Saturday, March 28, 2009

It's Millet Time

So after Kate's official memorial Wednesday, I headed off to my friend's village about an hour or so north of Cotonou to spend few days painting an HIV/AIDS (VIH/SIDA, in French) mural. Her post was really nice, and the people there were awesome. We started working late on Wednesday, going to the health center where she works to put on a prime coat of paint on the wall for the mural. The next day we went back and painted all day Thursday and Friday. I'm pretty sure I either had sun poisoning or just got really dehydrated on Friday because Friday night through Saturday morning I felt absolutely terrible. My whole body ached, my head was pounding, and i was in severe gastrointestinal distress (that might have been unrelated to dehydratin though...I'll get to that later). I woke up Saturday morning with a fever (only 100.1...not too bad, I guess) but drank some very disgusting ORS and water (Oral rehydration salt...possibly the most disgusting thing ever invented but really gets the job done when you are dehydrated) and felt better a few hours later. It's pretty annoying because I Actually put SPF 70 sunscreen on that morning but i sweat and wiped it off i guess, within about 5 minutes of applying it. You can't win.

Pictures: Painting the mural, the little boy who we think might have skipped school to help us paint a little (he was so cute and was so excited to help us...he didn't speak french, and was on crutches because his legs were so severely burned. Actually, one of his legs was resting in a fake mold of a leg because I guess it was so badly damaged though I ahve no idea how)

Saturday morning we did finishing touches on the mural (kids kept smudging the paint after we would leave each night) and went to the school where we were hostig a HUGE sensibilisation on HIV/AIDS, including a discussion on the myths and realities and condom demonstrations. A guest speaker from PSI (Population Services International) came and did a whole talk in local language (Fon) which was amazing and there was a DJ, a little marching band to parade around town and announce the event, etc. Afterwards we marched over all together to the health center to unveil the mural and offer free depistage (HIV/AIDS testing). I just found out today that 108 people got tested yesterday, which is pretty awesome. So it was a successful event.

Pictures: Kaili showing the men who think they are "too large" for condoms that the condom can stretch down her hand and arm, the children who were watching the sensibilisation (if you look closely to the little girl sitting on the right hand side, you can see her hair is blondish, which means she is pretty damn malnourised with Kwashiokor--severe lack of protein in her diet), the marching band who announced the event throughout the village, all of us doing condom demonstrations, march to the health center to see the mural, and the audience at the health center.

My friend lives in a concession with a family that is practically her family. She never cooks for herself...just buys food and gives it to the family so that they prepare it and she eats with them every night. Sometimes to say thank you she cooks one big meal for them and we decided since they had been cooking for us since we got there that Friday night we would cook for them. Apparently word traveled that i make good lentils (i do, actually) so she asked me if we could make them since it is pretty easy. I have never bough lentils in a marche here...I have only ever gotten them in a supermarche in Cotonou. So i was surprised when she said she had them in her marche. So we went out Friday to the marche to get ingredients and passed her usual bean lady. Nothing there looked remotely lentil-like so we moved on to anotehr bean lady. There was this big bin of stuff that i thought didn't look exactly like lentils because they were round. But they were the same size and color as the regular lentils that I buy. THe difference is that the ones from the supermarche are split. Anyway, everyone was a little iffy on whether or not these were really lentils, myself included, but none of us said anything, and admittedly, i was the one in the end who said "let's get them, they're lentils."

Pictures: Nat and me in the Marche, Zul being adorable, Zul Cami and Me

So we take them back to her house and her maman asks her "did you mean to buy these?" and we said yes thinking that preparing lentils would be such a treat for them if they weren't used to it. So we crushed up piment, sauteed garlic and onions, added the lentils, covered it with water and bouillion and let it simmer...normally when i make them they are done in about 20 minutes. 2 hours of boiling at high heat later, the lentils were still hard and chewy, the rice was long done, and the family was hungry. The maman came in to see our progress and asked us "Do you usually prepare that like that? Really?" THe entire time they were cooking we told ourselves "give it another 20 minutes...they're getting softer." As good as the sauce they were in tasted, they weren't really getting any softer. Eventually we asked the maman to come back in and taste them to see if they would eat it like that (Beninese are SUCH picky eaters when it comes to us trying to make them our style food). She took one bite, looked at us and said "jut give me rice," which was actually less offensive than we thought it would be...her expression of disgust was just to priceless. Long story short, we found out that we bought not lentils, but millet. Millet can not be digested easily and is usually just ground into flour and used for making porridge in the morning here. The whole family thought we were some crazy yovos. We all admitted to kind of having our doubts about whether or not they were actually lentils when we bought them, and as it turns out, you can't get lentils in the marche here. So THAT (not over-sun exposure) might have been what contributed to my 2:41am latrine run, during which time, there were approximately 14 mutant cockroaches running around the walls and floor making me want to cry.

I'd have felt a lot worse about my millet faux pas if this hadn't happened the following morning: We made's really hard to screw up pancakes, and gave it to her family, and their faces were so disgusted when they tasted it. They actually spit it out or didn't finish the piece and gave it all to the one kid that would eat it. So there...tough crowd to please. When my post mate made her host family a cake, they were grossed out by that too because they thought it was too sweet. They really liked unsweetened cornbread though...corn flour is such a staple of their diet anyway so i imagine that is partly why. 'Tis all for now...i am in Cotonou and have to be getting back to Dogbo. Not looking forward to a hot taxi ride. 'Till next time.


Anonymous said...

Hey buddy,
Whoa, and I thought I was a picky eater. Hehe, millet huh? Sounds...lovely, hehe. Hey, I think it would be cool to try your cooking. Guess people just have different appetites. SPF 70? hmmm didn't know it went up that high, guess when you come home need to get the sweat proof one. Speaking of which, can't wait till you come home dude! I have to go back to hw, hope all is well, and good hearing from you. Miss ya! Me-

Aunt Loretta said...

Hey Cat ...

Just checking in. U/Mike and I just returned from vacation and one of the first things I did was check your blog. You sound wonderful and I'm so glad to hear that. I've been worried about you and not having been able to reach out to you last week while we were away made me nervous. But I'm glad to hear you're feeling better and doing well. I've got some unpacking to do so I'll touch back later. Love you to the moon and back .... A/Loretta