to the mason. We both went over there today to discuss his price for doing the project. (Minor detail - I rode my bike an hour and a half each way to get to this village…. On top of that, it rained.) I beat Jean there by at least an hour & a half, when he comes rolling up on his moped. So, we start talking about money right away. I had asked the Ganse guys what his price was & they said he hadn't said anything about it.

Mason: I'll do it for 400,000 cfa.
J.B.: 400,000? But you said 300,000 when you were in Ganse
Niki: What? He already told us a price? I asked you that specifically. You said he didn't say a word.
J.B.: Well…you weren't there. And we wanted to discuss it in front of him & you.
Niki: (First blow) OK. Whatever. So now what? We have to go back to Ganse, have a village meeting and figure out what they want. I think it would be best if the mason is there…
J.B.: (he cuts me off) No. We'll go discuss it with the village. Then we'll come back & tell the mason yes or no.
Niki: Yeah, right. It'll be that simple. Yes or no. And if they say no, & the mason counter offers, are you just gonna keep running back & forth playing messenger??? You knew we were coming today. Why didn't you do this with the village before?
J.B.: But you weren't here.
Niki: When? I've been here over a week! Why didn't you do it then?
J.B.: Well…but….blah, blah, blah, blah…(stupid %$*$%#* excuses…blah, blah, blah, blah…)

I think I cracked my new crown I was so mad. You have to spell out everything for them. They really are amazing people & I don't know how they do a lot of what they do. But at the same time, I don't know how they DO do it because they act like such morons sometimes. Dad, this would be your ideal meeting from hell. It takes them four hours to tell me something that should take 5 minutes. Not only that, they are so inefficient & have to have everything spelled out for them. Ca va aller. Hakuna Matata. I need a beer. I just hope I can get the pain in the ass stuff done before the other volunteer comes. The best part of the day was riding by myself all day. And the amazing stars that are out for the third night in a row. My patience has definitely improved. But sometimes I wonder… Hope you guys are having fun over there. And, Dad, we may be able to have a battle of meetings here pretty soon… You've got some stiff competition over here. I'm gonna go dance a little then head to bed. Remember when we danced outside to the bongos? We're doing that tonight too. So, I'll see you tomorrow. I love you.

Thursday, August 8

Tomorrow is our big meeting when the mason comes in front of the whole village to discuss his price. He's coming on his bike the 25km I did yesterday. Then I'm hoping to leave tomorrow night on the Ganse-Bondoukou direct flight, first class. So you know what this means? It's gonna pour down rain tomorrow so the mason won't be able come. Worse things could happen. On a good note, we ate so fat tonight. There are tons of guests "in town", so people make tons of food. We had at least 6 sauces tonight & they were all awesome. There are too many clouds tonight to see any stars. But it's nice & cool. I really miss you guys. The other day, this lady (a visitor) asked me if I always think about America & my family. That's when I realized this is my home. Of course I think about you guys every day. A lot. But it's different now. It used to kinda make me down to think about you, because I really wanted - needed - to see you & talk to you. And now I still do. But now, thinking about you doesn't make me sad…maybe because I'm more confident & comfortable here. I think getting into a communication rhythm has helped a lot. When I was at he house & you guys were supposed to call, but so was one of the "new" parents. That made me realize too, I want to talk to you, but I remember those first several months & how much talking to you helped. Probably as much for you guys as much as for us, the PCVs. Anyway, I better get to bed. It's getting late. It's already 9 o'clock & I haven't taken my bubble bath yet. I'm gonna go soak in the tub... I mean bucket .

August 12

I'm in Bondoukou working on this proposal. Ganse has to contribute at least 25% somehow. I hope it will work out. It was nice talking to you guys the other day. I'll talk to you again soon. I'll email when I get to Abidjan. I love you.
Love Nik/Rock

# 31
…Kouame Eric (aka 'Baby Le Grand)
"...there's a mouse in my house…"
May 15 - June 14, 2002

Hey Mom & Dad & Eric!

