March 29th 2009
I hope this note finds you all well and happy and keeping warm, thought hopefully not as warm as me. Maurtiania is coming into the hot season and I have a solid 3 months of blistering heat to endure…so far its not terrible, working its way up a little farther every day thought. At 3 in the afternoon its usually between 105 and 110 in the shade. Its not my favorite time of year to say the least…all metal everywhere is hot to the touch, shampoo and lotions and sunscreen come out of the container extra liquidy and warm, water comes out of the tap hot, bathing is only refreshing when theres wind for evaporation, otherwise you’re pouring hot water over yourself in the hot sun. Candles melt inside in the shade, chocolates not solid ever, and the ice we buy at the boutique next door (a liter of water in a plastic baggie frozen) melts in a shockingly short amount of time. I was drinking ice water from a metal cup the other day and the top of the cup was hot to the touch and the bottom filled with ice. Oh the joys of the Sahel!
So before I left on this grand adventure I remember reading a letter the peace corps sent to my parents about how to stay in touch with me while I’m here. It outlined all the methods and then had a little note about how volunteers tend to like to share their “war stories” and it makes their service sound extremely miserable (for an example see above) and it said that you should keep in mind that they are probably sharing the wort parts and not the happy parts and not to worry about them too much. I realized that I have not made my service seem nearly miserable enough to you folks…heck half of you have told me that my stories make you want to move to Africa so ready…here comes a war story to show the other side of things…its not all fun in the sun! (Not to worry folks, I’m sharing this story because in hindsight I find it hilarious and I’m still quite happy here…despite the heat)
So I spent three nights away from my host family recently with some other volunteers and when I returned home I detected a fowl odor in my room. I figured a toad had hopped in and passed away and I was smelling his or her remains, so I rifled through all my baggage, refolded all my clothes, restacked all my books, and peered under my mosquito net but I found nothing. My room is rather small and very hot so it was impossible to track down the most stinky spot and therefore the source of the odor, it all smelled terrible! I gave up and hung out with my family for the afternoon and evening and as darkness fell a few friends of my host sister stopped in.
Now, here in Mauritania when you have guests it is customary to roll out a plastic or reed mat, set out a few mattelas for sitting, and lounge around on the ground with them, take tea, and chat. Amineta requested the use of my mat and mattela and I obliged, entering mmy room and tossing them out the door behind me, and renewing my search for the stench. It got worse when I moved the mat and sure enough, on closer inspection under where it had been I found a gooey spot on the floor with baby maggots squirming angrily at my rude disruption of their home. Uh-oh…I ran outside to warn my sister…something on that mats not really appropriate for guests! But by the time I got to her it was all set up and the gentleman was lounging carelessly on my mattela. I searched frantically with my eyes and saw no visible signs of the grossness that must be there somewhere and it was a windy night so I sat down and hoped the wind would carry the stench away and there would be no problems, and fortunately it seemed to have done just that!
Unfortunately the moment they left Amineta laid down on my mattela and immediately told me there appeared to be a “mauvaise odour” emanating from it. Not the mattela! I though…its my only one! We searched and searched and found only a smudgy gooey spot that was particularly pungent but no obvious source. I crossed my fingers that whatever it was had been in between the mattela and mat and was now somewhere on the ground and therefore no longer my problem. I got some spray, some soap, and a scrap of fabric and went to work on the smudge but there seemed to be an awful lot of smell for just that one little spot…and low and behold when I lifted up the mattela to have another look I found nothing underneath it but just my luck that the very spot where I grabbed it to lift it up was where the unfortunate rat who had made his way inside the cover and died and then spent at least 3 days fermenting was trapped. Of course I didn’t notice at first, sitting there holding my mattela I thougt “my mattela seems squishy and fleshy today and is missing the dry pillowy texture it normally has…I wonder why…”
And then realization dawned. It’s a sad moment when at 11 pm you discover a rotten rat carcass inside your only bed and realize that you have no choice but to peel off the cover, dispose of the rodent, and sleep on it. Don’t worry…I covered it with a blanket and put the smelly side down by my feet but still….I hope to god I’ll never have to do that again. Yuckkkk.
The next day Amineta helped me wash all my clothes, my mattela cover, the mattela itself, all my blankets, pillow, sheet, mat, and the floor of my room. Then I set it all out in the sun to be disinfected by the uv rays and then I washed myself and then, just for good measure, I brushed my teeth and scrubbed my feet. I feel better now, but there you have it folks…my war story. The best part is that when I discovered it I made a eeeeeeewwwwwyughhhhhhhhckkkkk noise that would have been a fairly normal reaction in the states but here they don’t use that sound to indicate gross and consequently found it hilarious when I did. Now they do it all the time, and its hilarious for me.
At any rate I’m spent on staring at the computer screen so I’ll write more later…
Hugs and kisses!
Pay it Forward
1 year ago