September 8, 2016
Yeyeri, everyone! That is “bonjour” or “good morning” in Karaboro, Karfiguéla’s local language. I am currently sitting on my patio outside of my house drinking coffee and eating my breakfast (nutella and bread) while writing this. I’m obviously still a great multitasker.
I will start by telling you that after swear-in I spent a few days in Bobo Dilausso where I shopped for all the basics of my new African lifestyle, most of which includes a gas stove, large plastic garbage can to store water, and a foam mattress they very loosely describe as a “bed”. After shopping I had a few days to relax with my friends because me and my friend Kaylee who’s site is near mine were to be affectated last. The word “affectated” here just means you are sent to your site to work. In Burkina nurses and teachers can also be affectated to the small rural communities, and in fact the Major (head nurse) at my local clinic was just affectated here only 10 months ago. We are truly in the same boat, but most of them are Burkinabe so the culture isn’t as hard to grasp even though they are generally from bigger cities. Anyways, my friend Kaylee and I watched as 7 of our friends were affectated before us. There were 9 of us affectated from Bobo. Then the day came that we had to leave. We packed up all our stuff, I have accumulated an amazing amount considering I only came to this country with two bags and a carry on. We then made the drive to Banfora (the closest city to me, this is also where my marché is, where I will be doing my shopping), about 10K after Banfora we made it to the turn off on the road that I would normally turn to go to my house. Alas, it is rainy season and the road is completely impassable. We still have a few kilometers to go before we are at my house. The driver called my homologue and Abou came down with a moto to take us on a better route. Mind you, this route still had us driving through large bodies of water, and we had to go through the public entrance of the Karfiguéla cascades (PS: that’s how close I am to the cascades!! Naner naner!). It took a solid 30 minutes to make it through basically all of my village with a Peace Corps vehicle, but we made it, and brought all of my things into my house. Then the Peace Corps vehicle left me. On contrary to what I have been told would happen, I did not feel an urge to chase it down, I simply felt like I needed to get my things in order and clean my house. And clean I did. The neighbor boy, Issouf, came over and I brought everything out of my house. Abou washed everything that had dust on it, Issouf cleared every room out, swept the whole house, and filled up my gigantic water can, and I sorted everything as it came back in the house. This didn’t take long with all of the help so after that I sat with Abou under my mango tree and reviewed some language stuff, mostly Karaboro.
The days following affectation could be described as “the days in which I followed around and copied the every move of Abou Koné”. Maybe that will be title of my memoir because I feel this may become a trend. As I am very novice at Karaboro, and let’s be honest, French too, Abou translates nearly every interaction I have. My main objective for my first few days has been to visit every household in the village, greeting them, and telling them what I am doing here. Since there is about 1200 people in the whole village this is taking a few days. I’m currently on day 4, and Abou thinks 2 more days should suffice. Most of the people here speak only Jula or Karaboro, only a few speak French, and I’ve run into a couple of people who think they speak English. Who am I to crush their dreams by telling them their only memorized phrase of a very quick “HihowareyouIamfine” really isn’t English. I appreciate the effort on my behalf. Especially when I think about the fact that Karaboro sounds to me like a string of syllables that don’t belong together, I can only imagine what English sounds like to them. Anyway, Abou and I have been very busy with visiting everyone, and on our down time he has taught me how to cook with what I have here. He’s also informed me that my grocery buying skills are sorely lacking and has written a list of things I need to buy the next time I make the long trek to my Marché. Any other downtime I happen to have is filled with language quizzing and cultural conversations. He’s really motivated and always keeping me on track. We also make sure to hit all the popular town hangouts and he has helped me figure out where I can buy the necessities in village, like a cute new pair of sandals. You know, necessities.
I have encountered a slight issue with the fact that I, a single 25 year old white girl living in village, spend so much time with a single 26 year old village man. It’s not so much of an issue as an annoying complication. I actually count myself lucky that Abou doesn’t have other obligations because this is why he’s so capable to be my homologue. He has time for me, to help me integrate into this community and learn the language along with being a good friend I feel comfortable enough to talk to. Although, here in village salutations are everything. One generally starts off with “good *insert time of day here* how are you” then you go on to “how’s your family” then “how’s your significant other”, “how’s your kids/parents/siblings etc”, “how’s your house”, “how did you sleep” and it goes on. You have to do this for every person you see and this is what I’ve been doing at every house I visit. This is all done in Karaboro by the way, so I’m learning this quickly. The problem I’ve encountered is that I can never get past the “how’s your significant other” question. The villagers either don’t believe that I’m single and insist that Abou, who is standing next to me every time backing me up, is my significant other, or they insist that if he truly isn’t my significant other then he should be and they try to convince me of this. It’s actually super funny and Abou and I have had many laughs about the situation. I have become master at one particular part of Karaboro; insisting that I am single and intend to stay that way. It’s all very amusing and I don’t particularly want to change up mine and Abou’s routine because I think we are on a roll and I feel comfortable working with him, I just worry a bit that this whole thing will overshadow the real reason I am here. All I can do is work on the things that brought me here and hope the Village starts noticing me for that and not just as the white girl who’s always with Abou.
There is one great thing I have been happy to rediscover in village life here; nap time!! Here in Burkina between the hours of about 12-14/15 (yes they use the 24 hour clock) it is generally too hot to do anything so people go home, have lunch, and nap in my case. They usually extend my nap time a bit because they always assume the white girl is always tired, which is actually very true. It gives me time to nap and get some things done at home like wash my clothes, wash my dishes, read some clinic health material, slowly unpack some more or just relax. Sometimes Issouf comes over to refill my water which is a job in itself because he has to take my bidon, that probably holds 5 gallons I’m guessing, back and forth from the water pump. He won’t let me pay him either. Other times during nap time the kids in my neighborhood knock on my door to ask to play. Someday I will, but these days have been so busy. I always feel bad and sometimes I get the toys that I have out and let them play on my porch.
So now you have a good idea of what I’ve been doing recently. Nothing life changing but I’m laying the groundwork. Until next time.
Oma donni ,
The following photos are from my short excursions with Abou to the very close tourist sites, Cascades de Karfiguéla and Dômes de Fabedougou.