samedi 30 août 2008

Stealing from the Poor

In rural Africa, homelessness is a realtive term. Buildings are little more than enclosures that keep some of the wind, dirt, and rain out of your face. People don't really live in their houses and are likely to sleep anywhere. In every village however, there are les fous or people with mental illnesses who are family exiles and their care becomes the responsibility of the neighborhood. Neighbors make sure they get some food, enough clothingm, an occasional handout etc. There are 4 fous in Tougouri.

I bring this up because I recently found out that i've been stealing from my fous. I told some of you about how I find money on the ground and will ask around, "hey, is that yours? No" Nobody ever claims money found on the ground. I always thought this was kinda strange in a country so poor. Anyways, if no one would claim the money I'd pick it up for myself. Well . . . I was talking about this to another volunteer who informed me that Burkinabe never pick up fallen money because it's God's way of giving income to les fous. Like manna from heaven.

So shameful!! I've been stealing from the poor and needy. I have stopped picking up fallen money and reformed my ways.

Happy Anniversary

I just recently celebrated two major Peace Corps milestones. My one year anniversary as a Peace Corps Volunteer and my one year anniversary as a resident of the genial village of Tougouri in the Namenatenga (province) which is part of Centre Nord (region) in Burkina Faso (country), West Africa (continent) on Earth (planet) . . . to be specific. Congrats to me et felicitations! I am intensely proud that i've made it so far.

Both special days turned out to be nothing quite special at all. They were typical days in village. I woke up around 7am and journaled while I breakfasted on oatmeal and coffee. I alternated staring into space and chores and reading. Everday I make myself go for a walk as the sunsets. I say "make" because somedays I just dont have the patience or am not in the mood to be stared at and called white every 3 seconds. But I always make myself go. On the anniversary of my arrival in Tougouri I was walking down the paved road in my village like I do every evening. I bought some bread etc. and I am just thinking about how amazing and ridiculous living in a village in Africa is and enjoying the beautiful sunset and the general absurdity of my being there in the first place. I hear this rumbling behind me and panicked voices. I turn around and almost got gored by some runaway bulls and a goat tearing through the middle fo town. How wonderfully appropriate. Twenty paces down the road and Bundi, one of my little neighbor children, brings me a galette for a present which is a kind of fried doughnut made from millet. So my anniversary was celebrated by two of my favorite things about living in this country: the wonderful hospitality and warmth of its people and the ridiculous and bizarre circumstances I find myself in.

lundi 11 août 2008

Second Hand T-Shirts

One of the perks about living in the third world is the t-shirts. All those clothes out there that are donated to charity by countless self-less Americans end-up in open markets across the world. Burkina Faso is no exception. The market in Tougouri is no exception. I see Africans wearing the most random and ironic t-shirts. Just today, somebody put an "I'm Big on Little Rock" t-shirt in my box. Some self-sacrificing Arkansan decided to share the joy of Little Rock with Africa and now the t-shirt is mine! Some things I see are just sort of . . . incongruous. For example, I saw a huge grown man . . . you know, the type that would be cast in movies as the semi-neanderthal who stomps about grunting. A really big guy. And he was wearing a t-shirt that said "Princess" in pink sparkles. Seriously. In Tougouri we have something called APE which is the Burkina equivalent of the PTA. It's made up of rich parents in the village just like in America and the president (an important man in the village) often sports a shirt that says "It's gettin Hot in huuuur! So take off all your clothes!" Soooo professional.

When men wear ridiculous shirts its funny but when it's little girls in wildly inappropriate garb it becomes kind of tragic. For example . . . we PCV's really try to get involved in International Women's Day (March 8th) because the women of this country are at best second class citizens. I had a friend who was playing soccer with a bunch of neighborhood girls when she noticed one of her team mates (a 12 year old girl) was sporting a t-shirt that read, in puff paint, "A suck, a buck." I'm sure some sorority girl donated her shirt to a "good cause." Gee whiz. Another time i was proctoring a test in my 7th grade class when I noticed one little girl wearing a shirt that said "I killed a 6 pack just to watch it die" I don't even know how I would go about explaining that. Ridiculous.

The weirdest thing about all this is that they don't even care what their t-shirt says. I love explaining to Burkinabe what their t-shirts say but they never really care. In America we are always conscious of what our t-shirts say: what will people think if I wear this "Phish" t-shirt?? Will they think i'm a jobless druggie?? What if I bump into a really big Phish fan? Will they think I'm a complete phony if I don't know all the words to Reba?? Maybe that's just me. But these Burkinabe honestly dont care if they are a man wearing a shirt that says "I have the p@#$y so I make the rules."

So if you have a particularly offensive shirt you might as well donate it to Africa because they don't know what it says nor are they effected one way or another by the t-shirts meaning. So keep on keepin on America! Donate those t-shirts!