A Tale of Dirt and Dogs


Yesterday my plans were to get my compost pile set up and walk to where they sell vegetables near my house, very modest plans I think. Little did I know what would transpire.

I told my host mom I wanted to find someone who could move some rocks for me. There is a small building in my concession that I want to convert into a chicken coop. The only problem is there are a bunch of heavy boulders piled up in front of the entrance to the building. If I want to convert the building into a chicken coop I would have to move the rocks. Since I also wanted to start a compost pile I figured I would kill two birds with one stone and use the rocks to create “bins” for my compost pile. I diagrammed what it would look like and designed so it would be three squares next to each other building up to about 3 or 4 feet tall. I have it in direct sunlight to make sure the compost piles get enough heat. I decided to make three piles so that the first would be newly added scraps, the second would be stuff that’s started to decompose while the third pile would be finished compost. I showed it to the boy my host mom hired. His name is Haruna. I told him exactly what to do and he started on the job. He finished laying out the design of the squares and then all of a sudden he stopped. I asked him why and he said he was done. He thought I hired him to build a garden. When I told him I hired him to move the boulders over to form the piles he said they were too heavy and refused to do any more work. Then he has the nerve to ask me for money. We wait until my host mom Bintu arrives at which point she tells me there’s been a misunderstanding and that in order for them to complete the job it would cost more money than we agreed upon. At this point I’m furious because I know these guys are trying to hustle me. I end up just giving them a keme, which translates to a dollar and they leave with the work unfinished. Thankfully my host mom found another guy, Alou, who ended up finishing the job. It cost me four keme but he did the job and he’s someone I met before and had a feeling I could trust. So now the path to my future chicken coop is clear, aside from a giant pile of dirt in the middle of my yard….

On top of that I also got my furniture delivered. I had a desk, table for my kitchen, and a coffee table made. I wanted two shelves made but unfortunately again, he wanted more money than we agreed upon and I am trying to find someone who will make shelves for me for a decent price. It’s times like these when I really miss craigslist and IKEA. Instead, I have to go through the trouble of looking for carpenters, drawing out designs for furniture, waiting for my furniture to be finished, and then getting screwed over on the price anyway. C’est la vie.

As the sun started to set I went with my host mom and we walked to a place I hadn’t been before. Not too far from my house there is a person who sells vegetables, pretty much everything I would want like cucumbers, peppers, onions, garlic, etc. As I was perusing the vendor’s wares my host mom called me over as she wandered back to the family concession. The vendor had a dog and the dog had three puppies. My host mom told her that Americans like dogs and so she offered one to me. I tell my host mom I want to think about it but before I know it I have this little puppy who I have to take care of even though I have no clue where to start. The dog’s a girl so I’ve thought of a couple of different names for her: (Pablo) Honey because I love Radiohead, Caramel because she looks like the color of caramel, and Kaniye because in Mandingo “kani ye” roughly translates to “it’s good.” She’s really cute right now but that’s only because she’s small. My friend Ryan tells me that no matter what happens all Malian dogs end up the same, bitchy and only wanting to bite people. I want to think that my dog will be different but I know that it’s more of an inevitability than something I have any control over no matter how well I treat my dog. I don’t even know if I want to keep it. I might end up just leaving it at the stage house and asking our guard Konti to take care of it. It’s not that I don’t want to take care of it. I’m just thinking of what will happen to Kaniye when I leave to go visit people in Mopti or Segou? I guess I can ask my host family to take care of her but Malians don’t like dogs. They’re not seen as pets here like they are in the US. We’ll see…..to be continued……

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