The week before I joined the Peace Corps, Anna called me and told me she had met someone hiking. I knew immediately that this was trouble. Throughout my two years abroad I heard snippets of how Anna and Rob's relationship was getting more and more serious. First they were spending a lot of time together, then they were living together, and then they had developed a new dialect of English that only the two of them understood. It wasn't until I was told by my mother that Anna and Rob were hosting Thanksgiving at their house for both my and Rob's parents that I really freaked out. The shock of Thanksgiving threw me off far more than the announcement of their engagement, which I also received in Africa.
Shortly after the news of Anna and Rob's engagement I went to visit a Peace Corps friend that lived in Dogon country, an area of Mali where the people live up in the cliffs. Her host dad is able to tell the future by reading cowry shells. He offered to read our shells for one dollar each. During my turn he asked me what was on my mind. I asked if I was going to find a job when I returned to America in a month and other mediocre questions. He assured me that everything was going to be ok in America as I adjusted to finding work and my future. He told me I was troubled about something else and to ask him what was really on my mind.
I told him, in my best Bambara, which was then translated into Dogon, that my little sister was going to get married and I wanted to know if this marriage was going to work, if she was making the right decisions. His answer was a little unclear, maybe because it was translated twice before it got to me, but I did understand that I had now somehow put the success of your marriage on my own shoulders. The old man told me that to insure for a happy marriage, not that it wouldn't have been otherwise, I must go and buy some sogo sogo bon bons (literally cough candy) and give them to kids I was to meet on the street.
I stepped off the airplane with the remaining two sogo sogo bon bons, intending to give them to you right now. I thought it would be so clever, at this moment to pull out this African magic that encompassed all marital bliss in the form a menthol candy. But ten months later, I've had the chance to get to know Rob and Anna as "Rob and Anna" and not just the Anna I knew before, and those little sogo sogo bon bons have lost all their appeal for me. What can an inanimate cough drop do for Rob and Anna that they haven't already done for each other? How can an African cough drop insure commitment, respect, patience, friendship, or love? It doesn't even help with coughs! So forgive me for doubting you. I see now that you don't need the assistance foreign witchcraft in your marriage because you have everything you need in each other.