06 February 2013

Cultural Incorrectness

Living cross-culturally is like waltzing in a potato sack . . . no matter how much agility, flexibility or grace you think you may have, in the end, you looks less like a ballerina and more like a lame kangaroo.

We are still in the midst of Harmatan Season . . . that's when the temperatures are bearable because the wind is blowing.  And not just any wind, wind from the northeast that carry dust and sand from the Sahara-proper and deposits it in our tear ducts and nostrils, coats our teeth, fills our ear canals and hides under our finger nails.

Since the wind was roaring this morning, I decided against an African wrap-around skirt (that, and I still live by the First Rule of Therapy: no free shows!) and opted instead for a flowy down-to-my-mid-calf skirt that I purchased in 2008 when I first came to visit Galmi.  But two steps outside and I knew I had made the wrong choice.

Every few feet I had to strike the MarilynMonroe pose . . . you know the one . . . over the subway grate.  Yeah, that was me . . . only less glamorous and more covered with dirt.

Out of desperation, I tightly wrapped the folds of the skirt around me, bringing it closer to my knees.  In that moment I wanted to tight-roll it at the bottom, much like how we wore our jeans in the '90's, but I knew that would expose my knee caps . . . and that would have been culturally incorrect . . . and so I didn't.  But I wanted to.

Later, in the afternoon, I went to the market with some of our short-term folks.  On our way back, we decided to cut through the hospital . . . as we went in, my Tsoho was coming out.  I greeted him and introduced him to the other girls.  We chatted for a few minutes; every so often he would grin at me and
I felt the impulse to just throw my arms around him and squeeze . . . but that would have been culturally incorrect . . . and so I didn't.  But I wanted to.

Tonight, as I type this it is quiet . . . except for the man preaching.  We have 31 minutes before today is tomorrow, and this guy is on his soapbox!  And I don't know if it's my poor level of Hausa . . . or perhaps the scratching from his terrible amp . . . or maybe just that's it's 23:29 and I'm tired, but I'm feeling inclined to throw on my flip-flops, grab a flashlight and walk in my pajamas to hunt down this man, snap his mic in two and shout 'DUDE!! REALLY?!?!' . . . but that would be culturally incorrect . . . so I won't.  But I really, REALLY, want to.

Now, where did I put those earplugs??


Leah Long said...

This was awesome--I, too, do not have a good skirt solution for Harmattan days. How DO those women keep their wrap-arounds wrapped around? And is it better to flap a view (wrap) or hug your skirt so you're outlined (skirt)? I dunno. But the Monroe pose--definitely out. Ha! Thanks for the laughs!

Deb. said...

Ha ha, Leah!! In my unpacking, I found some big skirt pins . . . you know, the ones that look cute on those Catholic School Uniform skirts . . . I should probably start using them . . . but I have this thing about cheating . . . well, maybe it's more a thing about getting caught when I'm cheating! :)