Being a liiiiittle peace soldier is quite the life. Sometimes I feel like I contribute so much to my students’ learning and sharing important information to fellow teachers and the community. Other times I feel like a lost flower petal pushed along by the wind, slightly bruised by failed attempts to create regular extracurricular activities. Work is difficult everywhere, whether it by in college, in the SF Yelp office, or a village in Africa. But it’s the people around you, your friends and family, who keep you motivated and lift you up. Since most of you won’t be able to meet the people around me now, I thought I’d give little profiles on some of the people who always breathe joy into my spirit.
Léodoric: Léo is my 14 year old brother from when I lived in Porto Novo with a host family for three months. He reminds me vaguely of my father due to his love for computers and video games. He has a somewhat shy nature when you first meet him, but then he opens up and throws out hilarious and endearing remarks. I have so many weird jokes with him. One is that I have a peculiar odor that he can smell. For example, when I’d get home from training and ring at the door, he’d open it grinning saying, “I KNEW it! I KNEW it was you. I smelled you!” Now whenever I see him I question him on the pungency of my scent. This might sound weird, but we have so much fun teasing each other. We also would always do laundry at the same time and discuss the trials and tribulations of the “Laundry War,” which is a definite struggle washing by hand. Also, for a 14 year old, his English is impeccable. This is the text I got from him this morning: “hello how are you? I know that now you are sleeping (he knows me so well! Early to bed Mariah) but I want to tell u that I am going to pass an exam tomorrow and I need u to wish me good luck. I’ll be waiting for it tomorrow morning at 7h or 8h am bye” haha. I looooooooove him!
Mama Akoridji/Mama Matinèss: This is the mama who speaks broken English. She collects water for the water pump at the school and also sells frozen drinks in plastic bags, gari, and peanuts. She learned English when she was living in Nigeria working for some Hungarian organization. She’s also a fantastic dancer at church, moving those hips and showing her joy. Everyday during the 10 AM break between classes I sit with her at the water pump. She’s basically my “in” with the village women pumping water. As she helps women lift heavy basins of water onto their heads, she proclaims in English, “The black woman is a POWERFUL woman.” And it’s so true. Their life is NOT easy from carrying water to their homes, collecting firewood, going to the fields, preparing dinner, caring for the kids, and for the girls, keeping up with their studying. This mama is so helpful in teaching me how to say things in Idaasha and explaining the drama and inter-workings of village life. She’s also very curious about my life and family and asks lots of questions. Her son, Matiness is getting married in December and we’ve been having fairly regular banana bread baking sessions so she can bake a BIG cake for his wedding. She’s one of the people who probably knows my personality, troubles, and joys the best.
Malik and Aisatou: Malik is a 3e student and my neighbor. Aisatou, his sister, is in 5e and my student. They are both hard workers and have kind, respectful personalities. A couple weeks ago I exclaimed how I had just tried “pois d’angol” or in Idaasha “kolo”, which are crops somewhere between lentils or beans. Later that night, Malik brought me over a big bowl of “kolo” that they had harvested from their fields and on Sunday we prepared a feast. Along with the help of Aisatou, the fairly simple meal was superb. A dash of garlic, a sprinkling of hot pepper, fried onions, and gari….mmm We ate all together and shared with the hoard of small children who amiably invaded my house to watch the preparations. The whole process made me feel so connected with them, like a part of the family. The more I get to know them and joke with them, the more relaxed and comedic they become as well. Malik always hangs out with me on our porch and we chat and Aisatou and I often chat on the way to or from school. They’re excellent students and I’m thankful to have such friendly and helpful people in my life.