Friday, February 02, 2007

Je Devien Grosse!?!?

Alright folks…I’m back. Two weeks in village and I decided to pop out to celebrate Groundhog’s Day with the other volunteers. Although, no matter what Punxatawney Phil says (Kerry...can you let me live there!)…I don’t get more winter (not that I ever had one), and I only have the heat to look forward to. It is like someone switched the light on the sun…it is unbelievable. The air is still a little crisp, but in the sun I just absolutely roast. It is so sad…the honeymoon is over folks.

The last couple weeks have been surprisingly busy. Well, Africa busy anyways. My supervisor visited me at site and met my organization and toured my town. I did some activities with villagers to try and figure out what the hell they want me to do. I read a lot. Ran a lot. Slept a lot. Read some more. Cooked homemade bread (I am freakin’ Betty Crocker now!). It felt like a productive past couple of weeks. I have 4 more weeks at my site, and then it is off to the capital for some more training, and the fabulous FESPACO film festival. I knew there was a reason that I was placed in Burkina, and the fact that it hosts Africa’s largest film festival seems like fate to me.

Before I came to Burkina I had done SO much research on the country, on the volunteers here, and what the experience would be like. For those of you that know me…I am a research freak. I don’t even buy pair of pants without comparing prices and qualities first. Well, anyway, one of the things that I had been told numerous times was that I should be prepared to be called “Grosse” on more than one occasion. In Africa it is “en vogue” to be “grosse” (or as the French Dictionary translates it: big, large, stout, fat, thick, broad, heavy, or swollen). It is a sign of status…it means you can afford to eat well. Well, you know what…in the United States it is NOT polite to tell someone that they are “devenir grosse” (becoming fat). Anyway, one morning after my run I went into town to buy some bread (maybe that is my first problem…carbs). The lady that makes my salad every night for dinner is there in the morning selling rice and beans for breakfast. Anyway, as I approach she says the dreaded words that I knew would be coming, but that up to this point I hadn’t heard. “OOOOHHHHH, Stephanie. Vous devenez grosse! C’est bonne!” Well, in hearing that I about fell over, and probably developed at least two eating disorders. I spent the next 20 minutes telling her that it isn’t polite to tell people that, and spent the rest of the day thinking that I was fat and disgusting. I immediately upped my running/exercise regimen to an hour of running everyday, and I didn’t eat for the rest of the afternoon. Before I came to Burkina I had been told by so many people…”they are going to tell you that you have gotten fat, they are going to try to fatten you up.” You know, I expected to hear it…but whether I expected it or not, it still hurt to hear it. In the States there is such a stigma around being skinny and in shape…it can’t be a coincidence that the term for fat here is “grosse” in French, and that “grosse” means…well…gross! It doesn’t help that most of you thought that in my coming here I was also getting free admission to the best fat camp in the world. I would like to disspell a myth…Africans may have malnutrition but they certainly are not starving…at least not in my part of Burkina Faso. My diet consists of carbs, some more carbs, oh yeah some carbs, rice, spaghetti, bread, and sauce. So, don’t be surprised when I step off the plane for my visit in September and you don’t recognize me. Oh god, I probably have about 3 mental disorders related to my weight now.

