Had a lovely night last night. I went out to the local bar, Le
Prestige, and had a huge bottle of local brew called Flag. It's not
bad, as long as it's super cold (There's the rub, eh? In 90 degrees
and100% humidity it's hard to keep a huge bottle cold in one's own
sweaty little palm.) A group of stagiaires have been hanging out there
every night for an hour (8pm to 9pm – which is pretty much everyone's
curfew here in the village)
They call it the 'Yovo support group'.
Yovo is the local word for white person. Whenever I pass a group of
children, they always call out to me in a sing-song voice 'Yovo yovo
bonsoir, yovo yovo bonsoir' over and over. It's kind of annoying, but
only because of the cultural lens that I've come here with. In the US,
we wouldn't refer to someone by the color of their skin, much less call
out to them with that categorization. It's rude and even 'racist' to do
It's not the same here.
For one thing, Yovo doesn't exactly mean white person, despite that
being the literal translation. Kids will call African-American Peace
Corps Volunteers 'Yovo' as well. So, in practice, it means foreigners.
People who are not African in culture, language, behavior, etc.
Being called 'yovo' really makes some people angry. It only bothers me
when the person saying it is standing right in my way staring at me
while I'm trying to make it to class or home for lunch. Or even worse,
standing in the middle of the bike lane staring at me while I
desperately try to slow down so that I don't get bowled over by the
loudly hooting truck about to pass me. You know, it's circumstantial.
Otherwise, it's kind of cute having lots of children yell for my
attention and bouncing frantically while they wave and chant at me.
Anyway, getting off-topic of the 'yovo support group'.
It's a fun little group comprised mostly of the trainees on either side
of the French spectrum – those who don't speak any French at all and
those who are (or nearly are) fluent. We hang out and speak English and
chat and vent about our families back in the States and here in Agou.
We drink coke or beer or tonic water – anything that's cold and wet.
The bar has a couple slot machines that I've never seen anyone play and
a loud sound system that was blasting Macy Grey all night last night.
G-Love and Special Sauce – Cold Beverages