Big Up from Aribinda

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

An Island of Plenty in a Sea of Destitution

I want to preface this blog with a few observances and notes. I hear three languages at site outside of French. Koromfe is spoken by the Fulse, the main ethnic group in my very near area. Next, there is the ever-present Fulfulde, spoken by the Peul. Some people will know them as the Fulani, the cattle raising, nomadic herders of the Sahel. They inhabit Burkina, Mali, Guinea, Senegal, Cameroon, amongst other African countries. Lastly, there are many people in village who speak Moore, the most common language of the Mossi, the largest ethnic group in Burkina. My French improves on a day to day basis, but I still have a long way to go. Les choses complexes, or the complex things wreak havoc with my tongue. I have also finally decided to abandon the ‘ne’ of the ne…pas negating scheme when I can feasibly do it. OK, to the main blog body.

Also, a book I want to recommend to everyone. Barbara Kingsolver’s The Poisonwood Bible. This masterpiece drew me in and never let go. Oh my goodness, parts ring true in it for volunteers, as far as the living and many other things about the culture. If you have time, do check it out.

This blog was written 03/05/08

Village life for me is hunky-dory when compared with the bereft individuals that box me in. On a chilly January day in Djibo, I stepped outside of Hotel Massa to go and check out Salif’s taxi-brousse for my trip back to site. First thing I see is the cute little African kids with their back packs. They are toting their lunch pails to school as well, being in Djibo most are well dressed. I step onto the cool earth, my flip flops smacking the ground. I round the corner next to the gas station and check out the early goings in the marche. Then, I see the ultimate contrast: the destitute. The well-off versus the have-nots, the well-dressed versus the tattered-sporting, way oversize just-to-cover-myself-up kids trying to stay warm, the hopefully well fed versus the body-aching hunger that I hope I will never know. The truly hungry kids are following the women who precariously yet expertly balance a tray with gateaux or a large bowl with freshly-made rice inside. I myself received 7 packages that weekend, the kids and others gawking at me as I make my way to the taxi-brousse gare.

Later on, I get on the taxi-brousse. Needless to say, it takes a while for us to take-off. I see poor Muslim fellas stepping up to the cab where Salif le Patron sits. He sees them, knows what they want… and desperately need. He gives each one I see come up to him 100 francs, enough to get some benga (beans in Moore) for a good breakfast.

I see the kids whose stomachs are distended in Aribinda a lot. That means they aren’t getting enough protein in their diet and their bodies are struggling to rein in the mass of their internal organs. People eat the To, the complex carb, protein-free (to the ire of many Peace Corps Volunteers) over protein, fiber-rich benga because of the status recognition. Benga is the food of the truly poor, whereas To is more high class. What?! Personally, I think To is disgusting. I love benga and I push the protein-rich diet on people when I can, trying to be a health volunteer where the people truly have a need of realization.

Back in December, the recently finished former Country Director Marily Kniereman visited me in Aribinda with the cool chauffeur Pare. I got to hitch a ride to Dori with them (always good to catch a ride in a white Land Cruiser when you can!) to see Yaneth before I had IST formation. She had given me a care package with raisins in it. We stopped at the hotel and Marily and Pare went inside. A poor kid sees me in this 4x4 vehicle and makes a B-line right for the window. He puts his face right up next to the window, silently urging me to give him those raisins. Two thoughts come to my mind: ‘I am gonna knock you out because I want to eat my delicious raisins in peace’ AND ‘Oh man, this kid is hungry. Give him the raisins. I gave him the raisins and started on a mandarin. I ain’t hurtin’. Then, there’s this crippled dude who lives in Dori. The first time he accosted me, telling me he lost his dad, his mom. A truly sad story. He has get to be in his 40s. At first, I reject his initial requests. I didn’t have change, honestly. He gets angry, as if I owe him something. Well, that really got me pissed. I had to go into the supermarche and get a few things. I acquired change after buying this and that and gave the guy around 130 francs. I thought he didn’t show enough appreciation and his initial overtures set me off, so the next time I saw him in Dori, I told him to get lost. I can’t give money to everyone.

