My friend Lydia is teaching me Swahili. She is also helping me do nearly everything else. It is thanks to Lydia that I am able to make phone calls and send emails. She's reactivated my security card twice and organized my flights home and back. She has let me borrow her bicycle, though it was too big for me. She will only print for me if I ask her to do so in Swahili, but I think it's a fair exchange as I must ask her to print something for me twice a day, on average.
Lydia has also outfitted me with a hard hat and safety glasses. She has tried her best to also get me steel toed boots and a bright orange "Bulyanhulu" shirt. The boots are a full-size too small, but I don't mention it. She brought me a swath of fabric and suggested we make a shirt out of it. When I asked her how, exactly, she told me she'd take me into the village and we'd have one made there.
She's gotten us drinks and lunch. She has cooked us land nuts. She comes by our little office to make sure we're getting along okay.
I love her, even if we don't always understand one another. She's constantly explaining something to me, very patiently. I'm sure I'm giving her a blank stare on a regular basis. Sometimes it's because I don't understand the words she's using. Sometimes it's because I don't understand why one would microwave peanuts. Sometimes it's because I don't know why the warehouse doesn't have six 6 work boots or size M work shirt.
Today it was because she was holding a grasshopper. These three or four inch bright green guys showed up as soon as (the real) rainy season started here. They are beautiful. Saturated lime green and translucent, with bony little legs and wings. They get eaten almost immediately. I've seen at least three carried off by birds and I'm not sure whether it's because they are so noticeable or because we have an abundance of birds on the mine site.
Anyway, greeting Lydia the other morning ("mambo"), she's holding one of these bright green bugs. I'm ignoring her, as it's clear than giant African bugs and I are not getting along, no matter how pretty they are. But she holds it out to me, as it's crawling over her hand. I say, "Yes, I saw a bunch of them this morning on my way in." Very excited, she'd like to know where. So I point back in the direction of the little schoolhouse, a little confused, but not for the first time. And she explains, "We eat these." "Those?" I ask. Yes, she's nodding. "Do you cook them?" I'm certain my face is giving me away. "Fried." "Oh, so they crisp up?" I try for clarification. "Yes, very crispy. Very tasty." She's clearly thrilled and I'm not sure she won't just pop that live thing into her mouth. I'm still making faces, I can tell. I turn away, so not to truly offend her, because I love Lydia and if she loves eating grasshoppers, then who am I to say otherwise. She didn't ask me to eat one (not yet).
I'm walking away, to begin a meeting, and she laughs a little. Very sensibly, as if commenting on the weather... "This is a vegetable." I'm sure I paused a moment, but then we laughed together. Of course. A flying vegetable.
Later that day we saw another giant African bug, with pinchers at least an inch long. And I stopped and squealed at Lydia. "What is that?!" And she shrugs, "I don't know. A bug." And, not being sure of anything anymore, I ask if she eats that too. And she gives me sharp look, "No. We kill these." And she stomps it.