I may have stated this before, but I feel that the most rewarding part of Peace Corps has been the people I have met. Collecting traditional folktales and personal histories of villagers and friends has really helped me to glimpse into the lives of those whom I am working and living with. A few months ago, my best friend Esuf insisted that I meet, who he claims to be, the oldest man in the village. Apart from being old, he is also a traditional magic man along with Esuf (Esuf also thinks I have magical powers and insight, but that’s a whole other story). The following is the brief dialogue I held and recorded with Abduli Mayga, the old man in the village.
Me: (After a long string of greetings and salutations) I would like to know how old you are?
Abduli: I don’t know. 90?
Me: What did you do for work?
Abduli: I was a fisherman. I would go with my boat and cast nets to catch fish.
Me: Big fish?
Abduli: Yes, big big fish. Now the fish are small. After I caught the fish, I would cut them and smoke the fish.
Abduli: Tyler, I am old now. What can I do to feel better? My body hurts.
Me: Well, eat fruits and leave sauces. They have lots of vitamins. Also, make sure you rest.
Abduli: I want to get up and work. I don’t want to sit anymore. I watch my children and grandchildren work, but they are not good workers.
Me: I don’t know. You have lived many years, worked many years, and learned many things. Those years have made you old. Now, you should rest and enjoy your family. You know so much and now it is your time to be a teacher. Teach your children all the things you have learned. Teaching is work.
Abduli: (with a smile) Yes, I do know a lot.
Note: This conversation was held in my local language, Jula, and in the manner of local conversation. The transcript provided is a direct translation and could sound very informal, direct, or even out of place.