I've never been a stickler for safety. Screw bicycle helmets (I wear one now because I could literally be sent home if I didn't). Life Jackets be damned. And if I drop food, the 5, 10, or even 15 second rule usually applies. But as I watched the woman in the motorcycle helmet and bathrobe-looking ensemble thrash wildly, resembling a tap dancer having a seizure, one thought came to my mind: is that kid strapped safely to her back? The same went for the rest of the women dancing in the center of the circle, children bound with cloth to their over-worked backs, lit only by burning millet stalks and 11 PM moonlight.
At least at this point I had the luxury of worrying about other people's health. This spectacle marked the end of the second day I had spent in bed with a 1-2 combo of kono bayo (running stomach) and a fres-cold making me feel like someone was sitting on my chest. In the daze of my feverishness I had also stepped on a nail on my way to the bathroom. After mending it and finally reaching the door I noticed that it was completely covered in thousands of ants. I took a moment. I yelled some obscene things. I killed ever damn one of them with half a can of insecticide. Then I went back to bed to contemplate my situation. I wanted someone to take care of me, as pathetic as that sounds. But there is no one here- I'm a day's drive from the nearest medical office, and a day's flight more to dear old mom and a bowl of chicken soup. I needed a savior. I turned to the Coz.
Believe it or not, after listening to the hour and a half or so of Bill Cosby stand-up I have on my i-pod brought me back from the brink. I talked briefly on the phone with the Peace Corps Medical Officer, after which I started myself on the ciprofloxicin and ibuprofen in my med kit. By the evening myt fever had broken and I felt significantly better.
Shyould I have let myself be dragged to the "women and children traditional dance" (my host brother's description) at 10:30 that same night? Probably not. But hey, what the hell- I'm supposed to be integrating and I can sleep in tomorrow. Plus, some part of me would have remained incomplete if I had missed the woman in the button down shirt, pants, and Sorcerer's Apprentice hat (complete with Mickey Mouse ears) stomp the earth with wild abandon, sending clouds of dust into the night sky and befuddling the wide-eyed infant clinging to her back.
As the focus shifts, inevitably, in my direction, all of the hats (including Mickey's) are stacked on my head and necklaces adorned with whistles and pieces of broken headphones are strung around my neck as the air resounds with an an emphatic call: dance! dance! dance! So I do, and my bandaged foot hurts. But not that much.