Afternoon Adventures

 I am not an incredibly busy person. Most of my days are filled with, well, day-to-day things, and there is very little that is fish-farming or development related. I spend time cooking, washing, fetching water, sweeping, and working in my garden. This week I spoke a little about fish farming at 2 separate meetings, and I consider that a pretty big week. Like I said: not busy.

Almost every afternoon, though, I have a very important engagement. I’ll be in my hut or sitting on my stoop, writing a letter or sewing a patch, and I’l hear a quiet voice, “Ba Jaime? Tulayanda kupinta…” (Ms Jaime? We would like to color…)

There will be a group of kids smiling and half-hiding behind a tree, shy even though we do this almost every day. The spokesperson for the group is usually Prudence, my 6 year old host sister, though sometimes one of the other kids will get up the courage to ask. So, I go into my hut and bring out coloring books and markers, and we all color together. My group of kids is sometimes only two or three, but some days I have more than ten crowded around, sharing markers and choosing pages to color. We’ll spend an hour or two together, them chattering away in Lenje and me understanding very little. Eventually some unspoken signal passes around and the markers are collected and the books returned, ready for the next day’s coloring committee meeting.

That is how I spend most afternoons. Sometimes, though, I don’t want to color; when the request comes, I’ll say, “Tuyapinta chifumo.” (We’ll color tomorrow). What a terrible person, to refuse these kids their afternoon entertainment, right? But those days I have something even better than coloring. Earlier this month I turned 26, and one of my wonderful friends back home sent me a birthday package which included about 2 dozen balloons. So, on those non-coloring days I can pull out a balloon and set everyone loose playing with that.

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The first day I brought out a balloon, the kids weren’t exactly sure what to make of it. They tried throwing it to each other, until I demonstrated the proper balloon-bopping technique. Then it took a while to figure out that it would mostly go with the breeze, rather than to where you’d hit it. Eventually we all got the hang of it, and played a rousing game of don’t-let-the-balloon touch-the-ground (ok, maybe I need to work on the name some). Every time the someone would hit the balloon there would be shrieks of laughter; if someone missed, even more laughing. It was so much fun. Of course after a while someone walloped the balloon into my thatch one time too many, and the resulting bang left a stunned silence. Followed by gales of laughter.

That was it for that day, but I’ve brought balloons out a few times since, and they’re always a huge hit. So now my afternoons are filled with either coloring or shrieks of joy, and are frequently my favorite part of the day. I can only imagine the fun we’ll have when I first
bring out the Frisbee…

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So Much Cute

It has been a long time since I’ve posted, and I apologize for the delay. Hopefully I’ll get back on track, updating you regularly on my adventures here.

Over the last few months, I have done very little fish farming work. People have been very busy with their maize crops, and don’t have much time or energy for thinking about aquaculture. Last week I did go to a village meeting to talk and ask questions, but that is basically all I’ve done.

I have started to sit under the Meeting Tree every Wednesday afternoon. It is near the school, as much in the center of as much of a town as we have, and it gives me a great way to chat with people as they walk by. My hope is that people will know to come there to find me if they need to ask a question or just want to talk. So far I’ve discussed religion, talked about gardening and fish farming, helped kids with math homework, and laughed at the cow boys trying to do cartwheels. It’s debatable whether it really counts as ‘work’, but sitting under a tree is sure a pleasant way to spend some time.

When I’m not watching the Cowherd Gymnastic Olympics, I’m usually out working in my garden. It is doing very well, and I’m enjoying plenty of zucchini, cucumbers, butternuts, green beans, tomatoes, and basil. I’ve begun to build the next bed, where I plan to plant my cool veggies, like lettuce, peas, and broccoli. It is very slow going, though, with the grass as tall and thick as it is. After a week of solid weeding, I finally managed to clear a 2 x 17 meter strip. Then it took three days of hoeing to turn the topsoil. Now I have several days worth of double digging and amending to do before it will finally be plantable. Good thing I have plenty of time on my hands!

I think that basically covers what I’ve been doing with myself since my last update, so now on to the adorable part of this story. First, on Wednesday of last week I became a grandmother, of quadruplets, no less. My black hen, Kwasiya, hatched out a set of four little black’n’white peeping cottonballs; just in time for Easter. Since I still do not have a chicken coop, the four chicks and mamma have been confined to my insaka, or cooking/chatting pavilion like shelter. I spent a morning covering gaps in the walls with chitenge, setting up food and water, furnishing a nestbox, bringing in bricks for a playground, cutting grass for scratching through, and generally turning my kitchen into a chicken heaven. When I put them in there, all five birds seemed pretty pleased with what they found, so I’m content. I plan to keep them penned for about 8 weeks, until the chicks have real feathers and can keep themselves warm and dry when it rains. I’m determined that all my chicks make it to chickenhood!

My second bit of adorable this week was courtesy of Christetta, the 2 year old girl in my host family. I was sitting on my stoop, coloring with my usual gaggle of children. ‘Tetta is too young to really understand coloring, but she loves to sit or stand on my lap. Sometimes we play jumping games, sometimes we make silly faces, and sometimes (rarely) we sit quietly and watch everybody else scrabbling for markers. This day she was standing on my lap and we were babbling to each other, not understanding anything the other was saying (her in Lenje, me in English). Every once in a while she would gently bonk her forehead against mine, and we’d laugh and laugh. Suddenly, she stopped talking and got a very serious expression on her face. She leaned forward, paused, and kissed my nose. Then, as my heart was melting like ice cream on hot tarmac, she bounced off my lap and trotted away. It was just about the sweetest thing in the entire world, and one of the best moments of my Peace Corps service so far.

So there you have it, your daily dose of “Aww…” I hope it gave you a warm fuzzy feeling. And, for the record, I’m smiling just telling you about it.