Finally! I was in my beloved village of Sinchurio Samba Foula after almost a month away. As I pushed open the door of my hut with anticipation and the long awaited desire to stop living out of my backpack, I heard something scuffle from within. I peered inside and tried to see through the gloom and cobwebs that often form in mud huts after a long absence. The noise stopped. Still suspicious, because after living a year and a half among all kinds of small creatures, you can never be too careful and selective as to which small creatures you are co-habitating with, I entered the hut and unlocked my backdoor to shed some light on the situation.
More scuffling, but I could still see nothing. Then just when I relaxed, just as I let my guard down and figured it was just another friendly gecko, I reached to knock some dirt off the pillow on my cot and a giant rat leapt from behind, darted past me, and scurried out the door. I got one glance of its beady little eyes as I reeled backwards and threw myself screaming from the other door. All hell broke loose inside my hut as the rats came scrambling forth. One of their compatriots had been discovered and the clever little horrors had decided to run for it. It looked like the scene from Ratatouilli when the old lady blasts out the ceiling and all the rats swarm her house.
My brothers came running with large sticks, the village response to any kind of distressed scream and barreled into my room.
“Dombee! Dombee!” I screamed jumping up and down and pointing into my room. “Hirisinbe fof!”
“Rats! Rats!” I screamed, “Slaughter them all!”
This was war! They nodded grimly and began to lay waste to my room. My mattress was upturned, my cot thrown askew against the far wall and my bed frame knocked from its cinder block foundation as my brothers fought with valor and the rats careened up the log supports of my thatch roof and through the two doors of my room. Most escaped, but Sidou managed to brain one and Caba smashed another one as it tried to escape up another wall. I helped by shouting insults to the rats and encouragement to my brothers and leaping around at the entrance to the hut.
“Yah Mayu! Mi bobinaymon haa on yelti! (Go die! I will hit you on the head until you leave!)
“Bobinaybe! Hirisinbe fof!” (Hit them on the head! Slaughter them all!)
This is finally it, you might say. Whitney has finally gone off the deep end, but the truth of the matter is that I have been dealing with this little rat problem for a while now. Even before I went to Guinea the first sneaky rat had started to move in. I heard him scratching up in my thatch and before I knew it he was crawling down my decorative wall drapings. When I screamed, it startled him and he thunked onto the side of my mattress and onto the floor. Every night I could hear them running around and so I went about making my room less like a giant gerbil cage. I took down the wall hangings and swept my hut thoroughly. I locked every piece of food safely in a plastic bucket with a lid.
And still this did not deter them. Earlier, I figured since I was leaving all of February, I would deal with them when I returned. Now that time has come.
Last night, I slept with the giant rat stick next to my bed, vowing to stop their nocturnal rendezvous’ in the roof of my hut. This time I would be a warrior. I would not just be a passive victim of hut takeover. This morning I sent my counterpart with the directions to purchase four large rat traps. He has since returned and I have set them all in each of their favorite hangout places. Under my bed, near my trunk, under my cot, and I even snuck one cleverly onto their favorite running beam in my roof! Even as I type, I wait for the satisfying crack of trap as Mariama Camara takes back her kingdom from the rat siege.
Other than the rats, it gets better than ever returning to Sinchurio. I missed everybody and everybody missed me. Kumba was so excited that she followed me around all day and helped me to scream insults at the rats as we watched our much braver brothers. I missed the way that Caba and I sit next to each other at lunch and share a pile of hot pepper because we both eat more than the rest of the family. I missed the way Boye quietly comes into my room, grabs the drawing pad from my desk and the colored pencils and draws while I read or write. I missed Mari’s mafe gherti and the call to prayer, so peaceful and ethereal when accompanied by the glow of the full orange moon.
The saddest thing for me after coming home this time was that my grandmother in village died a week after I left. I will never forget her and am happy that I got to live a year of my life with her. She was so wise and kind and always the first one to praise my work for the day, even if all I’d done was go out into the village to greet people. She was around a hundred years old and still her brain was sharp and lively. I will miss her very much, as will the rest of the village, but she has moved on. I’m just sad I wasn’t there to tell her goodbye.
Even when the village life is tough, as I soon as I am back in it, I remember why I love this life so much and the reason for me being here. The exploration and travel are great benefits to the Peace Corps life and new volunteer training is important and fun, but in the end the village life is why I came here, and I love to have that reiterated every time I go back.