Friday, February 23, 2007

JP had seen flyers posted around town advertising a « nature walk » sponsored by a local French democratic association. He thought it would be a nice family activity. I carefully considered how to sell the concept to the kids. The lure of learning to identify local trees and shrubs would have limited appeal to my crew . The social attractions seemed like the best bet.
“I guess Marie and her family will be there?” I asked JP, thinking of her four kids that are the same age as ours.

“No! Definitely not. This is the Democratic walking group. All the Leftists will be there. Marie’s family is with the other walking group”

“Right. We better not have Socialists and Fascists looking at shrubs together.” I observed.

We are the odd ones. The only family that has friends in both camps and doesn’t see how walking is a politically charged activity. The Conservative group is made up of our friends from church and the Leftist group is mostly made up of teachers from the French school.

In the end, the primary selling point was that the event was happening in a park only a ten-minute walk away from our house. The twins were quite happy. The older two would have preferred to stay home and play Sims on my computer, but were pretty easily persuaded to put on their sunscreen and hats and come along.

We knew it would be hot and dusty. It’s the end of February, so that means there hasn’t been a drop of rain for about five months. The temperature was about 108°F.
But JP wanted to learn about plants, I wanted some exercise and the kids were hoping to see some friends.

As we entered the park, I was reminded of the old Wendy’s commercial where the old lady asks plaintively “Where’s the Beef?”. We were saying “Where’s the leaves?” The majority of the trees had already lost all of their foliage. So, there were two problems right from the start: no shade and few intact leaves for identification.
We walked down the dusty path, the orange African sun blazing down on us and every few yards our park guide would stop in front of what he apparently thought was a promising specimen. Quite often, it was just a dried-looking stick poking up out of the hard earth.
“Bombax Costatum” he announced proudly. “Used for firewood and mask-carving. They grow very big.”
We all stood around and looked at the stick.
The guide leaned over and picked up a shrivelled, grey object off the ground. “Here’s a leaf.”
It crumbled.
“ They are usually green, of course. And when the tree is older, it looks much different than this.”
Hmm…I was beginning to suspect this tree-identification walk was not going to shape up as well as we’d hoped. The guide knew the names of the trees, but no idea how to tell other people how to identify them. And the conditions were…less than optimal.
Add to this the fact that there were few kids, just a couple very young ones in strollers and one very serious 9 year old with a notebook and pencil. Oddly, she seemed to be having a good time. She certainly didn’t complain the way my kids did. After the first hour, they had had absolutely had enough. The walk was taking much longer than we had thought. And then we ran out of water. Ooops. But we were closer to the exit by this time, so it made no sense to go back. The only way to go was forward, towards the snack bar and the promise of cold Cokes.
“I’m dying” Alexa announced for the 4000th time.
“If you could die more quietly, that would be great. Otherwise, I suggest you keep walking. You are 15 short minutes from a drink .” I said briskly. I’m not sure that I’m a Bad Mom, but I am certainly not very sweet.
I could see no one was in danger of dehydration. The kids even stopped when the guide pointed out a small green plant with tiny seedpods on it. It looked so beautiful amid all the dust and dried leaves. We all leaned over the tiny thing, admiring it like it was carved in emerald.
That’s been one of the best lessons I have learned by living here for years. I’ve learned to appreciate whatever comes along. In this blog, I complain and criticise a lot. But that’s just because I find that’s the best way to extract the humour from situations. Appreciation just isn’t funny. But I do actually spend most of my days here enjoying whatever small, nice things happen to come my way, be it a new friend, a cold Coke or a small, green plant.
BTW: Nobody died, not even Alexa.

4 comments:

oreneta said...

"If you could die more quietly, that would be great. Otherwise, I suggest you keep walking. You are 15 short minutes from a drink .”

LOLOL Oh my, that sounds just the way I do...so nice to hear that other people say things like that.

audacious said...

you have a wonderful blog ... ; your posts are interesting.

BurkinaMom said...

I am very happy to have your comments! I was a little worried that I was getting into WTMI territory. When I have time to write, I do tend to go on and on.....
BTW: Oreneta- I saw your blog! You are certainly not living an average life!

oreneta said...

Burkinamom..takes one to know one! It is fun though isn't it.