Friday, March 16, 2007

A Palestinian and a Jew sit down in a hair Burkina Faso

Hello all! I know you must be wondering about my title, and I promise you that I will get to that story all in due time. Right now I am in Ouagadougou wrapping up the end of our two weeks of training. I am headed back to village on Sunday to do some local language training for a week. I have to say that I am READY to be back at my site, and relaxing in my house. I have been surprised as to how much I just miss being in my village, doing my regular routine, etc. Plus, with all the cool stuff that we have been learning here in training I am ready to go back and start saving the world! HAHAHA! Well, at least digging a couple compost piles anyway...gotta start small.

So, yesterday I was sitting in a session when I received a text message from one of the members of my organization in Banzon. I HATED the fact that I had to leave my cat under their care for 3 weeks, but there was really nothing I could do. I have been calling to check up on him, but I have been worried that something was going to happen. Well, guess what...something did. I received a text message (in French, mind you, which makes it all the more hard to understand) stating that he went to check on my cat, and found him with only one eye...and something about little kids hitting him. Well, needless to say, I freaked out! Look, call me a crazy cat lady if you want...but try and put yourself in my shoes. I live IN THE MIDDLE OF NOWHERE! My cat is basically my family...and that is a concept that Burkinabe definitely do not understand. Here in Burkina Faso the idea that a pet is a member of the family is absolutely unheard of...laughable even. Animals are meant for food (that's right...dogs and cats are yummy according to my neighbors), to kill other animals (cats kill mice, dogs kill small rodents), and to herd farm animals. Outside of that, they see no purpose in having a pet. The people here think I am crazy when I buy fish for my that they LOVE to eat for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. "You are giving that to your cat? You are paying to feed your cat?" It is definitely an American/developed world ideal that they haven't picked up on...and how could they when they can hardly afford to feed themselves. ANYHOO...I called him back and told him to take him to the vet, and that I wanted an update. Well, unfortunately I can not tell you much in regards to Gateau's health at the moment. I know the veterinarian in my village looked at him and gave him some medicine...but I don't know whether he is missing an eye...whether a small child poked it out...whether they hurt him. It is all a mystery. One thing I do know is that in talking with several people in my village...I expressed to them that there will be hell to pay if I come back and my cat is dead. It is a little extreme...but if I find out which child hit him...well we are just going to have to have a meeting and discuss how we treat animals in the United States. One of the aims of the Peace Corps is to share American I am going to do that. You DO NOT hit just don't...and especially not mine. Okay...deep breath...SERENITY NOW!

I feel better now. So, back to my story about the Palestinian and the Jew. I was going to get my eyebrows waxed...that's right, you heard me right...there is an amazing salon in the capital city that does eyebrow waxing and she was amazing!! Anyway, afterwards my friend Veronica (the one with the roaches remember? Hehehe...she will hate me if she knows I refer to her like that...hahaha!) went to get her hair cut next door. I sat down on the couch to wait for her to finish her spa day, when this older man sat down next to me. I asked him where he was from and he said, " is a country with a lot of violence. There is no peace there." Well, heck, that narrows it down. He just sits there with an amused look on his face as I play 20 questions...Syria, Iraq, Iran, North Korea, the Sudan...the list could go on forever. Finally, he concedes and tells me...Palestine. Well, of course I supidly respond by saying..."OH, really? I am going to Israel in May for vacation." Well, this just set of a firestorm. He starts retorting back to me that Israel is not a country, and that I am actually visiting "Palestine"...that the Israelis stole it from them, and continue to kill and torture his people. Now, before anyone goes and gets all huffy about this topic because I know it's sensitive, I just want to say that I have no leanings in either direction. I believe that in a lot of ways both sides are at fault. So, just take this as a funny/interesting story and nothing more. I didn't bring this up to start a Middle Eastern or Jew/Arab debate. Then he realizes that I am an American (DING...pretty obvious!) and procedes to rail me about our foreign policy, the war in Iraq, etc. This is a very deep conversation to be having in French...much too deep for my abilities. I admit to him, rather stupidly but honestly on accident, that I am Jewish. Well, that just opens up a whole can of worms. Several times Veronica looked over at me, and was seeing if I was definitely got a little tense there for a while. We debated for a while, he gets a little heated and I do my best to deflect. I told him, just like I learned in Kindergarten, can't we just share? In the end, we both agree to disagree on a couple of topics, and I tell him that I am sorry for his family's suffering and the suffering for all of those around the world..."I'm in the PEACE Corps...all I want is that too much to ask?" After sitting in silence for a while he turns to me and says, "thank you for this discussion." We shake hands, and then he offers me and my friend a ride home from the salon in his car. Now, I know what you are thinking...DON'T GO WITH HIM! I wouldn't do it in the United States, but here in Burkina we ex-patriates really try and stick together. So, Veronica and I rode home with this Palestinian man and his sister who was visiting from Morocco. Looking back on this experience I really feel like I bridged a gap here...I am after all in the Peace Corps right? Making peace one person at a time...hehehe.

Anyway, everything else is moving along. I am ready to get back and check on my cat and make sure he isn't one-eyed, or one-legged, or something like that. I am keeping my fingers crossed. Otherwise, I am doing really well! I am motivated and ready to get to work...and I just hope that feeling lasts! I am also excited for my trip in May to Israel (or Palestine...whichever your prefer). I hope everyone is doing well...Stay close!

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