Thursday, June 11, 2009

Officially an African Woman!

As promised… another update about my host family in Fada N’gourma.

During the week I unfortunately don’t get to spend too much time with the family because I am at work from 7:30am-6:30pm and when I get home I’m usually pretty tired. The weekends on the other hand are great because I get completely immersed in the culture and am able to live the “real African experience”. The “real African experience” for me has included: helping prepare traditional meals, working at the family’s restaurant, doing my laundry by hand, going to church, learning the local language, wearing my traditional African clothing, and biking around in 40 degree weather.

Last weekend was packed with traditional experiences, and my “mma” Eveline says that I am now officially an African woman. I made my first trek to the small woman’s market with my big sister Estelle and we bought the necessary veggies and spices for the day’s food.

This is a picture of the beautiful Estelle

It was a short walk but Estelle kept asking me if I was okay because of the heat and the exercise :) I am finally quite nicely adapted to the temperature so the walk was definitely manageable. When we got back I prepared the zucchini and the onions for the sauce while Estelle prepared the tomatoes and the meat. We cut the vegetables with what looked like machetes to me, and I grated the zucchini for the sauce. Luckily it was a plastic grater so I didn’t lose any fingers on the countless occasions that my fingers slipped out of exhaustion and distraction. African style cooking is definitely very impressive, and Estelle is a master chef. After we prepared the sauce Estelle taught me how to do my laundry. After much laughing and demonstrations from Estelle, I finally started to get the hang of it. Sore knuckles and an hour later I proudly hung up my laundry in the courtyard of the house.

Here is my pride and joy... my clean laundry!!

Later that day my arms were again put to the test when I made tô, the national staple dish. It is made from millet flour or maize four. I mixed up the flour and boiling water into a paste, added more flour, and then put my arms to work. Then I dished up the tô into the small dishes that we bring to the restaurant.

Here I am stirring the tô

Every night Estelle makes the tô for the whole restaurant and all the 15 or so people that eat at our house. Although my clothes smelt terribly of smoke afterwards and I was thoroughly exhausted, it was well worth it!! Another success for the “nasara”!!

“Nasara” means white person and is probably the most commonly used word in my presence. I have a cute little neighbor Medina who is about 4 years old and runs after me every time I come home yelling “nasara, nasara!!!”. She even followed me into the courtyard, into the house, and into my room last week. She is very brave, and loves to shake my hand!! That is a common trend with kids around here. Oumou’s sister arrived from Piela yesterday to stay at the house, and all that her 3 year old daughter Océan does is stare at me and giggle. It’s usually quite funny for me to experience, but there are times when I wish I could stand out less and integrate more.

There are other ways that I am integrating though. I have been having Saturday morning language lessons with the family to try and improve my Mooré and my Gourmantché. Mooré is the national language, and the language that the family usually speaks when not speaking French, and Gourmantché also known as Gulimancéma or Gourmanchéma is the language of the region of Gourma which I live in here in Fada N’Gourma. It is a bit challenging to be trying to learn both languages, but any effort I put in, the locals are very appreciative.

I have also been attending church on a regular basis. The family is very divided in their religion. About half go to a Protestant Church, while the other half go to a Catholic one but they are definitely unified in their dedication to religion. They dedicatedly attend church every weekend, read the bible on Sunday nights, and listen to the religious radio. The funniest part about the religious radio is that in between songs there is a short break in which someone explains the meaning of the song… and the transition in to this explanation from the song is always the opening few bars of soulja boy!! Haha No words or anything, but it is distinctly the same beat. It cracks me up every time.

Anyways, back to church… not only is the family divided in which religion they practice, but also in which church they go to. The Protestant half of the family splits up and goes to 3 different churches because all the different churches services are in different languages (Moore, French and Gourmantché). The first time that I went to church was with my coworker Christian and we went to the main Catholic church of the city. The 2nd weekend I decided to visit both churches since I wanted to explore them both, and wanted to please both sides of the family. That weekend I was in church for a total of 5 hours and wasn’t sure I could handle any more preaching.

I have nothing against religion at all, but sitting in a church for 3 and a half hours hearing someone yell into the microphone about how Jesus wants us to go “en mission” made me desperate to find my own niche in religion and I was pretty sure it wasn’t there. I didn’t feel like I belonged to either religion and felt like inventing my own in which EWB’s vision was preached, and we sang Coldplay songs instead of one’s about Jesus. Last weekend I went to the Catholic Church again because they were having a special service organized by the children of Fada because here in Burkina it was mother’s day. The service was held in the outdoor church and was absolutely beautiful.

Here is a picture that I snuck before the church was too packed

The singing was great, the kids read poems and stories, and we were out under these massive trees in the cool breeze of the morning. I felt much more relaxed and comfortable with the message this time because the whole sermon was focused on family, and appreciating mothers… and even fathers around the world. I thought of you lots mom, dad and Marika :) I will keep you posted on which church I decide to go to next weekend and how religion plays into my stay here in Fada.

I am off to my first real soccer game now which is quite exciting!!! I am being officially registered with the team today and will thus be able to play in the championship games coming up!!! I have lots to tell about the team but will save that for next time

À bientôt mes amis!!!


  1. Well I immediately thought of how Oma loved it that you went to church with her when you were in Holland.:) She loves what you're doing right now!! xoxooxxo

  2. Good luck with the church thing hun. I do not envie you hours upon hours of sermons at all. <3

  3. Sweet!!! So yeah totally agree with the Coldplay songs, wanna have our own "religious" night during retreat? I'll def read from the orange book and sign along to Coldplay with you.
    As for the tô I'm so jealous! I've been trying very hard to do all the stiring but man do I fail, I'm so weak!!! But I'm gonna get my family to train me so that I can do it all on my own by the end of the summer.
    solja boy, so funny, there are so many english songs played here that I'm 100% sure they would not play if they knew the what they meant. Have you heard "do me do me, do you do you, come on me on me, come on you on you" yet? Those are the ONLY words in the song and I almost lost it when I heard it at first. Now it kinda pops up once in while.
    See you soon bella!!! xoxox all my love and best wishes and hugs!

  4. Annelies! Your blog is great fun. I love the pictures. Especially the one of you stirring the tô!

    Rock on lady :D

    - Ian