Living in the United States I am used to a diverse make up of people surrounding me who have backgrounds and ancestors from all over the world. Our neighborhoods and cities are like a bowl of Fruit Loops – all colors. Unfortunately not everyone thinks this is a good thing, but I certainly do. Diversity makes the world so interesting.
But in my travels I have discovered some places where diversity is so uncommon, as a white visitor you become a spectacle. Years ago when we traveled to Japan my youngest son was towhead blonde. Everyone wanted to touch him and stare at him. Just a couple of years ago my husband and I traveled to Korea. We spent a month in a small town a couple of hours from Seoul that wasn’t a tourist destination and didn’t see many outsiders. Riding the train alone in this town I found people just staring at me – as if I had lobsters crawling out of my ears. It was odd.
In Burkina Faso, seeing a Westerner is very unique, and sometimes almost unheard of in small villages. Children and adults alike would stop dead in their tracks to look. Often children would yell and wave “Le Blanc” (the white) and we would wave back. If we were walking children would line up behind us and follow us as far as they could – just watching and looking and smiling.
We were the entertainment of the moment. Today’s entertainment is brought to you by “Le Blanc”. I was happy to oblige.
Most people in Burkina Faso speak French because Burkina was a French colony. They also speak their native tribal languages depending on the region. We do not speak French but our Peace Corp son does so he served as our interpreter throughout our visit. Some of the interpretations however had us surprised or laughing on the floor.
Because apparently not only were we “le blanc” we also were “grosse” (fat). Grosse is a compliment mind you, but one that took us by surprise. Having some meat on your bones is a sign of health and wealth. – Funny how I never looked at it that way before. To the Burkinabe they were complimenting us. We laughed and took the compliment as it was intended.
So away we went, the fat white people waving and smiling and laughing and greeting and meeting the beautiful people of Burkina Faso.