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The Horde of the Flies

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  • pgosselin8
    The arrival of the first rains means it s springtime in Burkina, if you can call it that after the 115 degree heat that preceded it. Unfortunately, the
    Message 1 of 1 , May 20, 2005
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      The arrival of the first rains means it's springtime in Burkina, if
      you can call it that after the 115 degree heat that preceded it.
      Unfortunately, the humidity that comes with the otherwise cooling
      rains means that the sweat runs down in even bigger gobs. If I manage
      to dry off during the night, I'm up n soakin by 9am. The Burkinabe
      sauna has become the Burkinabe steamroom. Burkina Faso: the
      never-ending Spa. Don't forget your sweat-rag!

      The herders are happy for the rain, since it means more abundant food
      and water for all the animals. But for the vast majority of the
      villagers, rain means it's time to buckle down and work their asses
      off cultivating for the next 4 months so that they can grow enough to
      feed themselves for the coming year. Unfortunately, they don't
      harvest until October, and the stores of millet from last year's poor
      harvest are already running low (especially in the north, which got
      hit by the locusts), so for a lot of folks that means cutting back to
      one or two meals a day during their time of huge physical exertion.
      Yikes. Still, everyone is eagerly anticipating the rains' arrival in
      full force. In addition to incessantly pointing out how hot it is,
      the standard conversation now continues, So you think it's gonna rain?
      When's it gonna rain? How bout those clouds over there, do you
      reckon it's rain? Sure would be nice if it rained, cause, damn, it's
      hot.


      THE HORDE OF THE FLIES

      The arrival of springtime also brings with it the arrival of new life,
      new life that contents itself with crawling up my legs and buzzing
      around my head at every moment of the day. In truth, the flies here
      are almost as bad as the children! As soon as the sun peaks up at
      5:30 am, I wake (alone, alas...) to the grating bzzzzzz of the flies
      hurtling themselves at my one-man screen tent, and then, when I emerge
      from my protective cocoon, hurtling themselves at me, like crazy
      insatiable fans. Philiiiiiiippe, you so sexxzzzzzzy! Weeeee wanna
      touch your abbbzzzzzzzzz! Can I give you a kizzzz? No? How bout
      now? No? How bout now? How bout now? We lovezzzz you!! Kizz? No?
      Pleeeeezzzzzz? [WHACK] OOO! Careful, you frizzzky!

      Damnit flies, learn how to take a hint! It's not myself I'm trying to
      slap over and over again! I'll autograph whatever, just leave me
      alone! Please, I beg you!

      The flies don't understand, simple souls that they are, their only
      drive in life to be near my radiant beauty. They land on my nose, I
      swat, they land on my nose, I slap, they land on my nose, I smack,
      they land on my ear, I pound, they land on my other ear, I punch, they
      fly up my nose... So on and so on, so that by the time I'm getting
      ready for lunch I'm thouroughly bruised and battered, with a black eye
      and bleeding from my nostril and gums. Have I killed any? Not a one.
      They're impossible to kill. I've tried kung fu, jujitsu, judo,
      karate, tae-kwon-do, boxing, bitch-slapping, etc, but the flies are
      well versed in the art of evasion maneuvers, putting my superior
      streetfighting skills to shame.

      Naazzzzzzarra's getting sweaty! Oooo, we likezzzz sweat!

      And then, to add insult to my self-inflicted injury, a randy pair of
      flies, unbridled in their fanatacism, lands on my perspiring forhead
      for a quickie. Why God, why? Why do such horrible creatures exist?

      ~~~BECAUSE, MY SON, IF THERE WERE NO FLIES, WHAT COULD THE SPIDERS
      EAT?

      God, is that really you?

      ~~~OF COURSE, MY SON, WHO ELSE? I'M NO LARIAM HALLUCINATION! [hearty
      laughter]

      Ok... but then why spiders?

      ~~~OH, I DUNNO, FOR THE BIRDS TO EAT...

      Why don't they just eat grass or something? And while I'm asking, why
      the mosquitos? Why would you ever even think to come up with them?

      ~~~WELL, BECAUSE... BECAUSE--JESUS!

      (@@@ YES, GOD?)