Well, I'm back in the village after ~1 ½ months. And it's the same as always. It's kinda like a soap opera…you can miss it for a couple weeks & still figure out what's going on after a day or two - only here you can miss a month or two. Two hours after I got back, a young lady in the other Ganse died. So my arrival was not as obnoxious as they usually make it. It's sad about the lady. But I like being able to slip in without too much attention. Four women gave birth while I was gone. And 2 are due anytime. Kouame's was born May 4. It's a boy! He is sooo cute & looks like his Mama. I asked what his name was & he said he was waiting for me to name him. He was born on Saturday, so he's a Kouame, just like his Dad. But his second name is….Eric . He wanted to name him after my big bro. And Eric is a Kouame also. That made me feel so good. Anyone can use your name here. And it's kinda neat when they do. But when it's one of your closest friends, it means so much more. I don't know what I'd do without Kouame. I gave him that t-shirt with my picture on it. I told him it was from you guys. He was psyched. He loves it. He said it'll be his special occasion shirt. There's a ton of stuff I want to do while I'm back. And Kouame seems really excited & eager to get started. I need to get going on the scholarships for the girls about to go to high school. I want to do a project with Peace Corps Partnership. I write a proposal and they put it on the website & any "Joe" who wants to contribute, can. I want to fix up their school because it's in really bad shape. These organizations that give money, don't just give money no questions asked. The village must contribute a certain percent. But since they don't have money to give, their labor counts. Since they still haven't started the latrines, Kouame told me to tell the village we'll fix the school ONLY if they finish their latrines. He's good with them. When I get all the PCP (Peace Corps Partnership) finished, I'll let you know so you can pass the word around. We're dependent on word of mouth to friends & family to donate to the projects. Another thing I've got in mind is having Josh Stevenson come to the village & paint the boutique with sensibilizations. For example, images portraying drinking pump water, washing hands, using a condom, building latrines, studying… I hope he will have the time to come. Things like that are so good because they love pictures. And kids love explaining it to each other & to their parents. It would be a fantastic thing to leave with them. And one last idea I have is to bring in AIBEF, a family planning organization, to talk to the women. A lot of these women don't want any more kids but won't use birth control for whatever reason - usually it's too much trouble. They can be counseled, take a pregnancy test, then given BC (birth control) for a very small price. I think you can get an IUD for ~$4. And they insert it on the spot. The women said they'd pay for it…that they'd be willing to pay, I mean - but won't be able to until the cashew money comes in. Usually, that's this time of year but a lot of their fields burned so there's not much money. Can you imagine your livelihood depending on nature? If your crops don't do well, you don't eat well. I think Kouame is planting cotton. There's another agency that's coming here to show a bunch of people exactly how to do it. And they give the villagers the seeds & all insecticides & such that they need. The village doesn't have to pay up front. When it's time to harvest the cotton, Anader (the agency) will come weigh it & subtract what is owed from the payout. So all the village has to lose is their time & labor. It's been a while since I've written, huh?! It's hard to write when I'm not in the village… there's nothing too exciting to write because I'm usually talking ot you or emailing. I'll write more in a bit. I'm gonna go wander the village for a while.

Thurs., May 16

I tried running to the fields this morning but the weeds have become so thick. It's trail blazing all over again. I was soaked at the end. Then I came back to wash clothes & Badoo came over with Kouadio. Sometimes she is very annoying - she's young - but sometimes (most of the time) she's great. We had a good time this morning. Yes. Washing clothes. I'm showing her how to jump rope tonight. And tomorrow she & her friends are coming over to learn how to put on condoms. Isn't that funny? Can you imagine that in the States? It should happen. I mean, I wish people took it more seriously. AIDS is a scary thing in the States. But you can be confident (for the most part) that when you get married you're safe. Here, infidelity is so much more accepted. But they often don't protect themselves. And, there's not much we can do in that regard. We can give them the knowledge of protection…and try to give them the confidence to use it - but we can't touch the culture. Last night, I slept outside in the appattam. It was so nice & cool. You know those bugs (termites) that were boring holes in your statue?…well, they're all over here. That's the disadvantage of a thatch roof. They're going to town on the appattam. I woke up in the middle of the night with a thin layer of saw dust on me. They work fast. They're destroying my "bath" room too. Overnight, there was already a pile in my bucket. And the heat is almost unbearable now. Be glad you came when you did. It's times like this that I can't wait to come home. I'm tired of being sweaty all the time - when I wake up until I go to sleep. And if I don't sleep outside, I sleep in a pool of sweat. I've been having a heck of a time with my back since you guys left too. It's only locked up on me once, but not for long. I don't know what to do for it, though. If I rest, it hurts… If I keep moving (run, walk, whatever), it hurts. I stretch it, do strengthening exercises…nothing. So, if you have any ideas… I may get the Medicine Chef here to release the demons . They make a bunch of slits in your back with a razor, thereby allowing the "evil spirits" to escape. Cool, huh? OK. Have a splendid day. I'll be back later.

