This post is brought to you by Taylor Pool and Beki Rohan as a cyber-stone of rememberance of our two months spent as roommates and friends. :)
First, know that we are typing these words in Apple’s Pages because the internet isn’t guaranteed to work long enough to save our work until the moment of posting.Second, know that we just ate bananas, peanut butter, jelly, chocolate milk and salt as a midnight snack together. The salt was all Taylor, though. Many of you who are also sweating your brains out in Africa right now might understand.
Reality is a strange thing. It’s all about perspective. In hot season, the three-bedroom / two-bathroom house becomes a studio apartment thanks to the sole A/C unit in the house that is set at a frigid 80 degrees fahrenheit. In a two-month span we went from boiling water for a bucket shower in our hot water heater-less home to sweating from the moment we step out of the cold shower to the moment we get back in it. Finding lizards and geckos in the house is a good thing because it means there are less mosquitos, even if you have to clean up lizard poop that sporadically falls from the ceiling. Suddenly, the concept of uploading a tiny 50 MB video about an airplane to Facebook seemed like we were actually trying to upload the plane to Facebook, i.e. impossible, due to the lethargic internet connection that has “good” days and bad days. Flooding the kitchen every time you do dishes or fill up the water jugs is no big deal because it evaporates in minutes anyway. And don’t forget to freeze your coffee and chocolate and refrigerate everything else, including chewing gum, because if you don’t, you will have a melty mess in no time.
In Africa, going four-wheeling on a two-wheeled moto is a lifestyle. In the land where the lanes are made up and the road rules don’t matter, when Taylor hears the words “I’m sorry” from the front seat, she knows she’s either about to jump a curb or taking the sandy route, both of which mean it’s time to stop breathing because if we do fall, at least she will die faster that way. Taylor’s moto-riding skills did drastically improve, however, from the first “I’m going to fall off!” to the time when Taylor almost did fall off because she got so used to riding without hanging on.
Then there’s the guard saga. Our first house guard made his bed on the driveway at 9 p.m. whether we were home or not. No amount of door slamming, laughter or loud gate opening could keep this one awake. We think the poor guy was a farmer, based on the amount of lettuce he brought us, so it made sense he would be so tired. Of course, we couldn’t know for sure, though, because the guy didn’t speak much French. After we got a new guard, our lives got more normal but this guy's got a lot weirder. He shows up in his own uniform proving what a great worker he is. So he fixes the loud gate that sticks; we are sad because now we can’t tell when people show up. He washes the moto; we shout “no!” because the previous guard drowned the gas tank. He tries to put the bike back together; we tell him to stop, collect the pieces and scramble inside with them with no explanation. We go outside to collect the drying laundry after dark; the power goes out and while we stand there laughing, paralyzed by the darkness, he wonders what’s wrong with us while he collects his flashlight to send us back inside safely. Thank goodness a laptop was charged because not only could we see our way back to the table, but we got to post-pone cleaning the kitchen to watch the Cosby Show, the TV series that taught us everything we know about parenting.
Finally, during our two months together, Beki and Taylor learned many things. Here is a brief list:
- When inviting a family of six over for lunch, make sure you count the chairs, plates and forks in the house before you send the invitation.
- Composting works. Just don’t start the pile in your kitchen, even if the pile is in a closed bucket.
- Toilets can be fixed with nothing more than four hands, duct tape and cut-up plastic bowls.
- It takes four official border stops to get from Niger to Burkina Faso, so if it’s 4 a.m., you can’t understand a word of what’s being said and you find yourself descending from the bus yet again, you should happily hand over your passport to whoever is standing at the bottom in uniform. Don’t worry; you’ll get it back. Eventually.
- If you struggle with being rejected, don’t try to hail a taxi because they may or may not pick you up, based on whether they like where you say you are going.
- Taxis look like they hold a driver and four passengers, but really, they hold as many people as the driver cares to pick up on the street. You better hope your neighbor has a comfty lap and a squishy spleen.
- If your taxi driver gets in a car accident or feels the need to run some personal errands along the way, just stay put. You will get there. Eventually.
- Six months out of the year there is no weather segment on the local news because it’s always hot, dry and dusty and everyone knows it (real fact).
- Omo can clean everything.
- Heat eats elastic so if you happen to be pushing your moto through town because it broke down, your pants might end up around your knees, which will earn you many more smiles and salutes from the policemen and bystanders than you are used to. (That one was all Beki).
- Cockroach isn’t just the name of a Cosby character, but it’s a large bug often found in our house. But if you leave it squirming on it’s back long enough, it dies and clean-up is less annoying.
- When you take off your Tom’s and it looks like you have an epic Tom’s tanline on your feet, don’t be alarmed, it’s all just dirt. Be careful though. Dirty feet plus water plus walking equals muddy footprints everywhere.
- Moto wins. Every time.
- When your two options are to laugh or to cry, it’s better to laugh because there’s less to clean up.
Two months spent in one house, on one moto, doing the same work with the same people could either end very well or very badly. We thank God that for us it was the former and that we are both walking away with great memories, a great friendship and matching six-packs (yeah right) thanks to all that laughing.