Monday, December 13, 2010

Je Suis Ivoirian.....well not quite

I have just returned from my first weekend away from campus!  On Friday afternoon we were sent off in pairs from our safe haven of the Mission Baptiste campus to stay with families in town.  I was paired with Jamie Youell from Arizona and we went of to Belleville.  This is a kind of suburb (used loosely) of Bouake.  They call them cartiers and it is like a neighborhood.  Around all of the paved roads are huge webs of dirt roads where most of life in Cote d’Ivoire happens.  This weekend I was able to be apart of this life, and what an honor that was.  Mr. Bamba Golohafon was gracious enough to welcome us into his two bedroom home.  I know that I won’t be able to describe this experience to you very accurately, because I am still processing most of it.

When we arrived on Friday both the Americans (us) and the Ivoirians (the Bamba family) were nervous about communication.  Our French is still sub par.  But after Rod left we realized that although it might be more difficult to convey our ideas it would for the most part be possible.  Upon returning to campus and talking with the other Journeyers about their experiences in homes, I realized that we had a dream experience and others were not so lucky.  The food was great and we were not forced to eat more than our fill.  We had many visitors and the whole area seemed to have heard we were coming and were excited.  Jamie and I were able to spend time in the market with Madam Bamba and play with their two daughters.  The youngest is only eight months old and the first day she cried every time she saw us.  But I won her over by Saturday! 

Most of the families I met this weekend, including our host family were Senafo.  Most Senofo are from the North of Cote d’Ivoire.  They are majority animist in belief and have many interesting ceremonies.  Their main instrument is the Balefon.  It is like a wooden xylophone and is used in all of their celebrations.  My favorite part of their culture I observed and participated in this weekend is the dancing!  The women are great dancers and it is quite the workout.  The men also dance but normally the dancers where full outfits including a mask.  It is startling and almost scary at first but they are performers sometimes acting out a normal activity like hunting.  I am excited to learn more about this culture and I hope to work with them more during my time here.

I am still figuring out how to relate to people with animist beliefs and Muslim beliefs.  It is the same kind of difficult balance in the states of standing firm in your beliefs and building friendships.  One visiter this weekend was very excited to come greet English speakers.  He is majoring in English and we were the first native speakers he had ever spoken with.  One of his first announcements was that he heard we are Christian and he is Muslim but that is okay because it is the same and we all worship the same God.  EEK!  What do you say when you are just meeting someone for the first time with such strong a claim that you disagree with.  Luckily you can get away with just an “mm huh” here and move on.  He is interested in meeting with us to speak English so there will hopefully be an opportunity to share Christ with him.

It was great staying with a Christian family.  We would pray before each meal and at night before going to our rooms.  Mr. Bamba also prayed a beautiful prayer before we left today, asking God to bless Jamie and I and our time here in Africa.

Soooo all in all I just loved my time with the family and can not wait to visit them again.  They were so hospitable.  Bucket showers were nice and hot.  Meals were great!  We had our OWN room (a novelty here) and a toilet!  I know it was the life of luxury.  I even watched two soccer matches and had my favorite treat Aloco (fried plantains).  Everyone was so excited that we were there and very welcoming.  They love our attempts at French and Dula (the largest ethnic group in Cote d’Ivoire and the language of the market).  I wore my first African pagne (pron. panya) today to church and people just get so excited.  I am working hard to be able to communicate better in French but their patience is amazing, they even try to speak English.  This weekend I fell in love with Ivoirians.  It’s official.

1 comment:

  1. I'm so glad you had such a positive experience the first time out in an African home. I love the way you are throwing yourself in to their culture. That enthusiasm will serve you well in your interactions with the people and you will find you have many new friends. I know you will have tougher living situations down the road so I'm glad you had an easy one this time. Love you!!!