Saturday, July 28, 2012

More about Finding Food


I have shown you the wide variety of things you can buy at the marché, but I did not show you how they make baked pork. There are several men who bake a pig every market day. First you have to buy a pig and take it to the veterinarian to have it inspected.  Here you see one of the men who makes baked pork with the pig he is about to cook. Notice the round purple stamp on the pig, showing that it has been inspected.
Here is the mud brick oven in which the pig will be roasted.  You can see the fire burning to get the oven hot.  Next to it is the big metal pan in which they put the pork pieces to cook.
On the subject of men who make roast pork, here is an interesting story. I may have told you that the village chief died suddenly this spring.  He was relatively young, probably in his early forties. His younger brother, who is a student at the Lycée, told me that he died of a stroke.  His doctor had told him he had high blood pressure and that he should stop drinking.  He did not, and probably that was the thing that precipitated the stroke.  However I also heard that one of the pork vendors had a dispute with the chief only a few days before he died.  I am not sure what happened, but it may have been that the vendor did not think that the chief had paid for some pork that someone picked up for him.  In any case, it is not a good thing to insult the chief. The vendor was to appear before the chief for a hearing on the day after the chief died.  Some folks made the association between the argument and the chief's death and blamed the vendor.  They decided the vendor should be punished and destroyed his oven. 
 Not surprisingly, the vendor has now left town and I hear he is working in the provincial capital. 

But what is the marché looks like this?
Chicken and Pentards

If you want meat any day of the week, you can go to this corner where a couple of different groups of guys grill chickens and guinea fowl. They grill them with the heads on so you can be sure which kind of bird you are getting. They get them about half cooked and set them to the side of the grill to keep warm.  When you order one, they put it over the hot part of the fire and finish cooking it.  They give it to you with onions and tomatoes, if they have them, and other seasonings and it is quite tasty. The only problem is that, unless you tell them not to, they will chop it up into small pieces, complete with the bone, and you get bone chips mixed in with everything else. It is also possible to get a half -cooked one to take home and finish cooking yourself.

Sort of a grocery store

There are no super markets as you know them in the USA, but there are small places, in between a super market and a 7-11 type of place, in the big cities like Ouaga and Bobo. As with all stores in this country, you can never be sure that the product you are looking for will be there.  Maybe they had it the last time you visited, but they are all sold out now and you may never find that product again.

In smaller towns there are places that sell canned goods, like you see here. There are very few choices of brands.  Usually there is one type of couscous, one or two brands of pasta, one brand of tomato paste, and so on.  They probably have some beauty products and school supplies. 
If they have a freezer you may be able to get a cold bottle of soda or juice. They also have big bags of things like sugar, corn flour, wheat flour, and rock salt, which they will weigh  and package up for you in a plastic bag.


In small towns there are ways to get food that is already cooked for you.  Many of the volunteers here like what they refer to as benga.  It is a combination of beans and rice that is usually flavored a bit.  When you buy it the person selling it to you may ask if you want oil added, which most Burkinabè do like, and what they call pemont, ground up hot pepper. Enough for a hardy meal costs about a quarter.

There are also small restaurants, like this one.  They usually have cold drinks, including sodas and beer.  The menu might be posted, but you usually have to ask what they have today. In the picture you can see the pleasant seating area under a hangar.  On the far right is the back of the building where the cooking takes place.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

A Ceremony for a New Nun

This week I was invited to go with a group from my village to a ceremony in a town near Ouaga where the daughter of my community homologue was to take her final vow to become a member of the Sisters of the Immaculate Conception of Ouagadougou. I have some pictures of the event and I will try to describe it as I understood it.  I expect all you good Catholics who read this will be able to correct my errors about what I think I was seeing.  

As with a wedding here, there was a special pagne that had been selected for those going to see Lucy make her commitment, which you are expected to buy and have made into something to wear. Here is a picture of Prosper and his son in their clothes for the event.
We were told that we would all travel together from the church, and were asked to be there at 5:30 AM.  I knew that did not mean 5:30, but I did not know how much later the actually time would be, so I left the house at 5:15, in the dark. Unfortunately, because I could not see clearly, I fell when my bicycle hit a place near my house where the water had washed out part of the path. By the time I went back to the house to wash off my scrapes and bandage them, it was light enough to see.  I should have waited the extra 15 minutes and I would have been fine.  Ah. that American compulsion to be on time!

