Tuesday, February 05, 2008

The Geekiest Expat Mom Ever Goes to Gourcy, Part II
Just as night fell, our host arrived in a gleaming Toyota Land Cruiser, his kindly driver Pascal at the wheel. Antoine jumped out, smiling. But the smiling didn’t last long. He sat down with us and told us that there had been a terrible accident just three hours before. The son of his good friend/next door neighbour had just been killed on the road to Ouahiagouya. He’d taken two friends in his father’s SUV to go for an evening of fun in the big city. The vehicle rolled and he died on the spot. Besides all the incredible heartache of the event, there had been further drama. Mossi custom demands that the body be buried at the site of any accidental death. But the local priest tried to outmanoeuvre the traditional powers and had sent men to pick up the body for burial at on the church grounds. Antoine had been trying to manage this situation and at the same time move the night’s planned festivities to another location. Because of the tragedy right next door, here was no question of having a party with music and dancing at the hotel. None of us would have been surprised if he’d cancelled the whole thing. His good friend had just lost his 24 year old son, after all. But he insisted that it would go on. He had already engaged the performers and had the food prepared. Furthermore, Yann and his wife were not the only people being honoured. In fact, it turned out that the party was also in honor of (probably primarily in honor of) a French couple who were visiting Gourcy for the month. Gilles and Marie-Gabrielle turned out to be a very sweet pair of retired farmers from a small coastal village in France that has been sending money to Gourcy since 1984. Thanks to sponsors, Gourcy has schools, a sanitation systems, a reservoir….none of it paid for by the Burkinabé government. Dynamic people like Antoine had decided early on that waiting for the national government to provide services to the town would be next to hopeless, so they set out to find money. And the village of these kindly French farmers had been a major source over the years. A party was certainly called for, to celebrate their 24 years of friendship with the people of Gourcy. So, the show would certainly have to go on as planned.
Antoine informed us that the party would be held in his “garden”. It still wasn’t clear exactly what that meant.
I asked “So, it’s a garden with plants? A vegetable garden?”
“Yes” was the only answer I got, with no clarification, leaving me with the impression that I would be performing to an audience of about 12 people, all seated on folding chairs scattered across an expanse of dirt dotted with leafy cabbage plants.

By now, it was getting to the cooler part of the evening, so I went back into our room to change for the …garden party. I was a bit afraid of being overdressed, but the outfit I’d brought had long sleeves, which were very welcome against the chill. It’s one I bought at a craft fair here a few years back, but haven’t worn often. It’s from Senegal and it’s pink. It’s very, very pink.
I went into the bathroom to dress, after cautiously inspecting the drain for sinister insect life.
I peered doubtfully into the tiny mirror in the bathroom.
My self-evaluation was as follows: If somebody gave me a bouquet of flowers, I’d look exactly like a table decorated for a baby shower. A not very classy baby shower.
But it was too late
to do anything about it. I had to back outside to join the others.
We started out for the Garden. It turned out that we couldn’t drive there in our own cars, as the track leading to the site was deemed far too rough.

So, Antoine’s Toyota was loaded up with food, while a group of us climbed into the cab.
Despite Pascal’s careful driving, the huge eroded crevasses defeated his attempts to keep the ride smooth. We kept hearing ominous sounds from the back cargo area and hoped that our dinner wasn’t being dumped all over the floor. On the other hand, it was almost nine pm and we still had a show to see before dinner would be served. My years of previous experience in Africa told me that it would be hours before we ate. By then, everyone would probably be so hungry that we would be perfectly happy to eat couscous scraped off the floor of a vehicle.

We bumped along for about 15 minutes until we again saw the bright glare of electric lights. Up ahead there was a blindingly-lit, walled compound with a large number of cars, scooters, and bikes parked outside. Through the open gate , we could see a crowd milling.
JP said “That can’t be it”.
But it was.
Pascal drove the Toyota right into the compound and the crowd parted to make way for us. It wasn’t a garden. There was not a vegetable in sight. It looked more like a outdoor nightclub/bar, what we call a maquis here, but a very big one. And the center was dominated by a huge raised stage/platform. A sound system with four giant speakers blared out West African pop. And most of the village of Gourcy seemed to be there to enjoy it.
My first thought was “Thank heavens that I didn’t wear capri pants!” followed quickly by “Please God, make them forget that Yann and I are supposed to sing.”
I had been all prepared to sing in a vegetable garden in front of a dozen people. This would be like singing at the freaking Super Bowl…if the Super Bowl was much smaller and located in rural Burkina Faso.
But they didn’t forget. No such luck.

Tomorrow be ready for Part III, in which Burkina Mom is a Bad Guest.


Pardon My French said...

*cracking up*

MLW said...

LOVING this story. You can't make up stuff this good -- reluctance, sweetness, tragedy, challenge -- and you leave us with a cliffhanger of how you fared under Gourcy's Friday night lights....

oreneta said...


If somebody gave me a bouquet of flowers, I�d look exactly like a table decorated for a baby shower. A not very classy baby shower.


Though I am very sorry about your son's friend....

babzee said...

I remember when you were an "extraordinary" guest at a wedding not long ago. To imagine you as an outright BAD GUEST is wonderfully painful. My heart bleeds for the family who lost their son, but I know too well that the world rolls on, parties and all...