31 May 2013

Oh, right, I still technically have a blog....

As noted in my last post of a scant six months ago (!), I went on a trip. The trip was amazing! If you'd like to know all about it ... well, call me, I guess. If you'd like to know about half of it or so, you can check out the blog I linked to.

A bit after New Year's, I decided to make a not-exactly-resolution-but-at-least-a-semi-firm commitment to posting to my Twitter feed development or Burkina news at least once a day. In reality, I'm posting about once every three days, and usually about inane things like how much my car might sell for.

Short version: I fail at social media.

But oh well, because right now I have not one, but TWO inane stories to tell, and that's way too much for Twitter. So they go here instead!


In much of West Africa, Burkina y compris, the word plaisanterie refers not just to joking around in general, but to the particular phenomenon of paired ethnic groups calling each other "esclaves", "slaves." It takes a bit for someone from the southern US to get used to. But I did. It's actually a very interesting topic; I have a friend who wanted to do his PhD research on it. People from one ethnic group will only do it with people from certain other ethnic groups. It is an equalizer - a flat broke farm worker could make this kind of joke with a minister and get away with it (er, probably). I heard a story once (anecdote warning!) about a guy who was getting robbed at knife point, but recognized the other guy's ethnicity, and told the robber he couldn't rob him because he was his slave, and the guy laughed, agreed, and left. My girlfriend has a great plaisanterie story, that I'm not going to steal even though I want to....

So today I'm in a meeting. One of my colleagues, who always gets a kick out of the family name I took in village, Dabilgou, insisted on calling me by it all morning. Another colleague, who was a bit newer and hadn't heard it before, looked at me very seriously and said, "'Dabilgou' isn't a Mossi name, is it? No, it must be Gourmantché." Colleague 1 assured him that it is Mossi. Colleague 2 looked at me again and said, "No, it's Gourmantché, it must be, right?" I said, no, it is in fact Mossi. He said "Oh, that's too bad. Because, you see, I'm Sané, so I wanted to give you the chance to say it was Gourmantché, so you wouldn't be my slave."

FIVE YEARS it took to get one of those jokes aimed at me. Worth it.

[EDIT: I forgot the end of the story. I held his hand to show my appreciation of his joke. Because that is what you do here. Also, stay tuned to see if I have to correct what might be a pretty embarrassing pronoun error!]

Curses in Ouaga2000

An expat I know who lives in Ouaga2000 is certain that she is being cursed. Weird objects appear in the road outside of her home. Chickens with their throats cut. Canaris (clay pots) filled with random objects. Right in the middle of the road. Curses seem a pretty good explanation. Especially when you are extremely rich by local standards.

But of course, you can also actually ask people. Someone (not me) did. Turns out, those things are indeed related to wok magic, but they're not curses, they're GOOD luck. For the person doing it, it's not directed at anyone else. It's to do with when a car hits it, the good luck gets scattered into the world, or something like that. So why do it in the rich neighborhood? Because no one will steal it there.

I don't think I'll tell my friend. This way's more fun.