Friday, February 22, 2008

The Unfortunate Tale of the Cat in the Latrine... and other stuff

Since I arrived in Sagbiebou, my landlord has gradually expanded the compound. We have an almost completed wall enclosing the yard, and behind my neighbors’ house (the ones across the yard with the two little girls), he’s built a shower stall and the beginnings of a latrine. The latrine is currently only a 10-foot hole with cement walls. A wall with a small square window in the middle divides the hole into two compartments. I don’t know why. I’m not that well-versed in latrine construction.

Up until last week, I threw my food waste behind the house, so I passed the latrine hole daily. I always checked to see if anything was new in the hole – lizards fall in frequently and bake to death since cement walls are kind of hard to climb. Then last Monday, there was something new: a black and white cat. I’m fairly sure this was the same cat I’d occasionally seen dodging around in the field behind my house. It’s probably the only cat in Sagbiebou, and I doubt it belonged to anyone.

Pet or not, I wanted the cat out of the latrine. Lizards can bake, but I didn’t want a baked, starved cat on my head. I also thought little would be more fun for children than tormenting a trapped animal. Mission Rescue the Cat (and make a friend?) began. I thought maybe if I saved it, it might hang out and eat rodents.

It wasn’t much of a mission. All I did was find a plank of wood and lower it into the hole so that it rested on the window of the dividing wall. My neighbor helped, and then we left, hoping the cat would figure that out. We checked throughout the day, but it stayed in a corner. I thought maybe it would take a chance at night, when we were quiet and sleeping.

The next morning the cat and plank were gone. Excellent. The cat climbed out and my neighbor removed the plank. As I turned to go back to my house, Alima, my neighbor’s wife, corrected my idealistic assumptions.

“Les enfants l’ont tué,” she said. The kids killed the cat.

“No. It’s not there anymore, it climbed out,” I told her.

“No. The kids killed it. Look, there’s blood.”

Oh. Indeed. There was blood.

So, apparently, these “kids” (I’m thinking they were probably young adults, because that is a deep hole for children) climbed down and killed the cat with a knife.


“To eat.”

I didn’t like Togo very much that day.

Other than that, the last few weeks have been more good than bad. We’re still doing HIV/AIDS in health club, and the English club met for the third time this Wednesday. I think the students enjoy it, although I don’t know if tongue-twisters and the “Hokey-Pokey” will do much for their English. Last Wednesday, they listened to the Voice of America’s “Special English” news broadcast at my house for the first time. They understood “Monday”. We’ll work on that.

Last Friday, I met with three women and three female students to discuss activities for International Women’s Day. We decided to hold a girls’ soccer match with a message given prior to the game. This will be Sagbiebou’s first Women’s Day celebration, and I hope it begins both a tradition and a girls’ soccer team. The men who lead the Saturday morning runs (totally out of my hands now, which is great) have been talking about a team. My counterpart is among this group, and he told me they want to pick the best players from that game to form a team.

Last Sunday, I went to Mango and rode my bike to see the hippos. There’s a dam about five kilometers outside Mango, and that’s where the hippos hang. Other volunteers said that when they visited, some boys were singing and the hippos seemed to love it. So we tried to sing to them. They were shy and stayed out in the water, poking up their heads to see if we were still there. I suppose shy hippos are better than hungry hippos. Next time I want to see more than eyes and ears, though. Maybe we have to learn the African hippo-calling song, since “Hippos! Hippos!” and a “Whole New World” failed.