Friday, October 13, 2006
update with no energy
I've just finished buying my tickets to fly home for the holidays. A trial of a process, intensified by being here in just about every way that it could be, but I'm happy to have it done and managed to do go from here to NYC for about $1700, which was well within my price range. It will take me about three and a half days of travelling - including an overnight in Paris - but that too should be fun. Airplanes!
My parents are home from their latest adventure (to the UK, walking Hadrien's Wall, and more?) and are now getting ready to come here. It almost seems unbelievable, that they will be here, and then that I will go home. This reality has become too real, and that one too far away, for the other to make sense. And so many volunteers have said after they return that this reality slips away, into dream-like memories. And it's all just one planet!
I'm wiped out from too much staring at the computer monitor - something for which I once had a nearly infinite capacity - and the fasting melts my brain around this time of day (3:30ish). I posted something I wrote the other night, perhaps between the two there are a pair of good sentences to enjoy.
Tuesday, October 10, 2006
Tuesday, 10 October
Last night my gutter project finally did what I'd been hoping for all along - filled the bathing bucket without any effort on my part. Ironic that it was in all likelihood the last rain, and the Harmattan winds will almost certainly play havoc with the whole thing. Ah, life.
Another project went into high gear yesterday, as I got fully into pushing the mice out. I put down a series of glue traps on Sunday, and exiled five mice in the thirty six hours following. It's not a nice business, but I try to be pragmatic and not feel too much about it, just the reality of living closer to the earth and not wanting to have mice run all over me. I'm also fighting termites throughout my house, and hoping that the end of the rains will sap them of their energy.
Ramadan continues, the past couple of days have been easier with cloudy skies and not being too busy. I suffered a bit last week, trying to travel, work, entertain guests and generally do too much to be fasting. We are now past the halfway mark, and people are looking forward to Koriteh and eating during daylight hours. I know now that I'll make it through, my body isn't cannibalizing itself or anything, and I'm just anxious to know how I'll recover afterwards, if I'll react strongly to having more food around. I am hopeful that I'll get back to regular exercise - I've been sporadic to say the least over the past week.
Obviously by the nature of this post, nothing is too dramatic here these days. Trying to inch forward, get people to listen to me and act in spite of Ramadan lethargy. And very much looking forward to a visit from my parents in mid-November! Maybe I'll be able to post this in the next couple of days.
Wednesday, October 04, 2006
A Day in Ramadan
Breakfast this morning was something I've been eating a lot of - sardine salad. A can of sardines here costs D13-16, and is known as "bachelor food" as so many single men (who naturally are completely unable to cook) survive on them. It's still an expensive item for a family, but reasonable for me here. I add some chopped onion, tomatoe, mayonaise and some sweet thai chili and mix it all into a tuna salad looking yummy-ness. When we got here, Woman definitely turned her nose up this sort of thing, and I imagine my mother will be doing so as well whenever she reads this, but I fell in love with canned sardines on rivers in Canada, and have been relishing the protein.
I woke up early today - about twenty minutes to five, usually it's five or just after - and will go back to bed after morning prayers go. I'm sitting up drinking water, trying to make sure that every nook and cranny is hydrated before the day begins.
Yesterday I went shopping for supplies to keep healthy during Ramadan. I try to focus on protein and nutrition - sardines, canned chicken, a couple of eggs, onions, limes, and tomatoes. I also got a can of fava and garbanzo beans and some dates as treats. It's pretty cool how much more comfortable I am buying things, dealing with the market and knowing how to thrive here compared to this time last year, when it was all new, frustrating and intimidating.
The morning prayer call during Ramadan seems to last at least an hour. I can hear at least three mosques laying in my bed (me laying, not the mosques), one being the main mosque in town with it's very-functional pa system that always, Ramadan or no, seems to go on for an hour at morning prayer call, punctuated with exortations to get up and start one's day in Mandinka. These days I love the sound of the Arabic prayer calls, the rhythm it creates in the day, the way the imams sing it. Another thing that was more of a challenge a year ago. I still haven't figured out exactly when one is supposed to prayer during the prayer call, which often seems to last much longer than the actual praying. I suppose that's a symptom of my lingering Western sense of time.
Now it's about quarter to six, which is when I was told everyone officially stops eating and drinking until sunset, so I'm going to go back to bed and improve on the four hours of sleep I've had thus far. God willing, more to come at a more human hour...
