Au moins, j’ai essayé.
At least I tried. Going into the final quarter of my service (déjà?!), I want to finish strong. But Africa will be here after I am gone, and it won’t change for me just because I am leaving in 6 months. Read: things aren’t going to temporarily speed up for me to do a “maximum” amount of work in the shortest possible time.
Classes are going as they usually do. It’s tough in there. The kids aren’t responding well, and the heat is already upon us. Usually we get a little reprieve from la vraie chaleur until around the beginning of March. But, it’s early February and it’s hitting 40 centigrade. Yup, another scorcher awaits.
My newer problems stem from Africans never refusing me. They say, “Yeah, yeah, no problem.” I have learned that maybe I need to reiterate to them, “Does yeah, yeah, no problem mean you are actually going to carry through, or you’re just returning my sentiments of ‘Yeah, that will eventually get done?’”
Case Number 1
I talk to Saaga, my neighbor the patron who’s got all the cows. I tell him the three trees I have behind my house are suffering. I tell him I would like for his son Issouf to water them every third day for a month. Saaga tells me to talk to Issouf. I tell Issouf I’ll pay him 2 mille francs ($4) for the month if he’ll water my trees every third day. He tells me, “Ouais, ouais, pas de problème.” He doesn’t do it. About two weeks later, I check my trees. They aren’t dead, but they are rough and sagging. I ask him why he didn’t do it. He said he couldn’t. I asked him why he said he could. He gave me some stupid run around. Huh?
Case Number 2
I need protection for my trees. I always turn to Saaga (the above mentioned Burkinabé) and his son Idrissa, Issouf’s brother. Saaga has been giving me the run around about my paniers (wooden baskets that surround the saplings) for three months. I always ask him, “When is Issouf gonna grab the paniers?” He always tells me, “I am gonna send him on Sunday.” Yet, he never sends Issouf. I am getting sick of the half-measures. So, I go ask Issouf, “What’d your pop say to you?”
He responds, basically, “He didn’t tell me shit.” Well, that’s how I negatively color his rather bland comeback, which was respectful. Those paniers should have been finished in November, maybe October, for the sake of fuck!
Case Number 3
Finally, the professionals at the forester’s office. Théodore Zongo, le forestier, and his apprentice, Sidibé. Both very likable gentlemen. In November, I ask them both to get thirty trees ready for January. They both say OK, no problem. I try and go back in December to check on their progress. Don’t see anything going on. Sidibé tells me, again, “Ouais, ouais, ya pas de problème.” I finally see Zongo around the middle of December and ask him if he planted the trees. He tells me he didn’t have the seeds. I ask him if he can have 30 trees ready by February in that case. He gives a somewhat hesitant look, then says, “Oui, ça peut aller.” Yeah, that works.
Middle of January, I go back. Sidibé starts lecturing me about how it’s really difficult to plant trees during the dry season. I tell him he’s not telling me anything new. I tell him about my source of water, how I need to plant the trees the beginning of February before my water source does actually dry. He talks about how it’s almost already February, tells me they can accelerate the process, if I would like. I wanted the trees in January, WTF? I tell him to move it along. Time is wasting away.
Yeah, just pretty sick of the “yeah, yeah, it will be done” non-committal response. I don’t really know how to gracefully deal with it. I have started to just pester them about it, show up often, talk to them about the everyday stuff going on, then turn around and ask about pertinent business. I think my tenacity is paying off, or at least I hope.
Good news though. I went to see Sidibé and the trees were somewhat small but progressing nicely. I will go back and plant roughly 15 trees at the high school and another 15 in spots in the village, all right before Valentine’s Day. Let’s show this dry region some green love on a loving day, that’s what I say. Just please, be honest, is it really going to get done, you know, within the next 3 days?