The Women's Day celebration in Pobe-Mengao.
Hamidou and I sporting our womens day pagnes!
Overall, I was really impressed with the celebration's organization. They had an area all set up for seating, speeches, and displays from a couple womens associations. There was a woman's footrace, bike race and soccer game planned out. Where I was dissapointed was in the participation...of the women! 6 am was the start time of the foot race. I arrived, set to compete, but there were no other participants! After 45 minutes there was myself, one other functionaire woman and all the rest were male students or teachers and functionaires who came to watch. In the end, since no women showed up, the race was canceled and everyone ended up just jogging it slowly together. (Later on the women complained to me that the start time was too early!) The bike race was later, and a bit more fun. By this time many villagers had come out, if not to participate, at least to watch. About 12 girls ended up competing in the bike race, including myself. The race was just 2K but every single girl shot out full sprint from the very beginning, so I pedaled hard right away just to keep up. In the end (maybe biking to Djibo is finally paying off) I ended up winning the bike race! It was hilarious because it was ALL people in Pobe could talk about. Everyone was shocked and impressed that I, a "Nassara" could beat a Burkinabe. "Wow, you can beat a Burkinabe on a bicycle, you are so well integrated!" they would tell me. "You are so strong!" Actually, I say the only reason I won is because I ride a 3-gear 7 speed bike while the girls' were old and rusted, with neither gears nor brakes. But if the villagers think more of me because of it, all the better!
Celebrating women, quite fashionably
The latest big news in Pobe: Sita's (my friend and neighbor) marriage! It was very interesting to see and take part in the ceremony. All the women were singing/dancing and eating at Sita's family's compound while all the men sat outside Sita's house in the courtard talking and listening to music. The celebration began at night, around 7p.m. and I spent most of the time with the women. I lay down on a mat, my neighbors infant baby in my arms and Dounia cuddled up next to me on my other side. Outside, under the stars, with the sounds of the women singing and dancing next to me, it was so wonderful. I just had this really amazing moment like I truly felt apart of Pobe and accepted by its people. Later that night I went back home and talked with the men outside. Around midnight, the new wife arrived at Sita's house to take her place on his bed.
Culturally, marriages here are just so different than what Im used to. Sita's marriage was arranged. He had never met or seen his new wife until that very night! Didnt even know her name. I remember, a few days later, asking him how he liked his new wife. "I dont know yet," he said. So wierd to hear a husband say that but obviously, things are done very differently here.
man taking the "ferry" in Kourpelle
So now, it being break, I went on an impromtu trip with Sita to visit his aunt and part of his family that lives in a village called Kourpelle. Its 15K from the town of Kongoussi and about 55K from Pobe. There is a water source, a large river/lake that runs for about 40K, including right behind this village. Because of this, Kourpelle is absolutely beautiful! So green and full of trees. Miles of gardens growing all sorts of vegetables. I still have yet to visit the South of Burkina, but lets just say I was very impressed with the greeness and beauty of Kourpelle! Its still in the North, but with a water source they can do so much! Water. Something I take so much for granted back home but how here I realize what a difference in makes in the peoples lifestyles! (Everyone here has work, they look healthy, eat good food and have a bit more money to spend)
Life is green green GREEN in Kourpelle!
Sita's aunt epitomized Burkinabe hospitality. I was shocked and overwhelmed by her kindness and generosity. Sita hadnt told her Id be coming along so she was surprised but excited to have a "Nassara" as a guest in her home. In the morning she walked us down to her garden plot and then Sita took me down to the water. Here we found small wooden boats where a man would ferry people and their belongings to the other side. He took me for a ride on the boat which was a lot of fun.
Kourpelle is also directly behind a gold mine, which we visited as well. It was incredible. We hiked up to the top of the hills and saw the men and the deeeeeeep holes (more than 100,000meters!!!) where they would dig for gold. The view from atop was incredible. Yet more incredible was to find, at the top, not just the men but many women with their infants attached to their backs and young children nearby. Apparently after the women work in their gardens they come to the mines and dig into the night, searching for gold. The people just work so damn hard here.
Women making the trek down from the gold mines
In the evening the aunt had cooked me fish soup, straight from the water, and fresh green beans. Then, if her kindness wasnt enough, she brings me this big fat, white rooster which I am to take back to Pobe and eat!
There was only one negative side to the trip, which I blame entirely on myself. I had forgotten to buy sachets of (treated) water and by the afternoon had finished my supply. It being hot, I was thirsty and ended up drinking pump water the rest of the day. I had done this before in Pobe and had spent the rest of that night in my latrine. But hey, its been 9 months now here in BF. Im well integrated right? Not so much, apparently. By late evening I knew Id have some troubles so I asked the women, where's the latrine here? Their answer? There is none! They just go outside somewhere! So I spent all night (at least it was dark) running back and forth outside trying to find a faraway spot (near a tree? Or maybe that cow?) where no one would see or hear me. Not too fun!
Overall though, the trip was wonderful. Tomorrow a fellow volunteer is coming to visit Pobe and then Friday we are off to Djibo to meet up with other volunteers. A while back I met a husband and wife, missionaries, who live in Djibo and they invited me over for lunch. So Saturday I will be lunching with missionaries! (Never thought Id actually ever say that)
Next week school starts, and itll be back to work but right now, Im definitely just enjoying the week