May 17

My house has become somewhat of an outpatient clinic. The stuff you brought me has helped tremendously. I tell them to wash their wounds with soap so they don't become dependent on me, but these kids are hopeless. You can't keep 'em clean to save their lives. Yesterday, a young Mom brought her 1 year old over. She had spilled boiling water on him. His hands were swollen. His belly, penis, testicles and both butt cheeks were red/black/raw. It was so sad. There was another lady with this huge tumor looking thing on her arm, filled with blood & pus. She had sliced it open to release all the funk. And now the cut is infected. I tell them again & again - I can only help with the surface wounds. They have to go to the hospital for anything else. If you can send some more stuff, that would be great. It's not grave if you can't. I've still got a bit left. But if you can, here's what I use the most: gauze, gauze, gauze! "paper" tape (it sticks the best); bandaids. I can get soap & neosporin here. But any wound care stuff you can send would be great. How's it going at the hospital, by the way? Is Mary Ellen still there? Tell Bea I said hi…& anyone else I know who is still there. Oh yeah - thanks for the crayons. The kids LOVE coming over here to color. All the coloring books are gone. But I've got tons of paper to give them. They love it all. Before I forget, I've got some picture requests: roll #176721: 2, 9, 18 - 22; roll # 176686: 0, 1(x2); 5, 7, 8(x2). Also, can you send a few family portraits. So many people have asked me for those. Thanks . Could I ask you for any more??? Oh, thanks for the oatmeal! It tasted so good this morning. I'm off to a meeting. See you later.

Friday, May 24

I took a little trip & I've stopped traveling with my letter stuff. It's so much easier to write in the village. A bunch of PCVs came up to Ganse on bikes - Brendan, Damion, Sky & Meridith. They spent the night here then we all went to Sominasse, Josh's village. The next day we went to Talahini, Damion's village, then on to Namassi, Julie's village. We surprised her (it was only me & Sky). She was so excited to see us. Then we went to Essikro, Cory's village (new PCV), then to Tiedio, Rachel's village. It is so fun to see everyone in their villages. So, I'm back in the village now and will be here for a while. I've been told some people started their latrines. I hope they are as motivated as they sound. I really want them to fix up their school. Hey Dad, Jo said something about Helen Wright has cancer? How's she doing? Hope they can treat it. Tell her I'm thinking about her & keeping her in my prayers. Well, maybe she doesn't want anyone to know. In that case, don't say anything! I'm gonna go say hi to everyone. Miss you guys tons. It was good talking to you, Dad, when I was in Bondoukou. Sorry I missed you guys, Mom & Eric. Next time . And I'll get a picture of Kouame, Kossia & "Le Grand" (little Eric) on Sunday. That's when they are giving him his name. I love you. See ya in a bit.

Monday, May 27

Yesterday was the busiest day I've had in a while. I didn't sit down to catch my breath until 5:30. I've been running around playing nurse… We've got several nasty wounds around here. A kid sliced his foot open on a broken bottle because he wasn't wearing shoes. Most kids don't. So I told all the kids if they aren't wearing flip flops, they can't draw at my house. You can't make 'em wear shoes. But they get these small insignificant cuts that become nasty, oozing, gaping holes. I'm working on the scholarship application. There is one girl only. And I don't think there is enough money this year to give any more scholarships. There's a lot about the school system that I don't know. This girl wants to be a doctor. I asked her what happens if she doesn't get the money. She said she'll go ask friends & family for money. It's so sad. They have to take 3 big tests during the year. And they have to pay for the test & the transport to get there. It is hard for her to find the 3,000 CFA to go take a test. That's just over $4. If you don't have the money, you don't take the test. You can't continue school. I hope she gets the scholarship. Just when I start getting bent outta shape about something, I come across something like this. It puts everything in perspective. Did I tell you I've been sleeping in my appatam every night? It's so nice outside. And it's so much easier to wake up in the mornings. I even get a little chilly around 3 or 4 AM. I'm gonna go to the other Ganse to play soccer. I'll be back later. Hoepfully, today I'll have more time to write.

