Big Up from Aribinda

Monday, December 17, 2007

The Senses Burkinabe

As a typical Haole in the Sahelian bush, I get a pretty cool perspective, though it is uncomfortable from time to time. All the senses coalesce, bringing strange feelings and insight. I remember taking Salif's small truck to Aribinda from Dori. We stopped at a small village between Dori and Gorgadji. It was a warm, breezy day, the palm fringes were whipping in the breeze on the barrage, things starting to brown because the rain was done falling for the season. I remember feeling like a sideshow attraction for this village. Everybody just stared at me like it was so weird for someone to be white. I sat in the back of the truck, the stench of nasty barrage fish frying burning my nostrils.

Walking through centreville in Aribinda one Wednesday morning at 6:45 am, feeling like I was in a warzone. Delapidated structures all around, bricks lying unclaimed, not part of their former, greater corps. While this was happening, Burkinabe were sitting around, drinking Nescafe and munching baguettes with extremely too much butter.

Incessant visitations, always with a clap-clap before they enter your courtyard. Taking a little green tea with your sugar. My stomach is already revulsed by it. The sweet taste of ripe guavas, the hard seeds hopefully not undoing my two fillings! Juicy, pink watermelon. Always such a treat.

Watching cows and sheep wander into peoples' houses. Then, watching the reaction of the people who discover them and chase them out. Hearing the piercing yelps of helplessness from a much-maligned puppy the kids are tormenting.

The scores of hardworking donkeys, braying so loudly and being whipped so much for working hard. Cows, cows, and more cows in Peul country. Hearing their annoying calls and flatulence and smelling their ubiquitous by-product, which I need to collect for composting. Guinea fowl hopping around in large groups, squawking for no apparent reason. Goats and sheep and pigs, their never ending calls and acts of stupidity, always trying to steal Idrissa's watermelon slices only to be popped in the face with a rock. The sight and feeling of cutting a turkey's head off with a Burkinabe knife, which was about as sharp as a spoon. I was wanting to kill that thing so much faster I can't remember the profanities escaping my lips! My homeboy Adlai, who killed the pig with my Gerber my brother gave me. What a noise, mon dieu! A sight too, watching two Burkinabe hold that sucker down while Adlai stepped on it's head. Most burly thing I've camera-taped.

The colors of clothing, the turbans, the hair, the stares that make you feel you are like a ghost as you walk through the busy market. The small orphan, slightly chanting what sound like Qur'anic verses to you while begging as you get a group of four beautiful green onions to cook. He looks pathetic, and it is difficult to turn him down.

The further pathetic looks and feelings of doom emanating from the kids in your class during an exam. The tension and dismay palpable as you move by them to answer another question. Walking into the middle of a discussion with your fellow colleagues, some angry, some incredulous, some diffident. You, you're just giggling because you don't know what they started talking about, you just hear something about devoirs, homework, and notes. Funny, that rapid-fire French.

Sitting at the taxi-brousse gare in Djibo with another volunteer, listening to the poor little kid cry. His mother gets so fed up with his antics she grabs a light-weight, weak reed stalk from a millet shoot and cracks him over the head a few times, his cries amplifying. She finally breaks the stalk after a fourth good whack. The big Mossi woman at the buvette in Aribinda, giving a hard knuckle to the face of one of her kids as she yells in Moore.

Finally, the sunset and sunrise du Sahel, especially on the stone hills that sit so close to your house. Rising and going out to the wintry breeze that blows from November to February, able to take in the breath-taking vistas of the new day before the groans of the ever-present cows starts to rule the sunshiny, clean air.

Those are just some of the things I get to sense. Much love and take care.

No comments: