Saturday, February 26, 2011

It started as a short bike ride...

12 February – Kossouka, 8:50pm

So I intended to go for a quick bike ride – 30 minutes, maybe an hour. I left the house around 8:30am, chose a road, and set off. I tried to get back to the house of the adjoint priest and ended up chatting with some guys who then asked what I was going to give them. I laughed, said goodbye, and continued on my way. I was back on the main road and soon realized it was the road to Rambo that also leads to Emily's village.

Suddenly, I hear furious pedaling behind me. I ignore it for a while – kids love trying to race the nasara despite my advantage of having a bike with gears. Finally I turned and looked, and who should it be but the guy who gets water for the CSPS staff! I say hello and he asks (in French-Moore) if I'm going to Inou. I didn't really have a destination in mind, so I shrug and say “sure”. We're soon joined by three women I know (I think they're AS's, or maybe AV's – they're around the CSPS, if nothing else) who said they were going to the mass in Inou. But it's Saturday – mass? They bike off and the man and I keep going. He points out the schools as we pass – Kossouka Primary C, Iki Primary, Inou Primary, and then leads me to the Inou CSPS.

We meet the major outside and I'm happy to see her – she's a very sweet lady who occasionally visits our CSPS with her beautiful baby girl (no kidding, her nickname is “Jolie”). She takes me on a tour of the new building and I'm impressed. Instead of multiple buildings in a line, this CSPS is smaller and all one building, with a circular hallway leading to all of the different rooms. The waiting area is indoors, everything is new (and some things have yet to arrive, like all of the tables and beds), and there's a skylight/atrium where they've planted a banana tree! Turns out she was also planning on going to this funeral, so despite being underdressed and without a single cfa with me I decided to tag along.

We biked a little further on the road and pulled up next to a large tent serving as a church. Well, it was more of a metal support frame with tarps tied as a roof and two sides covered with bamboo mats and woven straw walls. A picture of Michel, the man who had died, was resting on a pagne-drapped chair next to a pagne-covered alter that had a small battery-powered lantern serving as a candle. I shook hands with a few people and then sat myself on a bench next to a well dressed woman and her young daughter. She's a merchant from Bobo – I have no idea why she sells way up here in Inou, since it's so small and the trip must take at least two days, but I didn't get the chance to ask.

Mass was very interesting. It started with the choirmaster raising his hands and eliciting a type of singing that sent surprised shivers down my spine. It was almost nasaly or droaning, like a bagpipe, in kind of an erie minor pitch. There was a lot of singing through the 2 hour mass, but it was neat to hear and I even could fake my way through the choruses when the video camera started coming in my direction. The pastor must have shouted for almost the entire time – I'm impressed he still had a voice at the end. I've clearly forgotten the order of mass, because I kept trying to figure out what part we'd be at in English and failing terribly. It would have been more interesting in French, so I'd have a hope at getting the gist, but in Moore I was almost utterly lost. Still, a very exciting and unique experience – I'm glad it's considered socially acceptable to just show up to a funeral without invitation (or maybe that only works if you're the nasara – I'll have to ask).

After I was pointed towards my major, who had apparently returned from her trip, and we followed someone to a house for lunch. I was seated with all the heavy hitters – the mayor and adjoint mayor and prefet of Kossouka, the priest, the majors of both CSPS's, and a couple of people I didn't know. I had a nice conversation with the mayor before realizing he was the mayor, but at least now I can go say hello (you can't go visit someone until you've been introduced...meaning someone has to stop their own stuff long enough to head your pleas for an introduction). It was a good lunch – veggie mixture with a mustard vinaigrette (potatoes, green beans, carrots, raw onions, cucumbers, and tomatoes), riz gras with the usual meat/cabbage sauce, and some kind of cooked meat. I was given a black can emblazoned with “Biker Beer” on it, which pretty much tasted like every cheap beer you've ever encountered, and chose to stick to the zom-koom after that (a drink made with millet flour).

We finally said goodbye and walked back to the place where we'd left our transportation options (my bike, their cars and motos). I made a date to talk with the prefet on Monday, and promised to return to Inou soon. I like it – it seems like a nice village! I went to fetch my bike and ran into our water guy, who parted the crowd of children gathered around me and insisted on walking my bike out. I figured it was just to get past the crowd, but then he kept walking down the road with me. Through some gesturing and misunderstood questions I figured out that a) he was not on his bike because he wasn't going home yet, b) he intended to walk me to the CSPS to meet up with the major, and c) he was going to have to let me just get on and bike home because the major had already left the CSPS. By this point the kids had caught up and crowded around us again – there must have been 50 of them! He commanded them to get out of my way, and as I got settled on my seat a tunnel opened up in the sea of children. I said goodbye to my escort, then, like the beginning of some bike race, I gathered speed as I rushed past my starting gate of kids who then broke rank and chased after me shouting and laughing. I couldn't help but laugh back, and wave over my shoulder as I quickly outpaced them, and I kept smiling for a good while as I enjoyed the beautiful bike ride back to Kossouka.

I had to rush when I got home because Sylvie told me (as we were leaving Inou) that there was going to be a meeting of the AS's (Agents de Sante) at 1500, and it was already 1400 when I got back. I dashed to the water pump, said hello to Luddi (the younger sister of Djeneba), and got two bidons of water so I could shower and have enough left to start laundry early tomorrow, before the water turns on again (it's solar powered, so only works from about 9am to 5pm). Quick shower, then over to the CSPS. The meeting didn't start until nearly 1600, but I know that the one time I'm late it's going to start on time, so I still get there when I'm told to. Didn't get to go to the marche, but I didn't need anything too badly. The meeting was entirely in Moore and the bits I did catch were so out of context that it just left me confused. Next time, I'm asking for the cliff notes version the next day instead of sitting through it.

After the meeting, Boreima asked if we could change my tour of the barage to Tuesday, which I of course said was fine. I can't wait! Not only will I see another satellite village, I'm going to get just-picked lettuce, tomatoes, and carrots! Score. They don't sell in our marche for some terrible reason, so I'm guessing I'll be making return trips – for lettuce, it's worth it. He also asked the CoGes women (who all teach Moore) if they could start tutoring me, and they all seemed very reluctant and non-committal. While it would be better if I had some kind of consistent “you will have a lesson on these days so you better study in between” to motivate me, I think I'm doing alright on my own now that I have Simon to answer my questions and help me work through my new workbook.

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