On December 21 I went to the capital city, Ouagadougou, known here simply as Ouaga, to meet Janet and her family for their Christmas visit. On the bus I got a call from the Peace Corps Country Director, with whom they were to spend the night. She told me there had been a big snow storm in Europe and many flights had been canceled. She wondered if I had heard anything from the family about a flight cancelation. I went on to Chez Joanna, the little hotel where I was to spend the night. Fortunately I had my computer with me and Chez Joanne has an internet connection. I was able to check on their flight which, fortunately, had left Paris and was on the way. It was 2 hours late, but at least they were not stuck on the ground in France. I understand that they were very lucky because flights before and after theirs were canceled!
We had a very nice dinner with the Country Director who generously put the family up for the night. I had arranged with the brother of my neighbor, Prosper, to have a 4 X 4 with seating for 8 people for the time the family was with me. We did some shopping for things with which to paint the inside walls of my house, two big commercial sized buckets of white paint. After we added the luggage to all those things we looked like a bush taxi and headed back to my village for the night.
Crocodiles and Old Friends
The next day we visited with the family where I stayed during my training. On the way we stopped to see one of the tourist attractions, the sacred crocodiles (actually caiman). The attraction is that you pay a fee and the men who run the place use a chicken tied to a rope to lure a caiman out of the water. These things are so used to being fed and dragged around by their tails that they are almost tame. They haul the critter up onto the beach and invite you to touch them or pretend to drag them around by the tail, as in the picture below. This is my daughter Janet and the three grand children playing crocodile hunter.
We had a nice visit with my old host family and Abby and Ellie got to meet the two girls in the family with whom they have had a few e-mail exchanges. I took advantage of having a big vehicle at my disposal and bought a mattress and a big clay jug to use as a water cooler.
It certainly was not a white Christmas here, except for the walls inside my house. Christmas Eve day and Christmas were mostly spent with the family scrubbing the walls, putting grouting around the edge of the wood pieces that serve as a ceiling to keep the dirt up in the attic, and painting my living room, kitchen and hall. The rooms used to be a rather dark turquoise. Below is Janet on my new ladder by one of the water stains that made the house look so dirty. The flash lightened the color of the old walls, but you can get the idea.
They used stark white paint and the old color bled through a bit, so now the walls look like a very pale turquoise. My gift to the family was their trip here and their gift to me was painting the walls of the rooms I use the most. If they had been here for a week, they could have finished the job. I am not sure if I will ever get around to doing the rest of them. We shall see.
Christmas in Burkina Faso
On holidays here the custom is to go visit your friends. On Christmas day Janet and I went to visit my community homologue, who has helped me get integrated into the community, and my neighbor and “Burkinabé son”, Prosper and his family. Prosper takes care of me as he would his own mother. At each place we were served food drinks. I was totally unprepared to entertain in this way, so when people stopped by I just gave them greetings and invited them to sit for a while. Next year I will be prepared.
Soccer, the International Language
Because they had lived in Paris for 5 years, all of the Pershing speak better French than I do, except for Jamie, who forgot all of his French as soon as he came back to the United States. Jamie brought a soccer ball with him. As soon as he stepped out into my courtyard and started kicking it around, about 20 kids appeared. He and Ellie had a good time playing with the kids, although Jamie can’t speak a word of French. One day Able, one of the sons of my homologue, went with him to the soccer field by the school. Because Able speaks a little English idea was supposed to be that Able would translate for him, but Jamie could not understand Able’s English. He had a good time, anyway. Somehow with soccer all you need is hand signals and feet.
All of the kids went with my “water girl” to get water from the forage (a faucet from which you can fill your water jugs without having to pump it or pull it out of the well). This water is somewhat treated, and safer to drink than other water sources, although I still add bleach and filter it. The girl uses a big 200 liter barrel which she hauls in a donkey cart. When she gets to my house she has to transfer the water in 25 liter jugs that used to hold palm oil, and pour the first 100 liters into a garbage can in the house. Then she fills the four palm oil cans and I am usually set for about 10 days. With the family there they had to go twice to get water. I think the kids got a better idea of the value of water in Burkina Faso after hauling it a couple of times. Many of the people here carry their water in big basins on their heads. Abby, my oldest granddaughter wanted to learn how to do that, but I think you have to start pretty young to be able to carry so much that way.
More on the trip in the next installment….