The donkeys, the fighters and workers of Burkina, needing water. I show up at the pump by the lycee one morning to get water to do my laundry. There is a group of like 7 donkeys hanging out, waiting for someone to pump a little extra so they can get a share of precious desert l’eau. One of the donkeys was anathema to any of the other asses getting his water. I watched him jut those ever present teeth out, pin his ears back and nip at the back of a donkey that wasn’t having any of the tough guy routine. This donkey gave a little typical rear-it-back and kick. Good old double-up my hooves to your muzzle you jerk. The animals are also left to fend for themselves in this harsh environment.

Then, there are the little brats of Aribinda. When I say things like this, I mean no offense to the culture. But, these kids stole my Solio solar charger after a week at site, they have stolen a bucket of mine and my bike lock. You stole the Solio and my bike lock for what? You can’t possibly use them for anything you morons. They come into my courtyard sans permission. That really messes with me. Nassara will get no peace I think sometimes. These kids are among the bereft, wanting cans for toys. They have nothing, so they know nothing of propriety or of maintaining a useful something or other.

The latest episode is disgraceful, so of course, it doesn’t involve me. It involves another Nassara (Moore for foreigner, by the way). This nassara sired two children by a poor Mossi girl. One day, my colleague Mathieu and I are walking to the bar. This woman wakas us, tells us to come here in Moore. Luckily, Mathieu is Mossi so he speaks Moore. I can see they are talking about another nassara. They carry on, she makes a ‘wipe my hands clean’ expression, which basically means being done with something. In this case, that involves leaving, so called dereliction of duty. This prick had two kids with a poor Burkinabe girl and then just takes off. We spoke some more with a blind 90+ year old woman about it. They wanted to know if I knew anything about this nassara, because, bien sur, I am a nassara, so maybe I know about this scumbag. Damn, that irks me. A different experience, let me tell you. Two Mossi women, quizzing Mathieu et moi. A weird and shameful experience for that individual as well.

Yeah, it’s tough. Unless you’re me. I have enough to eat and more than enough money. Praise be, I have my health, my family back home, all my beautiful friends, a great African fonctionnaire house. I just need to poke my head above the clouds every once in a while to get a dose of that sunshine when I get down. I realize how much I have. Be grateful for what you got my people. So many don’t even know what a good pair of shoes feels like.


Anonymous said...

