I’ve been to (at least part of) two wedding celebrations here in Burkina Faso so far. I’d love to share lots about each of them with you, but that would take way too much typing for me and way too much reading for you. So let me just share briefly. Wedding 1 – Christian wedding At the end of March a couple from our church got married. The wedding was in the groom’s village, which meant that all 200 of us who wanted to go from church had to take the several hour trek out there. But the couple was gracious and paid for transportation and food for all of us and we were even able to sleep there (several of us stayed overnight two nights). If you were a fly on the wall . . . Oh wait, there weren’t walls. It took place outside in a tent. If you were a fly in the tent, you would have known that it was a wedding. The bride wore a white wedding dress and the groom wore a suit. There were “I do’s,” vows, a few sermons, several songs, etc. It was a lot like an American wedding. One big difference was that it lasted two hours. You’ll be glad to know that the bride and groom were sitting for most of that time, though. After the ceremony there was a reception where everyone was invited to eat. Presents were given and later that evening there was even dancing. I had a wonderful time. Wedding 2 – a non-Christian wedding Last week I was able to attend the wedding festivities of my Jula teacher’s sister for a few hours. My Jula teacher attends my church, but none of the rest of her family is Christian. From talking with my Jula teacher I learned that the celebrations lasted three days. I came in on Thursday, the last day. Everything else I know is from talking with my Jula teacher, not from actually observing it. On Tuesday morning the bride’s family helped her get all beautiful. Then she had to stay in one room in the house until Thursday. People could come and visit her and she changed her outfit multiple times a day to get to wear several different new outfits, but she wasn’t allowed to talk to anyone from Tuesday morning to Thursday. On Thursday she was made all beautiful again and lots of people came over to celebrate (but still not the groom or his family). There was a huge meal served at about 2:00, with dancing before and afterwards. I was there from about 2:00 until 6:30, so I got to eat the meal and participate in and watch the dancing. The bride still wasn’t allowed to talk while I was there. The women from the groom’s family came over to dance with us, and the men from the bride’s family went to the groom’s house to drink tea with the guys there. Sometime later Thursday evening, after I left, all the women at the bride’s house accompanied the bride to the groom’s house where they finally got to celebrate together. I didn’t hear anything about a ceremony, though. On Sunday, the bride went back to her family and there was more celebrating (without the groom again), but by Sunday evening the bride went back to the groom’s family to stay.
These two weddings were so very different. The two pictures on this post are the two brides. Can you tell which is which? When you get married (or when your kids get married), which would you prefer the wedding to be more like?
I bought this necklace while I was in Dakar and wore it for the first time a week ago. But I was surprised to find out that here it wasn’t seen as a necklace. I had two different people question me about it, thinking that it was something else. This “something else” doesn’t have a name in English and doesn’t exist in my American world. It looks like this necklace, but is worn around a girl’s waist, under her clothes. I was told that it used to be used as a fetish, or good luck charm, and some people still wear it for that reason. But I know that at least some Christian girls wear it as well, and I was told that that was just to look pretty. (I know what you’re thinking – how does it look pretty when it’s under the clothes of even little girls and no one is supposed to see it. I don’t know the answer.) Whether the Christian girls do just wear it to look pretty or whether they still believe that it gives some kind of good luck, I don’t know. I do know that I’m not planning on wearing that necklace again in Burkina Faso, at least not any time soon.
As you can see, I’ve been learning more culture and language since I’ve been back here. Last Wednesday I also learned the significance of blinking. If someone is saying something or doing something and you don’t agree, you can look at someone else and blink at each other. That means that you both agree that you don’t agree with the person or really care what she’s saying.
My first Jula teacher and another guy from his church were very gracious and were willing to help me pick out a good bike. I am so grateful for their help! They looked at several different bikes and talked with the different bike sellers (is there a better word for that in English? In Jula it would be negesoferebagaw, which means “’iron horse’-sell-people”). They were trying to find a quality bike that would last and that I’d be able to find replacement parts for easily, and I wouldn’t have known how to do that. But I did see some things in different bikes that I liked and so I began to pray. I prayed for a pretty color bike with a light in the front, a reflector on the back, and a basket to put things in. I figured that I wouldn’t be able to get all of those in the bike that they found for me, but I figured it was worth asking. And now you’ll probably be able to guess this next part – God answered all of my prayers! I have a pretty blue bike with a light and a reflector (and actually a light in the back, too) and a basket. God is so good! I’ve already ridden my bike to and from choir practice, church, and Jula class. My bike-riding muscles are getting a work out!
These last three weeks I have been in Dakar, Senegal. Here I have been having orientation, having meeting with NTM leadership, perusing important books in the NTM and Wycliffe libraries, spending time with Senegalese believers, buying gifts for my friends in Burkina Faso, studying Jula, meeting other missionaries, and getting some time to rest. It has been a wonderful 3 weeks but now I’m looking forward to returning to my friends in Burkina Faso later this week. Here a few picture highlights of my time here:
When I was in high school I often played the school harp in the hallway after school. People regularly stopped to talk to me. I remember that one day someone stopped to talk to me and asked about if it was difficult to transport a harp. I told him that yes, it was hard. But then he told me that he was a pole vaulter and that he needs to transport his 18 foot pole that doesn’t fold or come apart. I then had to agree with him that that was much more complicated to transport than a harp.
