Friday, December 28, 2012

The Day After Christmas

            The day started off with Carolina, my younger cousin, waking me up at 6:30 to play bonecas (dolls). I had spent the night at my uncle’s house the night before.  By 9:30 I was out the door and went home to a very uneventful afternoon.

Around 4 o’clock the day takes a turn.

             Since my step-dad has been back, he has gotten many invitations to be involved in different projects. Today we went to see two men who want him to be part of their fishing venture. Bissau is known for its abundance of fish(I can attest to that because I’ve eaten fish every single day since I’ve gotten here). They want him to become a partner in their project that would fish 3 tons every 3 days and sell their fish in the local market and eventually expand into selling in Senegal. My step-dad is very cautious about these project invitations, but so far he is looking pretty interested in this one.
My uncle showing us the edge of the property
            The meeting was cut short because my uncle showed up to take us to the ranch. The ranch is all my family has been talking about for the past couple years. It is 600 hectares of land that was passed down to my step-dad when his older brother passed away. We drove 20 minutes or so out of Bissau to Safim where we drove off the main road onto a small dirt road. After about 3 minutes on the road my uncle pointed to a tree and said, "the property starts here.” We continued to drive for  another 10 minutes until we reached the house.
            It was great to finally see what all the talk is about.  The ranch is huge and beautiful! We got to my step-dad’s house on the property and immediately people came up to greet us. There are lots of people living on the property. Marta Alice and her brothers, all who were raised by Avo Alice, were born on the ranch. From the little that I saw, there are rice fields, cashew trees, 50 hectares of wetlands, and lots of palm trees.  We didn’t stay long because it was getting dark, but we made plans to return soon after the new year.
My step-dad's house on his property
            As soon as I got home Isla, my neighbor and her boy friend, Waldir, come by and say “No Bai,” or “lets go.” Having no clue where we are going, but also just being excited to get out of the house, I got ready and we hopped on a toca-toca. We were headed to Barrio Ajuda, one of the neighborhoods in Bissau, where Waldir’s mom lives.
            Waldir’s mom was one of 5 of his dad's wives. He has a total of 16 brothers and sisters, 5 of which are full siblings.  I met a couple of his siblings including his twin brother. His mom brought out a plate of fish and rice, and as a courtesy since they were offering me food, I ate it. Before I came to Bissau my Aunt Elena advised me to never eat at someone’s house I didn’t know. However, from my experience so far, refusing food is like giving someone the finger. You just don't do it. 
         His mom brought out another plate. At this point I wasn't really not hungry, but I could not refuse without at least taking a bite. The meat looked like Goat, so I was excited! But after a closer look I realized it wasn't and when I asked what it was Waldir picked up a foot and said, “Its monkey!”
            Partly intrigued and surprised I picked up some meat and gave it a taste. Monkey meat tastes like how a monkey smells. Or the smell of a monkey is muscle deep? Anyways, after a bite I thought, “Cool, I did it and now I’m done.” Wrong! They kept having me eat more! No one was really eating, it was almost as if they expected me to eat it all. They kept saying “Come, come mais,” or  “eat, eat more”. When I tried to return the pressure to eat it, I received the, “ we eat this all the time so we are tired of it” response. There was no way I was going to eat any more. But Waldir’s mom was sitting there watching the back and forth of them telling me to eat and me trying to come up with reasons why I didn’t want anymore with out saying I didn’t like it.  I felt bad for not eating, but I just couldn’t do it! Then Waldir offers me the monkey foot. Mind you, I don’t even eat chicken wings, so a monkey’s foot is way past my comfort level.  At this point I had to switch to English and tell Waldir privately that I wasn’t going to eat it, but that I would eat another piece instead.  As I ate I received 101 comments on the way I was eating, “ Why are you picking at it, just bite it, put some more sauce on it, don’t look at it, just eat it, its good, why are you taking so long, use your teeth.”
            3 small pieces of meat later I was ready to get the heck out of there. I finally mustered up the courage to just say I was full, so Waldir and Isla finished what was left and we started to head home.
            Isla, Waldir, his twin brother and I were walking back to catch a taxi home when we passed by a discotech (club). They were say that it's a pretty cool spot and that one day we will go check it out. There were a bunch of people crowded in the street outside the club so we started walking over to the side of the road when we heared a loud "bang!".  I know a gunshot when I hear one, so I immediately started moving away from any line of fire, simultaneously amused that I was the only one doing so.  I turned around to see someone running with a crowd of people following. The guy running in front turned around and shoot the guy running directly behind him. I saw the spark coming off the tip of the gun and then saw the shooter take off running, still being followed by the crowd of people who were following him.  At this point I had made my way into one of the small vendor booths on the side of the road. Everyone else was just standing on the side of the road watching. “Does this happen that often that no one runs away??” I asked. Shortly after, another crowd came walking by from the opposite direction. 15 or so people were following the person who got shot, blood was coming down his shirt and dripping onto the street.
            At this point I was in shock at what just happened. Waldir and his brother motioned for us to move and so I, with no hesitation, put a little pep in my step and we made our way to the main road to catch a cab.  Once in the cab Isla and Waldir start telling the cab driver and the other passenger what happened. Their creole was too fast, but from what I gathered they were arguing about whether or not the guy who got shot will live and where on his body he got shot. They started to say that sometimes it’s the young ones who are the most dangerous. They are trigger happy and don’t understand the consequences of their actions.  After a while I stopped listening and just sat thinking about what just happened.
            I walked in the house just to let my step-dad know I was home, but was bed time. Once I got t home they could lock the gate in front of the house, so I walked Isla and Waldir out.  With the words unspoken written all over their face, they said goodnight and I went back inside.

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