03 June 2011

I Think I've Been Stood Up

Making friends in Galmi is hard.

First off there's the language barrier.  Sure my French is good enough . . . but my Hausa is not.  Then there's the cultural barrier.  There's a set of rules for the intra-Nigerien relationships and a whole different set of rules for the Nigerien-Batura relationships . . . and I still don't know any of them.  

But being a single woman here throws an additional curveball into the mix.  The young, single girls consider me to be competition and therefore keep me at a distance.  The married women with children who are my age don't understand me as I'm not married, and therefore keep me at a distance.  And then there's the men . . . and if you've been reading this blog since I've arrived, you know all about my interactions with Nigerien men.

Since I've arrived several people have told me that there's a woman that works in the hospital that I need to meet.  Everyone is sure we will be great friends.  She's 32 and has been a widow for 10 years.  We finally met yesterday and made a plan to get together this evening.  She would come to my house at 6:30pm and take me to her house.  

E. is the first 'friend' to invite me over.  I've been inside a few Nigerien homes, but only briefly, and never for an 'official' visit.  I was excited, but a little unsure about the etiquette.  Do I bring a gift?  How long do I stay?  What is expected of me during this visit?  What will we talk about?  Etc.

I asked around and was reminded that I needed to dress nicely, as it is a major sign of respect here.  No gift necessary (but I found out her birthday was two days ago, so I pulled a little something together).  Around an hour would be sufficient. And no one was sure exactly about the conversation.

I was stoked.  I rushed home from work to jump in the shower and iron one of my new outfits.  I even changed my earrings for the occasion!  

By 7 I figured everything was on schedule, with 'Africa Time' and all . . . by 7:30 I was getting antsy . . . by 8 a little concerned . . . and at 8:30 finally gave up and decided to blog about it.

I'm not disappointed because she didn't come and she told me she would.  She's a single mom with two kids.  Maybe she got lost.  Doesn't matter.  I'm here for 2 1/2 years (this term), so we've got plenty of time to reschedule.

No, I'm disappointed because she didn't come and I spent nearly an hour trying to tie my calibi.  

I tell you what . . . there is an art and a science to not only tying those suckers, but getting them to stay on my head!  African women's hair is much more coarse than mine . . . and I have an abnormally small head.  I tried ever technique I've learned so far . . . NOTHING!  They would all either fall off once I moved or untie themselves or fall down over my face.  It was RIDICULOUS! 

I finally managed to get it to tie: it was pulled really tight in the front and knotted and tucked in the back. It made my head look as small as a pea . . . but it was on and I wasn't taking it off.  

And I didn't . . . even when the power went out and the sweat was dripping down my face.  I refused to tie that sucker one more time tonight.

Next time I think I will wait for my Nigerien friend to show and let her do the tying.


Barb said...

I have yet to begin to master the "calabi/kalabi/kulabi, etc.  All I can say when I put it on is "Aaarrgh!" because I always look like a pirate!  And then I try not to move my head or it falls off!  I think the next time I get it somewhat decent, I shall use HAIRSPRAY and make it into a helmet and wear it like a BIG HOT HAT!!! Kulabi's make me a literal "hot head!"

Deb. said...

I hear that in Nigeria they starch them to make them really high.

Shal said...

Sounds a bit like India, though thankfully all I ever had to wear was the dhupatha...Ha!