vendredi 14 mars 2008

Worth Your Weight In Cows

In Burkina, at least in village, a man's wealth is measured by his number of cattle and wives.
"Mr. Sawadogo has 5 wives and 15 head of cattle!"
Being an Arkansan this is not such a foreign concept for me. I will relate a conversation between myself and a student to all of you - one i have about every week:

"Madame, will you take me back to America?!"
"Sure. You can stay with my parents until you learn english. But its expensive and I'm not gonna buy you a ticket."
"That's okay Madame. I have ten cows!"
"1o Cows?! Why didn't you say so!"

It tickles me that my initial reaction to this conversation is not: "What do cattle have to do with plane tickets and why is this kid bragging about his cattle herd?" but "Hot damn! 10 cattle? Come on to America then!"

I am slowly becoming more and more African. Thinking of wealth in terms of cattle is just one example. My ravenous cravings for American food have been replaced by a preference for Burkina fare.

"Yumm . . . which do you want: this juicy cheesy hamburger and fries OR this steaming plate of rice with tomato sauce?"
"Hmm . . . are those morsels of delicious sheep meat i see in that sauce?"
"Why yes they are"
"Shit! Hand it over. Screw the hamburger!!"

Who am i? Things that should not be common place to a naive white girl have become regular daily activities. Goats in my latrine, bones and rocks in my food, shoeless and bottomless dirt covered children, old men on bikes with cell-phones, women shouting and shoving peanuts at me at bus stations . . . all this stuff passes by me and rarely do I think . . . "ya know, 10 months ago that would have freaked me out." Burkina is becoming home.

I keep trying to look at my African life with my old eyes. The eyes that looked at the Peace Corps website pictures and wondered how Americans could live like that. The eyes that read my Peace Corps Invitation describing the next two years of my life and thinking "Holy shit. How am I going to do this? No electricity, no running water, huts, French, Africa, 70 students in a classroom?? How will I be able to do this??" But now . . . it's not only pretty easy to do, I really enjoy it most of the time. I really like living in Africa. I just never pictured myself here. So, when a kid in my class equates his cattle herd with his ability to buy a plane ticket . . . its these new eyes of mine that see what he sees. I continue to surprise even myself and it's only been 9 months. Pretty soon I'll be so well integrated that I'll discontinue using toilet paper and will opt for the "left-hand and tea pot of water" method. Haha. Don't worry Mom . . . that would probably take more than 2 years and if not, I'll keep that tid-bit to myself.

4 commentaires:

Molly a dit…

I like how you're volunteering Mom and Dad to sponsor an African kid and teach it English. You do realize the only thing they'll learn is how to say "shit" "dammit" and "Hal!!!"But they won't learn to say the f-bomb. That's looked down upon.

Lc a dit…

Hello from Faial Island - Azores.

Come and meet our beautiful island in the middle of the Atlantic...

Leave me a comment, to keep in touch.

Jessica a dit…

This entry reminds me of something that happened to me at my job. We had this overnight radio broadcast thing, so I had to work from 8 at night to 5 in the morning. Picture me at the homeless shelter at 3 am playing Apples to Apples with two of my co-workers, Jeff and Amanda, two homeless guys, and a seriously mentally ill woman wearing scrubs, a fleece blanket as a skirt, and a surgical mask. She calls herself Anna Banana. She stops the game to tell Jeff that while Amanda and I might be nice to look at, we are actually good for nothing. Therefore, he should trade Amanda for 12 cats so that they can catch mice for him, and me for 12 cows, which are excellent for dairy and beef. Apparently, according to Anna Banana, I would be worth a lot in Africa. JEEZ.

Anonyme a dit…

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