samedi 20 octobre 2007


This is a blog entry for all of you who have expressed worry for my safety -- being a young naive single woman living alone africa and all. No worries! I several roomates to look after me now! Some of them I dont really like very much - they hog all the limited space of my hut. Some keep out of the way pretty well and earn their rent. Others are there for entertainment. I am talking of course about the 'real-world' africa drama played about between my various arthropod and reptilian roomates and myself.

First, the most numerous and determined of the loafers, the termites. Man, i both love and hate termites. I admire their organization and distribution of tasks (they are a colony much like ants and have different roles etc). Because of this, i am in a daily full-on battle with these greedy guys. Seriously, i spend time each day attempting erradication. I'll take my little broom and sweep their tunnel off my wall and then a few hours later they will have built it back! Arhg! The battle is on and I will be the victor! Truth be told, it is their house and im the renter.

Next, spiders. I used to be so afraid of spiders and they just dont really bother me much anymore. When i first got to my house there were millions of them and i kicked them all out. But now, they are starting to return slowly. Fortunately for the spiders, they have proven to me that they can earn their keep in my home . . . by eating the termites. Spiders love to eat termites and i love for them to be eaten. So, if a spider can prove, upon inspection of his web, that he will kill termites for me i let that spider stay. This is however only a deal ive worked out with spiders in the corners of my house. The ones in the windows and on the ceiling perish as soon as they are spotted by me.

My last fellow tennant is a gaggle of 'house geckos' that live under my tin roof and on my walls. As termite eaters, they are also allowed to stay put. However, the house geckos offer as a bonus excellent entertainment. They are my new favorite tv show. They click and charge each other and scrabble around . . . good times had by all. I only get mad at them when they poop on my stuff. "Not cool, house geckos," i say "Not Cool!" Maybe if i say it in clicks they will understand me and stop pooping on my clothes. You have to shake out your clothes here before you put them on because there may be a gecko or a bug hiding in them. Oh! such fun!

So those are my roomates. We have a nice little rapport going. Everybody gangs up on the termites. I pick on the spiders some. And the spiders and I think the house geckos are a riot. Good times had by all indeed.

samedi 6 octobre 2007

Running Water

In America, if you need water you go to the tap and fill up a glass. You step into the shower and turn some knobs. You load a dishwasher or washing machine and push some buttons. Eureka!In America, there is the luxury of running water. In Africa, its not quite so easy. The good pump nearest my house is about a five minute walk away. I dont know if you remember or not but water is really freakin heavy. really. So, i pay a neighbor to get water for me. All functionaires (people with government jobs like teachers) pay kids to do stuff for them like their laundry, fetch their water, do their dishes etc. So, I pay Bienvenue, a 13yr old boy who lives in my courtyard, to bring me water. Bienvenue straps jugs to his bike and goes off to the pump returning 20 minutes later with my water. Thus, i have running water too only mine comes to my home on a bike.
I must say it is astounding to see the women at the pump. Fetching water is for the most part a job of the women of a household. They fill up a 5 gallon jug with a hand cranked pump which is work in istelf. Then, they lift the full 40-50 pound jug of water, balance it on their heads, and walk several kilometers home. Wow. And I think my life is hard?

Ethnic Groups

In Africa, ethnicity is not bound by country borders and plays a huge cultural role here. I can think of 6 major groups that Burkina has but there are certainly more. The Mossi are the most ubiquitous of the ethnic groups and they speak Moore. For the most part they live in the central part of Burkina. Tougouri is on the edge of Mossi country. They are very patriarchal and make a lot of jokes. The Gormanchi live in the east and on into Niger. They speak Gormanchima. They would be the mid-westerners of the US. They are docile and unassuming. The Fulani speak Fulfulde and live in the Sahel and on into Mali. I have a lot of Fulani in my village too. The woman are beautiful. They plait elaborate silver discs into their hair. The Fulani raise cattle and a Fulanis cattle are at least as important to him as his family is. They take cattle very seriously. They would of course be the south-westerners. In the South are the Lobi, Bobo, and Djoula. The Bobo and Djoula speak languages by the same name and would be the new-englanders and west coasters. They are educated and progressive. The Lobi speak lobiri and are the southerners of Burkina. They like to wrestle, carry rifles for no reason, and are loud. These are the Arkansans of Burkina and like Arkansas the area of the country they live in is absolutely gorgeous. There is a little cultural tid-bit for you all!

