So, as I stated in an earlier post (it might have actually been on Facebook; I can’t remember, we’re gonna just roll with it), many of my updates are going to be sponsored updates. Every single person who has donated to my internship is considered a sponsor (and it’s not too late to join the bandwagon; I’m still looking for sponsors). It is my hope that through this, I can show exactly how local and global community functions. We are all connected to the people immediately near us, and around the whole world. Every decision made affects others. Therefore, those of you who decided to support my internship have a legitimate and tangible stake in the decisions I make during my internship (and on and on and on). Basically, you’ve entrusted me to make decisions (really rolling the dice there, everyone ha), and I will do my best to do my best.
Today was sponsored by Josh Wakeland, the projectionist extraordinaire at the SIFF Egyptian in Seattle (go there for your truly great cinema experiences, WA pals)! He was my very first GoFundMe sponsor—literally minutes after I posted it, and he is pretty cool, and awesomely ranks the The Man From U.N.C.L.E. as his favorite film of 2015 (heh heh). So, thank you once again Josh.
So, this morning, I went off to spend the day with Memunatu. She is a woman who works in the fair trade cooperative with Women of Hope. She lives with two of her daughters (Kadijah and Hawanatu) in a room in Makeni.
Sidi knew the way to her place (I think Sidi knows the way to everywhere), and it was pretty far from Women of Hope. All the more impressive that Memunatu comes all the way from there to the WOH offices several days a week (Memunatu had pretty severe polio and cannot walk without crutches, and mainly travels with the use of a hand pedal cart).
I think that Memunatu was a bit uncomfortable with my arrival at first. She wanted to treat me as a guest, but I was there to learn. The idea of white Westerners knowing everything (or more accurately trying to control everything) is very pervasive. I don’t want to say that I know exactly why that is (because that would be exactly what a white Westerner does ha!), but I always wonder if it is some combination of a recent colonial past (British Empire legit ruined everything), a mysticism about what exists in far-off America (it is not all perfect and wonderful and disease-free), and the simple fact that many white Westerners feel very comfortable/insist on filling the role of the all-knowing saviour.
It is a comfortable role. I understand that. But, it must be personally combatted at every urge, because there is only harm. What use is it to the disenfranchised to be explained away to other people by other people?
Anyway, so I think it took a bit of an internal struggle for Memunatu to let me do something (although, she certainly was still treating me very considerately), or experience her typical day as it unfolds. She shared her photos with me: of her family, her daughters who live away from her, and personal photos. In turn, I was able to then show her photos I had of my siblings, my parents, and my sister’s and brother’s pikin (“children”). There were also about eight children milling about at any given time and that is my most favorite (children will shout “apato” [white] at me always). We all spelled out our names with charcoal in the dirt outside. And two of the six-year-old boys questioned whether I was a woman or a man (not the hair’s fault this time, but the hikingesque boots that I was wearing). Kadijah attempted to set them straight. None of them realized that I understood exactly what they were saying. Haha
After sitting and talking with Memunatu for a while, her older daughter Hawanatu (in form 3 aka like 9th grade) arrived home, and I went with her to market—while Memunatu rested. It was a nearby small market, and Hawanatu bought fish, rice, oil, peppers, and spices. While Memunatu wanted me to be her guest, Hawanatu was sure that I had no idea what was going on. When we crossed the street to get to the market, she informed me that we had to wait until the motorbikes had passed. HAHAHAHA. She just knew I was gonna ramble off into the street.
We came back (somehow managed to safely cross that road) and I helped Memunatu sweep her floor. And then, it was time to cook. I told Memunatu that she had to teach me everything, because I did not know how to cook at all. She set me off sifting through the rice and pulling out everything that wasn’t rice. I spent a ponderous amount of time on this, and when I handed it back she pretended it looked great, but secretly picked out a few more grains. Meanwhile, she was cleaning the fish.
As she cooked the meal, she let me dump water and guts and etc, and also explained what she was doing along the way. She also let me do a taste test on the soup to see if it needed more spice. *laughing crying face* I am the wimpiest when it comes to spice, so I believe I explained back that it tasted great, but I also do not know what I am talking about. Somehow, during this whole cooking time, I met several random individuals, was asked my marital status (basically an ice-breaker in SL if you’re an American female), and was informed by a 22-year-old guy that if I married an African man I would need to learn to cook better and should come back and complete a “practical” for him to prove what I have learned. HA.
I also taught some pikin how to play basketball (little Muhammad had a Lakers shirt on; I couldn’t resist that).
After we finished preparing the meal (we is used very vaguely here, but I was an active learner), we ate it. Delicious. I was provided a spoon by Hawanatu, and Kadijah showed me how she washes her hands (with a cup of water, through the bars of the window in the room that faces outside), and we sat and ate. I foolishly tried to eat only the fish meat and not the skins, but Memunatu set me straight.
After food, it was time for a rest. Hawanatu was OUT OF THERE. And, I was really hoping she would invite me to join, but no, I got stuck resting. Such an odd and uncomfortable task for me: sitting quietly with no distraction, conversation, or ability to read random Wikipedia articles on my phone. But, sit quietly I did. For around two hours. I contemplated life and took a video of my feet with Bob Marley’s “Redemption Song” wafting in through some radio somewhere.
Kadijah on the other hand was loving life.
I ended up leaving Memunatu’s place a bit earlier than planned, because of some circumstances with WOH, but it was really a wonderful, relaxing, learning time—and it really helped to build a foundation for a relationship with Memunatu. I will be working with her over the next few months, as she is part of WOH, and it means so much to me that she might understand that I am a) not a genius and b) will try very hard to not take any control from her at all. I gave a host gift of some delicious smelling hand lotions from America (thanks, mother), and some Washington-made fruit leather (thanks, fruit trees).
Later today, I went to the Makeni Regional Hospital with Kim and Ruth (the person who runs WOH in-country/my intern supervisor) to visit a patient/find out what was going on. A woman affiliated with WOH was there with her baby who is very, very ill. It is not known exactly, but could be some combination of measles and pneumonia (plus a painful boil). Prayers for her are certainly appreciated, and updates will be available on the Women of Hope Facebook page.
Tonight, I also handed off my passport to a wonderfully helpful immigration person (IDK exactly?) who will process my residency permit this week. Tomorrow, I will be visiting some old friends in Rogbom and I am so excited to see my padis (also will be riding on the back of a motorbike, so enjoy this update).
I have been here only two days, and I have been able to experience and learn so much already. My “work” will start in earnest next week, and I can only imagine the possibilities for growth and progress in me.
Thank you for supporting me and trusting me to use your money to make good decisions in our global community.
Also, thank you for continuing to support me, as I reach closer to my needed goal (shout-out to recent sponsor Dr. Charette!).
Another update soon.