Big Up from Aribinda

Thursday, November 22, 2007

My first... Ramadan? abroad

As a prefatory note, the reason I named this blog in this manner is because I have experienced one major US holiday in-country. This of course being the 4th of July. Now, living in a mostly Muslim country where animist feelings are shared by nearly all, this is my first major fête. One would usually think, “Hey, I wonder what Christmas will be like in another country?” Well, now I am in an Islam-dominated world, and it's really cool.

The lunar calendar tells the tale. When does the month of the fast from sunup to sundown start? When does Ramadan end? Aribinda's month ended on Saturday, the 13th of October this year. For Muslims here, when the crescent of the moon is just a slight sliver (a few days from new moon phase), they start Ramadan (en Septembre), then a month later when that moon reappears, a fête ensues. I'll just say this now. I don't have much knowledge on the matter of Ramadan. If I am making mistakes, please, forgive me!

The director (proviseur) of my lycée, Boukary, invited me over to his place for a beer. I amble down past the high school to his place and David the treasurer was there when I arrived. Come to find out, Boukary is a Muslim and doesn't drink, but he doesn't mind dispensing the drink out to his fellow, hard-working teachers. (Here, I got a very informative lesson from Boukary and David concerning names: are they Christian or Muslim?) Shortly after I arrive, Mathieu, Igor, Maré and Bana show up. Over a good typical Burkinabé lunch of spaghetti and chicken, the topic turns to that of the school system and politics. I had started drinking before I ate anything and I am now kind of drunk. I listen as the 6 men proceed along in rapid-fire French about the school system.

“A Gogadji, ils sont...”

“C'est pas suffit...”

“Mais, Compaore a fait...”

“Ils ont pas de raison. Ils sont fou!”

Other things came up. I was happy to just listen, now on my third beer and drunker on a Muslim holiday. I mean this as no offence to Islam or believers. I was just partaking, perhaps wrongfully, on this holy day, from my Muslim boss. People know me as a kafir, but a truly good, striving-to-be-a-Buddhist kafir! If it worked for my Muslim boss to give me beers on his day, hey, works for me! It is a well-known fact that a great deal of the Muslim population here in Burkina abstain from consuming alcohol, as pertaining to the writ of the Q'uran. I was hoping the community wouldn't chastise me for it and they did not.

Then, they started talking about me. David mentioned a chance encounter between me and some hot-shot African woman on the road to Djibo in-between Aribinda and Belehedé. I was 25 km from Belehedé (again, my in-country sister Christina's site) when I blew a tire. I pulled over and up-end my bike and outta nowhere (millet fields and trees at both flanks) a Mossi fella speaking Mooré and un peu de Français pops out. A few more women come out as well and I saluer'd them in Mooré and me and the dude finish repairing my tire. A round of barkas come out (thank you en Moore). An SUV pulls up, fully loaded with Africans. The woman riding shotgun appears to be the honcho. She quizzes me, asks me what's going on. As David recounted the story for the others, it sounded as if I made a few rookie mistakes when chatting this woman up! It made the six of them howl in laughter. Me being drunk, at this point, was laughing at my own lack of cultural awareness. My culture and language skills are still back a ways, let me tell you!

We end up leaving Boukary's, then we head to chez Igor and Mathieu, where I eat once again. Many little girls, older women come by calling out “Bonne fête.” It is Ramadan, so yeah, it's a good party. I guess the thing is if you say bonne fête back to your interlocutor, you then have to give something. Candy, money, something. Well, my fonctionnaire friends don't have much to give, so they do their best to ignore. That taught me a lesson. The poverty is so tangible in Aribinda that you can taste it. I had been busy giving money out before I went to Boukary's, so it is good for me to learn that you don't have to give everything away.

We finish eating, have a conversation, then take off. Mathieu wants to go to the cops place. So, we meet some more people, then head to the commisariat's house. He is a really nice guy (can't remember his name though, too many names for me to remember, damn!) and a Muslim, but he still has a runner go and get beers for all of us fonctionnaires who show up. We imbibe and eat more. At this point, my night is over because my stomach is screaming at me. This happens often in Burkina, at least to me! Le ventre me fait un peu mal! More people begin to arrive as we leave. One gentleman asks me about my Mooré, do I understand much yet. I reply 'bilfu bilfu,' a little bit in Mooré. That draws raucous laughter from the new arrivals. Then, the commisariat explains to everyone when he first met me I introduced myself as Maiga, Hamidou, my Burkinabé name. The people loved that too. Then, as we finally got outta there, Mathieu told me I was already popular. I just hope it keeps getting better!

So, a night where I had fun and learned a ton, simplement.

1 comment:

Robin said...

Dear Son,

You amaze us. Your heart is so deep. I rejoice for your great experience, one which you will never forget. And I doubt it if the people whose lives you touch while in Africa will either. I am so proud to be your mother.

Love, Mom