When I arrived at the church there were only a few people standing around. Eventually more folks arrived, and a number of them went into the church for the morning mass. At 7:00 our transportation finally arrived and I was appalled. It was a truck, usually used for hauling goods and animals.
The way they made it possible for over 60 people to ride in it all the way to Ouagadougou was to take benches out of the church and put them in rows along the sides and down the middle of the cargo area. 
Peace Corps volunteers are not supposed to ride in such places and I was debating about what I should do when the mother of the Sister-to-be grabbed me by the hand and lead me to the cab of the truck where I was to ride.  Four of us shared the bench behind the driver and his helpers: a nun, the mother the woman taking her final vow, the mother's best friend, and me. I felt a bit guilty taking the comfortable place when all the other folks climbed into the back, but I don't know if I could have ridden back there without getting car sick, so I was glad to be riding in the cab. I gave my camera to Prosper and asked him to get a picture of the back when everyone was seated.
Along the way the truck was stopped four times for various police checks. Everyone in the cab was speaking Moore and I did not always know what was going on.  The only important thing was that we started late because the truck arrived late, and the police checks just made us later.  When we arrived at 9:15, the ceremony had already started.  Because I was with a Sister and the mother of one of those making her perpetual vow (and also, maybe, because I was a foreigner), I was admitted to the seating area near the platform where all the priests were seated. I shared a low stool with a man who was taking a lot of pictures.  A choir was singing and a group of 14 women who were becoming novices were introduced.  They were dressed in matching blue tops and pagnes. After saying they wished to join the order, they each received their white head-covering from the cardinal and entered a building.  Prosper managed to get the ushers to let him in to hand my camera back to me, so I have a few photos of the rest of the day. In a short while the novices reappeared, dressed in the white habit of the order. Here are some of the novices kneeling and reciting their vows. There were 14 all together, so they did this in groups of 3 or 4. The little boy held a microphone in front of each woman as she said her name, so all could hear. 
After they signed a paper on a table behind the officiating clergy, they were each given a crucifix by the Cardinal.
Then the cardinal gave a homily in very slow, clear French and I followed most of what he said.  It was, of course, all directed at the women who were joining the religious order, as it should have been. He summarized his remarks in Moore and made some further comments that drew laughs from the assembled group.
The women taking their perpetual vow were introduced by the choir singing something which included the name of the woman and the woman named sang a response. Here is Lucy, singing her response.
There were 15 women in this group, so they knelt in groups of three to recite their vows.
Another part of the ceremony was when the 15 women prostrated themselves.  I had heard that this was a part of the ceremony, but had never seen it.  Perhaps it is irreverent to mention it, but I did notice that they all had on new shoes of the same style.  You can see how clean the soles are. 
After the mass, the people who had come to see each new sister gathered under various awnings.  You figured out where your group was assembling by looking for others in clothes made from the same pagne. Here you can see some of the folks assembled to share refreshments with Sister Lucy.
Here is a picture of the proud mother and the new full member of the order.
As we were leaving, I realized that packing a group of people in the back of a truck is the standard way to get folks to an event like this. Here is another example, and they don't even have sides on their truck.
On the way home we were stopped five more times for various police checks. At each of the stops the driver took a set of documents to be checked by the police.  On one of the stops on the way home the driver had to produce his fire extinguisher and reflective emergency triangle.  He had them, but I have never seen the triangle warning signs displayed when a truck was stopped for repairs along the road.  Usually the driver and his helpers cut some brush along the side of the road and put 6 or 7 pieces of it at about 10 foot intervals behind and in front of the vehicle as a warning to oncoming traffic.

A second stop lasted over a half hour.  The police wanted to fine the driver for transporting people rather than goods in his truck.  They wanted him to pay a fine of about $50 but he thought that was excessive.  He offered to pay $25 and the negotiations went on and on.  I don't know what really happened, but some folks thought the police eventually let him go with no fine because of the event we had gone to. Between the police stops, stopping for gas, and waiting while the driver ate a meal, it took 3½ hours to make the trip that took less than 2 hours in the morning.

