2016 Burkina Day 23: Christiane, Jean-Pierre, Pélagie

Day 23, Christiane, Jean-Pierre, Pélagie

29 January 2016


I had a long list of things to resolve with Christiane, who manages our accounts, so I stopped by her office before the first meeting of the day. The weather was the same.

Awa, below left, was wrapping up as Christiane’s assistant to take a full time job elsewhere. Sonya, seated, was on her first day as Awa’s replacement. We sorted everything out efficiently. (We paid for Sonya’s last year of Master’s study in accounting.)

It was time to go over to the Lycée Kwameh Nkrumah A. The neighborhood wasn’t great.

Jean-Pierre is Director; he’s an old friend of Christiane’s. His school has been exchanging letters for three years with the students in a middle school in our village in France. I set it up. Kids are irrepressible.

Jean-Pierre talked to the students about Brittany and France generally.

I then talked to them about the Chef d’Issouka and the history of the Mossi people. They seemed interested.

I then said that I would look for money to send them on a class trip to Koudougou to visit the palace of the Chef d’Issouka. They liked that idea. Why do I get myself into these things?

After lunch, we went to Watam with a check for Pélagie’s scooter. I had received Board approval, reluctant on the part of my Treasurer. When we arrived at Pélagie’s uncle’s house, who was there? Her sister Jacqueline, who was starting a Master’s in Environment and Sustainable Development. Good God. Four now sleeping in this small living room!

We signed the papers, but it would be a few hours before the bike was ready.

I insisted that Pélagie buy a crash helmet. We stopped in a Yamaha place and bought one—again, Pélagie managed to charm the guy into a low price. She looked a little Star Wars.

We dropped off Pélagie and ducked back to Christiane’s office. I wanted to talk to her about my brilliant idea of having Pélagie and Jacqueline share an apartment together. “Dumb idea,” she said. Young women aren’t safe unless they are housed with family. We considered different alternatives to have them stay either with the uncle or with the grandmother. I then left to pick up Pélagie again to collect the motorbike. I asked Jacqueline to come along so that we could discuss housing.

We all climbed into the car. I explained Christiane’s reasoning. “Dumb idea,” they said. Grandma lives too far away and Uncle doesn’t have enough room. I said we would have to discuss this with Christiane, just the four of us. We picked up the motorbike.

I bought an anti-theft device for the motorbike and then we set off for Christiane’s. Christiane laid down the law. You know what happens to women who live alone, she began. Married men come around. They are charming; they have money. They woo you and then you get pregnant. The married man disappears.

Pélagie protested. An unwise girl can get pregnant even if she’s living with family, she said. My mother trusts us. (Their father died three years ago.) Christiane gave in. “I will not make the decision for you,” she said. “But you will take full responsibility.” The sisters seemed relieved.

I was not. We had faced this decision before with Diane five years ago. Happily, that worked out well. She’s in her final year of a Master’s program and she’s still safe. Will we be as lucky with Pélagie and Jacqueline?

The two girls drove off into the night on the new motorbike.


That evening I had dinner with Dr. Lydie Tapsoba, our Health Fund Representative on Ouaga. I returned about 11:00 p.m; there were police in the hotel. I went to my room, and then there was a rapping on the door. I put on my robe and opened. “Police,” they said. “Passport, please.”

I showed them my passport. They asked what I was doing here. I told them. They seemed satisfied. Before closing the door, I said, “Thank you for your vigilence.” There were smiles all around.

New York, New York

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