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Month: May, 2015

The Almost Demise of Clyde, or, Time for a New Adventure

Clyde the lizard lives in my ceiling. He is somewhat of a legend, at least to me personally, which probably says something about the amount of time I spend alone with my cat and my imagination. I pictured Clyde—scaly and huge—based only on the sounds I heard while sitting in my living room. Well, either Clyde suddenly got a lot friendlier, or he found a mate (Bonnie) and showed her the house, but either way, the lizard in my ceiling got super active recently, sounds smaller, and changed their behavior pattern. Let’s assume that it’s Clyde up there for the sake of the story.

Clyde has been living in my ceiling for at least 5 years (two volunteers ago.) The contract is this: the volunteers protect Clyde from hungry neighbors and Clyde does a passable job protecting the volunteers from rats and mice as well as providing impressive stories for people back home. Clyde can be in the platform ceiling of the living room and that is his only territory.

Recently, Clyde started going outside to my back area and resting on top of the wall. This was also ok, as I got photos out of the deal, and also really got to see who I was living with. He was scary, but honestly thinner than I thought. (I may or may not have been telling myself he looked a lot more like a komodo dragon than he actually does.)

Soon after the first Clyde sighting, Kuli Kuli (my cat) started yelling about something in the kitchen. He is very vocal, and weirdly mimics human emotions in his sounds. This sounded like “GET OUT OR I WILL KILL YOU I HATE YOU AND ALL OF YOUR KIND! I EAT YOUR SMALLER BRETHREN!” Upon further investigation, Clyde was sticking his head into my kitchen on a rafter. Ok. There is no platform in the kitchen. The kitchen is off limits. I told Clyde “Get out of my kitchen and go back to your area or I will let my neighbors eat you.” He withdrew his head.

At this point I became a little bit nervous that Kuli Kuli and Clyde might one day meet and have a bloody, bloody battle. It was clear that they were not afraid of each other but did foster feelings of animosity. If it came to a fight, I would obviously put my money on Kuli Kuli, but that is only because he has a vested interest in protecting me. Looking at it objectively, I do not know who would win.

I was telling a story about Clyde to my local language tutor while she was at my house the other day, illustrating with photos that I had taken. She cut in saying monitor lizards are very good to eat. I was like… “Are you not paying attention to my hilarious story? Please focus! But anyway, you can’t eat Clyde because he has held up his end of the deal and not entered my kitchen since then.”

No sooner were the words out of my mouth than Kuli Kuli starts yelling. Sure enough, Clyde’s lizardy head was poking into my kitchen. “NOW WE CAN EAT HIM!” Said my language teacher. “Maybe if I just throw this bottle cap at him he will go away!” I said. “SEND FOR A MAN WITH A MACHETE!” said my language teacher. “DO NOT MAKE MY HOUSE BLOODY!” I said. “I HAVE SEEN YOU HAVE LIQUID SOAP I WILL CLEAN UP THE BLOOD” said my language teacher.

At this point, the man with the machete arrived. I said “CLYDE GO BACK IN THE CEILING!” I said it in English so no one else could understand, but obviously Clyde doesn’t speak English either.

I quickly locked Kuli Kuli outside and then went outside myself. I did not want to see the carnage. A loud crash was heard by everyone in the concession as the man with the machete stood on a chair and tried to bring the blunt blade down on Clyde’s neck. (Side note, almost all things that are supposed to be sharp in Benin are very dull due to frequent “sharpening” on rough concrete.) Clyde scurried into the platform.

The man with the machete said he had hit Clyde but couldn’t see how much damage he had done before Clyde disappeared into my ceiling. “So if you don’t hear him tonight or tomorrow morning, let me know and I will bring a ladder and a stick and we will fish him out of your ceiling and then we will eat him. If you do not tell me if you do not hear him, your house will smell very bad.”

So now I had a lizard that was maybe bleeding out over my head. I was not at all pleased. Everyone else was a bit disappointed about the lack of a clean kill, but were still holding out hope that they would be able to feast in the coming days.

Luckily, I saw Clyde yesterday looking no worse for the wear. Unfortunately for him, I am moving to Cotonou and will no longer be able to protect him from my ravenous neighbors. Due to my body rebelling against my brain and refusing to maintain a semblance of health in village, I have been transferred to the big city. Although I am now officially living in Cotonou, I don’t have a house yet so I am living in the Peace Corps office until I do. I will write about my new job and new life once I have a few more details! If you are trying to send me anything, my new PO Box is:

Evan Fowler, PCV

Corps de la Paix

01 BP 971

Cotonou, Benin, Afrique de l’Ouest

PS I have some pictures of Clyde that I am having technical difficulties with. Hopefully they will be added soon.

Campaigning

The American political system is a beast. You can’t run away from it even in a tiny African nation where most people think there are only white people in America. Luckily, due to everyone’s knowledge of the American political field, I can immediately ask “Is the president of the United States white?” And, because Obama is so popular here that you can buy plastic sachets (think larger ketchup packets) full of whiskey with his face on them, they can usually tell me he is not. Obama also comes in handy when people try to tell me a white woman and a black man have never had children together (WOULDN’T WE BE SO PROGRESSIVE?! DON’T YOU WANT TO BE THE FIRST?! COME HAVE MY BABY!!) My thanks to Obama for aiding me in shutting down that unfortunate attempt at seduction.

I don’t know much about politics in Benin. I understand the basic structure, but there is much that remains a mystery. I’ve also been explicitly told by Peace Corps to stay out of politics—it isn’t our area, and it could mess up Peace Corps’ relationship with the country. I don’t know many things about the political system, or the platforms of different parties, but I do know about 5 different campaign songs.

Let me explain. Here, campaigning is not a series of televised debates and smear campaigns. Here, campaigning involves many people singing, driving around motos while holding up posters (DANGEROUS!) and running through the streets with posters taped around their heads. The cone-hats that people make out of the posters have an unfortunate resemblance to KKK costumes, which obviously is not clear to anyone here because the KKK is an American problem, but seeing a hundred black people in white cone-hats is like an image from some political cartoon.

Over the past two weeks I have been kept up at night by my neighbor’s tiny children singing songs supporting a popular candidate and blowing vuvuzelas. Although campaigning in the US can sometimes make me sick to my stomach, I have never felt rage in the same way I have here—IT IS TWO IN THE MORNING IF YOU BLOW ON THAT VUVUZELA AGAIN I WILL BREAK IT DEAR GOD YOU CAN’T EVEN KNOW WHAT YOU’RE SINGING ABOUT YOU ARE FIVE YEARS OLD!

Many people have approached me asking who I am going to vote for. They are very upset for me that even though I live here I cannot vote, which is very sweet. Many of them say I just need to become a citizen before the next election. I usually say “I’ll see what I can do!” Which is a lie, just to clarify.

I have tried to avoid all of the parades, speeding motorcades, and schoolchildren dancing in the middle of the north-south highway dodging the speeding motorcades during this time of democracy. The election was last Sunday and everything was calm in Bante when the results were announced. Good job guys, I’m proud. Now please be quiet.

(Please note there are more elections at the end of the month that promise to be even bigger than the last ones. Pray for my sanity.)