Thanks to all who offered to be pen pals with folks here. In my village there is neither a post office nor a mail box. For these folks to write to you they have to make a trip to the next big town, about an hour away by motorcycle on a nasty dirt road, to mail a letter. That town also has a cyber café, so it is possible for people to use e-mail when they go there, but I doubt if any but those who have lived in a more urban environment have ever used a computer. In other words, it may be a while before you hear from anyone. I may also give your names to more than one person because I am not sure how serious most of these requests are. The idea of having a correspondent in another country may be exciting but the effort to write and mail a letter may discourage some folks. If you get a letter from someone here, I would love to hear about it. If you get more than one, feel free to pass one of them off to another person who might be interested in writing to someone here.
No cyber? Then how am I on the internet?
I brought my laptop with me, and I bought a USB cell phone modem in Oauga. If I get up at 3 or 4 in the morning and if the network is working at all, I get the best connection then. During the day and evening there are too many people using cell phones on the network and things move so slowly that I will run down my battery waiting for the screen to refresh when I delete a message or ask for the next e-mail from the JCU server. Sometimes the network is down but better than nothing. It works MOST of the time. I was recently unable to access the network for a couple of weeks. It turns out that was NOT the fault of the network, but I made a mistake in paying my monthly bill so I couldn't get on.
Those of you who know me well know my hands are ALWAYS cold and that I wear a long sleeved shirt or sweater most of the time. For once in my life I have warm hands. When I cross my arms, my hands are actually warmer than my arms because my arms sweat and the air cools them a bit. It is the mini hot season right now. The locals keep saying how hot it is, and I agree. People are sweating up a storm, including me.
An update on crops
The rainy season is almost over. People say there may be one or two more good rains, and then things will start to dry up. The corn has been harvested. People are husking and shucking the corn for drying and storage. Some folks have started to harvest the peanuts, but others are waiting for a good rain so the ground won’t be so hard. The petite mil (small millet aka bird seed) and grand mil (which looks like really tall corn until the tassel part gets heavier and heavier with the grain and the stalks start to bend) are also getting ripe but I guess it will be a while before they harvest it because they let the seed dry on the stalk. I will try to add here pictures of the millet when I first arrived and it looks like corn and how it looks now, with the grain ripening on the stalks. I don’t know how well this will show up on your computer screens, but there are both kind of millet in this field.
People also grow beans of various kinds. I have seen big pole beans being dried and, of course they have been drying the okra as it grows. The okra plants are very productive with very pretty flowers and the pods that seem to grow over night. There are also gourds growing on vines that may be climbing up the millet or covering a storage shed. These will be used for calabashes for eating and drinking.
More on traffic
Some of you asked about how safe the roads are here, after seeing the picture of the traffic. In a word, not very. One volunteer has already had to return to the states because she was hit by a moto while riding her bicycle and broke her ankle. I have seen wrecked busses being towed (two at least) and one collision between cars being sorted out by the police. I try to ride on the dirt roads as much as possible or to walk my bike on the shoulder. The one paved road through the center of town passes through my village fairly close to my house. It is kind of like living a block away from the free way. You hear the traffic, but it is not bothersome. In fact, there may be times when you don’t hear a truck or bus for five or ten minutes. When they do go by, they are often blasting their horns at bicycles, motos or donkey darts as they pass them.