22 May 2012

Another Living-In-Shirati Moment

This Living-In-Shirati moment was apparently brought to you by the African equivalent of Mad Dog 20-20.

I don't know if you can quite make it out, but this is the fence separating our backyard from the road, and those are the legs of a man lying on his back in the grass.  This man, who was utterly drunk at 2:30pm, came stumbling through our backyard calling "hodi!" (which is like "Anyone home?") and Fred went outside to see what he wanted.  Fortunately Fred was home on his lunch break to deal with this guy.  The man had a bag of small fish, like sardines, and a tomato which people had given him and which he was hoping to cook for dinner, but he was in need of a little bit of cooking oil.  (Possibly he intended to take part of our fence home to use as fuel for his cooking fire...it's happened before on a number of occasions.)  Fred told the guy we didn't have any cooking oil--the kind of obvious lie that you can only tell to a drunk person--and told him to be on his way.  A few minutes later I watched him struggling to climb back over the fence to the road, but apparently the effort was too much for him, because twenty minutes after that I saw him passed out on the other side of the fence.  Ah, Shirati.

11 May 2012

Random Observations From Two Months’ Leave

Over the past two months that I’ve been taking maternity leave, I’ve not been updating this blog (aside from the birth story) and as a result I have so many random, disconnected thoughts from life to share with you. 

Family Items:
      - Since Inno and I can now communicate almost fluently, he asks questions all day long, especially when we watch TV. “Are there black people in America?” “Is that a policeman?” “Do men shave their heads in America?” “Are there yellow people in America?” (He isn’t being racist about Asian people…we were watching The Simpsons.) His most common question is “What is that?” and the answer is usually some kind of animal, since he loves nature shows. How do you explain, in super simple English, how a seal is different from a krill from a whale? I just said they’re all kinds of fish.
      - I’m a little nervous that his perception of America is developing based on COPS. He loves it, and once he understood that I'm from Portland, which appears occasionally, he started asking me every new scene “Is this your Sindo?” (Sindo is his hometown, so I had explained that Portland is my Sindo.) He also, jokingly, asks if the people are my friends or parents. We have not seen anyone I know (yet), but seeing them bust pot dealers on the Waterfront or Burnside is almost like seeing friends.
      - Four paragraphs and I haven’t mentioned the baby yet?! This must be amended immediately! For the purposes of the blog, I’ll call the baby Sam, although we call him Wesley at home. We’re adjusting to each other quite well, and my frustrated cries of “I don’t know what you want, baby!” are becoming fewer and fewer. Inno and I call him Baby Penguin, since he’s black and white and little, and the Planet Earth episode we saw this week was about penguins.
      - Sam is what some child experts call “high needs.” (Not special needs.) Basically, he insists on being held almost always. Even if he’s not eating, he likes comfort feeding or sucking on fingers, mine or his, but he is not a fan of pacifiers. He’s started smiling socially (not because of gas) much more and scowling much less. For the first few weeks he only scowled and looked like a cute little old man, but he’s pretty sunny nowadays.
      - We don’t have house help, so a lot of work falls on Fred. He’s been a trooper: getting up early to wash clothes and diapers, going to work, checking in with us a couple of times during the day, going to the market, washing dishes, cooking dinner, helping Inno bathe, etc. He’s a super husband and father.

Shirati Items:
      - I feel odd about the amount of stuff I see our neighbor’s grandkids salvage out of our garbage pit. Should I be finding additional uses for plastic bread bags? Do those rotten vegetables have a little more life in them? They’re not so poor that they need to eat out the trash, but these are the same kids who poop in the grassy area between their house and ours, even though they have a toilet.
      - We have all this grass around our house (used as toilet paper for the neighbor kids) which we pay to have cut for us. There are a few people with cows who like to bring them here to graze. We don’t like this, since we’re trying to keep strangers away from our windows and piles of cow manure off our yard. For some reason, though, these same people keep coming back to tie their cows around our house when they know Fred is traveling. If they asked, it might be okay, but they know we don’t want their cows and they keep coming back! I could write a whole post about how this is an example of the tension of cross-cultural living, but for now just let me say it’s infuriating.
     - We have new friends! After a whole year, we’re finally getting to know the American doctor and her Luo husband who live about 200 yards away from us. They have kids almost our age, so it’s like hanging out with parents, which is a very welcome stand-in for family right now when we feel particularly far away.

P.S. Update from yesterday: One of the cow owners came to tie his cows in the grassy no-man's-land/toilet, and dug through our garbage pit until he found some bread I'd tossed because it was a bit moldy.  Apparently it wasn't too moldy for him to eat on the spot.  Ew.