My first work assignment was to be patient and present, in other words to look around and understand my new environment. At the end of my observation period a detailed report was expected. That was fine with me, writing was never a problem for me.
But I can tell now that it takes a minimum of two years to understand the relations of the people in a village like Nara au Sahel and to get a feeling for a place. Two years are just the beginning of a long journey making you understand the basic functioning of a locality. Two years just help you to not embarrass yourself too much anymore in public. The finer connotations still escape you ! After two years you move on to the next level.
I talk about participatory development and development aid but my focus is on the human side of it. The focus is on what can happen and will happen to you when you immerse yourself deeply into a culture, that is not only not your own but more so is deeply distant from your culture.
It is fantastic.!
It is absolutely fantastic but the greatest change will happen to you and not to the ” developing world or the third world and its people. The one fundamentally and drastically changing, thereby causing great concern to your non-understanding family is going to be you.
For the execution of my first assignment and many others, the wall around my mud and Banco house was the ideal working environment. I lived in the last house at the end of the road on the right hand side of the “Quartier Liberte”, also called the Moor Quarter. At the end of “Liberty” was a great dry lake, the French expression for it is “marigot” or simply “le mar”. Leaning on my wall, changing my position with the moving shade and moving along with it – I was patient and present as had been suggested.
In this dry lake soccer matches took frequently place. One afternoon a special match was organized and I saw the young promising soccer players moving down to the mar. All were dressed in white t-shirts and they were wearing SHOES! That showed how special that match was. Normally soccer was played barefoot on sand and gravel. There are no football clubs, sometimes there is not even a ball ! But Soccer is a real peace maker in Africa.
And why are there so many great African football players? Because most of them started like the young soccer players in the marigot of Nara au Sahel.