Wednesday, March 05, 2008

The Very Last and Final Episode of
My Extremely Long Story About How We Visted a Winyé Earth Priest, Sacrificed Chickens, Saw Lots of Bats and Gave Away Some Cookies.

Within a few minutes, the ceremony at the Shrine of the Elephant Hunt was complete. The girls and I got out of there with what might well be described as relief.

It was over! We made it! I had the girls stand in front of the door to the hut and took a photo. (It’s the pic I posted yesterday. Now you know why Mal doesn’t look like her usual cheerful self in it. )

So, there I was standing by the door, putting the camera away and wondering why the guys weren’t coming outside. And JP says “Come back in! We had to give the gifts now at the Earth Shrine.”

There was NO WAY I was making the girls go back in, but I figured I could manage a final effort. I sent the girls to go sit in the shade and I walked back into the hut. Not surprisingly, I was confronted AGAIN by a mass of bats, this time moving out of the Earth Shrine and back to their usual home in the Shrine of the Elephant Hunt.

I waited for the traffic to die down and then made my way to the back room. There ceremony was very simple and quickly done.

Now, all we had to do was make a few social visits around the village, eat lunch and then leave. It was only about one o’clock and it was very possible that this day could actually stay on schedule!

We needed to go greet various friends/informants of JP. Not like we needed the company. There was plenty to be had in the compound of the Earth Priest, believe me. When we had arrived, it had been a quiet place, but soon after we had arrived various folks began dropping by to say “Naa Fo”. And there were the kids. Very quickly, there were about 20 of them, all staring fixedly at the twins and A. It was a bit sad, as there were many school-aged children. They all had parents that either could not afford or did not want to send them to school. And because they didn’t go to school none of them spoke French- and the girls with us spoke no Mooré. So, communication was very difficult.

After a bit, Mallory got the big bag of cookies out of the truck. I’d brought them from Ouagadougou as a sort of “ice-breaker”. And they were certainly a big hit. The girls handed out treats to each child and there was lots of smiling both sides.

After that, JP announced that we could start our round of visits. The village is quite scattered and the whole area mostly devoid of any shade or ground cover. So, it was very, very hot and very, very dusty as we crossed the village. And we were not passing through unremarked. As we walked, we collected a train of village children.

By the time arrived at our destination, we had over 80 kids in our retinue. The adults sat and drank the inevitable gourds of millet beer and the girls distributed the rest of the cookies. (See picture posted above. We can see that Mallory likes sharing cookies far more than visiting mystical bat chambers. Can’t blame her, really)

We visited a bit and then trekked back towards the Earth Priest’s compound. On the way, we stopped and visited the compound of the Griots. They are the traditional musician/praise singer caste. If I have to be reincarnated as a Burkinabé village woman (seems unlikely, but stick with me here) I fervently hope that it is as a Griot lady. They are the only village women in Burkina that seem to really have any fun. The minute we came into their compound, the women poured out of the interior of a nearby hut, laughing and joking. And soon the singing began, with impromptu and apparently very funny lyrics describing our visit. In a manner rarely seen in Burkina, the men were definitely in the background and it was a group of jolly, loud, fun women center stage, welcoming the guests.

Soon, we were back at the Earth Priest’s compound. It was 2 pm now and I was getting worried again about the deadline. If we weren’t in the truck and heading back by 3 pm, we’d have to stay overnight in Boromo. And that would NOT have been a good thing. But there was no imaginable way to leave before the meal was served an eaten.

But within a few minutes, we were ushered into a small hut to the right. You have to eat, but you don’t eat together. The Winyé are not big on communal meals. Guests don’t eat with hosts. Even in daily life, men don’t eat with the women and children, but are served first in a hut reserved for them alone.

So, Isseuf, JP, the girls and I were in our little hut, sitting on tiny wooden benches. Burkianbé benches are typically very, very low- intended to keep your rear end out of the dirt, but not by much of a margin. But as they don’t have tables, it makes sense. The communal bowls are placed on the floor and everyone digs in. We had a huge serving platter of millet tô (sticky dumplings) and a pan full of chicken parts and sauce. We ate with our fingers, in keeping with good Burkinabé non-table manners. Our twin daughters and A are quite good at this style of eating, as they all grew up eating local foods sitting on the kitchen floor with household helpers. For the less habituated, it’s hard to do without dripping sauce down your arm or onto the floor.

Soon, the meal was over. We thanked our host and hostess many times and slowly began the process of “asking for the road”.

Finally, amazingly, our visit to the village of Nanou was at an end. By three o’clock we were getting back into the truck.

With Isseuf translating for her, the Earth Priest’s wife jokingly asked if she could come along with me, as we gotten to be friendly, despite the language barrier.

I put my arm across her shoulders and asked Isseuf to say that she was coming with me to Ouaga for a nice rest and that the Earth Priest would have to do his own cooking and laundry for a while. We all had a laugh ( though actually I was more than half serious and if she shows up at my house, she’s than welcome. )

The trip back was uneventful, except for Mallory making me swear that I would never take her there again. Ever. I guess she’s not going to grow up to be an anthropologist like her dad.

Anyway, that’s it.


No more about our trip to Nanou. On to other things, which there are plenty of, believe me. Burkina is bracing for some more demonstrations against the rising cost of living here (or “la vie chere” as they call it) The US Embassy just sent out a warning that action is expected today in the town of Koudougou, not far from Ouaga. CRS Riot police are being sent out from the capitol to control any unruly mobs that arise.

Less serious, but more annoying: yesterday the electricity was cut almost all day. As the weather is getting hotter, it was not that fun trying to manage with not even a fan. Plus, I was worried about the food in the refrigerator. I was envisioning my kilos and kilos of strawberries half-unthawed and ruined.
The power finally came on again about midnight. Hope today goes better!


Bridget said...

I have only one thing to say... STAY HOME!!! No sightseeing, no shopping, no carousing (or whatever you do that passes for carousing, scrapbooking, singing, etc.).

BurkinaMom said...

Maybe your advice is sound, but should I really take orders from a dog wearing a funny hat?

Bridget said...

Don't be racist! Dogs have feelings, too. And... they give very good advice on occasion.

Anonymous said...

I didn't want the Nanou story to end! Unlike Mallory, and our esteemed narrator at certain parts, I am jealous beyond belief. True, I don't work well with things with wings, especially in contained spaces, but my goodness -- that is just an amazing experience. HUGE kudos to the twins for handing over the chickens. And I can't wait to meet the missionary kid 15 years from now...