Monday, March 28, 2016

Let's Get Serious

There is urine running down my calf, and its not my own.

Its a situation I've found myself in more times here than I can count. And in some ways its a blessing.

One thing they don't tell you about when you join the Peace Corps is that you become a full time babysitter, entertainer, object of extreme fascination. Here in Adourekoman, not a day goes by when I don't find myself sporting a child, molded to my back like a new appendage. It reminds me of intro biology and the idea of a symbiotic relationship. These kids breathe love into my life and all I have to do is deal with pee stains, crying, the occasional projectile vomit. I'm honestly not being sarcastic, on days when I need a little motivation, I have hundreds of smiling faces to turn to.

I measure success in smiles. 

The village observed Easter this weekend. It started with the last segment of the journey of the cross. For the past 14 weeks, a group has gathered to walk and pray through the village, commemorating Jesus' last march. I've always been invited to join them, but have watched from afar.

Saturday night brought the normally scheduled prayer session at the Catholic Church, complete with singing, dance and tam tams that echo through the town. There's a reason I've worn earplugs for the last nine months.
I took advantage of Sunday mass to do a long yoga session, walking out into the sunshine of the morning just as the herds were making their way home. People celebrated with quick family meals before heading out to the fields; the arrival of the rainy season means cultivation and no one is wasting time hanging around while there is corn to plant and beans to sow.

Having enjoyed a relaxing, albeit peep and bunny-less Easter, I went to bed to the sound of partying outside, soothed by the sound of life around me. What once used to bother me is now comforting. It makes this feel like home.

I was awoken today by loud knocking on my door. My 6:30 alarm hadn't gone off yet and I wasn't in any rush to jump out of bed. I lay there in silence, hoping they would give up, but no such luck. By 6:33 I was up, dressed, and greeting a party of 23 women who had come by for baby weighing.

Although I'd asked these women to come by two weeks ago, I appreciated that they finally showed up. We went through the routine greetings then settled down in a semi-circle in front of my house. One by one, we weighed the babies using a scale I rigged up on the shade tree in my yard. The babies giggled, some wailed, but no matter what, it made me smile.

Its amazing to think that babies born when I arrived in Benin are now starting to crawl, in a few months they'll be mobile. I see my own progress in their steps. For us, everything has been new. We've made the same mistakes (grinding pepper then touching our eyes) and have relied on other people to take care of us. While I don't want to paint the picture of being treated like a newborn, my point is that I'm part of a community that cares, works, triumphs and loves.

I found myself at an Easter Monday mass this afternoon. A makeshift church had been assembled at the base of a Colline. Although I couldn't follow the service, I understood why people were there. I saw joy and celebration in their eyes. The children danced around the aisles and a stranger handed me her newborn to hold. I pulled the child close to me, gazed into those curious little eyes and, all of a sudden, felt a warm liquid trickling down my leg. I smiled.

Its not that I've softened. Or even that things don't bother me anymore. But more that I've come to realize that some things are just completely out of my control.

Step back, appreciate what you have, and just remember not to take life too seriously. Its only pee after all.

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