I have been running every morning, and besides the fact that it is to stave off any more “grosse” comments, I actually enjoy it. In the States I could always find a reason NOT to go running. “I have to go to work in two hours…I can’t possibly run,” “I don’t want to wash my hair,” “My favorite TV show is on,” “It’s cold outside/It’s hot outside,” “I don’t have any clean clothes.” But here, if I don’t go running in the morning there is NO excuse. Truly, one of the main reasons I go is because it takes up at least 3 hours of my morning. I go running for an hour, I get back and do crunches/dips/etc., heat water for my bath, heat water for breakfast, eat, and bathe. By that time it is usually 10:30. It’s almost lunch time. The villagers have slowly warmed to the idea of my running for, god forbid, exercise. At this point they know my route and wait for me to pass so that they can yell “Madame” or “Toubabou”…or greet me in Dioula of Moore. I have my own little cheering squad. On my path there are also tons of different kinds of animals. At first when they saw me running towards them I cause a mini-stampede as they rushed to get away, but now they just sit there watching me and probably thinking, “what is that crazy white girl doing?” One thing that does scare me a bit though are the enormous cows that line the paths. Most people here have cows…gigantic ones with enormous horns (think running of the bulls, Pamplona). Normally it is just a few, but lately they have been herding them across my path to the greenery near the river. So, the other day I was running and I was at this narrow portion of the path where there is a fence on one side and trees on the other…no escape. I slow to a walk, because I have no desire to start a stampede and get trampled. Well, as I pass by the cows evidently one of them didn’t like what I was wearing or the way I looked at him, but he turned to the cow next to him and speared him, and in turn that cow turned towards me and was headed straight towards me with its huge horns. I had always thought that if it happened (kind of like with the Hippos…if it is chasing me I have resolved to climb a tree) that I would jump out of the way or something…but no, I was scared to death. I just stood there with my face scrunched up in horror waiting for it to spear me. Luckily, the little girl leading the cows started beating them with a stick and they turned away from me. I don’t even think I realized how dangerous the situation was until later, or how close I came to being speared. Oh well, I chalk it up to life experience…and I will never get that close to those freakin’ animals again unless I am eating a fat juicy steak.

Okay, now I know that I have been seriously lacking in chicken stories lately, and for that I apologize. When I arrived back home from my last trip away I discovered that the hen in my courtyard had hatched some eggs. There were about 7 little chicks running around. I LOVE baby doesn't even matter what they are...I love them. Well, one day my organization is having their weekly meeting and I see that one of the baby chicks has fallen in the water bowl. Me being the animal lover that I am can not bear to see this poor little thing drown...everyone else was just staring and laughing--survival of the fittest and this one just didn't cut it. So, I go over there to fish the poor little guy out of the bowl. Everyone is staring at me and I have no idea why...but whatever, I am stared at all day long so how is this different. As I reach in to pull out the little chick the mother hen sees me, and rather than thank me from saving her chick from certain death, she attacks me!! She comes flying at me, wings out, skawking and pecking. I turn around and run and the damn thing follows me!!! WHAT?!?! All I was trying to do is help you stupid little soon to be dinner entreé! Anyway, while the chicken chased me and everyonelaughed as I dart around the courtyard someone snuck in and plucked the chicken out of the bowl. So, in the end I did aid in the saving of this poor chick's life...but I hadn't intended to be bait. Chickens are vicious little creatures...don't let "Chicken Run" fool you. They are mean! They attack me if I come near them, they attack eachother. The other day some of the chickens died in my courtyard...I know what you're thinking...BIRD FLU! But, it zqs some other crazy weird disease...anyway, when one of them got sick the other chickens ganged up on him and started attacking him. It was so crazy. I always pictured chickens as cute and docile creatures...but they are really blood-thirsty little varmints. I am learning so much here! I live in a little National Geographic documentary.

As the hot season approaches so do the roaches, scorpions, lizards, and crickets. What do they want, you might ask? Well, with the blaring sun all they want is to live inside my house. I am now learning all too well the worth of having a cat. Gateau is a vicious hunter. Every night I have had either a roach or a lizard in my house and every time he has caught and killed them. It is entertaining to watch...he throws his prey in theair and catches it. He flings it around for a bit..lets it go and then chases it some more. It is hilarious. There have been times where I have seen a roach and physically brought Gateau inside to show him...then he does his thing. He is my precious, adorable, cuddly, and efficient killing machine...exactly how I trained him. He had a lizard out in the courtyard and I felt bad, so I tried to take it away from him...OHHHH NO! He about clawed my eyes out to kill that thing...the little lizard got over the wall but Gateau leaped off the 10 foot wall; caught the lizard again, and brought it back in to my courtyard to play with some more. I feel bad for the lizard, but GOOD KITTY!

Alright, well I don't have much more time left today...I have a more serious post that I would like to add and I will get to that tomorrow. It can't all be laughs...there are some serious lessons to be learned by living here. Alright, well until tomorrow. A demain!

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