Four days gave us a taste of the endless routine that defines life for most of the villagers. The sunrise soundtrack features roosters, donkeys, goats, and people. Women begin the day of chores with the pounding of grain. Four or five women each hold a large grinding stick and alternate raising and thrusting it into a large wooden urn, producing muffled thuds. The effect is very rhythmic and well, grounding.
Other women are stirring big pots of millet porridge and scooping the viscous substance into big kalibash bowls. Men are generally heading out into the fields before the sun gets too high, and the older ones stay behind to smoke and chat. Children crawl out slowly and help with minor chores, like shelling groundnuts (peanuts). In the heat of the day, everyone takes a rest and has tea before resuming with afternoon chores. A lot of napping goes on, as the heat can leave you with little energy to do much else.
As guests to Dampha Kunda, there was always this sense that we needed to be entertained, which loosely translated into being peripherally accompanied. Someone always led us someplace to sit, but it was limiting and awkward for them to join us. As guests, it was not their custom to let us help with chores. We were constantly in somebody's space—often, we felt, in somebody's way.
Frequently, we had an audience of children to keep us company. Nothing wrong with that, except you do tire of being watched. Because they're excitement is infectious, they close their huddle around you and soon you're too hot to move. We made little origami frogs and cranes. We played paddy-cake with the girls. At least they let us help shell groundnuts.
There is a surprising lot you can learn about yourself in this state. What it revealed was how unaccustomed we are to revoking our autonomy and control in a given situation. We are used to living over-stimulated lives and are seldom, if ever, just sitting doing nothing. The closest we get to that is watching TV. We travel to experience that which is totally different from what we're used to. Here we were, with a bounty of time in a place where we did not know how to fill it.