10.03.2015

Landscaping Chez Aisha in Ngatt


There is a Nigerian proverb that goes “It takes a whole village to raise a child.” I would like to offer my own version of this proverb: “It takes a whole village to trim my yard.”

Rainy season hit with full force in August, and while I have a mostly dust and sand terrain in my compound, it nonetheless is prone to weeds in the rainy season. With all the rain we’ve been getting the past month or so, my ‘lawn’ began to get a bit unruly. My first year as a PCV I couldn't have cared less about the state of my yard, but the appearance of the dirt that comprises my concession is a new-found obsession of mine. In dry season I neatly sweep the dusty dirt to the sides so that the dry ground shows and neat sweep marks are evident through the landscape so it looks nice, clean, and organized. I know, I know, I literally just admitted that I sweep dirt so it looks pretty. I fully accept whatever adjective you might now use to describe me (OCD, bored, obsessed, insane…to name a few).

In rainy season it’s much harder to keep things looking nice since I can’t sweep the dust because it has now all turned to mud. What’s a girl to do?! While I’ve mostly come to accept the disarray of my lawn, I couldn’t accept the ‘jungle’ that has begun to sprout up, which provides endless fodder to the neighborhood goats.

Compared to Lomie, I realize my compound is no jungle, but regardless of this my lawn looks like one when it's compared to my neighbors’ yards. While I love the company the goats provide me, and I don’t object at all to them eating my weeds, I am, however, not so in love with the fact the goats enter to eat the weeds but then set their eyes on greener pastures: aka my garden full of tomatoes, corn and moringa. Realizing these plants taste far better than the rubbish weeds, my plants stood no chance. My tomato plant didn’t survive long at all and half my corn stalks were knocked over by over-ambitious goats. Most of my moringa thankfully survived with the exception of a few fatalities. Not to mention, when the goats come to eat my weeds, they end up inviting all their friends to sleepover on my veranda, which caused me one night to wake with a start at 2am wondering what the rattling at my door was (A thief? My landlord?), nope, a goat scratching his early morning itch.

Anyways, one day I grew fed up of my yard. I’m always looking for an activity to provide me with a little exercise, so I asked my landlord for his machete and I cut my grass the Cameroonian way. Needless to say, taking a machete to my yard took a fair amount of time (2 hours). After I aptly de-weeded the compound, I grabbed hold of my straw brooms and swept away the dirt and weeds, like I do in the dry season.

I was quite a spectacle. Neighbors came from here and there to watch me hack at the weeds and sweep while crouched over. They chuckled, they gave me new brooms, and they offered their words of encouragement. Later, Ismael’s wife came over, evidently very amused by the fact I was cleaning my yard. She rounded up her half dozen children, who soon arrived bearing more machetes, pick-axes, shovels and more brooms. Our small army of 8 worked in the midday sun - scrapping, digging and sweeping. It was a fun and energetic environment with all of us working together, each with their own task. We saw improvement quickly.

It was a wonderful bonding experience, for lack of a better phrase, with Ismael’s wife, who I rarely get a chance to bond with since I don’t speak enough Fulfulde to have a meaningful conversation with her. The effort was really communal, and my yard looks so much better. While my arms were sore after the two hours, it was a fun experience with my neighbors, and my yard looks so much better – see!:



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