Tuesday, May 28

There's not enough of me to go around! Each day I think "today I'll have at least an hour to sit & write or clean"… It looks like a tornado came through my house. I'm hoping today I can hang out by myself for a bit. Yesterday, I went to Wekele with Kouame. His niece was burned 2 days ago. She's a year old & some dumb-ass laid a burning log next to her on the ground while she was sleeping. The log broke in two & landed on the baby. The kids tried to tell dumb-ass the baby was burned but he was talking to someone & didn't want to be interrupted. The right side of her head/face/neck was burned & her chest & belly were crispy, still black. The poor kid. I cleaned it & gave them some medicine to put on it. Dale Farmer gave me some burn cream a long time ago. That's what I gave them. The thing is, they don't have a pump, only the river. So I had to tell them to boil the water, let it cool, then use that to clean the burns. I hope it heals well. I told them to let me know if it gets worse. They probably won't go to the hospital. They'll just start using traditional medicine, like putting mud on it from the river…or crushed up ants or something weird like that. After we finished helping the baby, we wandered around to say hi to everyone & stumbled across a dance. It was, by far, the coolest, most "African" thing I've seen since I've been here. It was exactly how you imagine it to be here. They were playing the drums & singing - but it sounded more like a mix of chanting & singing - and dancing like crazy. They would shake their bodies faster than I thought possible. It was so cool. I was mesmerized (didn't know how to spell - sorry ). I couldn't keep my eyes off the drummer. He was incredible. His voice was so different. One day, I'll try to mimic it for you. And he was HUGE. You saw how little the people are here…they're ripped. But they are small. This guy is the kind people in prison fear. And could he dance. He is as black as they come and had the whitest teeth & most beautiful smile. I wish I could have captured all of it on video. It was something else. They told me they'd let me know next time they dance so I can go back & spend the night. They dance & dance & dance…until the chopolo runs out… Some things are universal . And the drum they had was different too. It was a huge gourd hollowed out. It was at least twice the size of a basketball. It looked so neat. You would have loved it, Eric. I also saw, for the first time, kids with scars on their bellies. You saw how all the kids have swollen bellies. Well, the parents don't realize it's worms. They think it's an evil spirit or something of the sort. So, what better way to get rid of it? Cut the spirits out!! The kids have lines around their belly buttons like a sun… And they do it to heal what's inside. As bad as that is, it at least looks really cool…along with the scars on their faces. I saw another thing for the first time in Wekele. Kouame paid some old guy to interpret a bad dream he had. It had something to do with his kid. And he was really scared. The old guy had a pile of sand on the cement floor and would spread it out, then make marks in it, then smooth it out & do it again. Kind of like 'Etch & Sketch'. Whatever those marks meant, it told him that Kouame shouldn't worry…that it was only a dream this time. Wekele is such a cool place. I wish we could put a volunteer there. The Lobi's are some interesting, crazy people. But it's 7KM south of Ganse (down river) and their only transport is what passes by Ganse. So I don't think they'd put a volunteer there. I'm gonna ask about it though. I would love to have been there. It's even smaller than Ganse! I've written enough today. I'm FINALLY alone in my house. I think it's been 10 whole minutes!! It's almost lunchtime so I'm gonna go fix some food. I miss you. ~ ~ ~ It's 1:15 & MY DOOR IS CLOSED!!! That means I can pretend like I'm asleep . I can't remember the last time I did that. It feels so good to sit here in my hot house (door closed…no circulation…but I'm alone !) I swept my whole house & dusted. It feels like a new place. The good thing about cleaning here is the kids love anything I throw out…tin cans, magazines, crayon boxes, old razors (just kidding ), even aluminum foil balls! It feels good not to have so much clutter. So I think I'll just sit here & enjoy the solitude. I'm sure I won't have another chance to write. So, I'll see you tomorrow-ish. Eat lots of yummy homemade food for me tonight…how 'bout tacos?! ~~~ OK. So I'm back. I ate with Ama tonight in the other Ganse. I always ate with Badoo & her family until Ama started inviting me. Now I go back there 2 or 3 times per week. Both of them, though, try to put a guilt trip on me when I don't eat with them. Girls are so stupid! Tonight, Badoo even said "you're never here anymore…that's 2 nights in a row that we haven't eaten together." How could I do such a thing to her…? May God strike me down for eating somewhere else. And last night, I wasn't even at Ama's… I went to Wekele to help her burned cousin. I would so much rather eat at my own house. I eat with them to be sociable. Sometimes they can be a real pain in the rear. All I want to do tonight is chill, eat a little, & go to bed. No. I have to eat at 7:30, hang out 'til 8 or 8:30 (and even then I get grief for going home), then go shower & get ready for bed. Maybe even read a little. Now, Badoo follows me home & writes or draws until at least 9. I know it sounds petty, but I like to go to bed early…and by myself, not with Badoo here 'til the last minute. All I want to do is unwind, get out of French & Koulango for just a few minutes before I go to bed. Nope. It's Ganse & everyone in it from the minute I wake up 'til the minute I go to bed. It's a good thing I love these people , otherwise I'd kill 'em. Sweet dreams to ya. I'm gone.

