lundi 23 mars 2009

The Travelling Salesman

I have a huge crush on a travelling salesman. He's been on my bus three times and he flirts with me and gives me freebees. This is not in itself outstanding as i like to flirt and tend to have multiple crushes at any given time. What is outstanding is that there is a traveling salesman on my bus at all. Let me explain...

The first time i saw him was on the STAF bus on the way to Ouahigouya last July. I have taken A LOT of buses in my 21 months of service and I was confused when a man got up and stood in the center aisle of the moving bus and began addressing everyone. My first thought was - wtf? i hope its not a proselytizing christian! I gave him a disinterested cold shoulder when he started passing out candy to get peoples attention. Great! A proselytizing christian with shitty candy! This 3 hour bus ride is going to be fantastic!

He began his speech and to my surprise it wasnt about Jesus and eternal damnation at all! He was talking about health of all things. Now this was a surprise! Culturally speaking, in Burkina people do not really talk about their health. When you're sick it's because someone cursed you. Babies grow in the stomach. Meningitis comes from eating green mangos. The menstrual cycle and pregnancy have nothing to do with each other. There is very serious ignorance in this country when it comes to the human body and its quirks and functions. And here was a man talking about health!

I was very confused and listened in to what he had to say. He was talking about menstrual cramps! Infertility! Malaria! He was telling men that it was okay to have sex with their pregnant wives and that it wasnt good to look for another woman in the mean time! What what what??? Yes! Finally there was someone talking publicly and without embarrassment about health and the humna body! I quickly discovered what was going on because the guy started hocking weird "chinese" medicine to cure any number of ailments. Fatigue, heat rash, malaria, muscle pain etc. First of all - the Burkinabe are used to getting things from China - cheaply made shirts, plates, jewelry, everything! They call it "la chinoiserie" and they think that the chinese have lots of secrets and answers so random chinese medicine being sold on a bus was a hot item. The guy started selling tons of the chinese tea stuff. They couldn't get enough of it! Try to get them to take quinine for malaria or wash their hands and its a waste of time but mystery chinese medicine?? It sold like hot cakes. Geez. The guy was so charming and funny that even I was thinking - hey, maybe this stuff would be good! Geez.

Well, it didn't stop there. The chinese tea was only item numbe one. Next, he had these weird patches that you apply to the skin. Large white tape rectangles that stick right on the skin. I read the directions - its like a trans-dermal analgesic something or other. Wow I thought mystery mentrual cramp tea was popular! The people on the bus were pointing out places on their bodies that have been suffering from pain for years! The travelling salesman assured them that the patch would soothe their stiff necks, feet, hands, backs etc. I got off the bus three hours later and half the passengers are covered from head to toe in white sticky patches. The driver even had one across the top of his head. Pasted on feet. Slapped onto forearms. It was hysterical!

I think two things here. I think first off - I am so glad that someone is actually talking about the menstrual cycle and malaria and diarhhea and not claiming these health issues as curses but as actual diseases with logical and avoidable causes. Awesome! The second thing that occurs to me is that buying mystical chinese tea from a travelling salesman on a bus isnt all that different than a visit to the witch doctor for a traditional tea brew to ward off curses. So, there is a small gain - a window of communication was opened albeit by the hand of magical chinese tonic. I still have a huge crush on the travelling salesman - he really is so charnimg. Argh! Freaking salesmen!

3 commentaires:

H3 a dit…

[Man, I don't know why I didn't see this post when I saw the other one abt the cursing nuns.] This story is HILARIOUS, partly b/c I can only imagine what else wld hv happened if I'd been on that bus - they would have all thought I were that salesman's sidekick! The other thing is, I totally know what those white patches are. I've used them myself and they work really well!! ROTFL! Some of them even have menthol or eucalyptus so they're cooling - perfect for la lutte contre la chaleur! =P

Jill a dit…

A traveling salesman hawked Chinese monkey blood medicine on my bus once. It was super entertaining, even more so than the "Il faut pas toucher!" music video.

Molly a dit…

Oooh, il faut pas toucher? Quoi? Ou? This man sounds like a young, up-and-coming politician. Even I want some chinese tea now, and little white patches.