I moved in with my host family last week on Tuesday. We had a session devoted entirely to home stays where we learned the cultural practices and norms for living with a Burkinabe family. This session was probably the most useful one that we have had thus far. We learned about the family structures here and the best ways to interpret behaviors. My family is atypical because there is no patriarch. My Mama is the head of the household because her husband died awhile back. I would guess that she is in her 40s or 50s, but it is difficult to tell because its extremely difficult to tell people’s ages here. Mama has 2 daughters Rashida-tou, who is 18, and Alima who is 11. She has one son, Maumauni and I don’t know how old he is, but he is probably in his 20s or so and works at the marche (market) selling pagne (fabric). Maumauni is married to Rassi-Ratou and they have 2 children who also live with us. Maguid is a 3 year old boy and Omeima (baby girl) who is 4 months old. The children are super cute, although they were a little leery of me when I first arrived.
On Tuesday after the home stay session, we packed up all our stuff and went into a large hall where all the family heads or representatives were seated and there was a brief ceremony. The families were called up to the front of the room and then they called us up to meet our families. Mama, Maguid, and Rassi-Ratou and Omeima were there to greet me. The PCVFs (Peace Corps Volunteer Facilitators) made fun of me later on because I had such a large entourage to take me to my new home. After the ceremony, I followed them on my bike while they rode their motos. There are no “baby bjorns” here (which incidentally were invented by a Peace Corps Volunteer) so babies are literally tossed on the backs of their mothers and tied in with a large piece of fabric. When my sister-in-law Rassi-Ratou faces me with the baby on her back, there are two tiny feet that stick out from her hips which make her look like she has two extra arms which move independently of her. I find this pretty hilarious, but because we have such strict laws in the U.S. with car seats and seatbelts, I am extremely nervous when I see women traveling on motos with their children strapped in with little more than a bed sheet, but c’est la vie.
My home is very nice by Burkinabe standards. There are two residences in our compound, one for Mama, Rashida-tou, Alima and me and one for Rassi-Ratou, Maumauni, Maguid and Omeima. In my house, There are two bedrooms, one for Mama and one for me, a main room which hase some couches and a tv, and a small closet with a tile floor and drain where I take my bucket baths twice a day. We spend most of our time in the courtyard because it is significantly cooler out there. I keep wanting to sleep outside in my bughut because my room is so hot, but I have not ventured out there yet.
Some of the volunteers were nervous about living with their host families, and it would be a lie if I said that I didn’t have concerns, but it has really been a smooth transition. My family is extremely welcoming and patient with me and we have a lot of fun together. I am their 3rd Peace Corps Trainee to stay with them so the first night I spent time looking at 5 pictures of the family with the former volunteer who stayed with them. I think they liked him a lot because in one of the pictures, they are all wearing matching outfits, I can only hope that will be me in time. I have some pictures of my family below.