If a Toubab Falls in a Forest, who Hears? Reflections on Life of Late.

We meet a man as we descend the cliff from Péni to Gnanfongo who asks, “where is the other Toubab? There were two. I saw you in Banfora.” The longer we stay here the less integrated we become and the more obvious we are in our efforts to conform. However, I can no longer blame them for studying us since it is indeed our job to come here and study them.

I loathe those who romanticize poverty. No one who knows their right mind loves Africa. It is not an easy or lovely place to live.

The way I figure it, we get 8 hours in the day to work, 8 to play, and 8 to sleep. But what if your day was not confined by the rules and regulations of 24-7 society? What if you instead split up your day with 8 hours to eat, 8 to pray, and 8 to love, for example? When you unplug from the mind-numbing distractions? Life becomes as long as the imagination.

Life is almost scripted here. Everyone has a role in life and they know exactly what to do, what to say, and how to say it for every situation. To do something other than the norm is a choice. Lamine, the village chief, explains to me after responding to an especially lengthy series of evening greetings from a guest that the child’s baptism was held today, seven days after his birth. The father sent someone to inform the Lamine of the occasion. He said, “therefore, I did not hear about the occasion and I did not attend. Now that the father has come in person, I have heard.”

“Why is this child afraid of me?” I ask a woman trying to hand me a screaming child who has almost certainly never seen a white person before. “Because your skin is clear and ours is black as charcoal, try to rub it off and see!”

Whereas in the West co-dependence is a disease, to be independent here is seen as insanity. Somehow, even though my skin glows more than the moon above, during our run last night I became separated from one of my housemates. I didn’t think too much of it, simply finished our workout with one of our neighbors who we were with and when we couldn’t find him, went home. Arriving at the house, everyone was terrified that I had been kidnapped or ran away from home and that they would be held responsible as my caretakers.

The concept of finishing is important here. One does not comment on the tastiness of a meal until one is finished eating. One does not comment on the fatigue of a journey until one has arrived at the destination. One does not give thanks for a task until the task is complete.


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