      ~~~NO, I WASN'T TALKING TO YOU! LISTEN, KID, I'VE GOT WAY MORE
      IMPORTANT CRAP TO DEAL WITH. I'VE GOT WARS, FAMINE, AIDS,
      ENVIRONMENTAL DESTRUCTION, REPUBLICANS, AND WHEN I'M THROUGH WITH ALL
      OF THOSE I'VE GOT JENNIFER ANISTON'S BROKEN HEART TO MEND. I HAVE NO
      TIME TO LISTEN TO YOU WHINE ABOUT SOMETHING SO INCONSEQUENTIAL! HOW
      DID YOU EVEN GET THROUGH? I'LL HAVE TO FIRE MY SCREENERS, GODDAMNIT.
      DON'T YOU GIVE ME THAT DIRTY LOOK, JESUS! I CAN USE MY OWN NAME IN
      VAIN! [click]

      Jesus Christ, God's got quite the temper!

      @@@ YES, HE DOES SOMETIMES. DON'T WORRY, PHILIPPE, HE'LL GET OVER
      IT. AND IF IT MAKES YOU FEEL ANY BETTER, I THINK FLIES REALLY SUCK
      TOO.

      Thank you, Jesus. You can tune back out now.

      @@@ ROCK ON.


      Flies and mosquitos aren't the only things blooming in Zamsé, of
      course. The past few nights in village I've had several dramatic
      encounters with other members of the insect kingdom, all ending in
      murder. One night I went to reach for the door to my hut when my
      headlamp came across a large black spider right beside it. As soon as
      the light hit it it sprinted away. I frantically tried to follow it
      with my light, but I lost the dark blob somewhere on the porch. Shit.
      Do I just let it go? NO! If I let it go, it will be back! It'll be
      back and it'll make babies! It's the ones that get away that breed! I
      must kill it! I looked all around the table where I'd been sitting
      reading. Not there. And then it ran up on top of the table. I
      cringed all over. As soon as my light hit it, though, it jumped off
      the table and made a dash for it. I whipped a flipflop off of my foot
      and dashed after it, hopping on one foot around my courtyard, waving
      the flipflop in my hand. For some reason, my adrenaline told me this
      was the best course of action. I smacked the ground twice and missed
      before finally hitting it.

      The very next night, I saw another similar spider as I came through my
      gate into my courtyard. I freaked out again, of course, but this time
      just stepped on it rather than going through all the acrobatics. Now,
      I've heard other Burkina Volunteers talk about these spiders called
      Scorpion Carriers that are up to 6 inches long, very fast, and
      supposedly harmless, but you try sleeping with one of them wandering
      around your hut! I've never seen one. These spiders weren't big
      enough to be Scorpion Carriers, and besides, Scorpion Carriers have
      nothing to do with scorpions, but for some reason I had the urge to
      shine my headlamp up on my mudbrick wall and there I saw...

      Awww, HELL no!
      No. No way. No. You are NOT a scorpion. There is NOT a scorpion
      sitting on my wall.

      I went on like that for a good 2 minutes, but then it dawned on me
      that actually, there was a scorpion sitting on my wall. What to do?
      Think, think! No way was I gonna try and kill it with my flipflop... I
      decided to face the scorpion like man. You stay put Mr. Scorpion, I'm
      just gonna go right inside and get my little can of insecticide spray.
      Would insecticide work on scorpions? We were about to find out. I
      gave it a good long spray. The scorpion's tail unfurled. It just sat
      there. Are you dead?

      The scorpion answered my question, and I shrieked like a 4 year old
      african village girl whose never seen a nassara before, as it ran off
      behind the wall. Jesus Christ, what now? Jesus wasn't listening. Or
      maybe he was just chuckling to himself. Run! Let it go! The scorpion
      deserves a chance at life! No, you coward! You can't let it go! Look,
      over there! A big stick! I grabbed the stick and went around the
      wall. Fighting my instinct to flee the scene and run for a
      biiga-child to help, I gave the scorpion a good whack. I gave it more
      good whacks. It was finished. I dropped the stick to the ground and
      stared at my hands. The hands of a murderer. What have I done?? I
      went and ate my leftovers.

      So now when I sit outside, I'm consumed with paranoia. When will the
      next one appear? What will it be? HOLY SHIT, what's that crawling up
      my neck??! Oh. That would be my overgrown hair. I've decided I'm
      gonna order a bee-suit and wear it all the time. It's just safer that
      way.


