Sunday, 11 July 2010

On the Road

Last week the team very generously and courageously took me with them on an overnight trip to perform in 2 villages some way from Bobo. I think there was some concern before we left as to whether it was a good idea to take me - and how I would cope in the village with no electricity, water or mosquito nets... Anyway, we all agreed to give it a go, and I packed long sleeves, socks,mosquito repellent, a 'pagne'- universal item of women's clothing - and plenty of bottled water and some emergency biscuits.

Anyway, off we went, after the inevitable delay due to transport difficulties, in an old and overladen vehicle. The first stage of the journey along the tarmac road was fine - we proceeded gently, stopped a couple of times to buy snacks, and so on. When we left the tarmac, perhaps 25 kilometres out of Bobo, it was something else. The road was a red earth road, quite good quality for the first stretch, and with roadworkers improving it, but quite soon disintegrated into a rutted and puddled track, over which we averaged perhaps 20 kph (there are French milestones to help with these calculations. Some people blame the roadworkers for the lack of rain, which is needed at this time of year for the crops to grow - apparently to avoid rain, which holds them up, the roadworkers have made various sacrifices, which appear to have worked...

The original plan had been to perform in Padema on Wednesday, which is their market day, and the next village, Bangwali, on Thursday which is theirs. But because of the delays we arrived to late to perform in Padema before dark, so we had a look round their market, bought supplies, and installed ourselves. I had thought we would be sleeping out of doors, which some did, but we had the use of a 2 roomed building, not sure what it had been before, so we set ourselves up with a women's dorm (5 of us) and a men's (more of them but some slept outside). There were some dustsheet-type cloths on top of which we laid our pagnes and made ourselves comfortable using towels etc for pillows. Not very far from our building was the village well, where we drew water to cook and wash (none of our group drank that, I think) in a rubber bucket, and nearby was an enclosed, but open-roofed latrine and a couple of enclosures for washing.

We (I mean of course they) got a fire going, borrowed a big cooking pot, and set some rice to cook with a local flavouring of which I don't know the name.

As it got dark it was interesting to see how very dark it is in a village without electricity - a couple of households may have had diesel generators, but mainly it was paraffin lights and/or torches. Very dark, lovely stars... but given that it gets dark around 7 every night, that means that people are cooking and eating every night in the dark.... No wonder they get up at dawn.

I slept ok but woke up a bit stiff what with the concrete floor and the long journey the day before in cramped conditions; woken by cockerels and the sound of life getting going. We set off early to Bangwali, and played there, to a welcoming and friendly crowd. It was very noticeable that there are far more older people visible in the villages - whether this is because in town they stay within the courtyards, or there really are more older men and women in the villages, I don't know.

Then back to Padema, a bit of a rest, and we played again there - to a decent sized audience despite the lack of market. Then back on the road for the long trek home, with pauses for snacks, to tinker with the engine, etc -

In both villages the audience was appreciative, vocal, and engaged in lively debate in the 'forum' bit at the end of the play. The subjects were Malaria and Malnutrition.

The vehicle kept going until we reached Bobo, and finally stopped not far from where I live - so I walked home, while others waited for the mecanicien. I got a bit of a fright when I looked in the mirror - there were tide marks of dirt around my neck, and my hair looked like I had had a henna rise - there was so much red dust!

So I set about getting myself and everything I had with me clean, and was very grateful of my comfy bed! And slept very well. Quite a hard and uncomfortable couple of days, but a good chance to see typical village life.
I am glad I have good facilities here in Bobo, and think I was right not to put myself forward for anything too primitive - I am too old and unfit for squat toilets and drawing water from a well every day!

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