Wednesday, May 29

Meflouquine day! That's my malaria medicine. When I first started taking it, it did funny things to my brain. Then I'd have crazy dreams. After about 6 months, it stopped, except for the dreams. For about 6 months after that, I'd have crazy dreams on Wed, Thurs & Fri. Now, even those have stopped. I'm a little sad. I miss fun dreams . I went to the garden today for the first time in a long time. Lass planted squash & some of it was ready. So I fried it up for him. He loved it! Another thing that makes me crazy here is when people come up to me and don't say hi, but say "where's my _____ ?" The blank is whatever gift they want. Today, someone told me I had to buy him 2 bags of cement. Why? I asked. Because he doesn't have the money. Oh. OK. Let me buy you 3 or 4. Hell. I'll buy a house for you…you can't afford that either, can you? They really, honestly think they are being original by asking me to help them with their problem. They think no one else thought to ask the white girl - - what a fabulous idea! I'll get to her before everyone else. That way, she'll for sure give me money. The people who do this, though, are people who only talk to me when they want something. That's enough to make me always avoid them. I'm going over to the French guy's house tonight. He invited me over for dinner. He's super nice. And he speaks English really well. He's leaving June 6 to go back to France. Then I'm back to being the lone broni. I don't see him much anyway. It's going to be too long before I see you again. I'm gonna go take a nap… I have to jump on it before I miss my chance. ~~~ That was a great nap. I slept for almost 2 hours. I think it was 11:00 before I went to bed last night. And I get up at 5:30 to run. I know. That's so pathetic. I'm a village girl. My body tells me it's time to go to bed when it gets dark. That is, at the latest, 7:00. So, if I wait 'til 9 to hit the sack, that's LATE! I love waking up that early though. It's so cool in the morning. And peaceful, too. Tonight, the French guy invited me over for dinner. We had salad! My body forgets whet veggies are. Then I came back to the house with Badoo again… She's leaving tomorrow to go to Dabakala to see her man. I told her I wanted her to practice using a condom tonight. She seemed really relieved when I said that. I guess she wanted to ask but didn't know how. She did pretty well for never having used one. I hope she'll actually use it when the time comes. That's just what she needs is another kid. She said when I come back from Blondoukou she wants to practice again, but with her girlfriends this time. I'm glad she's showing interest. (In protection. Not sex.) It's bedtime. That's 2 nights in a row it's been 11:00! I can't wait to talk to you guys again. Oh, before I forget… rumor is that the lady who died a week or so ago, died of AIDS. She was really young…used to live in Abidjan…and her husband died 2 years ago. She was so so thin. Of course, we'll never know. But it's scary to think it may be here. Scary for the stupids who screw around without protection. Anyway, love you…goodnight .

