"The body is the harp of the soul. It is yours to bring forth from it sweet music or confused sounds" Kahlil Gibran

Sunday, February 13, 2011

When will we eat the fat chicken, that one

When will we eat the fat chicken, that one

There have already been many moments that I would describe as lost in translation.  A perfect example of this is my Peace Corps friend Seth, who accidently mixed up two vowel sounds and said the following when asked how he was doing.  Instead of Ibee jay (Mandika for I am fine today). He said Ibu jaw, which is perfect Mandinka for “Defecate here” This produced endless laughter and village kids mimicking squatting.  My own mix up in Wolof came last night when I was talking to my host family about their son and what a good student he was, I tried to say he has a sharp mind, “Hellim la dafa nyow” instead I said “Hellim la dafa nyoow” which is “he has ugly thoughts” all because I carried an o for a fraction of a second too long.  This is made worse by the fact that many native language speakers do not understand that we have trouble with tonal vowel sounds.
Also, arrangement of the words and their meaning in the sentence can be quite difficult. Fas wi heef na tey, translated word for word is, Horse the hungry it is today.  For one who spoken English I have my whole life, you can see how word placement such as this difficult is.  Let me try to blend the events of this weekend into wolof and then English. I while trying to ask a question in Wolof, essentially when would you eat that chicken and how much fatter does it need to get? I having never seen a chicken get slaughtered was wondering when it would happen, when I tried to ask this however I said something to the effect of “When will we eat that fat chicken?” My family found this statement very funny, and have been teasing me for a week about if I want to catch and eat that fat chicken. While it all came to a head this weekend, I was horrified thinking that my innocent question was the source to the chicken’s downfall. I was later assured that it wasn’t.  So in Wolof, a phonetic retelling would look something like this.  Moosuma gis ganaar rey.  Tey chi subba giis naa ganaar rey.  Demable naa jappa ganaar.  Suma raka bu goor rey na ganaar ak pucho nyow.  Which says, “Never have I seen chicken killed.  Today in morning see I did chicken killed.  Help I did catch chicken.  My younger brother, kill he did chicken with sharp knife. 

We have chicken and goats in our compound (word for house and yard owned by one head), they are much more mobile than the ones in the states.  The other day I hummed “spider goat spider goat look out spider goat!” as I watched one scale a four foot concrete wall to walk on top of it then stand on its hind legs to eat the overhanging leaves of a mango tree.  The chickens fly in the trees at night.  Yes I said fly, these chickens can fly for short distances and can even scale roofs and trees for safety. 
Next, let me say that I was a vegetarian for a period before I came, but meat is a minor component to almost every sauce.  This means some small animal piece is cooked in everything.  Today it was the chicken’s turn to play host to a peanut sauce and rice. In order to catch one of our chickens that can run faster than you and fly on roofs and trees you need a knife and … a small army of children.  Before the battle began I asked my host brother Momodu, “is it difficult to catch a chicken?” … “oh yes,” he says “very difficult.”  As the circle of children and I encroach upon it, it senses danger and quickly runs at the oblivious weak link.  Leaping at my face it nearly claws me as it jumps over my shoulder.  The army of children pursues it, and I watch as it jumps on a roof and is shoed off with rocks, runs through fields, and is eventually cornered and captured in a bush.  I have never seen an animal get slaughtered before, and I make myself watch as Momodu takes the sharp knife and opens all the veins in the chicken’s neck and lets it bleed out, which is the only way animals are slaughtered here to hold to Muslim tradition. 
There is a whole process which I will not get into now, but it is fascinating and humbling to experience an animal in your front yard every day, and then for it to end up in your dinner rather suddenly one night.  I have great compassion for animals, and I will write on my thoughts on this later.

Here is my answer now to where I will be posted.

The city is the winner, and I was informed that Jonkoto swamp is the correct spelling (Jonkoro means that I was one letter off).  The Jonkoto swamp is right next to the village of Sami Kuta, the placement of our friend John, who is to date is the Peace Corps Volunteer to be placed furthest away from civilization.  He will have a fascinating experience.  I was just informed that I my final residence will be in roughly in Serekunda, where I will have a full time job at an NGO called IRD standing for International Research and Development.  Despite being in the city, which is somewhat of the drawback of the traditional village life that I was hoping for, working for IRD will have all the components I want for my future.  I will be doing business and environmental research and implementation in the local community on promoting the growth of the cashew tree, in hopes to increase the number of trees in The Gambia, and increase income for the local people who are heavily dependent on peanuts, which fetch a much lower price at the local market compared to cashews.  I am thrilled, and have been told that I will do great things there by a number of volunteers who speak highly of IRD and the work they have been doing across the country. 
The Wolof language will be very different in the city.  Being that there is already a heavy influence of French in the language, some of what I have learned is also French, in the city there is also language unique to the English Cultural Revolution. Mangay drive- I am driving. Naka things – how are things? Yangee cool? - Are you cool? Waaw, mangee cool- yes, I’m cool. Ammut problem – there is no problem.  This strange cultural phenomenon is taking the teens here by storm much to the dismay of the parents, and you wonder if this may have anything to do with the fact that a dvd of every American movie and soap opera is available for the equivalent of 75 cents on the street corners.  Though in village no one has electricity or TV, the cultural waves are felt even here.

In conclusion…
There was a field trip up country this week, as we were driving our bus by a village in the middle of nowhere, cheering began to erupt and the bus came to a halt as we saw no less than 30 large baboons running through the open grasses, with two dogs and a child brandishing a machete chasing after them.
That night me and two friends had a bat get stuck in our room.  After flying about and almost hitting us in the face, we eventually got it to leave out the front door.  Somewhere in the middle of the scramble I announced, “I love Peace Corps.”

I was able to maybe get these photos to upload on limited internet, this is from the Dress me and Pink, Call me Momodu and Make me Dance naming ceremony, our entire Peace Corp Photo, a donkey that a pet and then told the family I had named it "Fredrick", a small turtle, Blaine myself and our teacher Haddy, my little host brother Malik sister Rohee and unknown village girl (far right), my host brother momodu and little sister bowsay, there is a trash dump we visited in the city, it is quite horrifying, then there is my host family.

1 comment:

  1. great blog Xander! glad to hear you're enjoying all the "new" experiences. one thing though, being from Senegal, the country that surrounds the Gambia, no where in the Gambia is away from civilization. In fact, the further away you get from Banjoul the closer you are to paved roads, bigger cities, restaurants and beer, all juuuust across the lovely border. So come and visit us over yonder!!!

    Love reading about all your experiences. your exuberance is refreshing. keep up the great work and good luck with swearing in and starting your service. Remember to stay positive and keep this enthusiasm you have so much of in these stories.