9 February 2009
Today, I took my first walk alone without Denis or Ariane, and today was the first time I got lost in Niger. I simply turned left from my street and walked straight toward the stadium that looms largely at the end of the intersecting road. I spent a hot hour or so at the closest Internet Café, and decided to turn home. Although I had counted “un, deux, trios” rues until the stadium, I somehow became confused (probably the heat) on my way back. I wandered one or two streets too far and then wandered some more. I saw lots of large walls like our own , adorned by the same purple flowers. I heard the sound of prayer, like I hear four or five times per day from my own home. I saw red dirt, lots of red dirt. Everything looks the same here, and it is so, so hot at 3, 4 p.m.! I saw all the day guards loafing around and they all started to resemble each other, “bonjour madame.” Eventually, I was able to retrace my steps and step back on to my own porch, following a camel all the way back to the main intersection. Following the camel made it all ok, I think.
I took a rest and recharged with two liters of water, and then headed out with my friends. We went to an area called Chateau 1 where all the artisans, mainly Tuareg and Fulani, sell their goods. This really brought me back to the Africa I knew before, everyone trying me to sell me something (by the way, I got mistaken for a German twice more tonight), “miss” “madame” “bon soir miss.” I met two teenage boys who were convinced that because I said knew Akorn (meaning the music of Akron, of course) in my choppy French, that I actually knew Akorn. And, multiple times, Denis got asked if I was his second wife, as Ariane is the only wife everyone knows. I had a small debate about this with a guy on an oversized tricycle trying to sell me some beautiful, hand-printed cards. He argues that having many wives is the normal way. “C’est normale!” He asked if I had a husband. I said I had two. He laughed, I laughed too, nervously. I live for these interactions, by the way.
We looked for a place to eat, a place where I could possibly find something without a dead animal resting on the plate. There were none, but we did find a place serving “tuna.” I thought, my God, where could they have gotten tuna, but acceded to it. After waiting about 30 minutes and having the best tasting coca cola (in a bottle) that I have ever had, while Denis enjoyed a nice, light local beer, I took my “tuna” home. Well, there it was, all of it, face and all, although it certainly wasn’t tuna. I still can’t identify what type of fish it was. I should have known - this is Africa. I couldn’t exactly be grossed out by the fish when Mustapha - who has family and friends living in the Azawak that do not even have enough water to drink - is sitting there. But it all worked out fabulously. Fassely loved the head and Ariane didn’t mind digging through it to get the meat. I happily ate the body, the first time I’ve ever eaten a creature with its head still attached! And, no, this is not my first step toward becoming a carnivore, not at all. I was also able to share my leftovers with a little dog, Toko, who rests outside our house. Toko struck gold tonight.