Rest (Sunday, 2010 June 13)

June 17, 2010

It’s Sunday, which is our day of rest. (We have classes Saturday.) I got to sleep in — I thought I was going to have to go to church, like with other black families with whom I’ve stayed, but instead I slept until like 8. I needed that because I had been up late watching "the game" (USA vs. England) with the other stagiers (trainees). I obviously don’t care even a little bit but it was an excuse to get out of the house a bit and drink.

But knowing that today was "free", I maybe overcommitted myself. I promised I would go to the market with Astride and buy some stuff so I could learn how to cook it, and also today is laundry day, and also I had a short assignment for French class, and also a longer assignment for cross-culture (which I still haven’t done). And when I woke up, it became clear that someone (me and Claude) had to get water from the forage (which, it turns out, are actually built by a European, Claude says German, aid society called CAFOR). Also Hyacinthe wanted to wash the floor and I wanted to help.

Going to the "big market", which I had not done before, was an experience. I didn’t know what I was looking for, how to find it, how to pick it, how much to pay for it, or anything else. Astride did all of those things, and when pressed, she explained a little bit about each (you know before you go; you just know or sometimes you ask; you pick the one that suits you; you just know I guess), but I felt very disoriented, which continued when she told me she was going to burn her hair. I thought this was a cute idiom, or maybe a peculiar folk remedy for her frequent headaches, but after I watched them work white cream into her hair, I became fairly certain that she was actually going to do it.

After about ten minutes, she informed me in English that the cream was changing color because her head or scalp was dirty, and that you have to be dirty or else it would damage your skin (or something like that). After another ten, it became clear to me that the phrase "burning (one’s) hair" identifies a chemical process, and afterwards she explained to me that it softens your hair. But it really does burn; she has a couple places on her forehead which are a little singed.

I was pretty sick of not understamding anyone and not being understood also, so I kind of crapped out a little in the afternoon. But then Claude really seriously taught me how to iron clothes, and I smell a little less moldy, and maybe everything’s gonna be OK.

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