I know a little late, but Happy Holidays! I hope that you enjoyed the season and got to celebrate with people you love. The holidays here in Burkina were exciting this year. For Christmas, I went with a few other volunteers to an elephant park. We went out on one ride through the park and saw just about all the types of animals that are here in Burkina (no, there are no lions here, no there are no giraffes). That included lots of elephants and a few different sorts of antelope-type animals. On our way out of the park, we saw a baby elephant in a group of adult female elephants. He was encircled by the herd as he played in the mud. At one point, one of the adult elephants actually sat on him. We were a little worried as he struggled, but apparently they were just playing. After a little bit, one of the elephants noticed us, slowly walked away from the group, trumpted to warn us, and then charged towards our car. I mean, what would you do if a bunch of people were watching your kid play? (Pictures coming soon – they charged per camera, so we shared a camera and I still need to get the pictures.)
I celebrated New Year’s back in village. The day before New Year’s Eve, I went into my district capital for a traditional Bissa New Year’s celebration at the chief’s house. There were TONS of people there – crowd certainly wasn’t as big as Inauguration Weekend in DC, but I’d say my fear of being trampled was equal. They were doing crowd control on horseback. And by they, I don’t mean a police officer trained in crowd control or even horse back riding. I mean a few random guys in the chief’s family. To get people to move back, they charge towards them on the horse. It gets people to move, but is also causes people in the back to randomly start getting pushed back by everyone in front of them. I went with a cousin of the director of the school in my village, and I clung to her for dear life. The ceremony was pretty basic – the chief came out, walked down the aisle of tons of people, and sat down to make the sacrifice. I was expecting a chicken or goat, but all I could see him put down were a few feathers, some dolo (local millet beer), and a few other random trinkets. Not like I really would have watched a goat or chicken be sacrificed anyways. Then, men played the drums for the chief and women danced. I tried to ask my friend the significance of the ceremony, but I really couldn’t get more out of her than the basics – health and luck in the new year. The next day, I went back to village for the real New Years. I made a village version of Pad Thai for my family and then we went to see a concert. So I thought that celebrating at midnight was a universal thing. But apparently it’s not. I was counting down, watching my phone. But when it turned midnight, no one seemed to notice. It took about five minutes for people to start realizing midnight had passed and slowly, people started cheering and celebrating in their own way. Time is not as fixed of a concept here as it is in the States. Sometimes for a meeting or activity, a sufficient meeting time to set is simply morning.
So I usually think I’ve gotten used to most aspects of life here that seemed bizarre at first. Chasing a chicken out of the maternity ward or my house, cramming onto bush taxis, the market. But there are still those moments where all I can say is “What now?” The other day, there was someone that was referred to the district hospital in Zabré from our health clinic. They had called the ambulance to get him. My brother, the pharmacist, who also raises and sells livestock, had some turkeys he needed to get to Zabré. So he asked the head nurse if he could take advantage of the opportunity and put them on the ambulance too. And yes, he sent his turkeys to sell at the market in Zabré with the ambulance. How many health codes would that break in the States? The next day, I had just arrived home from the market when my mom pointed towards the path leading to our house – there were two camels. Now I don’t live in the desert, but the northern part of the country is the desert. There were two men ridding the camels. They had
left the north and were riding around the country begging essentially. They go house to house asking for money or millet. Camels are surprisingly tall. They are also quite loud, particularly when someone tries to mount them. Only in Burkina Faso.