Mama Tenga - Katrin Rohde - ebook
Opis

An adventurous and fateful journey to West Africa made Katrin Rohde sell everything she owned in Germany and settle permanently in Burkina Faso. She gives a graphic report of how she began to take care of street children leading pitiful lives marked by hunger, drugs and crime in the capital city of Ouagadougou. Over the years Katrin Rohde has set up a number of facilities for children and teenagers: orphanages, workshops and training facilities for street kids, counselling centres for young women and girls, a clinic, and much, much more - always in accordance with the principle "helping people to help themselves". With self-assurance, courage and discipline, with humour and African equanimity she realizes her projects and ideas in what are often difficult conditions. Today everyone knows her there as "Mama Tenga" - "Mother Fatherland". A colourful and enthralling narrated autobiography, a testimony to human nature, that provides a deep and unusual insight into African reality and the life of people in Burkina Faso. Bonus features: Contains a picture gallery which shows everyday life at AMPO and the African country Burkina Faso.

Ebooka przeczytasz w aplikacjach Legimi na:

Androidzie
iOS
czytnikach certyfikowanych
przez Legimi
Windows
10
Windows
Phone

Liczba stron: 370

Odsłuch ebooka (TTS) dostepny w abonamencie „ebooki+audiobooki bez limitu” w aplikacjach Legimi na:

Androidzie
iOS

Translation from Germanby George Drummond

For Mia

“No one has ever got lost. Everything is the way and the truth.”Fernando Pessoa

1

Panamtougouri

Panamtougouri was excited. He was secretly gathering millet straw in the field to prepare an amazing surprise for Maman. In the neighbouring dump he had found an old electric plug welded to a cable. All he had to do was twist some corn straw together to make a big star, and then wire it up. She would be so happy! To the great joy of the children, Maman had brought a similar star back from Germany at Christmas which lit up the AMPO orphanage for all fifty boys.

Panam never imagined he would be able to make the same kind of star himself, although in all his seven years he had already seen many improbable things. From the age of five, he had spent many nights on the street; he did not know his father, his Togolese mother didn’t look after him and his grandmother was too old to keep reins on him.

What a life! At night he posted himself in front of the bars of Ouagadougou, and closely observed the drinkers. The barmaids knew him well. He chose his moment… and off he would go! Everybody stopped to watch when the little fellow performed a back flip without a running start. Okay, so it wasn’t always great, but even if he didn’t quite pull it off, he was given something to eat sooner rather than later. Men would even give him some of their beer! Cartwheels, the splits, and headstands were his speciality and when he walked on his hands, people would applaud him. Everyone was in love with little Panam, with his irresistible, gap-toothed, beaming smile. The prostitutes let him sleep on their patch and even the policemen who regularly picked him up, gave him something to eat. In spite of all this, his charm had no effect on the social welfare people. Time and again they brought him to a new foster family, but he never stayed more than one night. No, Panam was a street kid. Apart from that, these people always wanted to clean him up, which didn’t suit him at all. In fact he never screamed louder than when he was put under a running tap! They all dreaded his terrible screams, so they’d just give him a quick wipe and lovingly dry his flood of tears. After a good breakfast, however, Panam would disappear. Adventure awaited him on the streets and on the streets he was his own boss, his pride preventing him from owing anything to anybody. From the age of six, he alone decided where he would go.

Since he was the smallest boy on the street, he got away with more than most. The other boys considered him to be a sort of mascot and gave him some of the takings they made from begging. He was only afraid of the older boys who took too many drugs and could be unpredictable.

One night he and a few friends had gone to sleep in the ditch just opposite the bakery where sometimes, at five in the morning, they were given any bread left over from the day before. But that night he was wakened a lot earlier in total darkness by a strange moaning. Was the older boy next to him sick? It was the dry season in Ouagadougou but the ground around him was damp – it couldn’t be water.

Panam stood up and looked round about for the other boy, but there was no longer anyone there. He could not hear the boy breathing beside him any more. He was frightened. Where should he go in the middle of the night? He quietly slipped under the bench in front of the bakery. Despite the threat of the night watchman sleeping there, it was still better than being alone. No one likes to be alone in Africa, especially at night. A deathly silence hung over the city. At last, as the sun came up – Panam had felt that the darkness of the night would last forever – he saw the bloodstains on his shirt: someone had killed the friend who had been sleeping by his side.