May 30

Today was so nice. I gave 2 tests to the WID scholarship candidate. Then I read until I took a nap at 1:30 . It was such a good, lazy day. Now I'm gonna go say hi to people, then eat dinner with Ama & her family. Just wanted to say hi… I used up most of my words yesterday .

May 31

Went to Kakpin today with Kouame to see the nurse & midwife there. I want to talk to the women about family planning. The nurse wasn't there but the midwife was. I'll tell you about it tomorrow. It's too hot in the house tonight to write.

June 1

I'm trying to talk to the women here to do some kind of birth control. Condoms don't go over so well with them, especially the marrieds. But since there's no nurse here, they have to go to at least Kakpin to get BCP. And the midwife there said she started that with a few women but none came back because they "didn't have money." That's the standard response. BCPs are 150 CFA/month. That's $0.20 for one pack of pills! So, we're working together to try to find a solution. Then when we came back, Kouame started telling me about sorcery here. He said when someone dies from sorcery, the "evil" soul leaves the body & enters someone else. He said that has happened several times to the king's ex-wife. He said these souls can enter other people's bodies because the "genies" of these people are weak. Maybe it's the religious equivalent of your guardian angel sleeping on the job! Anyway, after the soul enters the new body, it causes this person to speak the voice of the dead person, saying how it was that he died. In Kouame's old village, he said this man was going to the fields one day when he saw a genie (but this genie had entered a man's body, so it appeared to be a regular man). This "man" told him he must build a house in the village with no windows. When the house was completed and the door was closed, they left the house 'til the next day. The next day they looked inside to find someone had left a fetish. My understanding of a fetish is it can be basically any object, but it has certain powers against sorcery. For example - a wooden statue or a necklace with an animal bone or feather for a charm. Nobody knew how it could have gotten in there. It was the genie. And because this fetish is there, sorcery can not touch the village. This fetish is more powerful. And the people there are scared to death of it too. Kouame said he can barely look inside… his heart about jumps out of him. He also said he had a picture of what the fetish looks like, but it's not the real thing. If you take a picture, it won't show up. I want to try. It's so interesting to listen to them talk about sorcery & fetishes because it defies all the logic that we were raised on. But they completely believe in it. Oh yeah, another thing he said - - when these souls enter new bodies, these people become different. They develop supernatural powers & can know & see things that we can not. Remember the guy in Wekele that told Kouame about his dream? That's an example. His genie was weak & several souls entered him. Crazy, huh? No wonder people are so scared for me to be all the way back here in the house by myself. I guess I would be too if I believed in all that. I'm gonna go down to the river with Koffi today. So maybe I'll be back later. I really miss you guys. Say hi to everyone for me. ~~~ This French guy here is so cool. He's been here 2 months & he's got more figured out about this place than I do. It's his job but still… He's super interesting to listen to. He's leaving June 6 though. I tried snails for the first time today… They taste like dirt. Probably won't eat those again. OK. I'm tired…bath time then sleepy time.

June 2

I was talking to Nicola, the French guy, about sorcery & fetishes here in Africa. And how it's all so odd to us, but it really is so logical to them. He said he was talking to the old people in a small village just on the other side of the river, and asked them about the elephants…why they thought they were gone… While he can probably find a perfectly "logical" ecological explanation, the old people said this… When the park was popular & the hotel was working, all the young people worked there making lots of money & leaving the village. The old people were jealous so they used sorcery to destroy all the elephants. That's perfectly logical to them. But to us, we think "huh"? In this book I'm reading, there's a quote that I really like… "…mystery, not logic, is what gives us hope and keeps us believing in a force greater than our own insignificance." I think that goes for every culture. People always ask me if there is sorcery or fetishes in the States. At first I said no. But there is…superstition, to name one. How many athletes have their "lucky" something, be it socks, whatever. Even in "religion" - - for a wedding… "something old, something new…"…and you can't see each other the day of, before the ceremony. That's not so different really. Wednesday, I'm going to a big fete ("fet") in a small village near here. It's a big fetish fete. They sacrifice animals to the fetishes, dance, sing, whatever. I can't wait to see it. Nicola is driving, so I can go with him. Plus, he can explain things to me, his French being better & all . He also said (random) that Spanish is easier to learn if you speak French already. And they speak English & French in Portugal. Want to go to Portugal, Mom? I'm gonna eat. Then take a nap. Talk to you later.

