Thursday, March 11, 2010

Biiiiiicyle! Biiiiiiiiiiiicyle!

Recently a few willing friends and I took off on our bicycles for five days of dirt roads, chafing, and sunshine, visiting the posts of a few other PCV friends here in the Extreme North province. We usually rode about two and a half hours a day, as there are so many of us volunteers packed into this distant but densely-populated nook of the country. It was great fun to see other volunteers’ posts, and I’m reminded of how vastly different each of our experiences is. We also got spoiled like crazy—everywhere we arrived, our hosts pulled out the stops! Chocolate cakes, tuna salads, fish (not easy to find in our semi-desert!) And let me tell you I can eat half a chocolate cake after two and a half hours of biking. (Hell, I could eat one right now.)

So, here are some scenes de l’Extrême Nord.

It was market day in one of the villages we rode through, so the roads were unusually crowded.

Crossing a dried river bed, riding into the market.

In the village of Kolofata, Brianna had arranged a great collaboration project for us, which I will use to justify the entire bike tour :) Cara and Brianna, health volunteers, showed a local women’s group how to make mango juice, and talked about vitamins! Cara shows off her mango skills (hidden in the pot.)

The women built a traditional fire on which to boil the juice. The pot balances on the three rocks, logs go underneath. Cara is the Task-master!

Then I did my song and dance routine. Actually, I just talked about calculating profits on an activity such as this: how much did the mangoes cost, and for how much can you sell the juice? Then they can decide if it’s worth it—a lot of times folks here don’t calculate costs of all their inputs and hardly realize they’re not even making a profit. So we went inside to do a little math on the chalkboard. The women were so receptive and had lots of great ideas—so much fun to work with!

Note: the below picture is reprinted with the permission of Cara. We’d just arrived at our friend Ehab’s house in Mora, after biking from Kolofata. Not only is Cara displaying her lost liter of liquid, but if you look at Matt’s jersey, to the left of the little red stripe by his shoulder, is a parallel stripe-o-sweat, that kinda crusty lookin thing. Matt didn’t wash his jersey during our entire five-day tour. He was hoping to have it stand up all by itself at the end. Mmmm. (He got pretty close! And the only reason there’s not a disgusting picture of me here is that I was the one with the camera. Better luck next time, suckers!!)

Beans and beignets for breakfast in Mora with Ehab.

Everyone just looks like such a badass here that I couldn’t help but include this picture: Matt, Cara, and Annee, in Meri. Yes, I’m still learning the different color settings of my camera. I can’t tell if I was getting those looks cause I wouldn’t stop taking pictures, or if it was cause we’d all just been offered tea that no one really wanted but that politeness dictated we couldn’t refuse. (We strategically poured most of it onto a pile of rocks when our generous local host wasn’t looking.)

This little guy also helped us out with the tea drinking.

Scenery in Meri. I swear, I did not photo-shop myself into this picture, I think it’s just the way my camera focused. And yes, I have been making that same ballerina pose since I was 3. Tiny in the background behind me to the left, is a woman sitting outside her hut preparing dinner.

The last leg of our ride, from Meri down to Maroua.

That’s all for now! Hope everyone’s doing well aux Etats-Unis!

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