Come tomorrow, it will be two weeks that I have been living on my own in village. It still seems very new to me, as it should. There is minimal work for me to do right now, so I am doing my best to keep sane by finding ways to occupy the time. Monday through Friday I go into my office (Union Communale des Producteurs de Coton) around 8 o’clock, and usually leave around 6 or 7 o’clock. These lengthy days are usually unproductive as I spend most of the day at a desk greeting people as they come and go from my counterpart’s office next door. When not talking to coworkers, the rest of the day is spent on my computer researching karité and moringa, with the occasional examination of American politics and sports. It’s good to see that the real refs are back. The Packers were scandalized! Anyways, on Wednesday of this week, my counterpart and I met with a man who works with a Non-governmental Organization (ONG).
The name of the organization is, SNV Netherlands Development Organization. The man, Raphael, explained to me that SNV wants me to go around Djidja commune and enlighten the habitants the importance of the shea tree (karité). We went to a few small villages around the commune and tried to talk to some of the locals to no avail. Side note: Djidja is the one of the biggest communes in Benin and there are two different ethnicities that populate it. The Fɔn are the majority, and are the people that I work with most of time. The others are the Fulani (or Peul). They are a nomadic, beautiful people who raise and herd cattle anywhere they can find grass for their livestock to eat. The women rest in village with the children while the men are away. The Fulani have awesome face tattoos and wear clothing that resembles Muslim garb, very vibrant! The problem with effectively communicating with these people is that they only speak their local dialect of Peul.
The village that we visited on Wednesday was occupied by only Fulani women, so communicating was unfeasible. Not to mention, the women were petrified to see a white man coming into their serene society. The village was full of karité, and Raphael wants me to form a women’s group that will collect the nuts from the trees when they fall. Looks as if I have another challenge in hand of learning a third language! My counterpart said that he will search for a Fɔn man who also knows Fulani. I still am going to do my best to learn some of the local greetings in hopes of pacifying the women’s impression of the daunting white man.
Over the past few days I have kept busy trying to put together a generic script that I can use when going to these villages. I am typing it up in English first and will then translate it to French when it is finished. Eventually, I would like to have some locals help me translate it into Fɔn and Fulani if possible. I am doing my best to not become too technical since many of the villagers are uneducated, and I do not want to shoot information over their heads. Along with working on a script, I do my best to walk around village and meet as many locals as possible. I am doing my best to instruct the children to stop calling me yovo but rather by name. I tell them, “Un nɔ nyi yovo â, un nɔ nyi Ryan”. This is Fɔn, and it translates to, “My name is not yovo, my name is Ryan”. It works like a charm every time.