10:39 - I slept for a couple of hours, got up and felt that sluggishness that comes with a long nap, where you slept long enough to really be asleep, but not long enough to feel really rested. A doctor once told me that rem sleep cycles are about four hours long on average, so people need to sleep in blocks at least that long to get properly rested. I don't think he was a Muslim.
I did my normal morning chores - sweeping, getting water (the tap stopped less than a quarter of the way into filling my water can, but I have plenty at the moment), cleaning then started planning my day. What needs to get done around the house - I am going to do some more wiring soon, need to buy the parts, what needs to get done with my schools - tomorrow I am going to make a quick trip to Kombo and want to coordinate with them anything that needs to get accomplished there, and sending messages to various people about upcoming events and projects. Did a bit more organizing and suddenly it's ten thirty, time to get going to meetings and such. I wanted to write before taking off, hopefully will again later on.
5:47 - Late in the fast, it is hard to do much but think about food and water. I also feel tired, limp, overcooked spaghetti. Sarah just called me (a treat!), she is also keeping the fast, and said at this time of day, she doesn't feel like a person any more. Today is much worse for me than yesterday was. We had relatively low heat and a bit of breeze yesterday, and I was lucky in the way my schedule worked out. Today, not so much. Hot hot, I spent most of the day biking here and there and sweating, not getting home until after three, flat and not looking forward to the time before breaking fast. But, I enjoy the challenge of Ramadan, and I enjoyed getting things done today.
I visited Nawec (national water and electricity company), in an attempt to push them along in connecting the high school to the public power. Most of the time I was there was just sitting, chatting with guys who were around in Mandinka - fun for both them and me, and waiting for someone to appear who knew anything about the situation at the school. I've learned that just sitting is a fairly effective tactic for accomplishing any number of things here, and was rewarded with a more complete picture of their operations and schedule - they said they will be connecting the school tomorrow, or Thursday, or Friday. I'll go back next week and hopefully be able to get a firmer promise.
I also bought some more wiring materials, and this afternoon wired a light for my bedroom. I am excited about it, in an extremely mellow way. I also got parts for a 12 volt dc light that I'd bought a bulb for in Kombo recently. So, I should have light at my fingertips, any time. And I get to play with wiring, which is the best part of it for me. I've grown up from legos to electrical plugs and sockets.
I also got tasks from two headmasters to accomplish in Kombo, as I thought I would. It's an odd feature of the layout of this country, how so many people have business of all varieties that they can only accomplish in the capital region, in a way reminding me of an old farming area and trips to "town". Which is suppose is apt in a few different ways.
Quick trips to Kombo are always jarring, as the pace of life is greater and it takes different energy to get anything done. Oddly, it reminds me of New York City in the way that I have to bring it, have my game face on in order to check of the items on my task list. Obviously, it's relative in the extreme. With that said, I'm hoping to get there tomorrow before ten, and perhaps be at the office by noon. If I'm lucky, I can get everything done and get going on Thursday morning after breakfast. Ramadan is the time of two breakfasts - early morning and breaking fast. Can you tell what's on my mind?
Maybe I'll write more in an hour when I'm less preoccupied.
WEDNESDAY - Didn't get to write again, posting this now.
Sunday, October 01, 2006
The fasting has gotten more difficult as the weather has turned back to hot hot. We're definitely into the October heat by now, and I'm happy in a way that it's finally here so that I can stop worrying about it and just get through it. But, it intensifies the no-water aspect of fasting, and I've spent the last couple of days pretty inactively, especially in the afternoons.
Fast breaking is in twenty minutes or so, a fact that sharpens my inability to concentrate on much besides thoughts of food and drink. Can an inability be sharpened? Or could it before, because it certainly can be now. Ramadan sharpens my inabilities.
But, all in all, I have little about which to complain. My fan has been working through most of the day, I have been listening to a lot of music, and soon I'll be in the heaven of eating and drinking as much as I can until I go to sleep. I keep waiting for "the other shoe to drop" - it's the wrong metaphor, as a first shoe hasn't dropped to my knowledge - and the electricity to start to slip, have problems, or something. It's almost too nice to have as much power as I do right now. Not that I'm complaining. Am I?
Really, things are great these days. I have mice again, but other than that, my house is doing pretty well. My health, aside from the fasting, is good. It looks like work is going to come together a lot more easily this year, as though people are leaning forward with the computer programs, and maybe I'll have more luck with making forward progress. I'm a happy man.