Things that Made me Laugh (sometimes it took a little while, though)
**I have a favorite moto-taxi driver. He lives in my neighborhood, drives safely, and is nice to me. Whenever I can, I use him to drive me around. Recently, he asked me why I don’t have kids yet. I said “I’m still young and adventuring! I’ve got plenty of time for that!” To which he replied “You’re not young! You are about 45, right?” And, taken aback, I said “NO!!” He was like… “35?” Sputtering, I said “25.” “Oh! Well that is very surprising. I really thought you were about 45 years old. Ok we’re here! See you later!”
**My friend and I were looking for somewhere to eat lunch and decided to try somewhere new. There was a lady on the street selling pate rouge, basically polenta with crushed tomatoes, garlic, ginger, and pepper cooked in. We ordered and my friend asked for a piece of sheep meat to go with hers. When the food came, her sheep meat was mostly skin, and not very appetizing. She asked the lady if she could have a different piece of meat because she didn’t want skin. Now, there is a different food here that is literally cut-up cow skin that people cook in sauce until it floats in translucent squares for people to chew (and chew, and chew.) This is called “skin.”
So when my friend said she didn’t want “skin,” the lady threw a fit and insisted that this was sheep, not skin. We tried explaining that it was the skin of the sheep that didn’t interest us, we knew it wasn’t cow skin. Not understanding, or choosing not to understand, the woman says “If you don’t believe me that this isn’t skin, I will show you the sheep’s ear! I have it right there! Hold on!” Faced with the prospect of having a bloody ear shoved in our faces, we said, “That’s ok! We believe you!” We ended up leaving most of our lunches (including the sheep’s skin) because they weren’t very good. I walked across the street to buy something and on my way back, there were two very pleased moto taxi drivers who were eating the rest of our lunches, happily chewing on the skin.
**Horns are used as a form of communication here. You want to pass someone? Honk. You want to say hello? Honk. You want to tell someone to get out of the way? Honk. So if your horn is broken, what do you do? Use your mouth as a horn, of course! This was the delightful solution that my moto taxi driver adopted one night. “BEEP BEEP” he would say, joyfully, as we passed a car “BEEP BEEP BEEEEEEP” he said as a pedestrian tried to cross the street. I don’t know exactly why, but this made me very happy.
**When I was living in Bante, I lost a lot of weight because I was sick all of the time. At one point, I lost 20 pounds in about two weeks (not recommended if at all avoidable.) My new thinness made everyone very unhappy, because it was a visual sign of illness. Although I was still a healthy weight, people were bemoaning how thin I had become.(Sidenote– In fact, I have been here so long that my reaction to extremely thin people has changed—when looking at a fashion magazine from France the other day, I just kept thinking, “Dear God, that poor girl must be sick!” and then realized that they were that thin on purpose. Cultural differences and different standards of beauty, I guess! But also if you see someone that thin here, it really does usually mean they are sick.)
Anyway, when I came back to Bante, I had gained most of that weight back. Everyone was so pleased! “YOU ARE SO FAT! IT IS SO NICE!” said everyone. “JUST LOOK AT THOSE THIGHS! IT IS VERY GOOD!” said one neighbor. Another said “Well, it is very good now, but we all know Evan. She likes to do sports and also eat a lot of vitamins, both of which will make you fat. So be careful Evan! You are fat in a good way now, but if you eat too many vitamins or do too many sports, you will become fatter and fatter and then you won’t be able to walk well.”
**This is not actually funny, because it involves loss of life, but it is ridiculous. Recently, in one of my friends’ villages, a man dropped his cell phone down a latrine. Now, I know many people who have dropped their phones in toilets, but this is different. This is a hole that drops several feet down into many years’ worth of shit. You can’t just “fish it out.” Most people I know would have cut their losses and left it. But, for whatever reason, this man decided he needed to retrieve his phone. Using methods that are still unclear, he lowered himself into the latrine (usually the hole isn’t big enough for this.) He immediately died due to some sort of noxious gas poisoning.
Someone finds him in the latrine, and so another man lowers himself down to collect the body (at this point, I assume, not realizing it had been an instant death.) He also instantly dies.
But then this was repeated by two more people. So four people total died in a latrine, one after the other, all because of a cell phone. Finally, the fire department of the next large city was called and they got all of the bodies out.