eat bones?

Another letter from Heather this morning. Here's an excerpt:

Living with young Nigerian women for two nights and three days taught me a lot of things about daily life the Nigerian way. (I was like a camp counselor, sleeping in a room with five girls and one other worker, doing lights out and wake-up call and discovering how VERY much more obedient these girls are than American girls their age... which is nice when you're their counselor but I gather it doesn't work in their favor with men who are after sex.) I learned to:

- sleep on a narrow mattress beside another girl (NO rolling over!)

- carry a bucket of water up from the reservoir to flush the toilet (I gather they fill the reservoir up when city water is on and use it when it's off)

- eat bones. At the final banquet of the retreat I was sitting beside one of the fourteen-year-olds from my cabin (very giggly) and I commented that she'd really cleaned her plate and then said "What did you do with the bones?" And everybody laughed. And then the girl (Ijioma is her name) started teasing me about eating mine ("It'll make your teeth strong!") and I decided to prove that a baturi could eat bones. It turns out it's more a matter of biting off the ends (which are much softer than you'd think!) and sucking out the marrow. Although Ijioma had eaten all her bones, and I'm not sure how she did it because the middle is really hard. One of the older girls told me I shouldn't eat it; I think she was worried I would choke.

I also learned a lot about life in Nigeria from the dramas and the stories [during a retreat about sex and purity and abstinence until marriage]. Honestly, it made me scared for these girls. There are so many dangers for them, and temptations, and some of them (not unlike some American girls their age!) just are not wise enough and don't believe anything could happen to them. One of the girls in my cabin (a thirteen-year-old) told a story about someone she had known: a girl from a poor family to whom a a rich man promised "anything she wanted" if she would give him her virginity—and who then went and asked her friends for advice. They advised her to do it (she must have asked the wrong friends!) and she did—and he gave her nothing. The strange thing is that the girl didn't seem convinced by this story (or by the counselors' responses to the story!) that such a man should be refused. She said if someone asked her for advice in such a situation she'd tell her to do it, for fear the girl would forever regret not doing it (imagining the money she could have gotten) and then would hate her if she had advised her not to. Oh, we gave her speeches—I told her a man like that had probably slept with and betrayed many women and was just the kind who would give you HIV—but she didn't look convinced. It seems like the lure of money is so strong (especially when you're poor—and yet these girls don't seem totally destitute) that this girl could rationalize away ALL the horrible flaws in that scenario.

I'm glad Heather's the one giving these girls advice and not me...