Lucy is now at home for a month's vacation with her family before she leaves again for more training with the Order in Italy.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Some More Differences

In America, if I notice a movement of something scampering up a tree, I assume it was a squirrel.  Here, the thing scampering up a tree trunk would be a lizard. I have referred to them as geckos, but I am not sure that is accurate. I think of geckos as not only climbing up the wall but also as scampering across the ceiling. These critters do not do the ceiling walking Checking that source of all wisdom, Wikipedia, I learned that there are over 1500 species of geckos and probably many yet to be identified. There are two main types I have noticed around my part of the country, brown ones with stripes to give a bit of camouflage, and black and yellow ones.   They have yellow heads and a yellow band where the tail joins the body. I wish I could capture one on video because when they stop to look around they look like they are doing push-ups. Here is one of the brown ones Jessie photographed at Christmas.
When these lizards are small it is just about impossible to keep them out of your house.  In fact, I am happy to have a couple of them living in my house with me because they eat insects. I do have to sweep up their droppings, but they are dry and don't smell. Here is a long shot of one of them on the wall of my living room, up near the ceiling.
  Here is a close-up, so you can see what that brown spot on the wall really looks like.
 I think they live up inside of the hollow doors, most of which have lost their bottom edge for some reason.  Last year, when I heard scratching coming from inside a door, I thought it might be a mouse, but I couldn't imagine how a mouse would be able to live there. Now I know it is just a friendly lizard.  The lizards I see come in various sizes. Usually the ones in the house range from the size of your little finger up to six inches or so long. One you see outside tend to be larger, with some being 9 inches to a foot or so long. I found this little one inside the case holding bicycle tools that is meant to be carried on the back of the bicycle.  He was not very big.

Bicycles in Burkina Faso

In America many boys and men wouldn't be caught dead on a pink woman's bicycle.  Here, the colors have no gender implications and people ride whatever bicycle is available.  In fact, women's bicycles allow people to carry a jerry can of water or a sack of grain on the bicycle between their legs as well as on the rack in the back, making them a bit more useful.

Bike Repairs

Here is the "workshop" of the guy I go to when I have a problem with my bicycle.  It is just a space between the main road and some shops, with an old tire to sit on while he is working and logs for customers to sit on while they wait for repairs.

The first thing he did for me was to put a basket on my bike.  Other people I had asked said they could not do it because the frame was too thick, but he got a blacksmith to enlarge the ring that goes on the front post and put it on with little trouble. Here you can see the basket he put on for me.
"Why is your bicycle in your living room?" you ask.  It is the custom to put all bikes and motorcycles in the house at night to protect them from thieves. At first I thought I could keep it in a storage shed with a padlock, but I was informed by several people that would just be asking to have it stolen, so it lives in my house.  Fortunately I have plenty of room.  I feel sorry for volunteers and Burkinabè who live in more normal sized places.

Reconditioning Bicycles

In addition to making repairs, my bike mechanic reconditions bicycles. He gets frames from old bicycles somewhere.  He sands off the old paint, repaints them, puts on new handle bars, peddles, brakes, and wheels and sells them from his "workshop'. It is in the center of town so there are lots of people passing by all the time. Here you see a selection of bikes he has for sale, a table with spare parts and tools, and some tires and inner tubes hanging up.

More About Church Here

I have been attending an Assembly of God church here because they have a service in French at 7:30 on Sunday, before the 9:30 Moore service.  When I arrive at 7:25, often there are only a couple of motorcycles under the tree that serves as the parking lot. When I walk in the door, one of the two or three men present goes up to the platform where there are several chairs lined up for the minister and any visiting preachers participating in the service and gets one for me.  He puts it on the side of the hall where the men sit.  Rather like a Quaker Meeting in the US, the men sit on one side of the church and the women in the center and on the other side. I appreciate having a chair with a back to lean against rather than spending an hour and a half or more on a bench. I also appreciate that one of the men who site in the front row locates the hymns they sing for me and hands me his song book so I can join in.

The church has added a sound system, with two speakers and microphones at the speaker's podium and on stands for the choir.  There are now two electric guitars that get plugged into the sound board, too.  It is good to be able to hear the speaker better, but the guitars drive me crazy.  The music leader is used to picking his own key and does not work with the guitarists to let them know what songs he is going to pick and what key we will be singing in.  He starts the song and the guitarists try to figure out chords that might work with the key and song he has picked. Unfortunately most of the time they are in a completely different key than he and the congregation are singing in. Ouch!  It is painful to listen to and I don't know how the song leader can stay in his key when the guitars are blasting away in a different one.

