Saturday, June 23, 2007

Dining in Agou

We’ve been in our training village, Aguou Nyogbo, for 10 days. Last Wednesday, the chief, elders and our host families welcomed us with music and speeches.

Since then, we’ve had language, technical and bike classes. We visited a market, annoying the sellers with questions on prices. We wandered around Kpalimé, the nearest city, after tearful breakdowns in internet cafes. On Sunday, eight of us hiked up Mount Agou with various “family” members. We visited a local state hospital. Yesterday, we learned how to make our own compost piles.

However, in spite of new families, a new climate that nurtures latrine-loving lizards, roaches and buzzing, winged creatures (I have a shower and a flush toilet. Total high-life), food remains tied with bowel movements as the conversation topic. Since one is not really polite or interesting conversation for non-volunteers, we’ll talk about food.

First off – I’m still vegetarian. After our first family meal, minus my five year-old brother, George, I announced that I don’t like meat, but I eat fish. For the next three nights, I had fish in every dinner. I meant that I like the occasional salmon, tilapia or flounder – not smoked fish every day.

The fish streak ended pâte night. Pâte means both pasta and a doughy, corn-based starch eaten with sauce. You use the pâte to scoop up the sauce. My mom’s sauce of choice is fish sauce made from greens called gboma, similar to collard greens. The gboma gives the sauce a brown, mucus consistency. Add the fish and voila! yuck. I ate it, but the next morning I told my mom no more fish sauce.

For breakfast, I had omelette two days in a row. To my host mom, omelette means semi-scrambled eggs garnished with raw tomato slices and large pieces of raw onion.

“Pas de omelette tomorrow, s’il vous plait»

In the last week, the breakfast spread expanded to bread, jam, margarine, homemade peanut butter and La vache qui rit cheese. I also have a bunch of bananas that I race to eat before they brown completely. I eat a lot of bananas.

At every meal, my host mom asks what I want to eat for the next meal (burritos, guac and a margarita). Since I don’t know her meal repertoire, I go off what I’ve eaten the last week. So again, lots of repeats. But aside from the trying to come up with meal ideas, I’m doing ok on the food thing. I’ve had no scares. One volunteer’s family gave him corn-based porridge for breakfast. They told him it was maize, which sounds like “mice”. He said, “No, thanks.”

We have avocados. That was really my biggest concern. I recently had a mango that completely reversed my stance on mangos. It was amazing.

And, on that note, I leave you with a wish list:

1.Chocolate candy (Ashley received Reeses in the mail and they were mostly unmelted).
4.35 mm negative holders
5.razors with soap in them
6.Secret gel deodorant. I don’t care what scent.
7.A 3 lb. tent (mom and dad? Birthday present?)