Operation No More Babies in Founzan
Or, I care a lot about decreasing the population of the world
In January all the volunteers from G28 met in Ouagadougou and Koudougou for trainings and action planning with our counterparts. It was excruciating, and by the end of the week my counterpart and I had a sexual education secondary project planned out for the next five months that I was really looking forward to putting under some boxes and forgetting about until COS. Luckily though my homologue is taking it very seriously, so throughout February we went around to different village authorities (Mayor’s office, Province Prefecture, the APE, the lycee Principal, police station) presenting the project and receiving feedback on our plans. I am glad to report now that my initial disinterest in Operation No More Babies in Founzan has faded and I am looking forward to its final stages, in which I will sit myself in the marche showing people pictures of STIs and teaching them how to put expired condoms on a humbling-sized wooden penis. I’ll take pictures.
Maskfest 2k14 Never Forget
Every two years at the end of February there is a international mask festival in Dedougou showcasing masks, costumes, dances, music, art, etc from all over West Africa. I went to there.
This is a video of the coolest/most disturbing tribal dance I saw, put on by the Togolese. I turned my camera off after a while, but basically what happened is these two hairy cones danced around a lot chasing/being chased by dancers. Every so often a cone would stop and they’d lift it up to reveal a calibash of water or a bowl of candies to share with the crowd, with no cone person underneath to be seen. It was like a fun magic show. Then it was like a scary magic show. Maybe you noticed in the video that there is a white chicken hanging upside-down from the purple cone, presumably against its will. After the water from the calibash and bowl of candies were shared, they lifted the yellow cone a third time and there was a short, slate table. One of the dancers untied the chicken from the purple cone, brought it over to the table, then placed its neck between his two big toes and ripped the head off by pulling upwards on the body. They poured blood over the table and cones and cut open the chicken on what was now clearly a sacrificial table, revealing its insides to the crowd. The yellow cone was replaced and it danced around some more, then when they picked it back up there was cooked chicken in the bowl. They shared the chicken with the crowd and everyone almost forgot how grossed out and terribly shocked they were.
For the past few weeks I’ve been taking Djoula lessons with a Founzan resident named Julien. I call him Djoulien but I don’t think he appreciates or even realizes the pun. My best pun to date needs a bit of a set up but I’m pretty proud of it so here goes: in Moore the most common phrase is « Laafi bala » which means « everything’s good » or « peace » or something. The Moore word for dog is « baga ». When my friend Inoussa asked where my dog was one day when I was walking past his video club, I responded that I didn’t know but « Laafi baga ». It killed. Anyway, Djoula lessons have been going well, although the first session was a bit awkward. I just wanted Julien to sit and talk with me in Djoula and correct my mistakes/help me with new vocab and sentence structures, but all he really wanted to do was translate Djoula to French or French to Djoula. Here’s how it went:
Me (in Djoula): Welcome, how was your day?
Him (in French): That means welcome, how was your day.
Me (in French): Right I know, but respond in Djoula and we’ll have a conversation.
Him (in Djoula): Respond in Djoula and we will have a conversation.
Luckily we’re over that now and the lessons have become more structured and helpful and less like talking to a multilingual parrot.
Did you guys know I play the guitar? This maybe shouldn’t be a topic but I’ve been playing a lot lately. Last time I was near fast internet I downloaded a lot of Beatles tabs (pop group from the 60s) and have loved having new songs to learn. When kids come over they help me play by putting their dirty hands all over the body and strings and tuning pegs. Here’s a video of me singing a hilarious Beatles parody to my neighbor Fatao while his younger brother puts his hands on my strings and their friend Barkissa looks for chalk on my desk. Fatao is on my left.
Through January and February I spent a lot of time en brousse (as they say here in Africa, try to keep up everyone) mapping out this disc golf course that I’m totally serious about making. It was a lot of fun getting the fairways to flow together without interfering–I’d be out there a couple hours a day with discs making sure the different lines worked and the basket placements were all possible to reach with putters (the average distance of a hole is probably 60 meters but there are a lot of obstacles). There are 9 fairways ready and 0 baskets made so far, but I’ve got three bike wheels and a couple bags full of old chains waiting to be put together in my cuisine so I’ll get right to work on that once I’m bored of…
That’s right. For a couple weeks, my attieke tanti would say in Djoula « Do you want » then make cat noises and claw her hands in the air in front of her, so I was pretty sure this was about to happen, but it was still a surprise when her son showed up at my door at 10pm with a sack asking which one I wanted. I chose the one on the left, then he suggested I take them both. Ok, I said. I don’t have names for them yet because I can’t figure out what sex they are. I suppose if I don’t find anything they’re ladies? If my homologue knew the troubles I was having with this he’d probably take me off the sexual education project. Anyway they’re pretty great. They wrestle and snuggle and hiss at Derek together. I forgot about the state of cat/dog relations when I agreed to take them, and holding an excited Derek back as they arch their backs and hiss is becoming a bit tiring, but I’m thinking they’ll soon accept the fact that they aren’t the only living beings under my tin roof. Or not, they are cats after all.