Big Up from Aribinda

Thursday, March 5, 2009


‘Got no time to for spreadin roots
The time has come to be gone
And tho our health we drank a thousand times
It's time to ramble on.’

Yeah, it’s time. I am ready to come home. That doesn’t necessarily mean that I just wanna bag it for the last few months. There are still things to be done and I want to finish my service strong. However, there are things that I have just had enough of.

What am I sick of? Well, for starters, living in the absolute middle of nowhere. Aribinda sits almost dead inbetween 2 largish cities, about 60 miles from each along a poorly maintained dirt road. There isn’t a lot of transport options and vehicles don’t really come around often. I have grown accustomed to this, but I have never liked it. Now, I just want to be finished with it. Some volunteers don’t know what it is like to live in extreme isolation. Some live on paved roads near the capital, maybe even being flanked on either end of this paved road by nearby volunteers. I am not trying to say these volunteers are not serving in difficult conditions. Volunteers just don’t get to choose all the conditions of their service. These volunteers simply can get away easier, possibly helping to maintain their morale. I met a volunteer in Benin, in a small beachside tourist town called Grand Popo. Benin having such a small coastline, she was not far from Cotonou or Porto Novo, Benin’s two largest cities. She had the ability of getting places more quickly. Lucky for her. But then again, she lived in a sleepy, sandy, tourist destination where I don’t think I would have liked to serve. Aribinda has been wonderful for me, really an ideal place to serve, maybe not to be located. It just always goes to show that there are the positives and negatives to anything we are involved in.

I have also grown tired of the minutiae of cultural differences and the way they can affect oneself and the community. Just being different is a bitch. I mean, I am still the circus sideshow. Did I expect that coming in? Yes, but I guess being somewhat green and inexperienced, I didn’t think it would continue, at least in my village where everyone knows my MO, in this manner. And, because I spend the vast majority of my time in village, this is annoying. How about other cultural differences? Language I have learned to have fun with, especially with Fulani men. I sat down to a meal the other day, and they came in just hooting at me in Fulfulde, I start laughing, they’re calling me tubaku, I just start speaking English to them, they laugh, I laugh. I can understand just a little bit and I know they keep referring to me, the tubaku, maybe they’re talking about money (common for all PCVs to hear). As they speak to eachother in Fulfulde, they tell me they don’t speak French. Well, to hell with it, I am gonna speak to you in English! We all get a good kick out of this, they keep referring to me as toubakou or toubak, I just keep on laughing, jabbering away in English. We are all laughing, having a good time. For some reason it just took me longer than others to find the humor in these culturally nuanced exchanges.
Then, I am on transport headed back to Aribinda from Dori. I am sitting next to a Fulani gentlemen, who speaks not 10 words of French. He starts talking to me in Fulfulde, I address him in English. We banter back and forth, both of us laughing. I can tell he is interested in my dearth of volunteer money, understanding his Fulfulde after I told him I was American. He starts telling me there is a lot of money in America, come on, give me some so I can eat! We laugh, I respond in English, we smile big grins and just continue to laugh. Close to home, we have a blow out while stopped in a village called Boukema, 13 km east of Aribinda. My goat sack, full of vegetables, starts drawing the attention of other Fulani. They tell me they want my sack. I tell them to take a hike, in English of course! We all start laughing. I’m usually a pretty positive guy. Let’s just have fun with the situation.

A few weeks ago, I stopped by to see my neighbor Idrissa. A few Fulani (also known as Peuls, Peuhls, however you spell it) had come in from out of the bush to see him. He tells me to go in there and say hi. So, I go in and there is one guy sitting in a chair playing with a 3 to 4 year old girl. Three women lazily lounge about in front of him. Well, one of the women sees me and completely averts her face and contorts her body in her seat to do everything she can from having to address me. Everybody is hysterical, this grown woman, probably around 25 years old, is scared of me! Sure, I am used to this, but only from children. Usually I get reprehensible stares or nothing from Peuhl women. But she finally comes through, rotates her body towards me, gives me a nervous, sheepish grin, extends her hand. I shake it, start to giggle, then make for the little girl. She flips out! We all are laughing hysterically at this point, I apologize and giggle, and take my leave. Yeah, maybe it’s funny sometimes, but I just wanna be another face in the crowd, anonymous. This, this is the closest I’ll ever get to being a celebrity.

But now’s it’s almost time for me to go, the March moon lights my way. And as Orion’s shield points west, in a few months, I'm headed that way.


Jill said...

At first it felt really weird to be anonymous again, but that wore off quickly. Months after leaving Burkina I still notice and enjoy the fact that nobody stares at me. Yesterday some gross homeless guy harassed me when I was downtown, but I didn't really care because it was only one guy as opposed to dozens every day.

Joel said...

This was a fabulous entry, Mac. I felt the same as you this time last year. I guess I'm supposed to tell you that you'll miss Burkina when you return home, blah blah and so on. I miss it, but for very specific reasons. Most of it I don't miss. I like keeping it in a little compartment of my past. It likes being there. Nowhere else. Congrats on your service, brah.