Sep 24, 2009

Spectacular September

(mom drinking her 3 cups of tea with Hamidou in Pobe)

With my mom here in Burkina, the entire month of September has been amazing. We've toured village libraries in the south of Burkina, bought lots of great art souvenirs, eaten at nice restaurants, visited parks and met a lot of interesting people. For most of this month my mom has been working hard with the students of the SCU study abroad program in Ouaga, but for 3 weekends in a row she came to Pobe, the first time by herself and the following 2 with students. Each time, the weekend was a blast. The people of Pobe accepted my mom like she was their own. EVERYONE stopped by my home to meet and greet her, calling her "maman." They were so genuinely excited to have her in Pobe. Everyday it seemed someone new arrived with a gift for her, everything from beautiful art crafts, woven scarves, eggs, corn, watermelon and even a big bag full of charcoal (a gift from my 10-year old friend). One evening a group of women came and officially welcomed her by singing and dancing for her. My mom told me she’s never felt so welcome anywhere in her life! It made me love Pobe and its people more than ever. I also think my mom enjoyed Pobe so much simply because it offered total peace and relaxation compared to the craziness of Ouaga life (traffic, being hassled downtown, working so much with little downtime)
The students who came to Pobe enjoyed themselves a lot too, as Sita and I ensured their weekend was packed with different activities and outings, like visiting Adama’s museum, holding the Mamyou, weaving cloth pagnes, and riding bareback on horses.

(pictures SCU student Brian took while visiting Ibrahim's family)

By far the most fun outing was a visit with my mom and students to the family of my Tuareg friend Ibrahim, 8K outside of Pobe. The Tuareg are a Berber nomadic people who originate from North Africa. Think of those world magazine photos of Arab men completely wrapped up with loose, solid colored cloth and turban headdress, riding camels in the middle of the dessert. Ibrahim and his family live under sparse, thatched-roof "houses" covered with plastic to prevent the rain from entering. The Tuareg typically raise animals, and Ibrahim’s family raises camels! We knew which dwelling was theirs because of the 20 camels sitting around it! Even though only Ibrahim spoke French, his family was so accommodating, sitting us down on mats with cushions, making us tea and answering any questions we had about their life and culture. We also got to milk and ride the camels! Milking was interesting; harder and more awkward than I expected. I think I got more milk on myself than in the bowl. When we left they gave us a large bottle of the fresh camel milk. It is very rich, which made for a delicious hot cocoa when we returned.

My mom has been here for a month now, but the craziness of Ouaga didnt take long to show itself. She has had to share and cram into a 20-year old taxi cab with 7 strangers, been yelled at by a taxi man, and has had to walk 20 minutes to the main road to find a taxi at 4:30 a.m. She has also taken a 7 hr transport bus BY HERSELF, getting splashed by mud water the whole trip because the windows were busted out AND the bus broke down while en brousse out in the middle of nowhere. She has encountered what we thought was a 'dead' man sprawled out on a secluded dirt road, only to find the guy was just passed out, high outta his mind. She's had to wait while a transport car is repaired because the entire muffler had fallen off, and by repairing I mean the muffler was retied to the car with old rope. She’s been caught in a record breaking rain storm that caused massive flooding and left 150,000 homeless. And all this happened just during her first FIVE days in Burkina.

Unfortunately, I have realized that many of these "experiences" she’s had have been partly my fault. Because I am a Peace Corps volunteer and make $8 a day, I have become, well...extremely cheap! For example, I’ve made my mom wait anxiously on the side of a very busy road after turning down countless taxis because I was being told to pay the "nassarra price." Later I realized that the difference I was arguing for was equivalent to less than $1. Though I can be damn sure she has not embraced my being cheap here, I do think it is very fair to say that my mom is just amazing, having yet to complain about anything.
Imagine you are on a bus that’s about 25 years old. Parts are missing, holes in the floor, seats are nearly gone, and the suspension non existent. Speeding over the pot holes on the 115K long dirt road, flying out of your seat ever 2 minutes, getting splashed by mud water thats most likely contaminated with God knows what. Despite this my mom, sitting in the window seat, her face and clothes splattered with mud, her hair wild and flying all over the place because the bus's windows are missing, manages to joke: "Well a least it has air conditioning!"

My mom is definitely a trooper for coming out to Burkina and I have been amazed at how well she is doing here, how open she is to trying new things even if their are gross/unsafe/unsanitary. It has simply been amazing to have her here with me in Burkina and to have her love Burkina (especially Pobe) just as much as I do.

Between our visits to village libraries, her visits to Pobe and our time in Ouaga, time has been flying by. In just over a week the two of us are heading to Morrocco! I can't wait for the beautiful scenery, the delicious food and, so i hear, the beautiful men!

(mom, never without a smile, in a millet field in Pobe)