Monday, June 3

Yesterday, I told the guys in charge of the pump that I wanted to count the money with them so I could see how their system works. They have a little notebook & each day they write the date how much they collected that day. They do this every day. And then do the books whenever they get around to it to make sure it's all there. Kouame has been bitching a lot lately that he wants someone else to keep the money (he has it now) because everyone keeps harassing him, saying he's boofing the money. The other guy involved holding the money is Koffi Huberson. Kouame says he doesn't trust Koffi. He thinks he's boofing money. So we count it yesterday, and guess who comes up short…Kouame. You know, I want to stick up for him, but how can I when he does stupid s$#& like this! So of course, he had a legit "reason" for taking the money. But he can't repay it right now. It's only 1,600CFA, but still. I was so mad. So now, nobody trusts anybody. And they all want me to keep it. I try to tell them "no". That's not why I'm here. They've got to be able to do this without me. We had a meeting today with the King and his notables (right hand men) to decide what to do. They all just start arguing over who boofs & who doesn't. I wanted to deck Kouame, the Secretaire. He put me on the spot in front of all those "big wigs", basically telling me to pick sides - him or Kouame. I have never raised my voice here until today and in front of the King. Kouame, the Secretaire (he's the same as Kouame #2) is such an arrogant jerk. He always has to have control and have the last word. He thinks he's better than everyone else because he has a brother in the States - even though his brother has basically forgotten about them. He hasn't been here in ~4 years. And when he came, he stayed in Ganse 2 nights. That's it. But Kouame #2 thinks he's the best thing since sliced bread. But the thing that turns me off most about him, besides being a hypocrite, he only approaches me because he thinks it benefits him somehow. It makes him look better to hang out with whitey. He keeps telling me I need to get you guys to send him a back pack like one I have here. So I remind him he has a brother in the States. HE can send one. But Kouame #2 says "well, he doesn't know what it looks like…your Mom & Dad do, though." Gimme a break. Any other time he jumps on the opportunity to say his brother is in America. Except now, it's not so convenient because he can't get a free back pack. UUUUUHHHG! Sorry. He's just on my last nerve right now. It started with such force when the other PCVs came to see me. Kouame #2 is never here. But all of a sudden - BAM - here he is inviting himself over for dinner. We had rice and sauce…and normally we eat with our hands. Well, it's not uncommon for village turned city folks to be "too good" to eat with their hands anymore. So Kouame #2 tells me to go get forks & bowls. So I bring one for him, telling him I don't have enough for everyone…& we are eating with our hands. He just looks at me with this stupid look on his face. THEN, he took the best meat for himself. Not that I cared. But you never do that when guests are present. I was so embarrassed by his behavior. Last night, at 9PM, he told me we were going to Wekele tomorrow. I said who's we? He said me, him & two other guys. He said he sent a note last week to let them know we were coming. I said "No. I can't go. I've got things planned for tomorrow." He asked what did I have that couldn't be rescheduled. I said the women were weighing babies. He just laughed, like "that's it? No problem. Do it another day." I said no. I wish I had a picture of his face. I was choosing working with the women over him. I said I told the women I'd be there, and I'm not going back on my word. He said "well, I told Wekele we were coming. And I can't go back on my word." I said you don't have to. You can go. I'm not going! He didn't tell me until the night before & expects me to drop everything to suit him. I may compromise for someone else. But, for someone who shows no respect for his fellow man, no way. OK. Happy thought …. It's 1:30 and I'm in my house, by myself, writing and doing nothing but enjoying the quiet . You know, some days I see these kids & think I want to take them back to the States with me… then I remember - I can't stand kids . Maybe it's different with your own. But I'm not ready to find out . Hope you two aren't in any rush. See ya in a bit. I'm gonna go try to finish my book. I love you. ~~~ RAIN! RAIN! RAIN! It's been almost a month since we've gotten any & it rained hard for a good hour. Good sleepin' tonight. It's funny, the little differences… I like rain here because it makes sleeping easier. It's amazing how much cooler it gets. Just wanted to say goodnight. Sleep tight. And I'll see you tomorrow.

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