Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Watching For Trouble

The rains over the last couple of days have made a real mess of the dirt roads in our neighbourhood, limiting the ways we can take from our house to the centre. After siesta yesterday, Kathy & I were driving down one of those roads, on our way back to work. I kind of like seeing how people in the different neighbourhoods live. Life is lived outside much more here than it is in Canada. People can mostly be found in the streets outside their homes, playing, working at something, talking with friends, or watching the world go by.

However, I always keep my eyes peeled for potential trouble. It’s usually the kids, especially if they’re in groups, kicking a ball, carrying a stick or piece of wire, or picking up stones. It’s like they dare each other to do something stupid, like scoring a groove in your paintwork, putting a ding in your door, or breaking a window. But even if it’s as simple a thing as running over to touch the vehicle or run their fingers along the sides of the truck as we go past, all it takes is one slip and they can easily be under the wheels before we can stop.

Part way down the road we were on yesterday, there was a group of young teenage boys kicking a soccer ball around. I could smell trouble before we even got to them, but it was too late to turn around. I slowed as I began to pass them, making eye contact with the fellow who had the ball, hoping to let him know that I was watching him, that he couldn’t sneak in a quick kick and then claim it was an accident.

To my surprise, while looking right back at me, he lined up a shot and deliberately kicked the ball right into my driver’s door with a resounding BANG! I slammed on the brakes and jumped out. He took off running. No sense making an idiot of myself by trying to catch him, so I grabbed the ball and went to talk to several women standing nearby who had seen the whole thing. “You’re in luck,” said one of them, “There’s his older brother coming down the street right now.”

When the older brother arrived where I was waiting, I explained what had happened. “Don’t worry,” he said, “we’ll look after this. Is there any damage to your truck?” Looking at the door together, we determined there wasn’t, so I gave him the ball, and Kathy & I drove off.

Back at the centre, I told my story to a Burkinab√® friend and asked what the next step should be. Should I follow up on the affair? “No,” he replied, “they will indeed take care of it. The boy will regret that he ever even thought of doing such a thing.” He went on, “The boy is lucky that you are a foreigner. If he’d done that to a Burkinab√®, they’d have gotten out of the car and given him a beating right there!”

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