Last night, I woke up to the screams of my neighbor getting beat up by her husband. They were both throwing things. I opened up my door, and all my neighbors had done the same, in a place without police to call, being a silent witness is the best you can do. It got worse, and someone whispered, Maria, go inside. So I did. In the morning they were still fighting and I grabbed a couple kids who shouldn’t hear that and we drew cats in my room. Drawing cats is my solution to most hardships, and I like to teach kids the healing powers of doing it. After, I saw the man discussing whatever happened with the community. I don’t know where she was.
The weird part for me was that everyone seemed to assume the woman was the bad guy, while they were fighting. You shouldn’t scream like that at your husband, the house matriarch said to me, watching her wail. I wanted to slap everyone for not asking what had happened, and hug the girl. I made her a gift bag, but couldn’t give it to her without her husband seeing. I left and picked fights about woman’s rights with everyone I knew, asking them questions that I knew their answers to and then yelling at them for believing woman need to be subservient.
Then, like an angel who changed the channel, my friend Samir, a Moroccan musician and the only person I know who is a foreigner living more like a local then me, beeped me. That means that he called me and hung up really fast, an action that says call me, I don’t have money to put credit on my phone but want to talk to you. I grumbled to myself and called him back. He invited me to a show he was playing in Ouaga2000, the flashy part of town, where Lebanese businessmen have offices and houses with guards. He said to meet me at his “cafe” at 3:00. The “Cafe” sells both nescafe and little sachets of super cheap alcohol, which I happen to know Samir mixes together and drinks like five times a day. I got there, and met him and some of his musician friends, drinking their mixture. We took off in a taxi to Ouaga2000. It seemed like an especially tight fit, so I casually looked back and counted. Me and Samir were in the front seat, and there were 6 in the back, and then the driver. We are talking about a little tiny car, the no space behind the back seats type. And there was a xylophone, and four djembes in the trunk, so the door hung open. This beat standards even here.
I was expecting a “marquee”- bar, but we pulled up in front of the Lebanon Hotel- The best hotel in Ouaga- a gift from Kadafi to the country, back when people loved him, and thought he was going to unite Africa (ah, how allegiance shifts quickly).
We walked through the doors and I smiled as I looked at the art, immediately recognizing 3 of every four artist represented in the hallways. Abou, Vivian, Serge, Ashed, Hyasinth. Go Friends, Go! I thought to myself, as I looked at my friends work in such a glorious building.
It was far from a normal concert night. It was a Symposium of international business people looking for enterprises in West Africa. I looked down at my jeans, which have holes in random places from my power sander. Oops, I thought, then hid in a chair. My friends played one song, and then the fancy people mingling hour started and my curiosity got the best of me. Maybe they wont look at my clothes I thought and got up to eat tiny tiramisus and figure out what all these characters were doing here. “What enterprise are you in?” One pointy bearded white man asked me, “Um actually I’m just friends of the Musicians” I said- we both looked over at them, poring free beer into giant water bottles, and filling their rasta satchels with apples. In all honesty, I had three apples in my purse myself at this time.
Then the music started for real, and after about 20minutes, I just got up and danced. Maybe it was the stress of the last week of my sick friend and my neighbor, maybe I just have no self control around Djembes, but I couldn’t help it, in spite of the pompous atmosphere. I danced in the middle of the classy room, at least 400 people, nobody else dancing. But I just didn’t care. I have no idea what they thought. I collapsed after, and the African business people came up to me to say “formidable! Tu Dance Bien!” The international crowd just didn’t know exactly where to place me. Dancing is medicine, and I needed a bit just then. I actually think I was on national TV for this spectacle. Hm, sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do.