      RAISIN' THE ROOF

      Every once in a while, I like to get up off my wicker throne, go out
      into the village to mingle with the commonfolk, observe their quaint
      ways of life, and vaccinate them. In May we once again had a four day
      vaccination spree in all our satellite villages, with 7 teams of 2
      going house to house to house giving out oral polio vaccine and
      vitamin A to all kids under 5. That's hundreds and hundreds of
      children. My job was just to keep count. Some highlights:

      *A woman wearing Penn State Volleyball camp t-shirt

      *An old grandma with an impressive pair of pecs underneath a saggy set
      of boobs.

      *A freshly killed goat getting skinned, and gettingits feet and head
      chopped off. A ha! So that's why I'm a vegetarian! Well, all the
      animals here are free-range, so at least it had a chance at a
      fulfilling, liberated life of bleating and chewing cud before it was
      slaughtered.

      *A man with elephantitis. It's a condition caused by a parasite
      spread by, why yes, bites from a certain species of fly! With
      longterm exposure it causes an appendage to swell up to huge size.
      Sometimes it's an arm, sometimes it's a leg, and sometimes, as was the
      case with this guy, who had very large unsightly bulge in his pants,
      it's the balls. Ouch.

      *Two weavers working on homemade looms. Very neat.

      *Boobs and more boobs.

      *Screaming children, though thankfully not so many this time.

      *A runner. Sometimes the children kick and scream and spit the
      vaccine out, but this time, a girl decided to run. Her mom ran after
      her, but of course the girl was faster. She got a good 2 football
      fields away, running back and forth along the horizon. Eventually one
      of her older brothers caught up with her on his bike and held her down
      while she was vaccinated. That girl was determined, I gotta give it
      to her.

      *A roof-raising. A family took advantage of our sinewy presence to
      put a heavy straw roof on top of a new round mud brick hut. Everybody
      gathered round, we lifted it above our heads and slid it into place on
      the hut. Truly, it takes a Peace Corps Volunteer to raise a roof.



      MOORÉ 102

      Every time I call home it seems my parents are asking me how my
      language is progressing, and I feel guilty and inept, cause honestly
      it's not. After 7 months in village, I should be able to say more
      than Laafi Laafi Laafi, health health health. And sure, I am making
      some progress, though not terribly substantial. I did end up hiring a
      Mooré tutor, Souleymane, the guy I mentioned a while back. He's
      around
      my age, and one of the few good French speakers in village, but didn't
      have the money to finish up school. The arrangement is working out
      fine, he'll hopefully use some of the money to take the competitive
      exams you have to pass to get any government job, like
      nursing--basically his only possible ticket out of Zamsé. So
      anyway,
      it´s his fault I'm not really learning anything.

      He puts effort into planning the lessons, but really, it all goes to
      waste. When I come over for a lesson, most of the time he's hanging
      out shirtless. Can he be bothered to put one on? No. We sit next to
      each other on a delapidated wooden schoolbench, and I spend the whole
      time concentrating on nonchalant ways to rub elbows and nudge knees.
      I nod and say uh huh uh huh while staring at his chest. I'll lean
      over to look at his notebook, and sometimes he'll lean over me to
      check if I'm copying correctly. I'm sorry, but it's just not fair to
      expect me to learn anything under these conditions.

      What have I learned in my Mooré lessons? Black is beautiful! The
      blacker the better! Amiina! It would be a sin to ask him to cover up
      that body, so I'm making due. Since we're also working on forming an
      AIDS discussion/condom demonstration group together, I've had to ask
      him about certain essential vocabulary, like the word "penis": YOORE.
      (Mooré is prounounced like spanish, with the double vowels held
      longer). Learning this word, combined with what I've already learned,
      has significantly increased my conversational possibilities. Ahem:

      FO YOORE YAA BEDRE BI BANOGO?
      Is your penis big or small?

      FO DAT N GUESSE MAM YOORE BII?
      Do you want to see my penis?

      WILIG MAM FO YOORE.
      Show me your penis. (Mooré has no word for "please")

      I was awfully happy with myself, until I realized that the word for
      "name" is YUURE. That's an awfully subtle difference. Well, shit.
      I've probably been going around village introducing myself saying,

      Good afternoon. My penis is Philippe. What's your penis?


