So many things crammed into a day. Once again, things want to come out in mixed up jumbo that won't make much sense. Mama is a retired mid-wife. She is also loud, bossy, brash, and all sorts of things that perhaps only someone who has loved Grandma Paulson dearly could also adore Mama. This morning as I came out of my room into the courtyard there were people I had never seen before waiting for Mama to return from mass. Strangers in the courtyard are nothing unusual so I greeted them blearily and perfunctorily and went about my morning business. He was in his 20's or 30's and she was bent over on the stoop, quite quiet and perhaps in pain. After dressing and sitting down to eat breakfast, they were also in the room (the only common room) across from me. Mama had returned and came out of her bedroom with a tiny first aid kit and led them into this other room that I thought was for grain storage, no one ever goes in there.
Mama comes back after a few minutes, chats about random things for a bit. I was trying not to be nosy but couldn't help it any longer "was everything OK?" I asked. She told me they had come from far, she was 5 months pregnant and the baby was "rotten" or "spoiled" (I'm translating from broken French, but that's some word you use for food gone bad). The mother had malaria and something was wrong. There was nothing I could do and I was late for lessons. Mama said she fixed it, the baby's OK now. Class was a nightmare this morning, luckily I talked to you all, so was riding high from all of that and preparations for post visit and the big conference tomorrow where we meet the Togolese counterparts we work with for the next 2 years, so it completely slipped my mind. We had the afternoon free so instead of going home like normal, we went to Kpalime for post-visit shopping, french fry eating and internet time. Coming home I want to show the family the African dress I bought for tomorrow. It's always a game to ask what Mama would have paid for something and then tell her what I paid. There's usually a huge "yovo" markup, but I am a fierce bargainer and a little local language goes a long way. I show my dress, model them for the crowd in the courtyard, you know loud fun brou-ha-ha. I take a bucket bath, come out and Mama is shouting to Ama (10 year old host sister) to bring her bleach and soap. Since Mama yelling to Ama to bring her something is by no means unusual, I stand beside her and make fun of her. Then I realize there is a hurried air that is quite unusual, I ask what's happening. She looks at me and says "the child has left" I'm thinking she's talking about her 40 year old party boy son Jean who just left the courtyard and ask "Who? Jean? He'll be back soon, he's always leaving", "no, no Louise, the baby was rotten, it's gone now." "What? What are you saying?". "It's finished, the mother is resting." Mama is laughing at the obvious shock and horror on my face and my stumbling, stumbling questions. "Louise, what's your problem, it was rotten, now it's gone, everything is fine." I walk around the courtyard in a daze. "But Mama, this is serious, it's sad....." Everyone is staring at me as if I am from another planet. "But Mama, can I do anything?" "Louise, do what? The work is finished. And what do you want to do? What can you do?" All of this is said with total bemusement, laughter, and surprise at my reaction. Everyone else is either laughing at me (not meanly, the " the yovo is so funny and strange" laugh) or going about their business. I am trying to eat and write this at the same time. They are serious about feeding their yovos here.
And all I can think of is hospitals, pre-natal care, malaria medicine, pre-mies that make it and the casualness of death here. They don't have the luxury of mourning every death.
OK, now I think I am going to lose it. No less than 5 minutes after I wrote the above, Kokou (host -brother-30's) stole a cigarette from Mama (jokingly-right in front of her), she also joking, yells "thief, thief" in Ewe, then they tell me that if a thief gets caught they throw a tire around their neck, fill it with gas, and light it on fire. Just thought you'd want to know. I mean , WOW!
No time to close properly. All is great. Off for a week at my new post in Notse. Wish me luck. I love you all and miss America!!