Like palm or tarot card reading in other parts of the world, here in the eastern region of Burkina Faso we have sand reading. As my buddy Joey describes it, the idea is that since the sand is from the Earth a sand reader can use it to talk to the Earth. Many important leaders and even government ministers look to the sand for advice on tough decisions so they can get advice or know what will come to be.
Three of us met up with a sand reader who took us en bruse about kilometer away from his house. We sat on mats around the sand reader and his pile of sand which he had prepared by placing loose sand on top of hardpacked mud with a daba, a local tool that functions as a hoe. While he spoke pretty decent French, we also had our Gourmanchéma instructor with us, so we did the whole session in Gourmanchéma translated to French.
Our first instruction was to touch the sand and make a slow circular motion with our finger. While we were doing this, we were supposed to think of a question “in our hearts.” The sand reader then ran through a series of drawing symbols in the sand. Though I missed some of the detail, it appeared as though he drew four arches, not unlike a rainbow. He then used two fingers and made small u-shaped lines underneath each arch before crossing out each of the four arches one by one. He then “banked” a score for that series. This was repeated four times. Next, he asked what your question was and used your four banked scores to interpret what the sand says about your future. Each score was represented by lines/dots made with two fingers.
The whole process for three of us to ask a couple of questions each took just over an hour; we could have stayed longer but for for the fact that it is forbidden to practice sand reading at mid-day. Four other PCVs returned in the afternoon to see what the sand had in store for them, and we had quite the time going around the table recounting everyone’s stories at dinner that night. While there were a few overlapping predictions (for example both Christina and Cindy will be involved in the steel business somehow), most of the predictions were somewhat unique. But most importantly, many of his predictions, while vague, are testable in the somewhat near future. Most of us asked the fairly generic, family and job questions. For future visits I will need to think of some more specific questions. What would you ask? Without further ado, here are my results:
When and where will I meet my future wife?
- She’ll find me, not the other way around
- I won’t meet her in Africa
- I won’t meet her for at least 18 months
- I’ll meet her at night, or at anytime on a Friday (I’m going to assume this means Friday nights are really magical)
- She’ll be the “only daughter of her father” (i.e. have no sisters)
What type of work will I do when I finish with Peace Corps?
The sand reader wasn’t able to determine what type of job I’d have the first go around. He then asked if I had a few specific careers in mind and he would see which one I was most likely to do. I told him I was interested in international development, consulting, and finance. The result? He told me I would not do any of those jobs. Instead here are the characteristics and the scenario of how my future job will come to be:
- My future boss, a woman, will call me and ask to help out on something for what is supposed to be a short-term project.
- Either the industry or specific company will be female dominated.
- It will turn into a full time job, which I will initially dislike, but eventually grow to love.
- It will be located in “the city of my birth.” (good news Mom – looks like I’ll be moving home after all!)
The lesson, for both my personal and professional life it appears, is to just sit back and let the women come to me. And as our reader stated, “the sand does not miss.”