I'd love to update on some great project or meaningful development work I'm doing here, but frankly, it won't happen for a while. This is the norm for volunteers at this stage - we are still trying to learn our local language and get familiar with our communities and needs before we start anything big. It looks like what my village needs and wants the most is a women's association, with a building and a craft/education center, which I am REALLY excited about spearheading! It will be a long and slow process, though, as we organize the women into a cooperative, contract teachers, apply for funding, hire construction workers, etc. So, friends and family back home, be patient with me - I'll keep you updated as things progress!
So instead of a work update, I'll just share a few pieces of my daily life here.
I have moved into my own home now, but it is attached to my host family's house, so my biggest challenge these days is redefining my boundaries with them. I love them, but really value my independence and privacy. I tried to communicate this, but interestingly, there is no word in Tashelheet that means "independence" or "privacy"! The conversation went something like this:
Me: Auntie, thank you for always making me food, but I want to cook for myself.
Auntie: Why? You don't like our bread?
Me: No, the bread is yummy, and I love the family! I just need to be... (tries to find the word "independent")...
Auntie: In the kitchen! Ah, yes, it is good for a woman to be in the kitchen.
Not exactly the message I was going for, but at least I'm cooking on my own now.
Up until recently, I have been really dependent on them for getting anything done - going to the shop, buying eggs from the neighbor, etc. Now that I want to do those things on my own, I've gotten a little resistance and have really had to put my foot down. I feel like a rebellious teenager!
Conversation that occurred when I tried to go to the shop by myself:
Me: I am going to the store to buy flour.
Auntie: No, just use ours! We have flour!
Me: Thank you, but I need to buy some for me.
Auntie: (Reluctantly) Ok... we will go to the store tomorrow.
Me: No, I will go now.
Auntie: Now!! Alone!?
Me: Yes, alone.
Auntie: It is.... difficult.
Me: I am going now.
Auntie: (Angry) FINE! Go. You want to go alone, go. Fine. Ok. GO.
At this point I started wondering if there was something I didn't know about going to the store alone, if I was making a terrible mistake, but it was too late to turn back. I set off across the river bed, and got about halfway when I heard Auntie frantically yelling "MALIKA!" and running after me. Oh no, I was thinking, what now? Is she going to forcibly restrain me? Is she going to guilt-trip me? And panting, out of breath, she said, "Malika. Please ask if the shop has chocolate. Your sister wants to bake cookies." And that was that.
Having a sense of humour keeps you sane around here!