      When we learn a language we only figure out after the fact that we've
      been making complete asses of ourselves. Back towards the end of
      training while I was getting to leave my host family, I'd packed up
      all my belongings in a big trunk. I was gonna have trouble carrying
      it all the way to the road, and when my host mom saw me, she
      immediately called over my host brother, 10 years old and half my
      size, and she put it on his head so he could carry it for me. This
      was both impressive and quite humbling. I had just started Mooré,
      so
      I told his mom:

      A TARA PAGA! A TARA PAGA WUSGO!

      Wanting to say: He's got strength! He's got lots of strength!

      Usually my host mom laughed and encouraged me when I learned to say
      something new, but this time just smiled politely, obviously confused.
      That's odd. When we got to the road, I helped the kid get the trunk
      off his head, and I told him

      FO TARA PAGA! You've got strength!

      He seemed equally unimpressed by my attempt at speaking Mooré.
      Fine,
      whatever, I won't even try!

      Ten minutes later I kicked myself realizing the word for Strength is
      PANGA, not PAGA. PAGA means "wife." He's got a lot of wives! Great.


      People have been telling me I've gotta get some potassium to cook with
      my beans so that they cook faster and don't make you as gassy. I
      heard that the old ladies selling leaves and okra and tobacco under
      the big tree in the marché usually have some, so I went to ask for
      it.
      I thought that the word for potassium was ZHUIIM. But the word for
      potassium is actually ZHUAYM. ZHUIIM is the word for blood.

      Good afternoon! How's the family? The work? There's Health? Good. I'm
      looking for Blood.

      --What?

      Blood. I want blood.

      (What does he want?)

      --He wants blood.

      Yes, you know, blood, to put with beans.

      --You want beans?

      No, not beans, blood!

      --There isn't any... Check over there.

      There's no blood?

      [Luckily here Isaaka strolls over and asks what I'm looking for.]

      --He wants blood?

      **No, he doesn't want blood, potassium!

      --Ooooohh, potassium! say the 7 women who are now listening in.

      Right, that's what I said, blood!

      Turns out there wasn't any potassium either.


      Course I'm not the only one who makes linguistic flubs. I found a
      copy of the 2nd Harry Potter in French in the volunteer library, so I
      brought it back for Souleymane to read, since he only has 2 novels
      which he reads over and over again, and I was interested to see what
      he thought of this one. He just started, but he's keeping notes as he
      goes along, so I asked him to tell me what he had so far.

      Harry Potter's a magician, and he's going to school, but at home he's
      not liked because he lives with Muggles (Moldus in French) which are
      non-magic people. He's not allowed to use magic outside of school
      because he's underage, and every night he holds a big cigarette in his
      hand--

      --Wait, a cigarette?

      Yes, he smokes a cigarette...

      --What? I don't think so... do you mean a wand?

      No, I read it, Harry Potter is a smoker!

      Well, I think I would have noticed that, but what did I know? Maybe
      the French version was adapted to make it more culturally relevant.
      Souleymane looked up the passage in question. Turns out he misread
      cicatrice (scar) for cigarette. He he he... Oh Souleymane.



      AND speaking of the 2nd Harry Potter, not one person has responded to
      point out the Burkinabe reference, and therefore, no one will be
      receiving my undying admiration. Tough. If anyone's curious, Book 2,
      Chapter 9, page 141, the self absorbed phony Lockhart mentions:

      *** ". . . I remember something very similar happening in Ouagadogou,"
      said Lockhart, "a series of attacks, the full story's in my
      autobiography, I was able to provide the townsfolk with various
      amulets, which cleared the matter up at once ...... The photographs of
      Lockhart on the walls were all nodding in agreement as he talked. One
      of them had forgotten to remove his hair net. ***

      Ouagadougou is misspelled, but there's really only one place he could
      be talkin' about. I am in that place called Ouagadougou. Funny,
      isn't it?


      Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm off to go fight the forces of evil!
      ...where did I put that spandex?

      Love,
      Philippe



      PS: You can put my name on any packages you send, and my counterpart
      should be able to pick it up for me at the post in Zorgho.

      Philippe Gosselin
      CSPS de Zamsé
      BP 34 Zorgho
      Burkina Faso
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