Big Up from Aribinda

Friday, December 19, 2008

My Last Fête in Village, Dieu Merci!

This blog was written 18 December

So, just a little over a week ago, I experienced my first Tabaski in village and consequently my last fête in village. I am happy they are over. They wear on me, the cultural nuance of the fêtes are draining. During this holiday, it is the custom to sacrifice any number of sheep. Bismillah, ir-Rahman ir-Rahim!

I again went to my Proviseur’s house for a meal, a la Ramadan 2007. Again, I started imbibing. Being a bad Buddhist, I guess I can do that. Most of the muslims, of course, shun alcohol as the tenets of their belief prescribe. These things are always awkward. Honestly, it is hard to get into it. It is a cultural thing I feel I am behooved to honor, not much more else. The conversations between the feasters usually exclude me, sometimes using mostly Mooré to communicate. I tend to stick to myself, and this time, as I was getting drunk and text messaging my buddy Clay, things just continued to get more awkward. If the conversation is in French, I understand most, but don’t care. So, I lose track of the conversation during my inner self-dialogue, contented to be alone amongst this group of people.

Then comes the hard part involving holidays here: people in need asking you for a cadeau by saying bonne fête. I respond with bonne fête, then I am supposed to give something to them, usually money. People still hate it when I give them the whole ‘I’m a volunteer’ routine. On the walk to my counterpart’s house, I greeted two Peul women, their hair in tight braids, barely visible under the colorful material draped about them. I responded to them then turned my pockets inside out to show I had nothing. They thanked me, gave me smiles as I said good-bye in Fulfulde, their kind faces smiling, accentuating their heavy gold earrings. We arrive at the house, then continue to another colleague’s house, where we all sit down to another meal. I felt like drinking more beers, but some of my colleagues said I should take a sieste first. So, I did something stupid: told them all that I would buy them all a beer at the local watering hole.

Well, first of all I told them what time to be down there. They were late, of course, like always. Why was it such a bad idea you ask? Well, at CPL, the bar, if you will, there was a ball. Meaning, everybody and their dogs would be there. I would be required to give cadeaux like crazy. Well, I took a bag of candy for not just the children, but everyone. Some of my students greeted me. I gave them candy and they expressed that that was for the children, that they should receive money. Hey, don’t know if you’ve noticed, but I have spent money on trees. That’s my gift to you, a better, more green environment.

A few more people asked for cadeaux. This one woman sees me, does a b-line right for me, doesn’t greet me, i.e. say bon soir first, she just says bonne fête. I say bonne fête back and give her a piece of candy. She looked at me like I was crazy, giving me a half-ugly sneer before turning away. Geez, that’s that shit a volunteer gets? Here I am giving my time freely. Tough for me sometimes with these cultural differences.

Watching some of my colleagues’ reactions was interesting, not always kind. Some were very good, giving out small coins. I didn’t have many small coins, but that’s not a good excuse to not give money. I could find it. Basically, I have had enough of being “rich” around so many people who are, in some cases, a step from being destitute. I do have so much, but they don’t realize it’s gonna be difficult for me to get a job in the States when I get back. Am I rich? Again, you must examine it through your own lens, from your own perspective. I am going to stop at that point about the whole rich-or-not thing. Having had conversations with some makes me angry. One of my colleagues told me because I am a white volunteer, I have a lot of money. Heh, not true, I don’t have a lot of money. People in village think I make 500,000 francs a month, truth being I make around 130,000 francs a month, less than a third of the supposed amount. I have even had conversations where I show villagers my disdain, them apologizing because they didn’t realize I made so little. Again, I am not an NGO worker. I am a volunteer. Not that I should be praised for it. Just, damn, don’t ask me for a gift. The fête thing just grinds on me. But hey, it’s over, so I don’t have to bitch about it ever again.

1 comment:

Jill said...

I know it's just a rant, but I found this post really refreshing. When I got back to America, a couple of my friends told me that they liked my blog but their friends who don't know me found it a little bit racist. Only someone who's never lived in Africa would interpret a post like this as racist. It's frustrating being the "rich" white person! But, of course, it's better than being a poor African, yada yada yada. All I'm saying is ranting is good for your health.