Sunday, September 14, 2014


Not a particularly new, expansive, or thought-provoking blog post-- mostly reporting on the weather, and repeating themes regular readers of this blog will have encountered before.  Frankly, there's not much else I can bear to talk about for the moment; I'm trying to handle wrapping up my service, closing my post, grad school applications, job applications, and planning a two-month backpacking trip, which is more than enough.  The next six weeks will be quite busy, but I'll try to write up some more definitive thoughts about the end of my service and my impending COS.

We’re nearing the end of the second, shorter rainy season, and I can’t say I’m sad to see the monsoons go.  When the first rainy season began, back in April, it was pleasant; as no one dares exit their huts in a downpour, I could take the excuse of the rain to make endless cups of coffee and consign myself to my indoor hammock for the afternoon.  There was the problem of omnipresent mud, but once I accepted that my floors would never really be clean and that my shoes would always have inch-thick layers of red clay adhering to their soles, I was able to achieve a certain level of zen regarding my mud.  It was part of me, and I it.

Upside of all the rain: riotous morning glories on the fence between my garden and soy field
July and August brought a short respite.  While it still rained off and on, many days were mostly sunny.  It was nice to have that vacillation between wet and dry.  I could run outside most mornings without sinking ankle-deep in mud.  I could—and did—spend days working in my garden and soy field.  I completed four murals, my painting interrupted only a few times by persistent drizzle.

But now the rains are back, and with them pervasive damp.  Everything is starting to mold: a leather pouf I bought from the artisanal market in Ngaoundere was covered with grayish fuzz, the old clothes and fabric scraps I had stuffed it with musty and dank.  I gave it to the children in my compound to clean, but they came back shaking their heads sadly: it was a hopeless case.  In my office at the health center, the stacks of paperwork I shelved in a closed cabinet let out a fusty odor.  A journal I use for tracking family planning home visits was covered with a light green dusting of mildew.

The effects are the most vivid in my kitchen.  It is a constant battle under the best of circumstances to keep food in some semblance of edibility; in the North during dry season, the biggest challenge was fresh produce, which would almost instantly shrivel or sublime in the extreme heat.  The solution was to rely heavily on dried goods: dried fruits, beans, pulses, even the ubiquitous dried leaves every family eats daily in sauce.

Here, I have the opposite problem.  Produce stays fairly fresh, because temperatures are moderate—but the constant damp is deadly for anything not vacuum-sealed, which is to say everything else on my shelves.  I dried moringa leaves during a food security formation a few months ago, and had kept them in a Ziploc to use in cooking later on.  The other day I picked up the bag, glanced at it, and dumped the entire thing into my compost, horrified.  The Ziploc had not kept the leaves from slightly rehydrating, and therefore rotting.  The same went for shredded coconut I had bought while down South.  I popped a handful into my mouth, then immediately spit it out: the stale, fetid taste was overwhelming.

Weevils are abundant these days; somehow they make it through sealed plastic Tupperware, leaving me to feel like a sailor on an 18th-century warship, sifting infested flour to make hardtack.  I’ve put aside the unsalvageable staples—millet and, sadly, oatmeal my grandmother sent me—to make dog food with.  I mix the oatmeal (weevils and all) with a handful of flour, boil it to death, and beat in oil, milk powder, and a raw egg.  This slop I dole out morning and night, as though I were the matron of a Dickensian workhouse, and Scipio my little Oliver Twist.  Luckily she seems perfectly happy with her gruel—at least, she’s never asked for more, which I suppose is not quite the same thing. 

Aliz and I give a visiting PCV, Elijah, a brief garden tour between rain showers.

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