If You Learn to Put a Baby on Your Back, Also Learn to Take Her Off

December 12, 2010 at 4:39 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

At the end of October my friend in village, Lamoussa, got married. It was the traditional marriage, not a legal one, and thus typically called the engagement ceremony.

I had to give a math devoir early in the morning (7-8) and afterwards I went home to grab a change of clothes for the ceremony and head over to her family courtyard. She lives right next to the church which is close by.

During the morning I had a veritable right of passage. Usually people don’t let me do things because I am viewed as incapable because I have never done it before or I shouldn’t do it because I am a guest. Thus, I was pretty thrilled to be asked to help out. It would be a very standoffish two years if I was always seen as a guest or very depressing if they think Americans are incapable of peeling cucumbers. Thank you, Monday mornings in the dining hall working salads for three hours. I can even score cucumbers.

So I spent a while prepping vegatables for the crudités with some other women. Eventually that was finished and people moved on with cleaning which I will admit I don’t know I to do burkinabe style. They clean dirt. It looks better when they do it.

I am sitting there as ladies mill about and one of the older ones restarts a favorite amongst the women: hand Kathryn a baby. I never babysat or had young cousins or neighbors. I don’t really know what to do with them. So they hand me the baby, laugh, and then continue to do work while I supposedly learn. Well, this little bundle of joy wouldn’t stop crying and somebody said the only way to make her stop would be to put her on my back. Evidentally that is literally the sleeper hold. So, giggling, my friend had me lean forward and balance this infant on my back. After a bit of finagling,she was secured and quietly sleeping. Happy photo op, happy family and friends. The nasara has a baby on her back.

It really isn’t that interesting so the women quickly went back to sweeping, scrubbing, and making kilos of rice. After about five minutes, the baby woke and could sense the foreignness in my back and started getting fussy. But the women were all busy!!

Scared this diaperless baby was crying because it had to pee, or worse, I frantically sought help and tried to flag down a woman. Most of the french speaking women had gone to marche and the older women who spoke Moore, which I don’t, were left. Thankfully panic is universally translated and Lamoussa’s dad came over to help me get the baby off.

Moral: don’t learn how to do anything without learning how to undo it.



Suck on These Sugar Cubes If You Get Dizzy

December 12, 2010 at 4:34 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

So this past week I was in Bobo-Dioulasso for the 50th anniversary of this fine country.

The actual date of independence is in August, but, hey that’s rainy season and people are busy. There is planting and cultivating and in general a lot of work to do. In practicality, the 11th of december is the declaration of the republic and is celebrated as the anniversary date with parades and the like. It’s ‘cold’ out now, especially during the morning.

So yesterday was that day. Fifty years of independence is a big deal and they have just had an election. The government invited us to march in the parade which was a really terrific honor. For the past week we have been practicing in this big parade.

How does one practice for a Burkinabe parade? Well, this Africa so it gets hot. Therefore to practice we stood on the pavement under a hot-bright sun. For four hours a day. Sunscreen isn’t enough, and thankfully I had brougt extra pagne to create my own shade. Very helpful. The guys marching with ECOWAS in front of us kept saying I looked like a good muslim girl. In reality, I was a few shades less red.

We would stand on the road, sneak off to the shade when the gendarmes got a little lax. We had he best gendarme, Jean-Luc. He was very patient with us. But anyway we would sit under the tree on rocks or the stray cinder block usually with the smell of rotting sweet watermelon rinds left in he gutter (watermelon season is here), the street vendors would walk by with bissap, gingembre, Ghanaian sweet rolls, bananas, gâteau, watermelon slices smiling on platters like the first glimpse of the chesire cat… That is one great thing about here. You have a hankering for something (that is available of course, this doesn’t work for Kraft Singles) and it will undoubtably walk by within fifteen mintues. And if it doesn’t, you can always give a bit of money to a petit to get it for you.

So it was hot, a lot of waiting, and intense marching. We had to walk in lines, swing our arms and march in step. 8 to 5’s these were not. It wasn’t the greatest part of my service, but it was an experience. I really give kudos to the Peace Corps staff for getting things organized in place of a few hiccups from the government. Like find 30 people housing in a few days time.

So after a week of marching in the mornings, napping and trying good food ( La Margarite had the best Lebanese) and going around the grand marche, we had Friday off as repos (rest). It was nice sleeping in until 630 and to spend the morning in the markets. The bureau and PC officials came in Friday and that night the country director set up a movie night for Charlie Brown Christmas, my favorite. The speech by Linus at the end is my favorite. It was a really chill day in preparation for the big march.

The morning of I woke up in the house for a quick night on a thermarest (there weren’t enough mattresses but it could be much worse), got dressed in the uniform (we had complet made with 50th anniversary pagne. The girls all got an extra pagne for a fular and I showed a few of the girls how to tie them like Mama Ouedraogo taught me during stage. I love fulars.

So here we are at 630 standing on a predawn African street, sleepy but well dressed. It was too early for the boutiques to be open for breakfast and to keep the parade organized, there weren’t many street vendors. What to do for breakfast??

Have no fear! The government provided us breakfast. We were given sachets of water (50cc in uv treated plastic baggies) and a box of cane sugar cubes. I can’t express what it was like being handed a box of blond sugar as the army guy said, in all seriousness, suck on a sugar cube if you start to feel dizzy. This will help you march well.

Luckily that was the low point. Around 930 the president drove by and a bunch of the top ranking generals. Pretty neat. After some more waiting and a few random dance parties with ECOWAS and the Lebanese Community who were just behind us, it was finally time to march. Il fallait arreter “The Electric Slide.”.

It was hard to hear the band so mostly we just walked in our rows. Being at he beginning of the parade we walked past some of the later legs, mostly military. Niger was represented. The Burkinabe women’s corps was there which was pretty neat to see. We walked past the crowds, the president as they said our name over the speaker system “Corps de la Paix Americain” and at least one chant of “O-Ba-Ma.”.

Finallement, we could go home and rest. It was a long day. A bunch of us went to Trois Karite for lunch, which is located next to our bureau. There were a lot of us there but at separate tables and the waiter the us a really hard time. I had banana foutou, which was surprisingly delicious. It was served with sauce but it was nice to have something with flavor as a base instead of the normal flour ‘to’ I eat in village.

So that was a quick run down of the events for the anniversary. I didn’t have a chance to see what thepresident said en tout, but I heard a clip in the background and ‘Corps de la Paix Americain’ caught my ear.

Heading for more training for a week and then I get to return to village.


I Don’t Write 2’s Like That

December 7, 2010 at 3:39 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

The end of the trimester is upon us!! What does that mean??

For the school year, it is broken into three bits. The first bit was October until the end December. But because I have an event for the anniversary of Burkina Faso (50 years of independence) and a little mini training at the capital, I had to finish everything for the end of the trimester.

Besides just grading (by hand) and calculating grades (by hand), I had to read off the grades for every devoir, quiz, and the average for every student. I really perfected my numbers in French. The kids are sneaky though. I had a few kids that crossed out a number and said I changed their grade when I obviously didn’t but one girl went above and beyond that.

One girl was in my 4eme PC class. She came up with a test that was definitley not my handwriting. The inside page I had graded but the cover was totally different. Instead of just sitting back down, she started crying and pleading with me trying to convince me that I wrote it. Nope but if you keep making a big deal I will change your grade but it will be a zero. So when she burst out I hanged her grade. That sucked.

Now I am for anniversary celebrtion and have the opportunity to march in the parade. I will be uncharacteristically attached to the Internet during all of this.

In short life is great here and, yes, I actually do like it.

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