Dear loving world- Thank you for your love and support for my friend Yannick. I got lots of loving messages, and before continuing my story, I want everyone to know, that I am pretty convinced that he is going to be fine. It has certainly been an eye opener though. But he got out of bed for two days straight, and though doped up on a garden of medicine, seems better. So I will continue with the story of the day:

Two days ago, Yanick got a phone call from a friend who invited him to a funeral. Actually it was a 1 year anniversary of the funeral- of the 2nd richest person in Burkina. And he was invited by the guys son. Yanick knows some far out people.  It was two hours from Ouaga by mini-bus, on the border of Togo. Yanick hadn’t left his bed for more then two weeks and thought it would do him good. I was just really curious. So we went.
In Burkina, rich people are fat, and poor people are skinny. These people were all really fat. They were government officials, and importers, and businessmen. Their wives were fat, denoting class. (I have heard a joke that you have to be rich to have a fat wife because you need to buy so much more fabric if you want a dress made for her.) All they did all day was eat meat and drink beer, both things that are to expensive for most people. Another surprise was that they didnt like speaking in French. Usually rich people speak French together, and poor people speak their own language. But if you are this rich, apparently, the attitude is who’s gunna tell me what language to speak. Apparently the guy that died, as well as the very richest person in Burkina, couldnt even write his own name, or speak a word of french. This strikes me as unbelievable, but it is somehow true.
We moved from house to house, and people wouldn’t take no for an answer as far as drinks were concerned. After several houses and several beers, I finally gave up and drank Coca-cola, which I hate, but felt choice-less about. There is a tradition of a gourd drum that is played at funerals, and as the odd man out so to speak, I was of course surrounded by the drummers everywhere we went. Poor Yanick, who is really sensitive to noise right now with his cracked scull and all, was trying to grin and bear it. I saw him sneakily swallow extra pain medicine.
After announcing at about 4 PM that we wanted to go home, we were basically kidnapped, as our path to the bus was blocked by people who said, no, stay. So we spent the night there. The coolest house that we went to was the next morning, in a village nearby. We careened there in a very pricy car on the dirt track that they call a “road,” 6 fat rich people packed in the leather seats. They had some wild traditional dancers dancing at this little party.  They were men in red woven hula skirt things, with bells on their ankles, shell necklaces and huge headdresses. Pretty far out. We ate bean flour cakes until we couldnt move and finally, after hours of begging, they brought us to the bus to go home, exhausted, drunk and way to full. We arrived in the dark in Ouaga, exactly 30 hours after we were supposed to come home, and I couldnt help reflecting on how different time is here. If, in America, your path home is blocked by your hosts because they feel ike hanging out longer, you might get upset, but here, you have no choice but to go with the flow.
When I got to my house I could hear cheers and wails erupting from every house every little cafe. It was the final game of the Africa cup. Zambia VS Cote-DiVoir. I went to watch on a TV screen on the street around the corner. People were jumping and shouting at the screen, it was a wild street of joyous whooping people when Zambia won. I was a bit surprised, as people were not rooting for their neighbor, but apparently many Burkinabe people have been killed by wars in Cote-DiVoir and people are holding a grudge.
I have returned to Ouaga, where with only one month left, I am trying to get everything figured out. I am ordering 30 ebony spoons with my neighbor, a sweet Tuareg named Ibrahim, and 30 Bronze beerbottle openers with Malik, a bronze worker at the forge. I have ordered 15 masks to be made as well, to incorporate in my art, here as well as on return. This little break with my computer next to the fan has been nice, now, back to the forge…

Later- We did the patina on 20 pieces today, and I am feeling satisfied and tired.  The patina is the last and therefor most satisfying step of bronze making. Finally, after the building and poaring and sanding, the bronze looks like the thing that has been sitting in my head. Relief and celebration fill me the day I do the patina. I am also feeling relief that Yanick is not going to drop dead. In our culture, we go straight to the emergency room if things like cracked sculls come up. But here, people just pile through it like bulls, and I think he is going to be fine.

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  1. Debbie Kaye

    Perhaps someday, in addition to making art incorporating some of these experiences, you will write more about them, Maria. Because of your openness, your opportunities for experiences and people is so much greater than most people’s. I am saving your writing.
    –Aunt Debbie

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