Posts Tagged ‘Life


Mask Festival – FESTIMA 2012

Last week marked the 14th edition of Dédougou’s FESTIMA (Festival International des Masques et des Arts de Dédougou). The event is held every two years and while there are other mask festivals around, FESTIMA is unique in that it shows off many different styles of masks all at the same time in the same place. Masks were mainly from Burkina, but groups from Benin, Togo, and Mali were also involved. Most of the spectators were from the immediate area, but the festival did draw some groups of international (mostly French) tourists.

Griotsalong with other musicians, would bring the masks to life with their music – usually drums or a flute-type instrument. Each group, composed of griots, musicians, three to eight masks and a few others would perform at a time. Most masks represented animals while others represented spirits from the bush. It is said that once the performer dons his mask (women are not permitted to wear masks) he becomes the animal/spirit he is wearing. Locals told us that it often helps that the performer is a little tipsy.

Check out some of my favorite images from the festival below (and thanks to Hayley, who borrowed my camera for a few of these shots as I was trapped in the office during parts of the week). I’ll get some of the great video footage up once I get suitably fast internet.


SOFANWET 2012 Softball Tournament

Remember last year’s softball tournament? Well, I headed back into Ouaga last weekend to help defend our title in the 2012 edition. Sadly, we lost in the championship game, but the tournament was a lot of fun. There’s no other event in Burkina that feels so American, and it was nice to feel at home again. Check out some photos from the weekend:


Friday Photo: Voodoo Fetish

Each Friday I’ll serve up a photo and give you the story behind it. This week, a voodoo fetish under my neighbor’s front door.

My neighbor hasn’t been in town for sometime and has as placed this voodoo fetish under his front door to protect his home from theives while he is away. I think it’s a chicken, though I’m not sure. Either way, it’s a bit startling to look at and caught me off guard when a visiting friend pointed it out.

It’s often said that Burkina Faso is half Muslim, half Christian and 100% animist. As a result, despite all of the churches and mosques, it isn’t rare to see many Animist traditions on display (such as the sand reader I wrote about earlier). Voodoo fetishes can be found throughout Burkina’s markets, though here in Fada it’s the weekly Sunday cattle market where I’ve seen the largest collections of items such as dried dried chameleon bodies and an assortment of other unrecognizable (to me) bones. Apparently the practice is even wider in Ghana, Togo and Benin.


Scotch Washington

Ok, go watch this youtube clip from ‘Friends’ about Joey learning French.

You back? Good. Essentially this is what happens almost every time I say my name to a Burkinabé. A sample introductory conversation:

Me: Hello
Burkinabé: Hi, what’s your name?
Me: It’s a little difficult to say… Scott.
Burkinabé: Whaaaaa?
Me: Sc-o-tt. Scott.
Burkinabé: Haha, there’s no way I can say that.
Me: It’s not that hard, let’s try again. Scott.
Burkinabé: Pascal?
Me: What? No. Scott.
Burkinabé: Ah, Scotch.
Me: So close, but just drop that last ‘ch’.
Burkinabé: Scotch.
Me: Yup, exactly.

In the end I usually give up and just tell them to call me my Gourmantché name given to me by my colleagues: Yempabou (gift from God). As a result, I have resolved that one day I will give my future children names that can be pronounced in English/French/Spanish equally well (and has caused me to slightly resent other PCVs that have easy to say names in French).

And my lastname of Worthington? Forget it – it’s not even worth attempting for most. Thankfully, almost all Burkinabé know the capital of the US to be Washington, so I’ve adopted that instead.

The worst part is that I get this even from people who have known me for over a year.

For some evidence (on the first name at least), check out the slip I received in my mailbox after receiving a package:


Holiday Season Recap

With my computer back up and running, let me catch you up on the last few weeks:

  • New business and health PCVs swore-in at the Ambassador’s residence in Ouagadougou.
  • For Christmas, most of the PCVs from the east – plus Chad, Tana and Celenia from the distant southwest – made it into Fada to celebrate. In all, a group of 16. I took a group to visit the sand reader, we had a great white elephant gift exchange (I ended up with nice coffee (thankfully not the fish bones or live chicken), and had a group sleep over at Luis’. Check out Chad’s recap for more details/photos (the below photo is courtesy of Chad as well).
  • On Christmas Eve, we headed over to Fada’s youth center for performances by local kids (we even performed “Deck the Halls” for everyone).
  • We roasted two pigs for Christmas dinner.
  • After Christmas I made a trip to the north for Post-Christmas/New Years celebrations, seeing big groups of PCVs in Ouahigouya and Kaya (plus a quick visit to David’s village, pictured below).