Panam took to his heels, throwing away his shirt – no way would he be mixed up in this! He went to find his grandmother, but she had left for the village. He spent that day in his hideout under a burnt-out car, with nothing to eat, hardly daring to move. That is where I found him in the evening, the boy who would stay with me forever.

“Maman? Look, here’s a surprise for you!” Before I could react, the plug was in the socket; there was a deafening bang and a blue flash. Panam had brought the entire orphanage to a standstill.

A Christmas star! This was indeed a perfect example of the simple intelligence, the innovative flair, and the independence of thought I have come to expect from all the children. Thank God, nothing happened to the boy. I was thrilled at what he had done, even though everyone else actually wanted to give him a good thumping, for the orphanage had to do without electricity for days and good electricians are hard to find in Burkina Faso.

In More, the language of the Mossi people, the name Panamtougouri means “flying monster”. How often has he sought refuge in my bed, for fear of spending another night in the ditch? How many times have I had to go and fetch him at the police station, because he had taken off yet again? I had to go to the school time and time again and try to pacify his teachers. His big mouth during an argument when he was convinced he was in the right, his uncontrollable shrieks when he was being washed, I could easily pretend not to hear. I am very strict with the children. Even today, seven years on, Panam can cry big crocodile tears at will, when he hopes to get his own way, but that doesn’t work with me. I know him too well and I know for sure when he is genuinely sad. During these dramas he watches me out of the corner of his eye and when I begin to grin he just can’t contain himself and both of us fall about laughing. Everyone else just shakes their head – what’s up with those two?

When we are sad, we don’t talk at all but we always stay as close as we can to each other. Sometimes our eyes just meet and that is how we get through things together until they get better.

Over the past six years, with the exception of my trips to Germany, we were separated from each other only once by force of circumstance. Panam’s grandmother stubbornly insisted that he should go to stay in Togo with the new family into which his mother had married. No one at AMPO wanted that because there was no school for him to attend and of course no medical care. Even if there had been, the family still wouldn't have the money to pay for medicine, or at least want to pay for a child brought into the marriage. People die quickly in Africa. The grandmother, however, would not yield. She came to see us every day, secretly gave magic potions to poor Panam and would throw herself on the ground in front of me in floods of tears to make me understand that tradition demanded that it be so. We asked the head of the colonie togolaise in Burkina Faso for advice, because we did not want to make any mistakes. He too tried to persuade the old lady that it would be much better for the child to grasp the opportunity offered by AMPO, but to no avail. In the meantime, the grandmother had exerted so much pressure on the child that he had no choice but to give in to her.

I shall never forget how Panam and I packed his bags. In Burkina Faso it is not customary to show one’s sorrow; both of us gulped trying to hold back our tears until finally he was gone. Then I collapsed in tears behind the office and wept bitterly, exactly what Panam was doing in the car, as Issaka told me later. Neither of us wanted to upset the other. I had sent our tutor, Issaka Kargougou, to accompany Panam on his four-day journey so that at least one of us would be able to see the place where the child was going to live.

Issaka went on to visit another family in Togo and at the end of two weeks, he came back through Panam’s village. He found him sick, lying in front of the hut. He immediately convened a family council.

Since the family was having difficulty putting up with this demanding child in any case, everyone agreed to allow him to return to AMPO. As soon as he heard this decision and in spite of his fever, Panam rushed into his hut, reappeared immediately with his bag, took Issaka’s hand and was ready to leave: he hadn’t unpacked a single thing during the entire two weeks.

For me, it was as if AMPO had been empty all this time, in spite of the forty-nine other boys. Every day we talked about Panam, even his sworn adversaries missed him. His nit-picking was forgotten, his insults and his haughtiness; let him play truant and even if he never wants to wash, all that isn’t terribly important after all. Where is Panam – is he not one of us?

Four days later, in the middle of the night, they arrived in Ouagadougou. Issaka knocked on the front door until I woke up and when I opened the door, a little eight-year-old bundle fell weakly into my arms. At long last, my Panamtougouri had returned home. The following day he made a regal entry into AMPO, laughing casually and dismissively with a slight wave of the hand: “It was only one little trip to Togo. So what?”

