Fire

Fire is a central part of Shamiyoyo life. It's used for warmth in the morning and evening as nighttime temperatures can dip into the 30's F though the daytime can exceed 90 F in the same day, and this is winter here. For example, Thursday's forecast is a high of 92 F and a low of 39 F, with the expected 0% chance of rain.

Fire here is treated as a communal resource. If someone needs fire, they go to their neighbor's fire, and without needing to ask, they take a pot of coals to start their own. I've been surprised by this a few times and had to suppress my natural instinct to say, 'why are you taking my fire?’

A typical Shamiyoyo day generally starts with sweeping and raking mango leaves out of their sandy yards and burning them. Shamiyoyo takes great pride in their homes and removing the leaves is equivalent to having a manicured lawn if you had to mow every morning. Meanwhile, a fire is started to get warm.

Mary sweeping her yard with my tent in the background

Mary sweeping her yard with my tent in the background


Fire is also used for cooking, though as mentioned earlier, they boil or fry and seemingly never grill, with the exception of roasting cassava directly on the coals.

Roasting cassava. I would describe the flavor and texture as midway between a potato and banana.

Roasting cassava. I would describe the flavor and texture as midway between a potato and banana.

The people of Shamiyoyo seem to be immune to burns as they can grab roasted cassava, flaming sticks, and piping hot stones without any discomfort. I touch the same rock or cassava and immediately drop it with minor first degree burns.

Lastly, fire is a social gathering. Families and friends gather morning and night by the fire to talk and spend time with each other. This morning, sitting by the fire with Wana and David, I felt what I assumed was a huge bug land on the back of my neck. I swiped it off and we saw it was actually a small lizard. In Shamiyoyo, they say if a lizard falls on your back, the lizard's gender will be the same as your next born - the Shamiyoyo version of gender reveals. I guess it happens not infrequently. Unfortunately, I flicked it off and we couldn't find it to check the gender. We'll have to wait for the ultrasound.

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Ben Kirby1 Comment