Friday, July 31, 2009


It’s Friday, the last day of July. Payday for our employees here in Ouaga: a day guard, a night guard, and a houselady. You’re probably thinking it must be nice to be rich, eh? Well, compared to the average Burkinabè, we ARE rich! Believe me, being regarded as millionaires wasn’t something we were prepared for and it takes some getting used to!

In reality, we aren’t millionaires, even by Burkina standards. But just the fact that we’ve been able to fly here from a far-away country, drive a pickup truck, and live in a house with running water and other nice stuff marks us as wealthy. And it’s for that reason that we need guards in our courtyard. Otherwise we’d be targets for thieves.

In fact, every courtyard is a potential target for thieves. Even poor people can have their meagre belongings stolen. Like our day guard. He used to work a couple of nights too. But one evening, thieves broke in on his wife and little daughter and stole the family cell phone and other valuables. Scared the daylights out of them too! Since then, he doesn’t work nights anymore.

However, since most Burkinabè live in courtyards with numerous other family members, there is nearly always a number of people home to discourage common thievery. In our case, we’re usually both gone, leaving no one at home. Thus the guards. They wouldn’t stop a determined intruder (like one armed with a gun), but they discourage the common kind.

There’s another couple of reasons we have employees, including a houselady who washes dishes, cleans house, and does the laundry. One is that all this would take a lot of our time, more so than it does in Canada because of the extra steps involved in dishwashing and the extra dust and dirt we have in Burkina. The other is that we’d be seen as extremely selfish and stingy if we didn’t hire people to do these things for us. No kidding!

Why? Because we obviously have money (we’re rich, remember?) and can thus afford to hire people. And we have work that even poor Burkinabè people can do to earn some money to feed and take care of their families. Doing this kind of work ourselves would be seen as keeping food from needy people. How’s that for some good logic?

Well, by North American standards, these three employees don’t cost that much (we actually split the guards’ salaries with our neighbours who live in the same courtyard in the other half of the duplex). And neither Kathy nor I mind not having to do the dishes, the cleaning, and the washing. But boy, it’s gonna be tough when we go back to Canada…

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