However, to this day, when something goes wrong, I only have to look at him questioningly – perhaps he would prefer to return to Togo? – and without further ado he turns around and gets washed or sets off for school.

Today he is making an effort at school. His dilemma is typical of former street kids: he is intelligent, but totally unable to concentrate. From his earliest childhood, he has done only what he was interested in and that only for as long as he felt like it; then he moved on to other activities. He was entirely undisciplined, untidy, spending his days begging, sleeping, fishing, eating, and playing. Since there are between a hundred and twenty and a hundred and forty children to a typical primary school class in Burkina Faso, a great deal of patience is required to learn anything. You very rarely come first, which is precisely Panam’s goal. It's got to be him or nobody; otherwise, he quickly loses patience and runs off, just as he has always done.

Corporal punishment is common in the schools of Burkina, the children are not hit with the hand, but with sticks, rulers and whips. We have had occasion to stitch head wounds in the past or spend several days dressing wounded backs. A typical form of punishment is for children to kneel for hours on grains of scattered rice, or wear paper donkey ears for speaking More instead of French. I once had to remove four children from a school because their teacher was intolerable.

Obviously, it isn’t easy to teach children in such large classes and it is always unfair because the shy ones cannot keep up. Added to which the kids are always fighting during playtime, because supervision is never adequate with so many children.

At the orphanage, both adults and the older children are forbidden to hit the little ones and here in Africa this is a major exception. In our staff meetings for days on end, indeed for years on end, I have had to listen to people telling me that these are African children and they need discipline and that I, as a European, couldn't possibly understand. Nevertheless, I have remained firm on this point and I have had to warn or even dismiss employees who did not adhere to my policy.

The result is that in all these eight years, only twice has there been a serious quarrel between two boys, even though we do take in some rough characters. Little by little, people are beginning to get my message, even our master carpenter.

Our daily practice shows that non-violence is the best solution and this I find gratifying. Each AMPO boy has a “brother”, a bigger boy and a little one always forming a pair to help each other. When one of them is sick, the other one sleeps beside him in the infirmary; when one gets into a scrap, the other comes and tries to sort things out.

In our experience the most important thing in a child’s life is the responsibility he assumes. A boy who has been on the streets for years will be happy to take care of a little dog, a little chicken, or a little brother. Someone has finally shown faith in him and he has to prove himself worthy of it in front of all the other children. At first, there are quite a lot of slip-ups when rules are ignored and set times disregarded, but what else can you expect from a boy who has never known a single rule in his life?

Thank God this is the country where forgiveness was born. Here, people are always ready to give advice which is heeded out of respect alone. When it comes to consideration, respect and politeness, without a doubt Burkina Faso in general is a little corner of paradise. Consideration is rooted in Mossi tradition: for centuries people fell to their knees when greeting both royalty and the elderly, and to this day many still do. All the AMPO children, even the boys, curtsey when they greet you.

In any event, in Burkina Faso greeting takes time, especially in the countryside where the whole ritual can last for several minutes. Using certain customary expressions, people will enquire about your house, farm, fields, livestock, children, wives and grandparents. Next they discuss the harvest, possible arrangements with others, travel plans. Finally, when saying goodbye, each member of the family must be addressed and many blessings are said and reciprocated for farm and fields, an absolute must. The blessings of the Mossi were the first thing I learned in their language.

Of course things are different in the city. The tone is more casual depending on the age group, but in general the elderly are still respected in the way they are spoken to. People lower their eyes, and bow their head and then after a few jokes or jibes, everyone finally gets around to talking about what’s bothering them, or what they want.

This nice form of politeness combined with an unbridled joie de vivre is certainly one of the reasons I would wish to grow old in this country. In Germany I am always shocked by the constant moaning and groaning I hear all around; in Burkina Faso, it would be unthinkable for a child to answer back. In Africa, I have seen government ministers bow when speaking to their father on their mobile phone. Here a son is expected to do what his father says, even if the son is sixty years old and the father eighty – that is the way things are in Africa.