When the service begins, one of the laymen takes the podium and leads a Bible study by reading, or asking someone else to read from a booklet that is published by the church in Burkina Faso. Each lesson is divided into sections and after reading what was written by the church leaders in Ouaga, he comments on what was just read.  Some of the leaders make it more interesting than others who essentially repeat what was written in the booklet. There are four or five men who are in this group of lay leaders, one of whom I understand almost perfectly, one of whom I can't understand at all, and the others who are in between on the clarity of their speech.  When the lesson starts it is often just me, the leader and one or two other people, always men.  As the first half hour passes, others, including the pastor, arrive.  By the time the lesson is ended there may be 30 or 40 people there.  The choir members also come strolling in at random times.

After the lesson the choir director/song leader takes the podium and, after calling on one or two people to say a prayer, he leads the singing.  He may sing a verse of a song which the congregation then repeats, or he may identify one of the hymns in a small book some people have bought. There are no hymnals in the pews. These songs are not like American spirituals but more like old time gospel music, all with French words, of course. Some of the tunes you might recognize, such as "Just as I Am" and "The Old Rugged Cross."

I have also figured out what is going on when they say "unison" prayers.  It is not like other churches I have attended where there is a prayer everybody knows or one that is written in the bulletin and people read or recite it together. In the church, the leader indicates a topic and each person says aloud whatever they want to say about that subject.  It sounds like the tower of babble, but it makes people quite comfortable praying aloud.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Where There Is No Mall


It should come as no surprise to you that there are no shopping malls in Burkina Faso.  You may be interested in the kinds of place there are in my village to buy the things you may need.  Along the main road and near the place where there is a marché every three days, there are a number of small shops that sell various things.  I bought my 12 volt battery and lights at this "electronics" store.  They do have quite a variety of things in this small space including TV sets, DVD players, movies on DVDs, stereo systems, small radios, solar panels, and batteries of various kinds and sizes, to name a few.
On marché days you can find quite a selection of plastic products, including the little plastic tea kettles that are used in place of a bidet, buckets, bowls, plates, thermos containers, and so on.
At this place that looks like it might be a boutique but is only open on market days, you can buy the green 20 liter plastic jugs you carry water in.  They begin life as containers for palm oil, the most common kind of cooking oil. They also have the 200 liter blue barrels that the dolo ladies use to transport their local beer to their hangers, or that people use to carry water home from the pump or well.
Need a marmite to cook your food?  There are many sizes, but they all look about the same.
One of my favorite boutiques is run by Mathew, one of the polio victims who needs a crutch to get around.  He does a brisk business selling tailors small pieces of the cloth that is used to line garments, interfacing, zippers, bias tape (which is used as a decoration on clothing), and buttons. Here you can see the materials and, behind him you see his display of CDs and cassette tapes, machine oil for sewing machines and bicycles, razor blades for shaving heads, and school supplies.
Mathew also has some jewelry in this small display tray.  Notice the variety of zippers for the tailors next to the jewelry.
He has so many different kinds of things in his store that, when I am looking for something other than food it is the first place I try. Here you can see his yarn and the fishing line people use to make the bags they use to carry produce home from the marché.  There are also door handles with locks, floor brushes, clothes pins, light bulbs, a few tools, masking tape and tape for sealing boxes, soccer balls, and shoes.
I learned to crochet these bags and I make them to keep my hands busy and to feel like I am being productive for those times I know I am going to be waiting around for a while. Here is a sample.
If you want hardware, you might go to this shop that used to sell groceries but now is specializing in paint, tools and other hardware.  They do not have much variety. A far cry from our DIY big-box stores!
In front of the hardware store is a place where you can usually buy wood. Now that the rain has started, there is not much to chose from.  People a busy cultivating and planting, so there is not much demand for lumber right now.
If you do want someone to build something for you, here is one of the carpenter/furniture makers.  He does it all with this crosscut saw, a hammer and nails on the small work bench you see beside him.
Here is a set of storage shelves he made for me.  They are pretty crude, but I like the space and the strength of the shelves.
Here is a shop that sells things like suit cases, blankets mosquito nets, towels and bed sheets.
There is no mall, but you can find a lot of things in the town if you are persistent and keep looking.