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I was sitting in my hut a few weeks ago, listening to relative silence and wondering whether I should go back to sleep or invent something to do, when it hit me--my life was lacking something.  I was lonely.  Sure, it's mostly of my own choosing, as I have intentionally become (according to my villagers) an old, childless hag who cattle-prods away every would-be suitor who shows up on my porch, even those who don shoes for the occasion, but I didn't expect to be lonely after a mere 13 months of total, complete, and thorough isolation.

Figuring, as I always do, that simple problems have simple solutions, I got dressed and toddled to the market where the solution to any problem whatsoever can be haggled over and bought for less than $7 US.  Let's see--the problem: loneliness.  The solution: home improvement!  I thought I would make the Rustic more comfortable, and therefore be happier in it alone.  I sprang for two floor mats (1200 CFA), two rugs (6000CFA), and a garbage can with a step-on flip-top (3500).  And it was good.

It was good, but didn't totally break the blue spell that I was in.  So I bought a sink (7000 CFA).  It is fantastic!  Basically, I convinced the carpenter to drill two large holes in a perfectly good table, then make little cubby holes for baskets as silverware drawers.  Having gotten used to the strange ways of the Crazy White lady who once wanted a free-standing closet (mud walls won't support any weight nailed to them, so I needed two narrow bookshelves with a rod (or broomstick, as it were) between them), he didn't even blink at my request.  I mean, OF COURSE I would want a table with two holes to put washtubs in!  And the sink was good.

But once again, not good enough to break my blue spell.  So I reconsidered my ailment--loneliness--and the solution miraculously appeared to me: two chickens!

Ladies and Gentlemen, I present to you Anasara and Yovo (photo to come).

When my PCV friends heard about my new purchase, some of them got visibly nervous.  Melissa shuffled in her chair, leaned forward and asked gently, "Phynessa, how is your garden?"  Not seeing the freight train headed straight for my face, I answered honestly, chipperly even,  "Oh, dead.  All of it.  Again.  And everything in my field died, too.  [Pause] Why?"

Melissa: "I see.  And how about your cat?"
Me: "CatS," I corrected.  "One lost, one dead.
Melissa: "Uh-huh.  Phynessa, sit down.  I need to explain to you the dating principle from '28 Days.'"

I could tell this wasn't going to be pretty, and she didn't even know about the reptiles--the chameleon I lost (Tancred points out that she could just be "camouflaged," but I think Karma ran away when I threatened to cook for her) and the lizard I drowned (don't ask).

I haven't seen the movie "28 Days," but apparently one friend advises another to he should get a houseplant.  After keeping it alive for 6 months, he can move on to owning a pet.  When he has kept the pet alive for 6 months, then he can begin to date.

Melissa says that I am still on Step 1.

According to that schedule, I'm bound to die childless.  I mean, Latifa has been such a charm these days--I've only woken to blood-curdling screams 4 times in 2 weeks--that the only thing standing between me and motherhood is the memory of those women wailing in childbirth.  (Bon, I suppose that, technically speaking, there is also the slight issue of not actually having a husband, but I'm going to disregard that as only a minor obstacle, not really worth discussing over mass-media.)  But memories fade, right?  How else can anyone explain mothers who have more
than one child?  Not all of them can be accidents!

Well, I say, forget the schedule.  I set out to be a fantastic mother to Anasara and Yovo, and, to mark the occasion of my willful motherhood, Hell froze over.  Really!  It hailed in my village for the first time since I've been in Togo. 

My first thought: Hey, Hell hath frozen over.  Guess that means I have to start training for a marathon after all.
My second thought: Cool!  I can gather up the iceballs and chill this No-Bake cheesecake like it says to on the box.
My third thought:  Oh poop--my chickens are outside in the hail!

Duty-bound to be a good mother come HAIL AND high water (it was concurrently pouring buckets), I sprinted outside (marathon training) and locked the kids in the latrine, tied to a pitchfork so they couldn't fall in.

So, I'm not so sure I'm good at this.  I kind of got off to a rough start, what with having fully-mobile twins and hail and all, but nobody said it would be easy, right?

Pray for me!
Or better yet, pray for Anasara, Yovo, and any other plant or animal that might find itself subjected to my care and compassion.  This includes Cooter (I've got to find a new name for her), the Kara region volunteer mascot dog.  She is not doing so well at the new Maison, er, Workstation, so I am taking her to my village to see if she will settle down.  I have just tricked her into eating half a Valium, and I am about to lug her up the hill to the vet, where I will get her vaccinated for rabies and whisk her off to my post before the grogginess wears off.
Love y'all!