Happy birthday to me! 24 years of bumbling around...I mean, gracing the world with my presence – it's almost hard to believe I've made it here. I woke up to the wind, and as I drifted, refusing to get up, Sunyata called to be the first to wish me a happy birthday. What a nice motivation to finally get up! I enjoy celebrating birthdays, which makes it all the sadder that I don't often do much to celebrate. An evening with friends, a special meal, a night out dancing, a movie, a day off work – all sound like perfect celebrations to me. Burkinabe don't celebrate birthdays, the majority of people don't know the year let alone the day they were born. Plus if you want a celebration you pay for it yourself! So instead I'll go to the Chief's party, eat his food, watch the dancing, and pretend it's for me :)
I had told the teachers and Major that I had in mind a 30 minute puberty sensibilization for this morning, but somehow it turned into a 2 hour lecture on HIV/AIDS. While it wasn't what I'd expected, Major started talking and we just went from there. It was a bit of overkill, but I was happy that it happened and I think we did a pretty good job, although I don't know how much the kids got out of it. I was glad that we emphasized the ways you can't get HIV, like eating with someone, wearing their clothing, touching their sweat or tears or saliva, or getting bitten by mosquitoes (that one was 50/50 for the kids – half thought it was possible so I was glad we brought it up specifically). Belem was a little overly cautious and kind of using scare tactics on things like the clothing, saying you could get HIV if you share clothing with someone HIV positive who has lots of cuts and open sores, when really, the chance of HIV being present in high enough quantities in a smear of dried blood and managing to get into your system in high enough numbers (assuming you also have an actively bleeding wound at the same place) seems so implausible as to not even be worth worrying them about.
It was super windy and dusty all day, but particularly in the morning – walking outside was just asking to get the top of your skin sandblasted off. Good thing I wore brown today, although I did have to wash my face and arms about 5 times today to get rid of the gritty feeling.
I hung around the CSPS during repose to charge my laptop, and got to see Mariam stitch a woman's foot. The most amazing part was that the woman showed absolutely no indication of pain until she stood up and didn't put her shoe on that foot, and kind of hopped and limped when it was time to go back to the other room. Wow. I told her (through Mariam) that I admired her, that I would have cried like a child if it had been me, and that at least got a quick smile out of her.
I met up with Djeneba and Sali around 2pm to head over to the chief's house, and guess who was there to greet us? My fou (crazy person) from Manegetaba, the one who speaks some English and gleefully laughs and yells “Nasara, f*** yooou!” with a huge smile every time my bus stops in that village on the way to and from Ouaga. He, of course, did the same thing here in Kossouka, and later waved goodbye as he caught a ride back to his village on someone's moto. I swear, he acts pretty smart for a fou.
I had already had a decent sized lunch, but I did happily partake in the cucumber and egg salad, even eating some of the meat and a bite of the fish. So much protein today! When we went to the courtyard for the entertainment part of the afternoon we were seated in the front of the “important people” section, and as the singers sang and the dancers danced, people brought them money. It was a little less ostentatious this year, only a few people threw the money, it was more likely to be smaller bills, and no one tried to stick the bills to the sweaty forehead of the performers. But I did see one guy who was passing out 10mille bills, and he easily went through over 100mille while I was watching. Where is this man when I need immediate funding for a well? I did get hit up for money from one singer, and had to borrow a mille because I had absolutely no money on me. Should have known better. While they sing they weave in names/job titles to get those people to come pay them, so the Major, the Mayor, and the Prefet all got called a few times since no one needs to know their name, just their title, to hit them up.
Then people came up by village to present their gifts to the chief. Some gave money, anywhere from 500cfa to 10,000cfa, but the more impressive thing in my mind was the growing pile of millet, the stalks woven together to make a handle for the bundle. The chief spends an unimaginable amount of money on this fete, what with food, the drinks, the thousands of sachets of water, renting the tents and speakers and chairs, paying the performers (actually, they make so much money I bet they show up for free). Traditionally this was a fete held at the end of the harvest, when the whole village would come to help the chief bring in his fields. The date changes every year, but this year April seems to be a pretty poor choice if you're trying to get people to bring you food, considering we're getting into the hungry season pretty shortly, the time of year when you've eaten down your stores from the last harvest and you haven't yet planted or are waiting for this year's harvest to grow, surrounded by food that's not ready to eat while you work all day and eat maybe one meal. I didn't see the pile of millet last year, but it did look pretty small this year, considering how many people attended. Still, the whole experience was a lot of fun, especially seeing it for the second time and knowing what to expect.