The Mission There is a well in my front yard, 10 feet from my house. That is where I get water for bucket baths and cleaning. Drinking water comes from the little spout on the concrete wall, aka the pump, 30 feet from my house. On my second day, I ventured to the pump with a small container. I turned the knob, hoping for the refreshing sound of water coming right up from the earth. But nothing came out. Someone yelled across the yard and told me it was broken. Fan-effin-tastic. Now what? I walked back to my house, defeated. My neighbor told me that she gets her water from the freres’ house down the road. Huh? Freres? I didn’t know what she was talking about so I decided to buy some bottled water from the mama on the main road until I could figure something out. When my homologue finally showed up, my neighbor told him about the water. He said we would go inquire about it. We went on a mission to find water. We walked down the road, towards the freres’ house. When we arrived, 2 minutes later, I saw a nicely manicured little garden in front of a large house. We walked up to the door, and a Frenchman answered. Huh?!? He invited us in, and it was then I realized: this is where the priests live. There is a Catholic mission in my village, and 4 ‘freres’ or brothers live there. He gave me a glass of sweet ginger syrup mixed with cold water. I was so surprised to learn that they were here… I don’t know why because there’s a huge sign on our road that says ‘mission de freres’ on it… But I am always one to miss the signs. Anyways, they work with a lot of community groups, including health, environmental, and local women’s groups. I was very excited to learn this, and told them I was very interested in working with them on different community activities. They are all very kind; there is one from Togo, one from Burkina Faso, one from Benin, and one from France. I hope that I can volunteer with them, and be able to learn more about the community and be involved in more projects. How cool is that?! And for only 500 CFA per month, I can use their water pump. I just have to figure out how to transport my big yellow container back and forth down the road… Lucky I have my bike, and lucky I packed those bungee cords at the last minute.
The Current Gossip I returned home one evening, from who knows where, and found my electricity had been cut. I looked over at Maman’s house (my neighbor) and her electricity was on. “Maman, il y a un petit probleme avec le courant” (or however you spell it). She huffed and puffed and uttered one single word: “la policia.” She started marching up the dirt road, flailing her arms and saying I think something along the lines of: that darn woman! But I can’t be certain. I followed her, and then she suddenly stopped and turned around, an almost fear-like sparkle in her eye. She told me that this mystical “la policia” doesn’t like her, and she marched back home. Her 24 year old brother, who just moved to town, told her that he saw ‘la policia’ cut the electricity. Oh la la. Maman was outraged. This is when the ‘current gossip’ began. Maman went on a ramble for the next 30 minutes, saying what exactly, I could not tell. She ordered me to call my landlord, who showed up 5 minutes later. Did I mention it’s about 8 pm at night? Maman spoke some words to him, and I watched as he marched up the road towards ‘la policia’s’ house, her back porch light sparkling in the night. About 15 minutes later, he returned with an electrician in tow. The man cut a few wires in the little electrical box near Maman’s front door. My lights flickered and came back on. Maman shook her head approvingly, and hands on her hips, told me that because I am friends with maman, because I go to church with maman, and because I have been seen talking to the priests when they come to saluter maman, ‘la policia’ doesn’t like me. Hmm okay… well then! She also said that my other neighbor whom I have not yet met is la policia’s niece. It gets more interesting. The niece bought the credit that currently pays for our electricity, and there are 5 houses that run off of it: our 3 houses, one other up the road, and la policia’s house. However, la policia somehow has the power to cut off this electricity. So, the niece (or so maman says) is afraid of going to church because if la policia finds out, then she will cut of the electricity that the niece had bought in the first place. Who this la policia woman is, I have no idea. But maman told everyone that passed by that night about la policia and the ‘current gossip’. And they oohed and aahed and oh la laed right along side her.
So now? My electricity is hooked up to the church’s electrical wires, behind my house. After the electrician left, maman waved her arms and I’m petty sure said something along the lines of: “shove it, la policia!” then promptly went inside to watch the night’s episode of our favorite soap opera (it’s called Rosario).