Saturday, April 12, 2008

You know you have lived in Ouagadougou too long when:
  1. The temperature is 85° F and you agree with your Burkinabé friends that it's really cold.
  2. Your medicine cabinet is full of chloroquinine, Coartem and Quinimax because somebody at your house always has malaria. Plus, you know what mebendazole and metronidazole are and aren't afraid to use them.
  3. You really like tô
  4. The only closed shoes you own are your sport shoes. Everything else is sandals. In fact, you think that a new pair of "tapettes" constitutes formalwear.
  5. You can drink Orange Fanta without gagging, even if it’s slightly warm.
  6. You think that people that speak only one language are odd
  7. You are completely out of gift ideas for your family back in your home country: leather, batik, bronze, carvings, embroidered table cloths, Tuareg silver…you have exhausted every possible type of craft in Burkina.
  8. You would never phone anyone between noon and 3 pm. That’s “la sieste” time.
  9. You are easily impressed by imported foods. Pie made with fresh pumpkin, for example, pales in comparison compared to one made with the canned variety.
  10. Most of the street vendors know you by name and don’t bother hassling you to buy souvenirs.
  11. You throw a pagne (a wrap-skirt made out of local cloth) on over your sweatpants when you go to answer the door, so that you look “decent”. (This one is only for the ladies, obviously. If you are a guy wearing a skirt, you probably have issues that go beyond my capacity to advise you.)
  12. You’ve had to explain to your kids what mittens are. They’ve never owned a pair
  13. If you see even one more woodcarving or bronze statue of Princess Yenenga and her horse, a mother and child, a baobab tree, a mask or an African mammal of any description, you will grab said statue and, gibbering and foaming at the mouth, beat yourself on the head with it until you are unconscious, just so you don't have to look at it anymore.
  14. You own a herd of goats
  15. You think it’s normal for perfect strangers to ask after the health and well-being of your “old ones back in the home village”.
  16. You will, with no embarrassment whatsoever, discuss every aspect of your own and everyone else’s latest illnesses, up to and including severe diarrhoea, sparing no details.
  17. You have eaten every item on the Rec Center menu at least once.

And finally, the most serious warning sign that you have been in Ouagadougou far too long:

  1. You not only wear a pagne, you carry vital personal items in the top folds of it! A few days ago, I was getting undressed and a Kleenex, a key and some money fell out of the top folds of my local-style wrap skirt. I suddenly realised that I have completely, unconsciously learned to emulate the Burkinabé women that I work with. Really poor women don’t own purses, of course. They carry their money and small items secreted in the top, rolled-over portion of their wrap skirts. I didn’t even really notice I was doing it, but when I thought it over, I realised that while I do have a purse that I carry when I go somewhere in my car, most of the time I don’t carry one. If I’m popping down to the corner shop, I just grab a few coins and fold them into the top of my skirt, along with a couple of Kleenexes for my allergy. I guess you could say purses are a sort of symbol of prosperity and modernity here. It’s something that middle-class women carry and poor women do not.

But here I am- I’m far from poor and I do own a purse. I have more than one, even. But I somehow find it more comfortable to fold up my money in my pagne. It’s strange and probably a sign that I need to go back home and get “Frenchified” again.

1 comment:

Halala Mama said...

Ahhh....i will have to come back and explore your blog when I have more time. My husband is Nigerien and I think he would jump for joy if I said, come on let's go...but the whole malaria thing...yeah, I'm not so into that, especially now that we have a son. Was your experience there a good one?