I sadly didn’t take as many photos as I  would have liked during the holidays. And though not having my computer (and forgetting my cell phone charger during my travels) resulted in me being out of touch for most of this time, I actually kind of enjoyed it. I had more and better conversations, read more, and took a break from my usual day-to-day routine. I’m planning on forcing myself to take some more technology breaks every now and again, though hopefully by choice rather than having any of my things break.


Negotiating an Engagement

Last month, my buddy decided it was time to pop the question to his girlfriend. Little did I know that here in Burkina Faso it’s not as easy as just buying a ring, getting down on one knee and asking. Instead, a long series of events must take place, starting with some negotiations between the two families. Negotiations, that I was somewhat inexplicably asked to attend.

My friend’s family lives mostly in Niger, so he instead gathered up his cousin, two older gentlemen he called “uncles” and me (Burkinabé often call what we would call cousins “brother” and family friends “uncle”). We headed over not to the girl’s parent’s house, but instead to her grandparent’s house instead. Age carries a lot of weight here, and it is the family elders who decide such matters. In fact, at 28, I was at least ten years younger than anyone else at the meeting. Those who were only middle-aged mostly kept quiet, and I sat solemnly in place until told to take photos (maybe this is why I was asked to come?).

So what was being discussed? I’m not entirely sure actually since it was all done in local language, but thankfully they threw a few French words in here and there, and eventually numbers. Numbers, that I induced (and later confirmed) were in regards to the amount my friend should pay for a dowry. Unbeknownst to me until an hour into our discussion, at the other end of the family courtyard, a circle of women were having the same conversation. A male representative went over to solicit input at one point.

The conversation seemed serious, but was never contentious. I did my best to stifle a chuckle when one of the family members pulled out his cell phone to do some dowry-related calculations. It just so seemed out of place in what otherwise had a very old and traditional feel.

After another hour or so, an agreement was reached, and a huge bag of kola nuts and a few large denomination bills were slid over to the girl’s family. Success!


Golfing in Ouagadougou?!

I recently had the chance to check out Burkina Faso’s one and only golf course – Golf Club Ouagadougou. It was of course a bit different than the golf experience back home, but that’s what made it so much fun. Here are a few observations:

  • Every shot is hit off of a small mat that your (obligatory) caddy carries around.
  • Golf is a lot easier with every shot off a perfect lie (no rough either).
  • Ditto without big trees or elevation changes.
  • Having a caddies and ball spotters is quite handy (no lost balls).
  • Shots get quite a bit of roll on the hardpan.
  • The ‘greens’, made of sand and oil, are really tricky (and slow). Thankfully there’s a nice margin for error with a generous downward sloped area around the cup.
  • Nice to have a ‘green wiper’ guy who smooths the green’s sand before your putt.
  • The driving range wasn’t that much worse than a cheap course back home.
  • Must convert distances in meters to yards.
  • Water hazards are blue-painted rocks arranged in a circle.
  • The bunkers had really nice sand.
  • French golf vocabulary uses almost all of the same terminology as English.
  • This is the only time I’ve ever had to stop mid-shot due to donkey cart crossing (check out the last photo).
We ended up playing just nine holes, but that’s about the maximum amount of time that I can handle being out in the sun anyway. Total cost was about 12,500 CFA for the green fee, club rental and tips for the caddies (~$25). I probably won’t be playing again anytime soon (especially on my Peace Corps salary), but hope to get out again at least one more time during my time here. Recommended to anyone who has even the slightest interest in golf, if only for the novelty of it all.
I’ll leave you with this exchange with my caddy on the 8th tee box:
Caddy: Try not to go left – there’s water over there.
Me: Really? Water? Like a pond?
Caddy: Well, dry water.


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The opinions on this blog are only those of the author, and and do not reflect any position of the U.S. Government or the Peace Corps.