This imissdennys blog post is dedicated to my friend Jean Paul. In the first month that I was at site, Jean Paul showed up at my door and handed me his work certificate offering to cook, clean, sweep, wash laundry, and get water for me. I told him no, that maybe I’d take his help with laundry from time to time but didn’t need someone to get water or cook or sweep. I was pretty wrong, and he must have known it because he ended up coming over again and again until I caved and hired him. There was some initial guilt over having a Burkinabe do all my physical labor, but we’ve become good friends and we often drink dolo and eat together–he’s over every day except Sundays, his day off.
Here’s a picture of Jean Paul cleaning out my blackened cooking pot about a month ago after a nice Sunday evening oil fire I started while trying to make french fries. My initial thought upon seeing the smoke and flames right next to my gas tank was to stand back and watch my cuisine explode, but I managed to smother the flames with an old pagne shirt after psyching myself up to be an oil fire smothering hero in front of all the kids in my courtyard. When the pile of pagne shirts subsequently caught fire I threw water on it all, and through terribly thick oil smoke-induced tears and coughing fits I swore that from then on I would make salads on Sundays.
This past Sunday I didn’t have ingredients for salad, so I decided it was time to give fries another shot. I put the oil on the burner like the failed first attempt but sat right by the pot while cutting the potatoes to be safe. At some point when my head was down cutting potatoes the oil got to be too hot and smoke started filling my cuisine again. I put on my oven mitts and took the pot off the burner to let it cool down outside but it immediately burned me through the mitts and I dropped it on the ground, splashing hot oil up onto my legs. I should mention now that I was wearing short shorts. It was much more startling than painful at first, I screamed and ran faster than I’ve ran in a while inside to my 100L trash can of water.
I spent a good deal of my night pouring water over my knees in this trash can. This particular selfie was taken a couple hours after the oil spill, as other volunteers grew tired of hearing me complain over the phone and I was done crying. At one point I got up to find food (was pretty hungry, never finished the french fries if you didn’t guess) but ended up just running to a place that sold cold sachets of water, buying ten, then throwing them and myself back into the water trash can, returning to the only comfortable spot I could find in my village. It was pretty painful. I can see now why they poured boiling oil on each other in the middle ages. Those guys really had things figured out.
The photo on the left was taken the day after the accident and shows the coverage of the oil splatter on my legs. My left ankle and shin got most of the action while my right big toe and knee took its fair share as well. The picture on the right is an artist rendition of what my mom imagined my legs looked like. As you can see in the picture on the right, the oil continued to burn for 24 hours after the spill and blood is spurting out of my left shin. Most of those purple spots seen in the first photo have blistered and peeled off since then and my left food has swelled up quite a bit. It’s much grosser now with swellings and skin peelings so I’ll leave you with your imagination and a picture from today after the doctor here wrapped me up:
If anyone wants a more graphic picture of the healing process I’ll be happy to email it. Thanks everyone for the support and thoughts and such. It hurts but I’m in the med unit, getting paid $10 a day surrounded by leather sofas and ac and wi-fi and experienced Peace Corps medics. I’m fine and will be back in site listening to This American Life snuggling kittens in no time.
Thanks Eric Hayden Weiss for the seamless photoshop job.