As a Peace Corps volunteer, a large portion of my day is just spent interacting with people in my village, hanging out and going through life’s motions. In Burkina Faso, as I assume in other places in the world, there is a large social dependence on chatting. I regularly have people come over to my house for no other purpose than to say ‘hello’ and make sure everything is well. It is not foreign to spend hours seated, talking. Sometimes, these hours aren’t even spent talking but rather being alongside others.

 At first, I was highly annoyed by all of this. As an American, I didn’t understand why I had ask how a person was doing, how their work was going, how their health was, their family, their husband and their kids, before buying tomatoes. The first time I got trapped just being for an hour, I mentally reviewed the large list of better things I could be doing. Soon, however, I learned to love these conversations. Love the silence. Love the being. This is one of the greatest aspects of Peace Corps; having the opportunity to delve into another people’s culture and begin to understand how they think. In some aspects, my villagers and I are very different, yet at other times I am blown away by how similar we can be.

 Here are some of the memorable quotes from my service thus far:

“America needs to stop letting people in. You can’t just become American. You have to be raised in it. They’ll become terrorist.” – Michelle Ouedrago (host-Dad)

“When you came here, you were a fat American. Now you are a beautiful beautiful boy” –Michelle Ouedrago (host-Dad)

“Peace Corps is hard but you are strong like a marine. Like an American.” –Michelle Ouedtrago (host-Dad)

“I am a friend of the genies. I know magic. It will protect you. You’ll be ok” –Essuf Ouettarra (village best friend)

“God made leaves and fruits for people. The blood of an animal is the same as ours. It does not make sense to eat them. They speak to us.” –Essuf Ouettarrra (village best friend)

“France is bad. Look at all their former colonies, all backwards. The French education system teaches you only to memorize, not think for yourself. We don’t innovate.” –Essuf Ouettarra (village best friend)

{At 7 AM, handing me a sack of whiskey} “Drink?” –Patrice (village Rasta musician and friend)

“What time of meat is this?” -Me         “Rat.” –Patrice (village Rasta musician and friend)

“Is that water from America?” –Amedue (Tailor, posing this question six months after I arrived in my village)

“China is ruining Burkina. Every kid has a cheap cellphone. On those cellphones there is porn. They think nothing of sex, then have kids when they are 15 years old and get STDs.” –Felix (Sixteen year old karate student)

“I have gone to church. I have gone to Mosque. I just don’t believe in God. It doesn’t make sense to me, but I’m still a good person.” –Noufou (Seventeen year old karate student)

“Africans have too many kids. It’s not good for development. I want two, spaced out by three years. It will be easier to send them to school that way.” –Ali (Seventeen year old karate student)

“White man!” –Every village kid          “African kid!” –Me

“I had the Imam write this prayer for you. Have it sewn into an amulet and hang it in your bedroom. God will see to it that your prayer is answered.” –Mamadou  (boutique owner)

“Help me get to America. I will work with cattle there. They have cows there, right?” –Mamadou (boutique owner)

“Here, have some tea. Do you know this song?” –Tal, referring to a Lil Wayne song

“I don’t think girls should go to school. If they get jobs they won’t respect their husbands because they won’t need money.” English teaching at my village’s school

“Are you going to work today?” –Alima (host sitster/aunt) after I spend all morning on my computer writing a grant.

“That ___ is nice. Can I have it?” –Guy who loads up my transport into/out of village.

 “Grandson! Come here and buy something from your grandmother. No… not that. You wont like that.” –Old woman that sells spices in my village market

“Those pants are too tight. You need to change your pants.” –Salimata (my host-mother) upon seeing my new pair of pants from the tailor. 

One Reply to “Conversations”

  1. So, I just started from the beginning and read every post. This one is my favorite and gave me many smiles. I’m happy for you, man. Keep doing good things.

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