And the Wall Came a’Tumblin’ down.
While I was in Ouaga at the American Language Center helping with English, I got several text messages and phone calls telling that my wall had fallen down. This wall was just built in November and I had some concerns about it early on. It was built in the local building style, out of mud bricks with a bit of straw (shades of the Israelites in Egypt), and I noticed right away that it was leaning outward rather than being really upright. Furthermore, the mason who built it put one end of it under the roof overhang so as soon as the rain started, that part of the wall washed away. My friends took some rubble from a house that had collapsed and put it along the base of that part of the wall to try to protect it from the rain water flowing past, but that was not enough. But it was not only the wall that had been leaning, but the one on the opposite side of the house that fell, too. They both fell away from the house, so it was not the wind that blew it over, although there was a big wind with that rain storm.
My friend Prosper tried to support the remainder with some big branches.
In spite of that, a couple of weeks later, the rest of that part of the wall fell over.
To top it off, the wall in the back of the house went over, too. This is looking hopeless! They will not be able to do anything about it while it is the rainy season, and I am afraid the bricks will all melt away before it is time to build again. This is not my problem, however. When the Peace Corps sets up a site, there is an agreement that the community will provide housing for the volunteer with a courtyard and a hangar, as well as a private latrine and a private house with at least two rooms. I have it all, except for the wall. I do miss my privacy, but I can live with it for now.
Dutch oven burns up
Here is a picture of my cannary and marmite that I have posted before. To make a Dutch oven, you fill the bottom of the marmite with 3 inches of sand and put it on a burner on the stove and heat it for a couple of hours to get rid of the dirt taste.
I did that and the Dutch oven to baked things pretty well. That is how I made the small cakes, in muffin pans, for the birthday party I wrote about before. It was OK, but it was a bit hard to get things in and out of it. I was also worried I was going to run out of gas. I understand you really get no warning. In the middle of cooking, suddenly the burner just goes off.
I decided I wanted a bigger version that sits on its own gas burner. That way I would have a bigger Dutch oven and I also have an emergency backup gas supply. Here is a picture of the final project.
On the way to getting this, however, I burned up a marmite. A friend who has a similar one told me just to use high heat. No problem. I turned the burner on fairly high to burn out the dirt taste and, after an hour or so I thought I was hearing something funny. When I checked it out, it looked like a leaf had blown in and was sitting on the burner. When I looked more closely I realized it was a part of the bottom of the pot! The bottom melted off and the sand spilled out. I was luck that the burner was not damaged. Here is the pot with the hole in it.
My friend Prosper had bought the marmite and burner at the marché and had brought them home on his moto. When I burned a hole in the bottom of the pot he went back to the marché and got the guy who had sold the pot to him. The merchant agreed to go back to the man who made the pots and to get several from which we would be able to chose our favorite. Prosper’s wife, Martine, tapped and lifted them and picked the one she thought was best. So far she appears to have made the right choice. I have made cakes, cookies, biscuits and even roasted a piece of pork in it. Luckily it did not do any damage to the burner, so a new pot with lower heat seems to have fixed the problem.
Cell phones and my internet connection
As I may have said before, most adults carry cell phones, referred to her as “portables.”
There are several different service providers, but the one I use is Airtel. It used to be Zain, but they were bought out by a Japanese company last spring and the name changed. So did the color of all the little booths all over the country where you can by “unité,” the way you buy minutes (or seconds in this case) of air time in the US. The network here if often overloaded, making reception TERRIBLE!!!! There are often dropped calls, a message that the network is busy, or ZERO bars anywhere. And, if the call goes through, it often has so much static it is hard to hear the other person. It is even worse in Ouagadougou (the capital) than it is in my little village.
My internet connection is with the same company. The only way I can get on line is to get up early in the morning, when no one else is on the network. Then it is sometimes about as fast as being in a cyber café (internet café) in a big city. Sometimes even that connection is slow, but it is certainly better than no connection at all. Several times it has taken be three days to get my blog uploaded and my e-mail notices sent out. I do try to post about once a week, but the net work does not always cooperate.
I do not mean to complain. These stories are just to give you an idea of what it is like here. This is a developing (third world) country, after all, and it is all part of the adventure.