Wednesday, February 21, 2007

I'm taking requests...

Steve's response to my blog was "That's it?" (I'm paraphrasing his actual response, which involved Bangkok.) He wants to know what we eat for breakfast, etc.; so I'm answering his questions and then some. The kids eat corn flakes we buy at the overpriced import supermarket, except Etani who eats bouille if he can get it: a hot millet porridge that our helper Nadege makes for herself. I don't like it--I don't like millet, or rice (outside of a sushi roll), or the stews poured over those grains which form the basis of west African cuisine. I wish I could find an Ethiopian to cook for us. We have a part-time cook, Leopold, who also goes to the open-air markets to shop for us, but he cooks us French food, or moussaka, or the fresh pasta we taught him how to make with a pasta machine borrowed from friends. (Having a pasta-slave is the number-one thing I'll miss about living here.) He's trying to get the food concession at the US Embassy, though; so we may lose him in a few weeks. Labor is cheap, so we have those two helping us, plus a part-time gardener/pool guy, Pierre, we split with the neighbors. We don't seem to have much more time; but at least the place is clean and we don't have to do it.

Etani also eats the rice & sauce Nadege eats for lunch, as well as the white, jello-like balls of corn flour and tapioca, also served with 'sauce.' He greets the local doormen in Zarma: "Fofo! Baani samay!" His favorite place in town is the National Museum and Zoo--which is the only kid-friendly activity in town, other than taking him to the school playground. It merits its own post.-it cannot be described briefly.

"Getting a decent pair of shoes?" Almost impossible--they're imported, expensive, and low-quality. That's the paradox, here: imports are rare, expensive, and not worth it. Things made here, though, are cheap and, in the case of leatherwork and silversmithing, excellent. The leatherworkers have a workshop around the corner where I've had belts and watchbands made from crocodile, ostrich, and lizard--all of which hides are by-products, as those animals are all eaten, here (see Jennifer's Washington Post article about what happens when giraffes get hit by cars in Niger). They also had samples of handmade shoes, of finely-woven leather that looks like crocodile, and the pair I tried on were fantastic (though not so cheap).

"Who burns our garbage?" We forbid our folks to burn it--you can hardly breathe in the city because of all the burning garbage. It's bad enough without having it inside our walled compound. (Yes, our house has a 10' wall around it, like all the lots in the neighborhood--even the ones without houses! Nigeriens love walls, and I've been in traditional houses here with only the sleeping area roofed, and the rest of the 'house' just walled, with no roof to protect you from the sun.) We pay four buck a month for a private garbage service only used by rich foreigners. When Jennifer asked him what he does with the garbage, he said that before he can take it out of town to be recycled or dumped, people buy it--all of it. It actually costs him money, because they give the money to the drivers, not him, and then ask the drivers to deliver it, in his trucks.

"Who has boils, chiggers, etc...?" Nobody has anything strange--that we know about. The gastrointestinal adventures are constant, and often involve fever and vomiting like a firehose, but that's all to be expected. Everybody's been sick a lot this winter--even though it's hot, rather than cold--but, again, that's normal. I'm still waiting for a Guinea worm to erupt from my eyeball, like happened to a Fulbright professor Jennifer knew the last time she was here.

1 comment:

Dina said...

Oh James. I'm only sorry I can't be funny in my comment. I love it that you have your phone number on the blog. Who in their right mind is going to call Niger?