|I was posted to the small Black Moor village of M'Bekera Bilal in the southern part of the country. Only about 120 people lived in M'Bekera, and I was the only foreigner. Like them, I lived in a mud house with no running water or electricity. I used the village foot-pump to get my water (and carry it back to my house in a tub on my head.) At night, I used a kerosene lantern. I showered and did laundry using the same bucket. My host family (the village chief) prepared my lunch (rice) and dinner (ground millet.) I had to supplement my diet with a few things I could find in the nearby town of Selibaby. Of course, Peace Corps provided me with vitamins.|
|See those spots in the distance? Welcome to M'Bekera Bilal! OK, I'll give you a closer look:|
|Here's a peek within my mud walls: Mud house. Mud floors. Mud. Mud. Mud. A cozy place for two years, but keeping it clean was a bitch. Now and then I'd get scorpions or snakes as visitors. There were two rooms: a kitchen on the left and a "bedroom" on the right, although I only used it when it rained. I usually slept on the cemented stoop you see in front. Everyone sleeps outside.
Sleeping inside would be like sleeping in an old, hot shoe.
|My humble abode. Check out the classy zinc doors!|
|With Molout, the old man that collected the fees for using the pump. He was a nice guy, and probably my favorite person in M'Bekera. I don't see any holes in my t-shirt, so that means I must have dressed up for this picture.|
|Here's my shower area on the left, and latrine on the right. Yes- it's a hole in the ground. The blue kettle was filled with water. Use your imagination.|
|Some girls at the village pump, filling their benoirs. I was the only male in the village that fetched his water (twice a day.)|
|In the Selibaby marketplace. At this point I had graduated to a do-rag. I soon cut my own hair with my Swiss Army knife scissors.|
|In the fields with my host family during the rainy season.|
|An approaching sandstorm. These were much more menacing than this looks. The village scrambles to round up their livestock and secure their belongings. Behind the sand is the rainstorm. Pretty darn scary when you have nothing but sticks & mud for shelter.|
|Jarra, my host mother, with one of her sons, Amedou, and 5 month-old Minuetou. Although Minuetou is female, my host family gave her the nickname "Petit Robert."|
|Thanksgiving 1997, at the passage house in Selibaby. We did our best to make an American-style meal, and celebrated with French volunteers and Peace Corps volunteers from other regions. Pass the emaciated chicken and Kool-Aid, please.|