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So when too much wealth accumulates at the top, the middle class slip further into debt and the lower class further into poverty. A similar rule applies worldwide. The world’s richest 1% now own over 40% of ALL WORLD WEALTH. This is EVEN AFTER you account for all of this ‘good will’ ‘humanitarian’ BS from celebrities and executives. ITS A SHAM. As they get richer and richer, less wealth is left circulating beneath them. This is the single greatest underlying cause for the current US recession. The middle class can no longer afford to sustain their share of the economy. Their wealth has been gradually transfered to the richest 1%. One way or another, we suffer because of their incredible greed. We are talking about TRILLIONS of dollars. Transfered FROM US TO THEM. Over a period of about 27 years. Thats Reaganomics for you. The wealth does not ‘trickle down’ as we were told it would. It just accumulates at the top. Shrinking the middle class and expanding the lower class. Causing a domino effect of socio-economic problems. But the rich will never stop. They will never settle for a reasonable share of ANYTHING. They will do whatever it takes to get even richer. Leaving even less of the pie for the other 99% of us to share. At the same time, they throw back a few tax deductable crumbs and call themselves ‘humanitarians’. Cashing in on the PR and getting even richer the following year. IT CAN’T WORK THIS WAY. Their bogus efforts to make the world a better place can not possibly succeed. Any 'humanitarian' progress made in one area will be lost in another. EVERY SINGLE TIME. IT ABSOLUTELY CAN NOT WORK THIS WAY. This is going to end just like a game of Monopoly. The current US recession will drag on for years and lead into the worst US depression of all time. The richest 1% will live like royalty while the rest of us fight over jobs, food, and gasoline. Crime, poverty, and suicide will skyrocket. So don’t fall for all of this PR CRAP from Hollywood, Pro Sports, and Wall Street PIGS. ITS A SHAM. Remember: They are filthy rich EVEN AFTER their tax deductable contributions. Greedy pigs. Now, we are headed for the worst economic and cultural crisis of all time. SEND A “THANK YOU” NOTE TO YOUR FAVORITE MILLIONAIRE. ITS THEIR FAULT. I’m not discounting other factors like China, sub-prime, or gas prices. But all of those factors combined still pale in comparison to that HUGE transfer of wealth to the rich. Anyway, those other factors are all related and further aggrivated because of GREED. If it weren’t for the OBSCENE distribution of wealth within our country, there never would have been such a market for sub-prime to begin with. Which by the way, was another trick whipped up by greedy bankers and executives. IT MAKES THEM RICHER. The credit industry has been ENDORSED by people like Oprah, Ellen, Dr Phil, and many other celebrities. IT MAKES THEM RICHER. Now, there are commercial ties between nearly every industry and every public figure. IT MAKES THEM RICHER. So don’t fall for their ‘good will’ BS. ITS A LIE. If you fall for it, then you’re a fool. If you see any real difference between the moral character of a celebrity, politician, attorney, or executive, then you’re a fool. WAKE UP PEOPLE. ITS ALL ABOUT THE MONEY. The 1% club will always say or do whatever it takes to get as rich as possible. Without the slightest regard for anything or anyone but themselves. Vioxx. Their idea. Sub-prime. Their idea. NAFTA. Their idea. Outsourcing. Their idea. The commercial lobbyist. Their idea. The multi-million dollar lawsuit. Their idea. $200 cell phone bills. Their idea. $200 basketball shoes. Their idea. $30 late fees. Their idea. $30 NSF fees. Their idea. $20 DVDs. Their idea. Subliminal advertising. Their idea. The MASSIVE campaign to turn every American into a brainwashed credit card, pharmaceutical, love-sick, celebrity junkie. Their idea. All of which concentrate the world’s wealth and resources and wreak havok on society. All of which have been CREATED AND ENDORSED by celebrities, athletes, and executives. IT MAKES THEM RICHER. So don’t fall for their ‘ good will’ ‘humanitarian’ BS. ITS A SHAM. NOTHING BUT TAX DEDUCTABLE PR CRAP. Bottom line: The richest 1% will soon tank the largest economy in the world. It will be like nothing we’ve ever seen before. and thats just the beginning. Greed will eventually tank every major economy in the world. Causing millions to suffer and die. Oprah, Angelina, Brad, Bono, and Bill are not part of the solution. They are part of the problem. EXTREME WEALTH HAS MADE WORLD PROSPERITY ABSOLUTELY IMPOSSIBLE. WITHOUT WORLD PROSPERITY, THERE WILL NEVER BE WORLD PEACE OR ANYTHING EVEN CLOSE. GREED KILLS. IT WILL BE OUR DOWNFALL. Of course, the rich will throw a fit and call me a madman. Of course, their ignorant fans will do the same. You have to expect that. But I speak the truth. If you don’t believe me, then copy this entry and run it by any professor of economics or socio-economics. Then tell a friend. Call the local radio station. Re-post this entry or put it in your own words. Be one of the first to predict the worst economic and cultural crisis of all time and explain its cause. WE ARE IN BIG TROUBLE.

Iraqi Mojo said...

It's good of you to share, my brotha man. Thanks for reminding us that there are POOR people in this world who can't afford food. Interesting that people would prefer the To over protein-rich benga. Very interesting post.

Sandybelle said...

tres bien:)