But if we both lived in Burkina Faso my harp (even though I only have a little one here) would be considered much more difficult to transport. The most common form of transportation here is the moped. I have seen people carrying long pieces of wood or metal, some of which have been at least 18 feet long, several times as they drive down on the road on a moped. So if my pole vaulter friend wanted to transport his pole here, he’d just have to hold onto it as he drove along. On the other hand, I have never seen anyone drive down the road with a harp. I haven’t tried it either yet. (But I did take it in a taxi and that worked. It cost an extra 40 cents for the harp to come along, but I figured that wouldn’t break the bank too much.)
Many of you have heard of Compassion International, an organization in which sponsors in the US (and probably other countries) can sponsor kids around the world who are living in poverty. But since most of you don’t get a chance to actually visit those kids, I figured I’d send you a few pictures to show you who they are. Every Thursday I go to church where I help teach them from the Bible as well as about a few other topics. I also try to show them Jesus’ love.
Ok, so I know that tomorrow is Easter. But on Monday it was Christmas at my church. The Operation Christmas Child shoeboxes arrived and got passed out! Many of us have filled these boxes for years, so I thought that you may enjoy a few pictures of them being passed out. It was a big to-do, and the national TV company was even there to document it. ( Gee, I may have been on TV!) My favorite picture is the one of the girl in green, sitting on the pew. Her name is Jamima and I get to spend time with her each week since she is one of my Compassion girls (one of the girls sponsored through Compassion International that I get to work with each Thursday). I love her big smile and know that she was very excited to get her present.
Christmas isn’t usually celebrated in March, but Jesus probably wasn’t born on December 25th, either. The important thing is to celebrate and share about Jesus’ birth. And the reason He came was to die and come back to life, which is what we celebrate tomorrow. So Merry Christmas and Happy Easter!
(This was supposed to be posted on March 24th, but it didn’t get posted for some reason. So it’s late, but I hope you still enjoy it.) Tô is a staple food here in Burkina Faso. It is made with flour and water, so is like ugali (for those of you who know that food from Tanzania). It is often eaten with some kind of sauce. Since there were going to be so many people gathered for the 90th anniversary of our denomination here they had to have something to eat. On Tuesday it was the job of the ladies of my church to make tô for one of the meals for over a thousand people. I went to learn and help. The ladies in charge had the system down. There were 5 big pots of tô cooking and ladies took turns stirring them. When one of the pots was done we all went to work. A few ladies dished out the tô into plastic bags that had been put in bowls to hold their shape. Those were then passed to others who tied the bags closed. Then the bags were put in a pile and the bowls were returned to others who added new bags so they could be reused. I was good at getting out and opening the bags and I learned how to tie them. I must say that after 8 hours I was tired! The picture of the bags of tô was probably only about a tenth of the bags we made. I hope people were hungry!
This weekend was the 90th anniversary celebration of my denomination here in Burkina Faso. It was a big deal, including a church service Sunday morning at a stadium with over 3000 people in attendance! But Saturday was more fun, so let me tell you about that . . .
On Saturday morning people from many different churches around the country marched in a parade. We were all supposed to buy the special material for the occasion and have an outfit made out of it, so it was fun to see so many people wearing clothes made from the same material. As we were lining up I took my place with my church as I had done during practice. But, since this is Africa, there was extra waiting time so I went and said hi to a missionary friend. While I was talking to her someone told her that all the missionaries were supposed to march together. Adeline, one of my good friends from church, was then afraid that I’d leave and march with the missionaries, leaving a hole in the ranks of the church. But I told her that I wasn’t white that day – I was black. (And yes, “black” is the politically correct word here. They aren’t African American since they aren’t American!) She wasn’t expecting that but was very happy. And yes, I marched with my church and no one stopped me.
That evening there was a Christian concert at the stadium. There were different singers and many of us got up and danced. As I looked around, everyone I saw was black. None of the missionaries had showed up for the concert. And since I knew I was black, too, I guess there were no white people there! It was fun to learn to dance with my new friends.
(This was written on Sunday, 3/17/13)
“Culture shock,” or “culture stress,” can be described as “the anxiety that results from losing all the familiar signs and symbols that help us understand a situation” (definition from CLA Methodology, MTC). And that’s a bit of what I’ve been feeling this week. It’s when you’ve been trying to learn and be involved and get to know people and you find out that they interpret your actions as not wanting to do any of those. It’s when they say to ask questions about anything you don’t understand, so later in the conversation you ask a question and find out that you weren’t supposed to ask about that. It’s when you’re told to learn to cook but then told you can’t today. It’s a hard thing, but for anyone living in another culture long enough I’ve been told it’s normal and that over time I’ll get used to life not working like it does in the US. In the meantime, I’d love your continued prayers. But culture shock is also an opportunity to spend a lot of time with God in the Bible and in prayer, and I have to say that that helped a lot.
Here are a few other “positives” from this last week:
- I got to visit a Burkinabé (that’s how you say someone from Burkina) friend
- I got to visit the house of one of the girls who I’ve gotten to know through Compassion International. It was great to spend an afternoon with her, her friends, and her family.
- I got to watch part of the movie Tangled. (When you’re really struggling with culture shock it can be good to withdraw for a while. This was a great break.)
- I got to spend time with Paul and Marina, who are in leadership with New Tribes. It was great to get to talk to them and share what’s going on. It’s always wonderful to have an understanding, listening ear, especially when they understand!
Thanks so much for your prayers as I continue to adjust to life in Burkina Faso. I couldn’t be here without you!