Big Up from Aribinda

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Hours, Days, Periods for a PC Volunteer

Until recently, I hadn't been spending much time in the community. Sometimes you are just satisfied to just sit in your house and read. You're happy. But, you realize something is amiss. That something is communicating with other people. Like, par exemple, your friend and colleague Mathieu comes over. He talks to you and you understand almost everything he says. Except, you can't find the words to respond. Then comes on of my favorite French adages, which I created: Il faut parler beaucoup. It is necessary to speak a lot. If you want to really communicate, you have to speak, not just comprehend, read, and write. Il y a 4 ou plus d'aspects en apprenant une autre langue. Given that realization, things have been good. My French makes strides everyday, whether it's becoming familiar with another idiom or understanding the mode of a few simple words and when and where you can use 'em. The people here are great. The kids, however, are little demons. Having a white person around is fun, especially when you can go into his courtyard when he is gone and steal a can, a can! that has toilet paper in it. The little ones also stole my Solio solar charger, but we won't get into that. Just another example of people stealing something they have no use for and don't even have the necessary ins and outs to make it work.

The older, wisened people are the ones you wanna talk to. They relate so much better than students or the teenage kids. They have been here a long time and know the environment. The kids, my childhood shenanigans are so much different from theirs. I must admit that talking to them about school and the United States is fun. I enjoy having them at the house, usually, to give them little lessons, info sessions that will hopefully give them more ambition, more insight so they can succeed. But the older people, they are savvy. They know what's going on, they can relate what they have seen to where the country is going developmentally. I have recently started going to my new friend Douna Ousmane's house for tea. We discuss the main issues facing Burkina today. He works in the health part of Burkina's public sector. Indeed, Burkina has so many problems. Another problem, befitting discussion, is which problem is the greatest, or, put differently, which problem leads to the other problems. Dicey stuff, that paradox shit.

Then, realization hits. Oh, man, there are a shit ton of problems in this country (right now Christina is telling me this is my parlance, the sometimes derogatory fillers I use!). From that cognitive point, you start a downward tumble. An hour, a few hours, a day, maybe two.

Then, something funny occurs. You think of something hilarious, I guess. “The sun'll come out, tomorrow!” You know the song, I think it's from Annie. I admit now I wish I didn't know that! Then, the sun quits the sky and the beautiful African canvas paints it all black, except for a sliver d'une lune and beaucoup d'étoiles.

You wake up, think about Burkina's problems and your's, think about taking it easy with the students and moving slower in class with them. You pick back up 'Tis by Frank McCourt (a great book) and laugh. He is saying some hilarious shit. As the people who know me can attest to the fact I am sometimes divisive in my diction, here's a little snippet from 'Tis where Frank is getting admonished by his friend for a dispute he had with his summertime All-American girl. Frank and Paddy, two boys from the Old Country, were definitely raised Catholic, yet they don't act it, to a certain degree. Frank's girl, Alberta, well, here's the book exchange:

When I told him about Alberta Small and the tie he wasn't a bit sympathetic. He said that's what I get for running around with them fookin' Protestants and what would my poor mother say back in Limerick.

That paragraph had me going for 5 solid minutes. You see how some Irish say fuckin'?! That's funny to a sometimes crass asshole like me!

Yeah, Frank McCourt is great. His philosophy on the “f” word (he equates it with hate, so he doesn't like using it) has made me ponder it more. But, back to the sun coming out. I teach a class and it goes well. I talk to a few people and have some more great exchanges. Then I head en ville pour chercher la nourriture. J'ai tres faim. I go to the Mossi woman's (I forgot her name, dammit!). Ney y windiga. Y tuuma kibare? Laafi. Y zak ramba? Laafi bala. She has made riz sauce with a shit ton of cabbage in it! Needless to say, I am in heaven. I gobble that down, pay her, then go see if my vegetable commission worked out. Oh, yeah, my day is getting even better. I got a cabbage the size of a house, a bunch of onions, hot chilis, and some gorgeous tomatoes. Then, I walk down and talk to more of my voisins, or neighbors, en Français. Like the Gza once said, “but the sun'll still come up tomorrow and shine, shine, shine.”

So, I guess the indecipherable, undetectable part of my story is my life as an étranger en Afrique is very up and down. And who knows, I could be down for two hours, up for 4 days, go into a 36 hour slide, then come back up and glide happily for a week. And for all kinds of shit. Language issues, the kids making me sorry I came, a tinge of homesickness (Mom, Dad, keep shining bright for me. You are my clearest, most inspiring beacons!), amongst a slew of other things. And Frank McCourt, sometimes called Mac himself, he'd just say, “ 'Tis quite a ride.” 'Tis!

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