Laundry Day (Sunday, 2010 June 20)

June 21, 2010

I am starting to wonder whether I have re-used titles. Maybe I have.

Sundays are laundry day. Each time I do laundry, someone tells me a different way to do it. Claude, for example, uses a bar of soap in addition to the detergent. Since Claude is the only person who actually explains to me what he’s doing and how I’m not doing it right, I am inclined to follow him. I left my laundry to soak overnight, but the socks (which I hadn’t yet laundered) apparently aren’t colorfast. I have some newly stained (fr: "teinter", to stain) shirts. I bought these clothes knowing that they’d get destroyed, but I guess didn’t expect it to happen so fast. It’s hard to handle because hey, I used to know how to do laundry. All of a sudden there are so many things I don’t know how to do. Nothing here is as dispiriting as doing laundry — not the sense of time, not the language, not the stories Astride tells about the previous Organization volunteers who have married members of her family. Laundry day gets me down.

I didn’t iron my socks, because the family explained to me (first in French and then in English) that it would ruin (fr: "ablîmer", spoil, ruin, damage) the elastic. So instead I have to let them sit for a few days and hope I have enough "other socks" so that the tumbo flies don’t get me. (Did you know about tumbo flies? Happy birthday.)

Astride told me that I was the most handsome trainee in the training group. This was before I shaved, which is a process that has gone from every-two-days to once-or-twice-a-week. I looked pretty grisly when I looked at myself in the mirror, so today was shaving day. I managed.

Today I decided to listen to some music for a change. Astride was playing some music while I was doing something else; her selectioncs were mostly love songs, including one that was probably called "African Queen" and another by the same artist that made use of that phrase a few times. (I think she’s trying to hint at something.) If that weren’t enough, there’s a Coca-Cola ad campaign for the duration of the World Cup, which has a musical accompaniment: the lyrics go "Give me freedom, give me fire/ Give me reason, take me higher" — and it’s reasonably catchy, so periodically the locals will sing it, even if it’s not playing. Maybe I should talk to them — "don’t you realize singing this is tantamount to giving money to a large, multinational conglomerate?" — but in the meantime I’m furious. So now it’s "Spiders, Snakes" by A Weather; miscellaneous Palomar, and some stuff by Forest World. Maybe I will play some Zan-zan-zawa-veia and think of Gus.

Astride likes to ask me "Tu penses à quoi?" ("What are you thinking about?") Leaving aside that it’s kind of a personal quesiton, I wouldn’t even know how to begin to respond. I’m thinking about the flies, and how they chase each other, and how difficult it must be for flies to find other flies of the same species considering how many different flies there are around. I don’t know how to say that in French. I wouldn’t expect someone to understand in English either. Maybe I’ll just say that I’m thinking of my girlfriend.

I have a bit of a cold. Astride has helpfully told me numerous times that if I keep sniffling rather than blowing my nose, I will never feel better. I realized what I want to say: "I’m not a child, I’m a foreigner" — but I haven’t yet. Instead I said in broken French something like "I’ve already had been sick with colds, I know how it breaks". I think she got the point. I’m a little sick of Astride; I know I can’t fairly judge her parenting according to the standards of my culture, but seriously. She was painting her nails and Vladimir was interested, so she put some nail polish on his fingernail. A sixteen month old! Can you guess what happened next? That’s right, he put his fingers in his mouth. At which point she says "Ne manges pas!" ("Don’t eat that!"). She acts like he’s a nuisance — which he is, but he’s her nuisance. Hrrrngh. 21 is not old enough to be a mother. I doubt Astride will ever be old enough, frankly. The family has been teaching Vladimir to call my name. I can’t quite put my finger on why, but it bothers me.

There was some kind of argument in the family centering around Christelle (who is also called Osa. I asked her which she preferred and I think she said "both" so I call her Osa Christelle. Anyhow, she’s the teenager). Apparently she gave too much money for something, or received too much money in change, or something like that. Christelle lost in the end; M. Alemi found in favor of Mme. Alemi. Maybe they were in the right, but I remember being a teenager too and it was hard not to try to support her at least a little bit, or discourage the family from laughing at her after judgment was passed.

More Camfranglais: "Je go à la pyol [sp?]." "Go" is obviously English. "Pyol" is Jalet [sp?], a local language, and it means "house". Alors, "I am going to the/my house". I realized something about the Organization: those of us who don’t have a culture are able to get one throuh a few years of service. It’s a sort of a cultural reassignment surgery, among other things. It’s important to put "among other things", because pretty much everything that goes on here has multiple purposes. I wonder if all voluneter organizations are like that.

We borrowed a wheelbarrow (fr: "brouette") from Karen’s family to carry water from the forage back to the house. Claude climbed in and I pushed him. He liked it a bit, and he’s enjoyed telling everyone about it. While we were going downhill and accelerating just a little bit out of control he shouted (in English) "I am the best of the best!!!"

"Jodie, Jodie, Jodie, Jodie
Let me have your face my dear
Jodie, Jodie, Jodie, Jodie
And get myself up out of here

Jodie, I need you, I need you, I need you
But not like you think
I need you, I need you, I need you, I need you, I need you
But not like you think"

—Forest World, "Jodie Jensen"

Thanks to my parents for calling today. 49 cents a minute is steep.

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