It keeps happening. Over and over again.
Just when I think I have finally figured this place out, that I have a real grip on reality and know, more or less, what goes on here, something happens that totally bowls me over. You would think that I would expect to be bowled over by now, but each time it happens, I think “Ok, that was crazy, I never saw that coming, but now I get it.” But I’m wrong. I don’t get it. I think I could spend the rest of my life trying to get it.
The other day Julie wanted to buy some apples. She saw them in the market and said that we should get some. So we went over and asked how much a kilo of apples cost. They said 1,500 CFA, which is like 3 or 4 US dollars. Not too bad right? But it kind of seemed like a lot. Of course, this was the first time we have bought apples in this country, so we don’t know what the going rate is, but I just kind of felt like I was being ripped off.
Still, I went ahead and bought them, after all, Julie needs her apples. But it was still kind of bothering me, so when we got home, I told our guard Abdou that I paid 1,500 for the apples, and asked him how much he thought I should pay for a kilo.
“I really don’t know,” he told me. “I have never bought them before.”
“Oh really?” I said. “Why? You don’t like apples?”
“Well,” he said, “I don’t know if I like them or not. I have never tried one before.”
“Really?” I said, in shock. “You have never tried an apple before? Why not?”
“It’s not because I don’t want to,” he said, “but you see, I have 3 kids, and my wife is pregnant with the fourth on the way. With 1,500 francs I can buy 2 kilos of rice.”
There is nothing like living in Africa to make you feel like Marie-Antoinette. But I hope I am not as clueless as she was, and that is why I am glad for these moments when I suddenly realize that that there is a whole other plane of existence that is taking place right in front of my nose. Here it is literally just outside my front door, but no matter where you live there is no excuse for ignorance in our world of global communication, facebook updates and skype-meetings. If we don’t know that people are suffering it is because we are choosing to not know about it. Of course knowing about it is not enough either, but it is at least a start. A “Let them eat cake” (or apples) attitude is not acceptable when there is so much need. That is something I am learning and relearning on a daily basis.