Thus the children at AMPO generally listen to us as well as to each other and in that respect we have it easier here than in Europe. Even Panam, in spite of all his wilfulness has to give in in the end, although I have to make sure in his case that he is always the one to choose. Otherwise he feels overruled and his pride is hurt, giving rise to long discussions, but in the end he comes back to me and admits we were right. The years of giving him smiles of approval after inspecting his ears mean that he now realizes the advantages of getting washed. He even comes of his own accord to have his fingernails cut. Each morning he returns from the pump freshly washed, his socks pulled up, his teeth sparkling clean and not the slightest trace of wool from his blanket in his hair – I think it’s because he is beginning to show an interest in girls and here as always, he wants to be number one, my Panamtougouri.

2

A special honour

For years I had been trying to avoid the decision, I realized that now. And yet, I am generally known for making decisions quickly and sticking to them.

I was sitting on the beach and suddenly it all became clear. There was definitely a void in my life that I had brilliantly succeeded in ignoring. The huge waves of the Atlantic crashed ashore. I had been sitting here for three days now. What does life want from me? What do I have to offer? The palm trees rustled in the breeze like in a scene from a film.

My life was looking so good. My bookshop in Northern Germany was doing well and the various apprentices I had trained gave me reason to be proud. My son John was old enough to stand on his own two feet. There had been lots of men in my life and many good friends too. How then could I not be happy with it all? I had always had good music, great motorbikes, I could potter in my lovely garden, travel wherever I wanted and eat whatever I wanted. I couldn’t possibly wish for more. Right?

Many women had told me how envious they were of my life – for them I was emancipation personified. I didn’t worry too much about my reputation; in the course of my life I had been divorced three times and each time I had picked up the tab. Living in a small town, I had married an African and although at first this cost me a few customers, after they realized that nothing had changed, they came back. At the end of the day I had enjoyed life to the full.

Lesen Sie weiter in der vollständigen Ausgabe!

Lesen Sie weiter in der vollständigen Ausgabe!

Lesen Sie weiter in der vollständigen Ausgabe!

Lesen Sie weiter in der vollständigen Ausgabe!

Lesen Sie weiter in der vollständigen Ausgabe!

Lesen Sie weiter in der vollständigen Ausgabe!

Lesen Sie weiter in der vollständigen Ausgabe!

Lesen Sie weiter in der vollständigen Ausgabe!

Lesen Sie weiter in der vollständigen Ausgabe!

Lesen Sie weiter in der vollständigen Ausgabe!

Lesen Sie weiter in der vollständigen Ausgabe!

Lesen Sie weiter in der vollständigen Ausgabe!

Lesen Sie weiter in der vollständigen Ausgabe!

Lesen Sie weiter in der vollständigen Ausgabe!

Lesen Sie weiter in der vollständigen Ausgabe!

Lesen Sie weiter in der vollständigen Ausgabe!

Lesen Sie weiter in der vollständigen Ausgabe!

Lesen Sie weiter in der vollständigen Ausgabe!

Lesen Sie weiter in der vollständigen Ausgabe!

Lesen Sie weiter in der vollständigen Ausgabe!

Lesen Sie weiter in der vollständigen Ausgabe!

Lesen Sie weiter in der vollständigen Ausgabe!

Lesen Sie weiter in der vollständigen Ausgabe!

Lesen Sie weiter in der vollständigen Ausgabe!

Lesen Sie weiter in der vollständigen Ausgabe!

Lesen Sie weiter in der vollständigen Ausgabe!

Lesen Sie weiter in der vollständigen Ausgabe!

Lesen Sie weiter in der vollständigen Ausgabe!

Lesen Sie weiter in der vollständigen Ausgabe!

Lesen Sie weiter in der vollständigen Ausgabe!

Lesen Sie weiter in der vollständigen Ausgabe!

Lesen Sie weiter in der vollständigen Ausgabe!

Lesen Sie weiter in der vollständigen Ausgabe!

Lesen Sie weiter in der vollständigen Ausgabe!

Lesen Sie weiter in der vollständigen Ausgabe!

Lesen Sie weiter in der vollständigen Ausgabe!

Lesen Sie weiter in der vollständigen Ausgabe!