What time is it?? (I know you want to say, “Tool time!” But no, it is not.) It is, in fact, Burkina Faso story time! Everyone gather around on your carpet square and get your share of milk and cookies.
Story 1: Chris has not shaved his face in over 3 weeks. His beard has to be getting long. I find that unimaginable and humorous at the same time.
Story 2: Chris was doing some homework at home the other day. The children of his host family were following suit, reading and writing what homework they had or more realistically what homework they could pretend to do. (Side story: Chris has observed that they mimic just about anything he does. I think he won them over on the first day when he whipped out his fully inflated soccer ball. Yes, he did not deflate the soccer ball in his luggage while he was traveling from the United States to Burkina Faso. I laughed too.) Anyway, back to the main story. I imagine the aura of the “study group” being calm and peaceful. And every now and then, one of the kids apprehensively lifts up his or her eyes from their work to make sure everyone else is doing the same. I can just see Chris smile, probably noticing these curious eyes, probably in awe of how he has already made some sort of impact on these kids’ lives, but hiding his smile quickly to keep the moment.
Suddenly he heard the crescendo of two voices, one familiar and one unfamiliar. The familiar voice was that of his host mom and the unfamiliar voice was that of a worker for his host family (now known as Chuck). Chris had no idea what was being communicated verbally but he did know that Chuck was upset about something as he was yelling at his host mom. His host mom was evidently trying to tell Chuck to leave, but Chuck was not going anywhere. (FYI: The host father was out of town on business (he works in construction) and so Chris was the oldest male presence in the home.) Chris, already in motion towards them as soon as he heard voices being raise, immediately stepped into the equation when he had a strong inclination that Chuck was going to hit his host mom. Chris did what he could verbally to make him leave and communicated to Chuck that he was not going to lay hands on anyone, especially his host mom.
Eventually, Chuck left and no one was hurt. Chris, in reflecting on this intense moment in conversation with me, felt obligated to get involved because of how he was raised and what he was taught: no male should ever hit or lay hands on a female. Violence is not the answer, regardless. He later learned from the older sister that men hit women and it does not come as a surprise if it happens, but it also does not happen often. But more importantly, she also wanted to communicate that her father has never hit his wife, Chris’ host mother, and never would.
Wow. What a story. I was shocked when he replayed this over the phone. I’m glad, and hopefully his host mother was glad too, that he stepped in and took defense. But what are the greater implications of this event? I am curious to know how the children would have reacted had Chuck hit the mom. Would they have just gazed on with uninterested eyes? I wonder how far it would have gone had Chris not been there. If Chuck was angry about Chris entering the problem, would Chuck have hit Chris? If so, how far would that have gone? It makes me wonder if Chris, in doing what he did to alleviate the situation, has unknowingly taken on an even greater role in the lives of his host family.
Thank God no one was hurt and nothing came of that situation. I do not want to scare anyone (particularly the important women in Chris’ life [Mrs. O., Erin, Chris’ aunts and grandmothers]) because I think that particular event was an occurrence that barely happens in Sapone. But it makes me curious, as well as Chris, to better understand societal gender roles in Burkina Faso. We’re also curious to see if there’s an observable change in his role as a temporary family member in Sapone. Keep sending those good vibes and prayers his way, y’all.
“I am blessed.” – Chris O’Connor