Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Chicken liver, fried fish egg sack, pancakebatter-like drink and hibiscus juice

New food, new religion, new living conditions, new EVERYTHING!! I moved in with my host family last Thursday night and since then it's been nothing but new experiences.

My last night before moving out of the office Christian and I and 2 of our security guards went to watch the big game: Barca vs la Mancha, La couple des grandes oreilles (the cup with big ears) as the Burkinabès like to call it. We went to an outdoor restaurant and joined 100+ men in watching the game on a TV that was barely much bigger than our TV at UBC, and for those who know our TV... it's pretty modest :) (picture below) It was very exciting though because everyone was so enthusiastic and danced and yelled every time Barca scored. The excitement was also increased by the fact that there was a CRAZY storm brewing above us. There was thunder and lightning the entire game, but luckily the rain held out till about the 78th minute when we rushed to the office to watch it. I am starting to get used to the fact that I am one of the only women in Fada that is interested in football, but I don't think Fada is quite used to it yet :) They better get ready though because I found a soccer team!! It's a women's team and they practice every day at 17h and I have been invited to join!!! I've been lacking a bit in energy the last couple of days, but I will be going tomorrow for sure.

The first couple of days with my family have been great. Like I mentioned before, it is Oumou's family that I am staying with (picture of Oumou below), and I am finally starting to figure out who all is part of the family. The first night there was about 15 people coming in and out of the courtyard to eat, chat, or help with food preparation. I have narrowed it down to 8 of us that actually sleep in the house on a daily basis, but there are usually at least 5 or 6 extra that come for dinner and there is a constant buzz in the house. It is a really nice feeling which I hope I won't tire of easily. I will introduce you to the various family members over the next couple of posts. The family is super welcoming and also very eager to please. The first night my host "baba"(dad), Abdula insisted that we put on CNN on the TV so that I would feel at home. I made sure to tell him that I would prefer to watch what they usually watch since I dislike CNN anyways because of the poor representation it gives of Africa and other developing countries. My host "mma" (mom) agreed and said that "westerners don't realize that Africans are poor, but we are happy in our poverty". I told her that one of the reasons I am here in Burkina is to disband the myth that there is nothing more to Africa than hunger and war. She was very appreciative of this comment, and said that I should bring all of my friends here as well so they too can learn this :) Any takers?

I have had my experiences with hunger, seeing hungry begging children in the streets, but as a whole, I think the community of Fada is doing rather well in terms of food quantity. In the family there is always lots of food to go around and the women all encourage me to eat more and more so that I will gain weight and become a real African woman :) Ever since I have moved in I have been exposed to a wide variety of new foods. Fried chicken liver and giblets, fried fish egg sack, a pancake batter-like drink, and the national specialty tô are just a few of the new foods that I have been eating. I have yet to determine which will upset my stomach or not so I'll keep you posted. haha. I have been helping prepare some of the amazing sauces for the meals by removing flowers from certain leaves, stems from others, and shelling endless amounts of peanuts. One of my "yawa" (little sisters), Marceline (picture below) roasted some peanuts for me in the hot coals of the fire... impressive and delicious. I have also eagerly been watching Estelle, Oumou's younger aunt, make the "sagbo" (tô) every night. I can't wait to get the chance to make it myself. There is a lot of pressure riding on the tô though because Estelle prepares all of the tô for the restaurant as well. The family also prepares all of the fried fish for the fish soup for the restaurant. I got to experience that on Saturday when they spent the entire day washing, gutting, drying, and frying 100s of fish. There is really a culture of food making in the family, and everyone seems to be a great chef. My "keyéma" (big sister) Oumou taught me how to make hibiscus juice and I have fallen in love with it. I have definitely experienced a great joy and comfort in being with this family and am so pleased with my decision to stay with them.

The cleanliness of the house is something I have to put more of an effort into feeling comfortable with. My first shower I was met with 1 cockroach, a couple daddy long legs, and countless flies and ants. I also woke up the first morning with 3 grasshoppers in my bed. We usually sit out in the yard for meals and socializing which is very pleasant, but like I said, the hygiene inside is less desirable. If I'm going to learn to experience poverty this is what it takes though and therefore I have learned to accept the bugs and tuck in my mosquito net properly :)

In an effort to keep my posts shorter as per feedback from people in my EWB chapter I have decided to split this post in 2 sections. The 2nd will include: serving at the restaurant, my numerous church experiences, my language lessons, more introductions to the family, and pictures of the family and my house. I will also be posting on what it feels like to be an outsider, and how work is going in the commune of Bogandé. so.... stay tuned!!!


  1. Wow, good thing you're not a vegetarian like your siter; I can't see youe ating fish egg sacks and gutting so many fish if you were! Even though it's all primitive by Western standards, it all sounds, in a word, GEZELLIG. I LOVE reading everything you tell us! xooxxo

  2. Do the children that you are living with speak french? or do they speak the native african language of burkina? or both? Di you help gut and clean all those fish? and i hope you learn some recipes that you can cook for me when you get back!

  3. I miss you sweetie! I have been in Toronto, just returned to Vancouver and am ready to catch up on your blog....can't wait! Thinking of you........

  4. ooops....don't know how this thing works yet...that was me who just posted a comment.....

    : )

  5. Okay....I'm all caught up! What an incredible experience you are having....and I, too, cannot believe the food you are eating! When i was in Thailand I tried barbecued beetle....that was the farthest i was going to go......Can't wait to hear more about your family, the soccer, the work you will be doing.

  6. Annie: Definitely good thing I'm not a vegetarian. It seems they sneak a chunk of meat into just about everything you eat. But it's fun experimenting as long as you don't experiment too much as I discovered last weekend. Got a bit of a tummy ache which I wasn't too happy about.

    Lindsey: My 2 little sisters both speak different languages. One speaks Mooré which is the most widely spoken language in Burkina, and the other speaks Gourmantchéma which is the local language of this region of Gourma. Because of this they speak french to each other so they can understand which makes it nice and easy for me to understand as well :) No I didn't gut any fish... I more sat and watched. I am helping with all of the other food preparation though, and DEFINITELY will be bringing some recipes back with me. I have started writing them down since I'm learning so many. Being at the restaurant, the chef teaches me how to prepare all of the sauces... it's sweet.

    Risa: So nice to hear from you. How was Toronto? The food is usually pretty tame, but in the weekends I am more adventurous when I'm with the family and try out their delicacies. I refused a couple this weekend because I want to stay in good health for my soccer team, work and my various field visits coming up.