The land of honest men – Pierpaolo tells


A few days before leaving, you realise what you are about to do and where you are about to go. So I tried to think of trips I had already made, of experiences I had already lived, but there was nothing that could give me the reassurance of “it will be similar to this time in…” …no… Africa would be new and different, that was for sure. There were the tales of people who had been there and had come back… the Africans are poor but they are happy, what did that mean? Does poverty not create misery and violence everywhere?
Ouagadougou, the capital, is an enormous whirl of dust and smog, scooters and people, all caught up in a dance which you cannot understand … a city busy doing nothing.
The arrival in the village of Youngou was exciting, a small house in the savannah, the little village with the distinctive houses of clay and straw, and the friendly people; some want something from the whites, but above all everybody wants to be seen, to show their dances, shake our hands, give a smile. At night, far towards the horizon, we see the distant lights of a huge occidental goldmine, “cry of pain and warning to humanity”. This hard land which gives so little to Burkinabè farmers gives on the other hand thousands of tons of gold to the people who jealously hold the knowledge to extract it.
I begin to find a way to understand in the consulting room, as I see these people’s attitude towards illness and towards life in general. More than once, I was met with stunned faces when I asked “how old are you?”… but after all, who said that life had to be measured in years? What if, instead, it was a succession of days, all independent from each other? This was indeed the way it was for many of them. Small children with sad and scared faces somehow managed to make their way into the consulting room… and contrary to what we thought, they did not come to get sweets… they had hyperpyrexia, or open wounds, full of pus, which they protected with rags while they played in the earth, ignoring the pain. Never a complaint, rarely a “thank you” to say the truth, not out of ungratefulness but rather out of an almost reverential fear towards the whites.
And then during the walks in the village, it was enough to stop for a few minutes to find yourself surrounded by a crowd of children and grown-ups, who all wanted their picture taken. The joy and laughs of the “lucky” children we photographed when we showed them their image on the camera screen. Everyone simply wants something, in a fatalist beg which says “there are whites, something can be obtained from them”, but, and here is the surprise, in the case of refusal there is no anger, only smiles and handshakes… how it that possible? Perhaps they have already eaten that day, and our presents would have been a bonus for the day; tomorrow will be another day.
The attitude to pain was astonishing, almost incredible. It became clear how much the reaction, both “external” (and “internal”?), to pain, is derived from what we see around us… there, nobody complains, not even the children, no matter how strong the pain is; it is endured with apparent indifference… indifference to blindness, to the imminent death of children, to things which to a European would be an extremely traumatic experience.
The markets are riots of colours, exotic fruit, bright clothes, thousands of handshakes and the “usual” groups of children screaming “Nasara Nasara” (whites, whites). Another experience to talk about.
All in all, Burkina Faso appears at first sight as what it is, the fifth poorest country in the world. Its beauty unfolds little by little; it resides in its people and their still burning curiosity and desire to meet others: one of the few commodities that Africa has in abundance but that the Occident lacks…


Pierpaolo Sorrentino – Medical Mission december 2011/january 2012


Email: *
Nome: *
Cognome: *

Dona on line

Diventa Amico dell'Associazione