If there is anything in particular that I havent covered that you want to hear about let me know. I kinda forget what i have and have not explained.

Male Horse Woman

Here are some Burkina tid-bits that make me smile.

My neighbors gave me a local name. I am Mossi so I needed a name to fit my new ethnicity. Almost all the people in Burkina - especially the Mossi - have the last name Ouedraogo. Seriously, at least half my students have that last name. So, naturally I made that my Mossi last name. My first name is Poco. Now, in Burkina, family names are first and the personal name second. Par example Hedges Rebecca. Only now, I am Ouedragog Poco. What does that translate to you ask? I am glad you ask because it translates to "Male Horse Woman." Yes. My name is Male Horse Woman. Awesome.

The rains have ended and it is 100 degrees in my house. Help. Im melting

In Ouaga there are a bunch of taxis. In order to be a taxi driver all you have to do is get a license. Buy a car. Paint it green - like pea soup green. And drive around. There is no regulation etc. Why pea green?

The food of choice here is something called to. Many familys eat it for breakfast lunch and dinner. It is made from millet or sometimes corn. It is white and has the consistency of playdough. You eat it with your hands and dip it in a sauce. I like sauce oseille. Burkinabe never believe me when i tell them that we do not eat to in the United States. "You dont eat to?!" they say in complete disbelief. "No, we dont eat to" i say trying not to giggle thinking of all the tasty delights America has to offer. "Okay, well certainly you eat corn to." they respond with satisfaction. Its not so much a question but a statement. And i assure them "No. There is no to in the United States." Personally, for me, this is the point of living in the United States. You can eat cheeseburgers, mexican food, and pumpkin pie. You dont HAVE to eat to.

In Africa, you drink beverages out of little baggies. Really. Yogurt too. You buy what i guess you could liken to a zip-lock bag but it ties instead of zipping and it is filled with some beverage. Zoom Koom, Bissap, Jus de pain de sange, Tamarin, Gingembre, water, yogurt, degue etc. And you bite off the corner and suck the liquid out of the bag. When you are done with the bag you throw it on the ground. I have to admit the first time i bought a beverage like that it kinda grossed me out. Especially the yogurt. But now . . . not at all. When I come home we can all fill up zip-lock bags and drink out of them. Hahaha.

One thing that continually frustrates me in this country is the lack of change. You have to make your own change when you buy something. They will take the money you guve with the bill at a restaurant and come back and the two of you (you and the waiter) will together make correct change for the bill. Both of you contributing. For someone afraid of math like me this is a nightmare. A clusterf$#@ of mathematical logistics that leaves me in total bamboozlement.


About a month ago, I was bee-bopping around en brousse (in the wilderness) just exploring, seeing if i could come across any cool trees. I climbed some awesome Baobabs. I mounted this rock formation. It was pretty cool. When I was going back I got kinda lost. There was a framer in his field working and so i approached him and asked him in Moore if he could show me what direction Tougouri was in. With a look of disbelief and shock he indicated the direction and I went on my way. As i was walking i was thinking about what that experience must have been like for him. To have a white lady show up in his field and ask in a local langiage where the village was. It must be the equivalent of this:

John lives in a nice quiet suburban cul-de-sac. It is sunday morning and he goes out to retrieve his paper. As he stretches and rubs his cheeseburger american-food belly he hears a clear bright voice at his right. Standing there is an African man, in traditional garb - the robe, cultivateur hat, a rudimentary hoe over his shoulder, elaborate face scars to indicate his ethnicity etc . . . use your already existing stereotypes (i know they fit me from time to time). He says to John, "Good morning neighbor! I seem to be lost. Could you indicate the nearest starbucks. How i long for a carmel frappucchino!"

That is what is must be like for the Burkinabe, to see me appear eb brousse and speaking their local language. haha. I thought it was funny.