Monday, December 10, 2007

Triste Dimas ("Too sad")

Myspace Mood: Sad

We've been here in Guinea-Bissau for long enough now that I don't expect to be surprised by too much anymore. The weather is normal, the garbage everwhere is just part of being here, we hardly notice the smells now, etc. Every once in a while though, you find examples that still make you say "you're kidding, right?"

Recently I was talking to the main computer guy here at the center, his name is Francisco. His grandma is sick and hasn't been getting better for a few months. I don't know what she has, but it's treatable. The hospital here in Bissau is fairly limited in what it can do, but they can fix a lot of problems that are common here. She hasn't been to the hospital though. Why, you ask? It's not because it's a long trip, she lives right here in Bissau. Here ethnic group? Nope, the hospital will treat anyone. Her kids are animist and are saving the money from taking her to the hospital to use for her upcoming funeral. Francisco's mom is a Christian and isn't happy about what they're doing, but the sons are the ones who make decisions, so the poor grandma keeps getting sicker.

If this were just a disfunctional family, it wouldn't be shocking or worth writing about. The reason that it's interesting is that most of the animists (half of the country) would agree that they're doing the right thing. The funeral celebration lasts for several days or a week and is pretty expensive, despite friends helping by bringing animals to eat. They beleive the spirit of the deceased relative stays at the house until this funeral celebration, which is a big (usually drunken) party thrown for the spirit so that it can leave on a good note. So in their mind, it's not that they're killing her by not taking her to the hospital - she's old enough to die, afterall - it's that they're taking care of the most important thing. Dieing, no big deal - but not having a party to release your spirit, that's a problem!

Of course I don't agree with their thinking, but I do understand from their perspective why (theoretically) this is a good idea. However, when the idea meets reality, it doesn't seem as lofty - there's something wrong with someone dancing drunk in the dirt street to a blown-out speaker blaring "Move b*tch, get out da way" as a way to honor their dead grandmother. (A scene I actually witnessed in our neighborhood at a different funeral a few weeks ago.)


Myspace Mood: Frustrated

One of the goals of this term in Guinea-Bissau has been to get an internet connection established at the youth center. The connection is really important because the network we have here is sometimes difficult to maintain, and an internet connection will allow me to connect from the U.S. and help fix problems as if I were here. Secondarily it will save us a lot of time running to the internet cafe every few days to send emails, download virus updates for the center, and look up solutions to problems.

The project has been a long time coming, and it's still not completely done, but we are closing in on the end (more details on the rest of the project in the future). The very last peice of equipment that we need in order to finish the project is a tiny little antenna cable adapter that isn't available here in Bissau. I ordered one from the States and my dad sent it over in a package. So, we've anxiously been waiting for the package to get here (along with about six or seven other packages that have been sent by various people that we haven't received yet, many with equipment I need for the youth center computers, others with Christmas goodies!) It's seemed like we haven't had any mail for the last three weeks even though we know so many packages should be getting here soon. We started to get suspicious... (and a little worried, because packages do sometimes "dissappear" permanently.)

On Friday, I found out what's been going on. The post office was on strike for three days this past week (this much we knew) but the strike ended on Friday. Of course they weren't actually doing any work on Friday (where do you think we are?), but the workers were at least there. So I chatted up someone we know who works there and found out what the deal was. Apparently, for the two or three weeks leading up to the strike, no incoming mail was being processed! I had noticed last time I was there that there were twenty or so giant burlap bags with the names of different countries on them in the room where we normally go to pick up our packages. I was suspicious, because I didn't think there was that much outgoing mail - and my suspicions were vindicated on Friday. Those giant bags have been coming in for the last three weeks (while I've been checking the mail every other day desperately waiting for the boxes) and just sitting - so close, but so far away. :)

So, the worker told me to come back on Monday. I don't expect them to get all of that mail sorted in one day (if you had seen them work for a few hours you'd know what I mean), but hopefully we'll at least get a *few* of the packages. The strike was because they haven't been paid by the government for a while, so I'm kind of wondering if a $4 bill might get me into that room to look through all of the bags marked "USA" and just find all of our packages myself! We'll see what happens, haha...

UPDATE: We got to the post office and had three packages ready for us! There are still bags and bags of mail to sort, so I was a little worried that this package with the antenna adapter that we needed wouldn't get opened until next week when they finally finish up the last bag. However, their disorganization paid off, and apparently since the recent bags were on the top of the pile, those were the ones they opened first! So, we got our treasured box with the last peice of the internet puzzle on the very same day that the radio tower was put up. Sweet, huh? We also got a pair from Grandma & Grandpa Atkins with some very tasty snacks! So, it looks like the post office is going to come through afterall. We' heading back on Weds to check and see if anymore of our stuff has been unburied. :) Here's Em proudly displaying the haul.