At my old house, I hung the laundry on the roof. I had a huge roof with nothing between it and the sun. In the summer the first things I hung up were almost dry by the time I finished hanging out the load. I had to do the laundry while being closely observed by the teenagers at the private boys’ school, of course, and that was never particularly fun, but I developed a system of hanging big blankets up first along the “spare” line and then doing my other work behind them. This didn’t quite conceal my underthings, so I had to hang them under other articles of clothing. It all worked out in the end.
Now at my new house the laundry situation is a bit different. I’m sure they’d be happy to let me hang my laundry up on the roof, but the thought of having to ask for permission every time I wash something is daunting. Plus I’m not entirely convinced that they would let me just go up and hang out my laundry; I suspect I’d have to sit and have several cups of tea along the way, and that in fact they might even try to convince me to let one of the little girls do the work for me. I’m a fan of handling my own underthings and after handwashing an entire load of clothes I’m usually far too sweaty and tired for visiting. Laundry is a workout when it’s by hand!
My current landlord stopped by today to discuss the details of my moving out. He doesn’t seem sorry for any of the financial issues, but he did bring me a bundle of hummus, which actually is Arabic for “chickpea,” not the paste made of the chickpea. We eat them green, just like we eat everything green; it is a wonder anything ever ripens here. They can also be thrown, still on the stalk, into a bonfire, and then eaten once they’re charred.
So I was walking back across the patio with this bundle of chickpeas when I spotted Deanna, Amira’s 4-year-old girl, on their balcony watching me. I invited her over for chickpeas but she said she couldn’t come over because her parents weren’t home. I said she was welcome any time and went inside.
Two hours later my doorbell rang and I went outside and there was Deanna with her 2 year old brother, totally unaccompanied. They came in and sat down in the living room like this was a normal occurrence. I fed them chickpeas and fruit and asked them if they wanted chips… Deanna declined, Yusuf said yes. I asked them if they wanted tea… Deanna declined, Yusuf said yes. Yusuf has about 3 words in his vocabulary other than “mom” and “dad,” and they are “la,” “ah,” and “bai” (no, yes, and a mispronunciation of “water”). Deanna asked him, “Where’s mom?” He pointed exactly the wrong way. They played this game about 5 times, and even though Deanna showed him his house — complete with several sisters on the balcony spying on us — through the window, he still insisted the house was the other direction. It was like, since my house is north of his when he sees it, it follows logically that his house would be north of mine.
Anyway, Yusuf demanded water after finishing off his tea and two whole apples. After the water they collected several more bags of chips and left. It was kind of surreal!
Hello and welcome to Diary of the Desert, where I am retroactively (very!) deconstructing my Peace Corps experience. If you’d like to start at the beginning, this is the first post of the blog — but the stories aren’t in chronological order. They’re just in whatever order they fell out of my brain and/or diary. They are all true stories in the sense that they’re my real memories. They are all fiction in the sense that they were written after the fact, sometimes immediately and others over a decade later, and that in a lot of cases I’ve attributed stories to the wrong people because I wanted to keep the character roster down. I have changed all names of people and smaller places.
I desperately hope not to offend anybody and offer these stories with love and genuine homesickness. They’re just my experiences. Please enjoy them.